I’ll be honest with you, as I have been in the past. This is a serious deja vu moment for me.
In two days, I’m leaving, yet again, to go back to college. I’m packing again, figuring out what I need to take from here and what I can buy there. I’m refiguring out my luggage arrangement, what I already have and what I don’t need, and, as before, stuffing a pocket in my bag with all the green tea packets because no one besides me drinks green tea.
But, honestly, not everything is the same as before. I’m not the same as before.
I don’t remember everything from my last time being in this position, but what I do remember was that I was so tense, so tightly wound up, to the point where I was ready to scream if the slightest thing strayed from my expectations. I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing and sure the hell didn’t know who I was talking to. I previously went, placing my faith in people who I’d never even met, at the mercy of fortune and luck. Equally importantly, I thought I knew how to cook – which later on, I realised, I did not.
Fortune and luck, however, didn’t come by the way I thought they would. I was asked to return, and with little other choice, I did, my dreams ‘crushed’, my hopes ‘shattered’ and my mind rolling from one emotion to the other, as dramatic as always.
Not intending to be dramatic (but failing anyway) I’d like to say that Life has never given me what I wanted – instead, it disappoints me terribly, and then proceeds to extend an olive branch and give me what I need.
What I did not know I needed were weekly walks with one of my closest friends, catching up on the four years that we missed out. What I didn’t know I needed was waking up at 4:30 in the morning to be in time for badminton sessions with my closest friend, who might as well be my sibling at this point. What I needed was to face the life and death that made my profession what it was, what I needed was to spend time with my ageing dog and see him through the various wounds he gained, what I needed was to isolate myself from what I thought the world was.
I’ve spent a lot of time panicking, along with berating, loathing, and name-calling myself these past couple of months. But that, too, I needed to do, in order to realise the absolute pointlessness of my negativity in the grand scheme of things.
To deal with this negativity, I’ll make use of an oft used term in the veterinary profession – weaning. My unexpected extended vacation involved a lot of weaning – I weaned myself off habits I had long mistaken to be characteristics inherent to my personality. I weaned myself off friendships I thought would last a lifetime, off ideas that I thought would be my future, and off expectations that I had injected into the world around me.
I had dreams and plans and expectations, but what I did not have was the mental strength to deal with the universe not giving me what I thought was due to me. As I indulged in retrospection, as I had enough time to do so, I realised that, until that point, life had been kind enough to hand me whatever I asked for whenever I asked for it, and I had been lucky enough to recognise my opportunities and grab them with both hands. What I had developed, in that course, was a sense of entitlement, and the lack of awareness towards my own privilege, and what I hadn’t developed over that period of time was mental fortitude, and the humility that comes to one who doesn’t get their way every single time.
I knew how to recognise the answer to my prayers, but I didn’t know how to gracefully accept an answer that did not match my expectations.
Learning that was difficult. It meant letting go of the control I thought I had over my own life. It meant realising that control was just a made up concept, not a reality set in stone. Most importantly, it meant growing accustomed to the panic that instinctively followed the loss of control, and finding acceptance in the perceived (and prevalent) shortcomings of my own mind.
To return to the now – all in all, I spent a good last few days in packing, spending time with family, especially my old dog, meeting and catching up with dear old friends, and most importantly, lazing around with no guilt. Relaxing, if you will. Living in the moment, each moment, knowing it won’t be the same the next time around.
I know, now, that I sure as hell wasn’t ready the last time. And I can be equally sure of the knowledge that this time around, I don’t know how ready I am, only that I’m better prepared than before.
Will that be enough, though? Let’s find out.