What I Learned At 22

It’s the eve of my birthday. I’m sat at my kitchen table with a cup of tea (shockingly so, I drink wine like it’s water and then I have the excuse to drink for my birthday and I switch to tea). Without much explanation, I feel melancholic.

The events of 2020 have been a whirlwind, of course, and as the UK is still… well, maintaining an image… of being in lockdown, which changes the entire structure of my birthday from what I’ve experienced previously, and it signifies the existential change that has struck. It may be that fact, it may be that three months furloughed has taken its toll and induced a cabin fever whereby my birthday is not something that truly is realistic. My personal situation as things stand aren’t as I imagined they would be… I’ve recently had my heart broken which came with it multiple shocks and revelations that I still am struggling to understand. It could be any array of reasons, but then I thought back to the person I was this day a year ago, 21 about to turn 22, and who I am now, and I realised I have learned a lot this year.

Push past the ‘safe zone’

Last year I made some seriously life altering decisions. I liked the easy life, and any change I deemed catastrophic. I decided to leave a full time managerial position, with a decent salary and career prospects to boot, and instead applied to study an Access course, a Humanities diploma, and aim for university. This meant dropping to part time work whereby I started working as a bartender and I moved back home with my mum. Oh, and I also decided to set up this blog and to seriously commit to my writing.

I wasn’t unhappy with my life itself, however the decision had to be made when I got signed off sick by my doctor. From that point, I was terrified about what I was going to do. Deciding to make these huge choices, which changed my life dramatically, turned out to be the best thing I could have done, just as I first turned 22.Suffering from anxiety to the level I do, I veer towards the ‘safe’ options. Sticking to my salary band and the job I was already in would have been the easiest route, yet I went elsewhere, as my anxiety screamed at me not to change things, but I pushed past it, which I intend to do a lot more. I couldn’t imagine not being where I am now, with a completed novel, a blog and a scholarship offer for university. My risk paid off.

Redefining self worth

This does tie in with my previous point. However, it is something it did take me nearly a year to figure out. I was never ‘money mad’ but I hadn’t ever realised, until now when I have far less, how much I used my financial ‘success’ to fulfil my own self worth. I gave up the salary I was used to, and with that brought far more financial worries, and I could no longer comfortably engage in the lifestyle I once did. I’m happy to admit that perhaps, before I quit my last job, I had the money and the savings but without much of the sense to go in hand. I am far more clued up now.

Dropping back to part time work and not receiving student maintenance meant I had to start really thinking and planning more. I couldn’t just tap with contactless nonchalantly, and it was something I found extremely stressful and… ashamed about. I really did feel as though my self worth was in correlation with what I had, to supply my melancholy with assurances of success. I felt I’d gone backwards as a result of the circumstances… when the reality is I am happier, studying what I love, have goals and a long term plan. I like my job, which many can’t say. Separating self confidence and my income has been a huge lesson, and no longer hiding behind it to mask inner issues.

Sometimes, you can’t run away

I realised this one quite recently. As I’ve mentioned already, quite a few awful things have happened recently. After a week of just not being able to really think straight or function, I had a spur of the moment idea to move away.

A lot of the time, moving away to a new city is a fantastic thing to do, but it wasn’t actually what I wanted to do. I like my first choice university and I like my city. Scouring UCAS to find a new university to apply to, in June, just to avoid my feelings and face reality, was not the sensible thing to do. I’d be bringing it all with me, and as mentioned… I want to remain where I am.

It was then that I realised I have a habit of this. Avoidance, pushing, hiding, running… it’s never come from a place whereby I want to do it, yet I always do. Like with the decisions I made, there’s a part of me that finds it safer to run etc. Will hopefully be turning 23 having now learned that sometimes you have to face up and stop hiding away from things.

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These are just some positive realisations that have come to me over the past year. Lots has happened while I’ve been 22, but what I have decided to do is appreciate I have grown over the past year, and when I wake up tomorrow one year older, I will be about to start a whole new year of learning about myself and growing, and I am determined to make it positive. The best year yet, even (23 is my lucky number after all.)

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