THE BEGINNING OF A DREAM
The first time I went to university, I was a wide-eyed seventeen-year-old whose eyes disappeared whenever I cried or smiled. I put on my big girl pants, shoved my fears in a bag lined with gold thread. The kind woven with hope and magic cooked over time, so fool proof, the next five years were going to go like a sneeze.
It was natural. Like the progression of time, seconds tick-tick-ticking into minutes, months to years. I laid the grunt work since school started and eventually earned a place at a redbrick university’s nursing program.
It was inevitable, a compulsion once started it’d be difficult to stop. Just as many before, I chose this carefully. Etched on many notebooks were lists of pros and cons, it was set.
Pro. It was something I was good at.
Con. My social life might struggle.
Con. Need to finish a year of placements in different areas of nursing before you choose. What if you already knew what you wanted to do?
Pro. You finish a year of placements in different areas of nursing…You’ll really know which one you want.
Pro. It leads to a tangible promise of a career, the healthcare profession was crucial as a salve and a cure for many (also pro because you’ll be helping others).
Come to 2010, I would be three years into living a dream into a reality. I would have thrown my cap into the air and successfully immortalised that photo on the internet. I would finally be able to help my family, my mother would not need to worry about working with her illness. I could start repaying my parents for everything they’ve done for our family.
That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
I struggled to finish my first year. I was unhappy, so full of anxiety. I remember trying to psyche myself each day to keep going. That things would get better and that I was doing this for not just for me, but for my family. If I suck it up, it would work out in the end.
On the second time, I tried out for a different degree. I spent months trying to get the grades, cramming two years of study under less than a year. In the end, it came to nought. Two credits off the required grades marked two in a row. I was shaken, unable to move beyond the chains I set around my ankles. In reality, there were options but I could not see beyond my failure…
You’d think when the time came I surpassed the grade requirement, it would be ‘third time’s a charm’.
Over seven years, I adapted to a new culture (I still am), supported a parent’s post-stroke recovery, and fought my own battle against depression. I glance at my peers, quick to see they are all ahead of me. They did not only have jobs but they were making a career, having a family of their own and moving on in life while I relearned the same things over again and again and again.
That was the hardest part of it all. The learning to let go of previous failures and not let it shackle me down, of how to fight against the oppressive pessimism permeating out of me and to be grateful that I am who I am because of the sum of my experiences—the good, the bad and the ugly.
It took me four attempts and seven years to get where I am now, enrolled into my second year of university, documenting the early chapters of married life and feeling a little bit more myself because I am content and at peace with my journey so far. I’ve no doubts it’ll continue to be eventful as I manage my responsibilities as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student and a teacher. There will be more hardships. Some will be consequences of my own making, some from the actions of others, and the rest will be some kind of trust exercise where I have to fall and lean into my Saviour.
Someone wise once told me each hardship prepares you for something bigger. Blessings are often tied to that clause but sometimes before that, it may include bigger trials that attempt to break you, but I know that is part of life and the best thing I can do for myself, my family, my friends and my future is to never give up.
I believe in God and have faith in His gospel does not mean that I am immune from hardships or that I have that golden ticket. One that glows and gleams in broad daylight and underneath softness of the moon, one where I just need to flash it when things get hard and it would give me the option to pause, reset or fast forward to the good bits. But there is no golden ticket to a life without adversity. I have known that for a long time but there were spaces in between the easy smiles and flutters of happiness that I pleaded otherwise.
I needed seven years to be who I am right here, right now. Reconciled with the past, I am happy and hopeful of what tomorrow brings as I am happy and hopeful that my destiny is within reach but most of all that I can conquer anything with a bit of faith, love and hope in God, others and myself. The last bit I am still learning but I am grateful to know that after loving God first, loving others that I, too, must love myself.
“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”
– Sri Sri Ravi Shankar