I want to start this off by saying today is one of the proudest moments of my life. I’m happy beyond belief and words can’t describe this feeling I have. It almost feels like the first time I’m having such a euphoric moment.
This morning I received an e-mail from my university telling me my final award has been published. I have spent the past few weeks nervous and anxious at what my grade might be–sometimes not being able to sleep entirely. I was afraid of so many things. I was afraid of being what I always had perceived myself to be in the past: a failure. Needless to say, this moment felt a lot more pivotal to me than any other preceding it.
Why Is That?
See, I used to have a tendency and knack for quitting things just before reaching the end. I always told myself that, because I can do something, there was nothing to prove in completing it. This began innocently to help me focus on learning things I couldn’t do, but what ended up happening was, whenever I reached a level of competence or proficiency, even in newer things, I would no longer finish them either. This gave birth to me being a jack-of-all trades and master of none. Even worse, someone who had nothing to show for it at all.
The first time I went college I studied multimedia and learned how to use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and write critical evaluations on media (learning about my favourite animation ‘Animatrix‘). I left halfway through the year. The second time I went college I studied psychology, sociology and critical thinking. Again, I learned things and life lessons, but did not take any final exams and dropped out. I then went and tried college two more times after that, firstly taking up film studies and then IT. I used many reasons for dropping out in the past, but I believe that the underlying issue was that I was just so used to quitting all the time.
It extended into everything in my life: learning, jobs, relationships, friendships, gym, work and personal projects–heck, even video games. I was a serial quitter. I tried to make amends with it all but it didn’t work. I told myself I had to create a new path. I have to start to change, today.
It’s a hard reality to live so much of your life and at the age of 30 tell yourself you need to change. It’s even harder dropping your ego and understanding you need to start again from scratch, instead of quitting and moving to something else–my easy way out.
What Am I Getting At?
In 2016, I was working from home in a job I did not enjoy too much. I would spend my days behind the laptop for up to 12 hours, sometimes. My only sanctuary away from the screens and stress was through art. I would spend at least an hour a day drawing anything I could. I was actually motivated to draw from the job prior to that when a colleague inspired me.
Anyway, I had drawn enough to build a healthy portfolio. I remember speaking to my brother and him asking me why don’t I just go art school and study? It never crossed my mind. Then when it did, I thought about college and how much it was an obstacle in the past. I worried I would quit it and stopped at the thought of going, altogether. Until I quit my job.
I quit my job and survived on savings for a while. With nothing to do but be depressed I decided to send out my portfolio to a bunch of universities and course leaders. What’s the worst that could happen, after all? In the meantime I was able to at least apply for colleges. I thought about studying Law or Biomedical Engineering. I failed to get into the latter but was accepted into Law. I felt as though this was going to be it. My journey into law.
Then, someone from the universities I emailed loved my portfolio and accepted me in. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have to go college and was happy as a consequence.
Once I got into uni I was mature and experienced enough to know what to do and manoeuvre with the confidence of a person who’s ego is through the roof. I was one of the few people, however, with industry and life experience, so I used that to my benefit. The biggest issue I faced was that voice in my head telling me to quit.
That voice was prevalent a lot. If I didn’t quit it told me not to work hard. I agreed with it a lot early on in uni. The first year wasn’t important. The second year neither. Then when I decided to work hard in the third year I had some life difficulties come my way. By the fourth and final year I was dealing with an immense amount of stress and pressure.
During my third year of my four year degree, my father fell really ill. I was in charge of all his affairs and would often have to take a lot of time out from my studies to attend to his meetings and appointments. The more he fell ill the harder it became for me. By the end of the year, when he was getting even worse, I barely went in to uni at all. A perfect example would be a particular time in which I had a deadline to do for an essay. I was so behind that I told myself I would do it a day before deadline. As fate would have it, that day was a day in which my father had to get rushed back to hospital for an emergency “life or death” operation.
When I had time to study I was unable to study. I had given him my bedroom to stay in and I was sleeping in the living room sofa-bed. I didn’t really have a study area despite trying to make one. It was awfully difficult to focus for 5 minutes, let alone draw for an hour plus.
That third year was tough. It reflected on my grades. I barely made it through to final year. Without the help of my friends organising my work and hand-in sheets before 3:00pm on hand-in day, I wouldn’t have been able to complete it. It made me think that this was the worst it could get and that I would be ready for the next final year. Oh, how naive I was, though.
What’s Worse Than Worst?
As final year came things got worse. First my uncle died and then my father was on the brink of death. Between finding nursing homes, and making life and death decisions, it began to take a toll on me. The stress in hearing your father might not make it through the night once is bad enough, but three times is overkill. Naturally this damaged the motivation I had going into the new year. My lack of attendance was showing. I was surprised I was still hanging on. By the new year I had done virtually no work, altogether.
Then something happened for the first time. The world went into lockdown. A global pandemic emerged and universities and many institutions closed down. Our studies went online and all that we had planned to do had to change to adjust to these new circumstances. It was difficult. Then it was doubled by the fact we got news that my father was infected by it and would later die. The reality was he was already dying, but hearing he was a covid-19 victim hurt a lot more for some reason. The man had suffered enough. Now this felt like a sick joke. This was the lowest point.
I emailed my tutors upset and angry at everything. I spent my days questioning God and reality. I watched the Animatrix over and over thinking there was some kind of metaphorical answer in it. I thought about reality and time. I wondered where my dad was. I wanted to give up on everything this time. I wanted to give up on life itself. I just felt as though nothing was important anymore.
Then I began to think about my father. I began to think of the sacrifices he made in his life. I began to think that me and my brothers are his living legacy. We represent him and his memory. I started changing the way I framed things. I began to just focus on one day at a time and working. I just worked as hard as I could without worrying. I put in a lot of effort. Condensing your final year into a month is quite tough, but I pulled through and submitted my work with a day to go.
I waited anxiously. I didn’t quit this time and I worked hard. I know my circumstances didn’t offer me the perfect opportunity to reach my full potential, but I did as best of a job as I could with what I have. That was the thinking I applied moving forward. Then I received my provisional grade…
I was a bit disappointed initially. I was happy I passed but felt things weren’t fair in that we don’t have a crutch like other more privileged people. I began falling back into my old ways until I stopped myself in thinking like this. It’s interesting to point out and make people aware of difficulties, but it’s not right to concede to them. I can’t blame people for manoeuvring with the cards they are dealt. That’s life.
I was happy I was close to reaching what I wanted to get. Next time I’ll have to work even harder despite whatever obstacle I might face. I’m happy I didn’t quit. I’m happy I got what I wanted. Then I received that email…
After the grades were published I saw my final grade and was happy to realise I got higher than what I thought I got. I was so relieved.
I finally felt like I know what it’s like to achieve something I worked hard for without quitting. It gives me the confidence to continue to pursue this feeling and to never give up on anything ever again. I feel like the change I’m actively working on in developing myself as a person is extending to the external things in my life. I am a much happier person despite being a situation that is very difficult.
There’s a popular Chinese proverb that goes like this: “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”. It’s never too late to learn or improve yourself as a person. In a few days time I’ll be 31, but a completely different person.
And July 7th will be a day I’ll never forget.
Because it is the proudest day of my life.
- I speak about the difficulties I faced during my time in uni
- I speak about my history of always quitting
- I talk about my achievement and happiness in receiving my grade