Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves- regret for the past and fear of the future.Fulton Oursler
First of all, I’d like to rewind. The year is 2020. September 2020 to be precise. Though you’d be correct in saying that is 13 months ago and very recent history indeed, for me it feels to me like an eternity ago. From that point to now, everything seems to have flown by in an instant. The world has changed, moved on, developed. And so have I.
The reason I have taken us back to September of 2020 is due to its significance. At this time I was embarking on the new and exciting, yet scary and unsettling, experience of moving away to University. After packing my belongings (of which there were many) and buying all the necessary essentials that are required for living in a shared flat, I was off to begin a fresh start in a new location 80 miles from the place I’ve lived my entire life. Fleetwood to Chester. And for those of you that don’t know, that’s quite the culture change I must say.
Despite the concerns around missing home comforts like my family, friends, dog and the beach (don’t forget that), I went into my 1st year very much recognising the endless positive possibilities. The friends I could make. The places I could visit. The societies I could join. The wild nights out to be had. The sheer elation and sense of gratification I would receive in completing a tough 3-year degree that would mean I could find my dream career.
But now, unfortunately for me, is the huge stumbling block. Although much of what I’d envisaged about the uni life was true- particularly in the countless brilliant people I’ve been lucky enough to meet- I’ve reached a point shortly into my 2nd year where enough is enough. Things have to change. I need to put my OWN needs first.
After much toing and froing and more changed decisions than you could ever possibly imagine, I have made the extremely tough decision to take time away from my degree. Sitting here thinking about it I do feel a sense of shame and disappointment that I’m stepping away, primarily as it feels like a massive defeat, however I have long reiterated that our mental health should be the greatest priority. No matter how much we (or others) maintain that it’s best to carry on or ‘stick at’ something for as long as possible, life has a funny way of reminding us about how we truly feel and what we really need. To an outsider, especially one that doesn’t know me, it may look as though I’m taking an easy road out. One that requires less work and dedication. Yet the reality is, if we think about it logically, I’m making a bold, courageous choice.
While in the short-term I’ll be relieving myself of academic workloads and stresses, opting to leave university (for however long) provides me with the chance to assess my options and the many alternatives. Work out what I really want. Find a job. Make new connections. It doesn’t mean I have to give up on university and a degree indefinitely. The desire for that will always remain, I can almost guarantee that. It just means I can explore various things that I wouldn’t have been able to had I chosen to remain at uni, all while attempting to improve my mental health to a level that will enable me to achieve the best of my ability should I return to complete the final 2 years of study. Whether you’ve done a degree, or you haven’t, it’s obvious in saying that it needs a great level of focus and commitment. You can’t do it half-heartedly. And plus, that’s not me anyway. The last, and I mean last, thing I want is to give 50% and not reach my full potential because outside influences have simply got in the way. Distracted me. When I have a goal in mind, I’m left disappointed if I cannot give it everything.
Although I never pictured pausing my degree at such a premature stage, part of me is trying to embrace the other possibilites that could await me in the future. When in the uni bubble, it’s difficult to look outward and realise what else is on offer because you’re so focussed on attending lectures, completing assignments, going to social nights, chatting to housemates and whatever else you can cram in. Yes I’d be lying if I said the prospect of moving or entering employment wasn’t scary, however I have one key element on my side. Something many others do not have. Occupation-wise, I know what I’m looking for. 100%. It’s just a small matter of finding it!
With the trials and tribulations that lay ahead, for my sake and yours, I think it’s important for us to remember this. Stopping something doesn’t make you weak, stupid or a loser. And it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t ever achieve your goals. It simply means you’re human. Confide in someone if you’re scared (I know I have).
No matter where you are or what you’ve been through, you can and will get to where you want eventually. It’ll take a shit loads of guts and plenty of determination, however leaving something behind doesn’t have to keep you down forever. And who knows- it might be the best decision you’ve ever made. You just don’t know it yet!
Thanks for reading,