University: Don’t Rush.

A bit of sound advice for those waiting on University Acceptance Letters.

There is a certain narrative that young people are sold these days: University is the only path to success.

We’re told that if we want to make a difference, we need to pack our bags and join the never-ending queue of people rushing to University straight after High School.

But I’m here to tell you that attending University is not the only way to succeed, and it certainly isn’t the only way to make a difference.

Opened Notebook With Three Assorted-color Pens

Please don’t get me wrong here – I am a firm believer in education. Without an educated society, we give in to ignorance.

But what I am saying is:

If you don’t know exactly what you want to do when you finish High School – University won’t magically enlighten you.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of rushing off to university with everyone else.

We’ve all heard the same old lines, over and over again:

‘University is the only way to make good money.’

‘No one will hire you without a degree these days.’

‘You’ll be stuck in this town forever if you don’t go to University.’

The trouble is, entering a degree straight from High-School is oftentimes not what we should be doing. We risk being put in a box, becoming disillusioned and regret going to University at all.

I’m not saying everyone will have this issue – some people know exactly what they want to do for a career and enter University with confidence that they know where their future is headed – and that’s absolutely fine!

Question Mark Illustration

But when I was in High-School, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.

I was told by my teachers to fill out a University Application like everyone else, and put some preferences down.

I chose Nutrition, Art, Law and Psychology as my preferences.

My choices were based on what I thought everyone else would want me to do, because I was young, impressionable and everyone expected me to go to University. I really had no concept of how big of a decision a degree was.

I was a bright student, and got accepted into Law School a couple of months later.

But I had never studied anything to do with Law before, and had chosen the topic because I thought it would be ‘cool’ and that my Dad would be ‘proud’.

I didn’t choose Law because I had a career in mind.

I struggled my way through three years of Law School, because I didn’t want to let my friends and family down. I felt guilty for going off to University and not liking what I was studying.

I had poor grades, I hated my degree and had realized my passion lay elsewhere – I wanted to help vulnerable children and young people.

It wasn’t until 3rd year that I had realised I hated Law School and had never wanted to be a lawyer – I was just caught up in the hype of going to University.

It was this sudden realization that made me switch into Psychology instead.

I enjoyed my Psychology studies, but I was already three years into University, and was becoming more and more depressed and regretful – I had wasted 3 years of my life studying something I never truly cared about.

I kept thinking: ‘If I had done Psychology to begin with, I would have graduated by now…’

This mindset led to me becoming miserable and resentful of going to University at all – plus by this stage in my life, I was in my 20’s, had bills, a job and plenty of personal issues that distracted me from studying.

Boy in Brown Hoodie Carrying Red Backpack While Walking on Dirt Road Near Tall Trees

I ended up dropping my studies.

I contacted my University a year later and asked if there was anything I could do, or any qualification that I could attain from the University, considering how long I had studied for.

The University offered me an Associate Degree for the amount of topics I studied – basically the equivalent of an Advanced Diploma (which would have only taken me 2 years at TAFE).

I graduated in 2017 with an Associate Degree (I began University study in 2011). I didn’t attend graduation because I was ashamed and felt I had failed myself and my family. I then spent 5 years in different industries, gaining valuable life experience, before I ever even used my Associate’s Degree for anything. To me, it was just a bit of paper that reminded me I could have been much more successful than I currently was.

Luckily, an opportunity arose, and the Associate Degree was enough for me to obtain work in the field I have now realized I have a passion for: Youth Support Work.

Flat Lay Photography of Notebook, Pen, and Drafting Compass

I have now been working as a Youth Support Worker for over 6 months, and enjoy every moment of it.

I work with vulnerable young people who are wards of the State and have a relationship with a range of people from different organisations and the Department of Child Protection.

It is only now, 9 years later, that I have finally decided that if I go back to University, it will be to do Social Work – something I am passionate about.

For a long time, I felt I had achieved nothing but accumulate a large student-loan debt and a waste a lot of years studying something I didn’t even care about.

And although my journey was long, twisted and had lots of bumps, I finally found something I would be willing to go back to study for, and for that I am grateful. I have long-since let go of my resentment.

But more importantly, what I wish for everyone getting their High-School grades soon and receiving their University offers is this:

Don’t rush. Take time to know who you are and what you want to do before you jump straight into a degree.

And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing it.

Rust & Regrets.

A poem.

 

what is left,

when everything is gone?

when the ground collapses

like straw being swallowed by fire

and the sky no longer rises

on our soul?

 

where can so much love

from a single

lonely heart

possibly have to go,

when there is no body

left to carry it?

 

who will be left to remember

those things that were left to us,

by the people we loved?

is there any point at all – any meaning in this life –

that doesn’t involve the painful realization

that it’s all just here for a moment, like a dream?

 

our lives are a moment in time,

imprinted on the earth

like one swift footprint

in the dust,

before the wind stirs us up

and we are gone.

 

our bodies are destined to rust

and flake,

slowly staining the earth red.

 

we hold on to precious items –

books, gifts, photos –

all in the hope that we won’t forget,

and maybe one day

someone will hold them

and remember us too.

 

we run our fingers down delicate book spines,

reading words from the past;

we remember the hope of the souls

who rust around us,

holding their gifts to us tight,

believing they will hold us to this earth just a little longer.

 

but before long, we too,

are due to be swiftly stirred into dust.

we stare into photographed eyes,

captured in a moment,

wishing for our own moments

to be remembered.

 

our hearts cave and crumble, knowing our lives are so unrecoverable.

 

we beg with death to allow us

just one more moment,

to say the things

we wish we had said;

share the things we wished we had shared;

kiss the lips we were never able to kiss.

 

when death comes for us, what do we have for him?

we bargain our way back to the living,

pleading to let those wishes and kisses be lived out.

 

what wishes do we really have,

deep in our heart,

knowing they’ll go to the grave?

what moments will we take with us

and simultaneously

leave behind?

 

we rust, rust rust – oh how we rust –

the colour of leaves in the fall,

stirring dust

just enough

to creep into the lives

of those we leave behind.

 

the living think regret is for them –

but the dead

are just moments –

and books,

and gifts,

and photos.