In late 2016, I screwed up. Big time.
I’m not comfortable with sharing all of the details, but basically, it was my first year of living on my own and I only had limited funding. I was getting Centrelink payments that barely covered the rent for my student apartment, which meant that it dug into the Relocation Scholarship I had received, and I was relying on my family for money so I could actually eat that week. It was supposed to be a temporary situation until I gained some type of employment.
Moving out of home to attend university came a year after just working and enjoying no longer having to suffer through high school. Between the stress of getting good marks, battling my anxieties and the dramas happening in my social life, Year 12 had not been good to me, so my gap year was a decent break. University was the promise of something different that would lead me towards the place I actually wanted to go. Moving out of my hometown signalled the beginning of a new life. It was exciting and alluring…
However, it was also blinding.
Don’t get me wrong. Going into this, I knew I was taking a huge risk. Moving two hours from home meant giving up my job, preventing that financial safety-net. The biggest mistake I made in my decision to move-out was giving little-thought about the effect it could have on my family. I was so overly optimistic that everything would be perfect: that I’d quickly find a job, renting a student apartment would be a breeze and financial stresses would be virtually non-existent.
Biggest mistake of my life thus far.
As 2016 was in it’s dying months I found myself getting cocky and spending money I didn’t have. I had been out of work for over 6 months and every dollar counted, yet I kept spending. One day, I checked my account after my debit card voided to learn that I only had $35 left in my account. At first there was panic, then shock, which eventually settled to deep regret. The reality of my actions had finally smacked me across the face.
The following phone-call I made to my parents was the most devastating thing I’ve ever had to do. To tell the people who trusted you to do the right thing that you had royally screwed over both them and yourself is something you can only relate to if you have experienced it yourself. I look back on that day with numbness, remembering the disappointment in my mother’s voice and the tears streaming down my face over circumstances I can never take back. Ever.
The end result was my parents having to fork out the rent that the Centrelink payments couldn’t cover (I’m on minimum rates despite being independent) and me re-doubling my efforts to find a job. With every rejection email, another layer was added to my stress and guilt and it began to weigh on me like a quilt made of bricks. Christmas and New Years passed quietly and as 2017 began, it came time to decide what the nearest future was going to hold for me.
It was clear that I couldn’t stay in the student apartment, but where would I go? The obvious and most sensible answer was to move back to my hometown to find work and build my account back up, but that meant putting my Bachelor on hold for at least a year, if not two. I didn’t want to put my future on hold, but what else could I do? I had destroyed things for myself and I didn’t want to place even more of a financial burden on my parents when they were having trouble supporting themselves.
Fortunately, a resolution came in the form of an offer from a sympathetic family member of one of my best friends. He offered me the spare room in their place for a reasonable price per fortnight as long as I promised to find a job or a least proved to be working hard to find one. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse and I’ve been living there since March.
So, at least my living and education situation was somewhat solved, but there was still that lingering feeling of regret that plagued my mind and made me border-line depressed. The rejection emails from potential employers kept on coming and with every one, I began to draw into myself more and more, becoming distant with my friends, family and life in general. I always tried to smile and laugh, but deep down, I was amazed I could face the day. Sometimes, the quilt of bricks would become too much to bear and I would burst into tears, writhing around in bed trying not to let the stress get to me, resulting in sleepless nights fighting off panic attacks.
I tried not to crumble, but I did. I always did.
This went on for some time before my pride gave in and I decided to seek help. This isn’t a subject I could simply sit down with my family and discuss. I needed a neutral ear, someone who would listen to me, completely unbiased, but sympathetic. And so, I went to a counsellor offered by my university. I was worried she would confirm my fears that I’d fallen into the pit of Depression, but instead, she helped me realise just how disorganised my mind had become.
She knew exactly how to get me talking, and soon the past seven years of my life came pouring out: the bullying from others, the pressure of adolescence, fighting off self-hatred, poor body image, dealing with friends who were battling their own demons, being too scared to show vulnerability, detachment from my family and watching my dog’s health slowly deteriorate until we had to put him down. And of course, what happened in late 2016 and the fear of repeating my biggest screw-up in the future.
Crikey, it’s no wonder I clung onto the Muppets from the moment I first gave them recognition….They’ve been a coping mechanism for the past five years!
It only lasted a few sessions but the counselling did me a world of good. Probably the best decision I’ve made since becoming an adult. I still had a couple of restless nights afterwards, but they didn’t lead to tears, just laying back and thinking about what I needed to work on and improve in order to make my own way in this world. It had been made clear to me that moving out at the age of nineteen wasn’t a good idea. I was too naive, close-minded and immature to be able to completely go solo.
Call it fate, but a couple of months after the therapy, I had the random idea to advertise myself on a website as a student looking for hospitality work in my particular area. Less than two hours later, I get an email from a woman who was looking for someone to work for her. I ended up calling her as an initial screening which ended with an offer for a job interview, news which I only told a couple of friends and kept a secret from my family. I didn’t want to get their hopes up just to have it go south. Again.
Two weeks later, after a nerve-wracking interview with the woman who answered my advert, I got to call my mum and surprise her with the news that, not only did I finally get a job interview, but….it was successful. The job consists of working in the kitchen of a private hospital. I prepare trays, wash dishes and deliver meals to the patients and staff there. It’s a pretty well-paying gig and I’ve been there for nearly two months now.
Nowadays, I wake up every morning with a reasonably positive attitude. Yeah, I still have some anxieties, but at least I’m not stressing about whether or not I’ll be able to afford my rent for the next few months. I pay my own bills and for my own food, and have even been able to afford the use of my car, which I initially had to leave behind in my hometown. This is all I really wanted; to be able to take my financial burdens off my family and just be a regular uni student who works hard to pay her own way.
That quilt of bricks is gone and no longer weighs me down. I no longer feel like a useless piece of garbage. That’s the best feeling of all.
It goes without saying that I’ve done a heck of a lot of growing up over the past year and half. I no longer think life is a breeze, but I’m not stressing about the future either, just taking things day by day. That’s pretty much the only way we can do it. Even better, I have an incredible family and amazing friends to it all with. They were all there when I needed them the most and it’s high time to return the favour. I intend on showing my gratitude one way or another as we all move on.
So, was there actually a point in telling you about all this? Well, I suppose it comes down to wanting others my age to know that no matter how badly you’ve messed things up, you’re not the only one. I’m only 20. In just over three weeks, I’ll be 21 and still tripping over my poor life decisions. Will I screw things up again? Probably, but that’s what life is all about, stumbling your way through until you reach the other end. If you stop and process things every now and again, you may even learn from your mistakes, improving your life and the lives of others along the way.
Now there’s a philosophy I can follow…..