“If you think you have friends, try and change something.”
I’m not really sure where that quote comes from originally bur I do know that my dad has been saying it to me since I was little and he still reminds me of it every now and again. To me it sums up how incredibly difficult change is. Most people will never understand your choices and many will openly criticize them – and that’s the scary part. We are on our own in our decision making as we are the only ones who truly understand what we want and need.
Over the past few weeks I have been confronted by this fact and have had to make some very big, very scary decisions about how I want to live my life and what I need in order to protect my own peace and happiness. It hasn’t been easy. I have experienced a lot of conflicting and confusing feelings. The worst part about decision making is that there is no way of knowing how things would have worked out if you had chosen something else. I feel like there are alternate me’s floating around in the universe, versions of myself who would have lived a totally different life. It freaks me out to know that there is no going back.
But let me start from the beginning.
My first year at university was not easy for me. I moved countries in order to study in London and, I am sorry to say, I did not settle in well. I was very homesick. I felt isolated. I felt too detached from my core support system. I hated the freezing cold weather. I struggled to reconcile how much I loved London as a place to visit with how hard I was finding it to live there.
Over the course of the year I repeatedly re-considered my position. I wanted to move back to Cape Town. I wanted to be with my family. I wanted the nice weather. I wanted my home. Each time I thought about moving back, though, I forced myself to recognize how lucky I was and how many people would love to be in my position and study in the UK. Surely, I would be ungrateful if I made a change.
I finally reached a point at the end of my long summer holidays where I realized that, actually, going back to the UK wasn’t an option – at least not one that wouldn’t negatively impact upon my mental health and happiness. I was putting myself at risk by going back and that scared me. As someone who is very prone to depression, I recognized that I needed to organize my life around people who supported me and a daily routine that brought me peace.
That realization didn’t really make things any easier, to be honest. Suddenly, not only was I being forced into taking control of my own happiness, but I had to deal with very conflicting feelings. Was I really doing the right thing? Was I horribly ungrateful? Was I whinging about first world problems? What if I was making a huge mistake that would haunt me later? I knew that if I made this choice, I had to make it work. There was no going back.
Not everyone understood my choice. Not everyone liked it. But I made the choice that I did – to move back to SA and continue my degree via correspondence – for me. For my well being. A big step in my personal growth.
I will never know what would have happened if I had made a different choice and the control freak within me – the one who likes to be sure of everything – is having to work very hard at being ok with that. I am still struggling with some anxiety and a little bit of uncertainty. And my choice comes with it’s own downsides that I have to deal with on a daily basis. Everything has been a compromise. But I am starting to feel the first flickers of contentment. I am starting to get my life together again. I am feeling proud of myself for taking control.
What I have learned is that we have to put ourselves first in order to be of any worth to others. I have learned that not everything works out as we thought it would and sometimes we have to swallow our pride and try something else. I have learned that I am not ungrateful for not wanting something, even if it’s what everyone else seems to want. And I have learned that I am the only one who can make the right decision for me. I am responsible for my own life and annoying a few people in the process is not something that I should be worried about.