“If there’s no way out, then how did you get in?”
On the 9th December 2015 I uploaded one of, if not the most, personal post I have ever written. Telling the story of leaving university in the very first semester, and all my emotions around the decision. It was me, Raiona, at my rawest. When emotion was slowly settling after such a heavy climax. I made a promise with myself to never read this post again, until 12 months had passed. I cheated myself by a few days, as I wanted the follow on post to be live on the same date this year. I don’t even remember proof reading, which is probably why I spotted a few grammar mistakes. Grammar aside, I have seen from a future, happier version of myself just how heartbroken I was at the end of last year. It’s time to draw a close on this past epoch, and evaluate this new chapter I’ve begun writing for myself.
Today I walk a little taller, one foot in front of the other. I feel comfortable in myself again. I know that each day I’m learning more about the person I want to be and how to get there. I usually have a spring in my step, and a smile on my face. Life is different now to how it was last year. I walk a little taller because of the confidence I have in myself to make good choices. I’m building a nice, non-permanent, life for myself. Leaving university in 2015 was one of the best and hardest decisions I’ve ever made. University was my dream and I turned my back on it because at that time it wasn’t for me. Right now, I still don’t think it’s for me. Perhaps in the future distance learning will be the route I choose to take, but for now I’m content without the education. I’ve landed on my feet after what felt like such a long time of feeling so unlike myself. In my leaving university post I said that I’d lost sight of my dreams, but I knew I wanted to learn to drive and get a car. I also had a vague plan of how I was going to sort myself out; get a full time job until I work out what to do. I did a few shifts here and there at my old job, before I landed a full-time job somewhere new. I went back to what I know and am still working in retail. However, this is the best job I’ve ever had in this industry. The job is nicer in itself, I’ve met so so soooo many new people, I get to work with a great team and the pay is pretty good too. I lucked out I know, but I also know I worked really hard applying to jobs and building interview skills. I also managed to pay for driving lessons, pass both the theory and practical tests, and in October I got my very first car. It might sound like bragging, but really I’m just gobsmacked that I made it here after feeling rather defeated.
When I wrote last year’s post, I was a little overwhelmed with all the emotions flying around. As I pressed ‘publish’ I felt a sense of closure; I was finally accepting that the way I was feeling was okay. Prior to this decision I was never sure if the way I felt about things was okay, ‘normal’ or ‘correct’. Since then I’ve learned that whatever I’m feeling, it’s going to be okay and I can deal with it. Leaving university was by no means devastating or scaring. I took myself by surprise by changing my mind, and the suddenness of it all left me speechless. I returned to an empty flat, with views that were to die for, took myself to an office, signed a form, and the next day I was back home living with my mumma again. Sometimes the most extraordinary lives just aren’t the ones for us.
I deliberated over the reason, to which I still don’t have the answer. The facts still remain that I was there, unhappy, on edge and anxious. Every time I had to attend a lecture or seminar I’d feel a build up of dread so strong I almost didn’t go to a couple of them. But go I did, and my mind was half on the course and half still worried about this ongoing dread I could feel in my tummy. When I speak about these brief months I spent in Bangor I have mostly fond memories, contrary to being a life I was unhappy with. I visited my friends earlier this year in April for my birthday. By this point I had a few doubts about this dread I used to feel, I wondered if it had all been imaginary. As I followed Lydia to her lecture (before I departed headed for the pier), I felt that familiar feeling in my stomach starting to build. That feeling of wanting to suddenly cry and throw up and hide and run, all at once. I remember Lydia laughing with her friends whilst I was trying not to make a single sound that would suggest I wasn’t okay. I waved goodbye for a few hours, and it took a large portion of those hours before I felt okay again. I don’t know why I felt it all so intensely again, but I did. It was a harsh reminder of part of the reason I left. I never really elaborated on this feeling in my leaving university post because I didn’t know how to explain it. I think I’ve given a vague idea now though. It’s definitely not a positive kind of dread, nor something I ever want to experience again.
The in-between, limbo stage after leaving university was perhaps the hardest stage to work through. Mostly because it lasted the longest. Until I got my job, I was constantly trying to work out what the hell I wanted to do with my life now. Instead, I worked on building a better life gradually. Instead of sitting around unable to pay rent or go out and explore various places, I kept searching for a job in order to pay for these things. What I actually got was a really decent job that I’ve been told is mine for as long as I want it. I’m working out what’s next, but for now I’m incredibly grateful for where I’ve landed. I went away to study English Literature, and whilst I still adore this subject, I’m also interested in interior design, photography, acting, writing, and so much more. It’s hard to work out what I would like to pursue, let alone how I’m going to do it. But I know I’ve got time. I’m practicing a variety of techniques and hobbies, and trying new ones. I’m slowly taking myself to knew places so I can explore and find new content for my camera to capture. I’m not living some crazy fairytale lifestyle, I’m living a real, happy and content one. I don’t know what’s next, but unlike last year, this time I’m excited.
“The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.”
― C. JoyBell C.
After uploading ‘Life Update: I ‘Dropped Out’ Of University‘ I received a wealth of support on and offline. It felt like a warm embrace on a chilly evening. I was, and still feel, so humbled and grateful for every single person that supported me through it all, dropped me a line in passing or offered me a hug. One of my friends even took me out for a meal to show me that everything is okay and will work out eventually. Thank you to you all, I feel very honoured to have been given so much care and support.
“If everything happens for a reason that means you made the right choice even when it’s the wrong choice”
Sometimes decision making can be hard. Sometimes even scary. Walking into unfamiliar and unknown territory feels nerve wracking. All I have to say, is that these decisions are the ones that make life so worth it. Tomorrow I’ll get up at 7am for work, next year maybe I’ll do the same. Maybe I’ll be doing something entirely different. Leaving university was hard, the limbo stage was harder, but life is so much better now. I’ve made lifelong friends I would never have met without going to university. I don’t regret going, but I don’t regret leaving either. I’ve learnt a lot, grown a lot, and become a lot more than a university dropout. I didn’t quit. I chose to live a happier life.