It’s half way through April. Five and a half months since I left England and everybody I knew behind! It’s been quite the journey, not without its problems and challenges. But not even at my lowest point did I wish I was back home… or doing anything else for that matter. I’d finally describe myself as settled – I’ve got a job and basic accommodation that suits my needs. I’m adapting to Sydney life; it’s a laid back yet productive place. My existence is pretty simple and carefree – not even a modicum of stress to plague me which is exactly what the doctor ordered after that degree in Biochemistry! If I have a shift at work, I work. If I have a day off, I get off my butt and explore the city. Every day I’m out and about, reading in parks, scouting out the coolest cafes and bookstores, going to museums and art galleries, reading, learning, thinking…
Why so retrospective and sentimental? Holly, one of my closest mates from uni, has just arrived in Sydney. Catching up with her, a person from my “old life”, made me realise just how much my opinions and aspirations have changed in the past 6 months. Near the end of my degree I got the impression that there was another way of thinking to the one propagated by Imperial. Everyone was in such a hurry to grow up. Now that I’ve got this distance between me and that (10,000 miles is about enough) I realise that we can choose what we do with our lives. Academia is one path and I feel that some people cling to it, craving the structure and guaranteed sense of progression it provides. I kinda felt that because I went to such a prestigious uni, I was obligated to follow that path. Any deviation would frankly be some kind of embarrassing failure.
I feared that people may see my social media updates about my trip and although part of them may be envious, they’d really think that I wasn’t good enough to enter the corporate world the majority of them were clamouring to succeed in. Consequently, I kept the majority of my updates to this blog so as not to “offend” people – a decision I’m questioning now. I felt I wasn’t living up to the expectations of my peers. Which is absurd now that I see it written down. And what has become very clear to me is that no one actually thinks that way. Sure, uni was a competitive atmosphere and some people excelled academically above others (and liked to gloat about it). But even those annoyingly proactive people have ended up doing gap years. Dropping out. Living with mum and dad. The economy is still pants and even the best and brightest students are floundering, filling out endless applications for ruthless banks, competing with hundreds of other applicants each time. Suffocated by stress and downtrodden by constant rejection. What a way to spend your twenties eh?
As for me, I made a conscious decision and consequently a commitment to doing something I was passionate about, but had been led to believe was the frivolous pass time of those who are without ambition, direction or motivation. Family members, coursemates, friends… never explicitly admitted, but often alluded to. Isn’t travelling the world something you do if you prefer partying to working?
Maybe I’m alone in thinking all of this. But this is the impression I always had. Why it took me months of deliberation to admit to myself it was what I wanted to do. I can’t quite believe I’m actually doing it now. Combining a year living abroad with a round the world trip. Two lifetime goals combined into one. And I’m only 22.
So at this point in my life, I realise that all those things I wondered about… all those crazy little ideas I’ve had that are likely to fail that I was too scared to admit I wanted to attempt anyway… if I don’t try them now, then when? We learn from our mistakes. You just have to dare to make them first. I have learnt so much on this trip already. But ask me to explain some biochemical concepts to you. Nah, I can’t. That 3 years of study hasn’t stayed with me. Undoubtedly, the experiences from this trip will.