There have been a few choices I’ve made in my life which, in retrospect, weren’t my wisest. Dying my hair black in secondary school was a big one. Taking a pair of heels with me the first time I went backpacking aged 18 was another (yes, they sat at the bottom of my bag for 4 weeks and no, I did not wear them once.) Going out for “a few” the night before a 5am flight also ranks up there in the Poor Judgement category, among many, many other bad life decisions which aren’t *quite* as suitable for public consumption.
But despite these fairly regular lapses, I’ve made a few conscious decisions which I’ll never regret. Here are a five of the most important ones I’ve made in the past few years.
After graduating from university, I wasn’t interested in chasing any kind of ‘career’ job. I wanted to work for the sole purpose of earning money so I could go away. And yes, clearing tables and pulling pints while friends and fellow classmates were migrating to the big cities in the pursuit of degree justification was sometimes tough – but I am so, so glad that I stuck to my guns. It was all part of a bigger plan I had for myself.
I lived at home and saved for months before going off on two consecutive ski seasons in Europe and travelling South America. It sounds like a cliche but there’s nothing like throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, meeting different people and being exposed to environments at complete odds to your own to shape your outlook.
Although I’m in less of a flexible position now to travel for as long periods at a time, I try to make up for this by exploring new places as often as possible. I would love next year though to move abroad somewhere for a year or so.
Signing up for my Masters degree
During my last few months of uni, I had such a crappy time that I vowed I’d never take another academic exam again. Which of course is easy to say fresh out of graduation but alas, two years later and no relevant-to-degree job offers in sight, I realised if I ever wanted to earn a decent salary and use my skills at the same time, I’d have to face that return to uni fear.
Despite the fact it set me back all of my savings at the time, and I’ll be paying the debt off for another few years (possibly even decades…), it was a decision that had a hugely positive impact on my life. Yes, I was poor as hell for about 2 years, stressed out much of the time and exhausted from working various jobs to pay my way – but I made some brilliant pals, had some hilarious (er, and educational) experiences – and of course it got me my current job in writing, which was always the end goal.
I would probably call myself a confident introvert. This means that although I’m outgoing and confident, I really relish time on my own or I feel drained. This meant that a lot of the time when I was younger, I avoided certain social situations because I’d rather hang out in my comfort zone, doing ‘me’ things and ignoring the outside world when I wanted to.
But, like going to the gym, I realised that actually, the thought of the thing is not as bad as the thing itself. In fact, the thing itself can sometimes be really good fun. I think I made excuses for why I couldn’t do things too much of the time, instead of just going for it and taking part in experiences and opportunities that may never come my way again.
As a blogger, I’m invited to loads of different, exciting new things and this has become something I look forward to and embrace rather than finding excuses for. #Whoknew?
Conforming to my inner ‘adult’
The concept of having a steady job, paying a mortgage, maintaining a relationship and still somehow enjoying life used to baffle me. It all sounded so suffocating and restricting – and to be totally honest, occasionally I still feel like that.
But I’ve now come to see that for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. In some ways, having all the things I once thought would suffocate me in fact gives me more freedom than ever. My job gives me a regular salary, which allows me to plan my future better than I ever could before. Owning a house means I can do whatever the hell I want with it, creating an environment that I love (hello neon signs), and being in a relationship with the right person allows me the added confidence of not only accepting myself, but having someone else celebrate exactly who I am too.
And yes, ‘adulting’ can sometimes be shit – I still occasionally crave those heady uni days of random day drinking, slothing in pyjamas dissecting the night before, drinking jagerbombs mid week and living on money you didn’t *really* have.
But nothing beats that feeling of having control of your life, supporting yourself and laying your own path.
Flicking my comfort zone the finger (oo-er)
Three years ago, I applied for an internship in Turin, Italy, working in the Communications department of an EU agency. I applied not really thinking I’d get it, and about 10 days later I’d rented my room in Edinburgh out, said bye to my (at the time) new-ish boyfriend and gone to live in a country where I knew nobody, was living with strangers and didn’t speak the language.
Was it intimidating? Yes. Did I sometimes want to cry? Frequently. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
To be honest, I found the first half of my time there really really tough. I was struggling a lot with low mood and felt completely isolated. I missed my friends and boyfriend at home and felt stressed out by the uni course I was also juggling. Writing a dissertation and studying for exams while working full time is no joke let me tell you – and I was a childless, effectively single woman with no social life at this point so big cheers to the parents out there who somehow manage this!
Anyway, I got through it, and those 3 months remain some of the most important in my life. They showed me the power of determination, motivation, inner strength, independence and the life-affirming rewards you get from stepping completely out of your comfort zone and proving to yourself you can and you will.
As far as I’m concerned, making bad decisions is a vital component in being able to recognise the good ones. As long as you’re trying stuff out you’re nailing it. So get going and decide what that future of yours is gonna hold…