In 2014 I moved from New Zealand to Scotland, aged 18. The goal of this move was to be as far away from my high school as I could possibly manage for AT LEAST the next 4 years of my life. I truly believed that this adventure would make me an undeniably fascinating and enigmatic individual both to my friends at home and the new friends waiting for me in Scotland. It has now been five years since I made the move, so here are five things I have learned:
You will always be learning (and that is brilliant!)
When high school wrapped up I already thought I was the most in the know anyone ever could be. Something about surviving high school really makes people cocky little shits for a while.
In an academic sense, the reality of learning hit hard and fast. I should have known a course called ‘Molecules, Genes, and Cells’ would break me. That was Year 1.
Beyond academia, I was reminded of why my love of learning is central to who I am. I would be devastated if I ever stopped. I firmly believe you could be the world’s leading expert in a topic, and there would still be something new around the corner. It would be boring if things were any other way.
Keeping people in your life who make you unhappy does more damage than being alone
University in a new country plunged me into the deep end when it came to forming my first new relationships as an adult. I have been all too willing to prostrate myself and accept my role as a doormat. Welcome! Abuse my empathy! I would do so for the meekest of offerings of affection or attention, often swiftly followed with backhanded compliments, rude comments, and abandonment for a ‘cooler’ crowd.
I wasted years on people who never cared. I cared deeply.
As I grew, I learned where to look for friends who would share my values. I learned to surround myself with people who made me feel safe. I still never felt truly equal in any of my friendships at University, but I felt more whole.
It took 4 of my 5 years, but in August last year, I finally made connections that felt important. I have now met people I will happily pour my heart out to, and I will let them pour their hearts out to me. We would still be okay and I would still feel whole.
Loneliness is hard, but those first friendships were harder.
You don’t have to prove yourself to people who think your taste in music is bad (a.k.a ‘fuck it, listen to one direction’)
It literally doesn’t matter. This person is probably worse than you if they feel the need to voice their opinion about it every. damn. time.
You’re greatest efforts will not always be recognised unless you take time to recognise them yourself
I am still learning not to rely on external validation; I’m beginning to suspect it’s a lifelong struggle. Praise and recognition are delicious. When I begin something new it is usually out of passion, but when I reach a goal, when I achieve something that feels significant, I find myself searching for praise.
It’s natural to want to be noticed when you’ve poured yourself into something. It’s natural to be frustrated if every ounce of effort you had doesn’t produce the result you wanted. But often, people won’t see all that work that went on behind the scenes. People aren’t looking out for what everyone else is up to. People will miss the wonder that is you.
I constantly fail to allow myself to be proud without someone else signing off on it first. Turns out, achievements are valid no matter who is validating it, so why not let yourself be that person.
Take every opportunity to put positivity out into the universe
Look, I know it’s all going to shit. I would love to say it’s just here in the UK but I keep a close eye on New Zealand Twitter and I have some concerns. I’m definitely not discouraging anyone from calling out the shit; I do it every single day. I am terrified, but ultimately, filled with hope.
We’re dealing with a lot of negativity on a global scale right now, and people are dealing with a lot in their own lives on top of that. I find joy when I bring joy to the table. I tell my friends when I’m proud of them, when my anxiety is okay I offer strangers a helping hand, I share any pictures of puppies I happen to acquire, and I share so many kickstarters on social media (please don’t unfollow me). I don’t manage this all the time, but when I do the impact is often instantaneous. Make a bigger deal out of some of the good things, and maybe it will leave a little less room for the bad.