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Life

The Fortunate Misfortunes of Going Off Course.

February 22, 2018
Japan Shinjuku Park

I was in the lift yesterday, on the way down to meet my mum during my lunch break, and couldn’t help but overhear a conversation going on behind me. One guy turns to another and says:

“So I met my wife when she was in uni, and she used to party a lot and wake up with these really bad hangovers. One day she’d gone to the optometrist after getting really drunk one night and that’s when they told her she needed glasses, so she’s been wearing them since. We only found out recently that she doesn’t actually need to wear glasses – her eyes were just so bad that day from being so hungover.”

I nearly cracked up. I only just recently went for my appointment. I still struggle a bit to see things more than 5 metres away, but the optometrist told me that my eyes have actually improved a bit since last year and the reason for my eyes having to strain is the 8hrs+ of screen-use every day. The glasses I have now help me when driving and when I need to read something far away/take notes but otherwise I’m fortunate enough that my prescription doesn’t need to be super strong and my vision isn’t completely impaired if I don’t wear them. I’m currently waiting on new glasses though with what she called a “relaxed lens”. From my understanding it’s a multi-focal lens for when I have to stare at a screen all day, to ease the tension on my eyes and prevent the headaches I’ve been getting, rather than offering clarity. It was an extra $125 out of pocket so I hope it helps!

So that very minor eavesdropping I did yesterday made me reflect on things that have happened and perhaps didn’t happen because of simply how things in the universe have aligned. Like in the case for this guy’s wife – what if she had gone to the optometrist the day after? or what if she hadn’t gotten completely wasted the night before? A rather trivial example but you get my point.

 

What if I had been accepted into another course at another university?

A big one on my mind was where I ended up studying. I studied a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Business Information Systems at Monash – this was not at all my first preference. I remember balling my eyes out when I found out that I’d received my offer for this course instead of my first choice of straight Commerce at Melbourne Uni. I had only three thoughts going through my head:

  1. What the hell is Business Information Systems?

  2. I don’t even remember putting this on my list.

  3. Where is Clayton?!

I’d never even been to any of the open days for Monash, yet I’d been several times over the years to Melbourne Uni info days. I wanted to do a double major, not a double degree. I wanted to study in the city, not out in the burbs (okay it’s not really but Clayton was probably the furthest out I’d been at that point).

I was pretty upset and didn’t get over it until probably three weeks into the first semester. Despite how cut up I was at the time, I’m actually so grateful that my ATAR wasn’t high enough to get me in to my first choice. I’d always felt an immense amount of pressure to exceed expectations and I placed an unnecessary and unhealthy amount of stress on myself to achieve this magic number that literally served no purpose other than being a ticket into tertiary education. I remember staying awake all night, anxiously waiting for that 7am text to pop up on my phone that would “determine my future”. I fell short of the number I wanted to get and the number I knew my parents would have been proud to see, and beat myself up about it until I had something else with which I could redeem myself. Turns out my score was enough to get me a minor scholarship that I didn’t even know existed but hey, anything to help reduce that HECS debt and anything to inject some sense of achievement into where I felt it was lacking.

I ended up meeting some cool people who I could be completely nerdy/myself with and the classes itself weren’t all that bad. I actually started to find the I.T. side of it more interesting and ended up doing better in them than in some of my Commerce units. I found out about the IBL program too which was amazing and I can’t say I’d be in the same place I am now if it weren’t for that, and same goes for the course itself.

I can’t say I’d be where I am now if things had gone the way I initially wanted it to.

When it comes to every day interactions I have a tendency to wonder what different outcomes there could have been if I had said something different or perhaps spoken in a different tone. I used to wonder and have dreams about what life would be like with a hypothetical third sibling in the family, or if I had not grown up as the oldest child. I used to wonder what kind of person I would have grown up to be if I had left that horrid private school when I wanted to.

 

Draw the line between reflecting on the past and resenting the past.

I set this mental note for myself earlier this year. I’ll allow myself to have these thoughts and be curious but remind myself to leave it in that part of the timeline. There are many things that have gone wrong or didn’t play out the way I envisioned. There’s no undo button in life and in spite of how shitty life gets sometimes, it’s probably better that we don’t have that ability to undo. How would anyone learn anything that way? And on the flip-side, what about all the amazing unplanned things that happen in life that we would miss out on discovering? Sometimes we only appreciate what we once cursed about in retrospect.

And perhaps in the same way that my new glasses will serve me, it’s not so much about seeing more or seeing things better as it is about simply removing that tension so your perspective isn’t coloured by an unabating ache in your mind . Plans more often than not go to shit and you have to be able to adapt and deal with imperfections and things being out of place. Like, chill. I have to keep reminding myself what is and is not in my control, and I’ve noticed being able to realise that past negativity falls into the “not in my control” bucket has taken a lot of pressure off my mind and it has allowed me to focus on better things.

It can be a challenge to place confidence in your mental compass. It has gone awfully haywire for me before, but it’s also led me to many of the right places. And with that, let me leave you with some wise words of the Dalai Lama:

“Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.”

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