“The unhappiest people in this world, are those who care the most about what other people think.” ― C. JoyBell C.
“If you don’t go to university you’re a loser!”
These words rang in my ears through high school. No, it wasn’t my supportive parents chirping these words, it was the teachers and principal at my private school in the 90’s.
Constantly hearing these words was like hiding one of the answers in a multiple choice question – it was limiting and made me think my future options were only the ones they were feeding me. I imagine the test would look something like this:
What do you want to do after high school?
a) Go to university (p.s. Great choice, you’re an instant success!)
b) Go to a private college (p.s. Are you sure? You’ll possibly become a loser)
c) Get a job (p.s. Are you ready for your loser tattoo yet?)
d) Explore the world before deciding what you want to do with your life (p.s. If you’re reading this you’re delusional because it isn’t an option on this test. Be warned – traveling, or taking time out, and not studying after school is a formula for dismal failure).
OK, back to reality…
As an obedient girl who disliked conflict, I did the obvious and enrolled in university after graduation. Having no clear idea what I wanted to do or contribute to the world wasn’t a consideration. You see, my high school teachers said that, if I didn’t know what to study at university, I should enroll in an Arts Degree, as that would help me find myself, my true passion.
Yeah right, the plan didn’t work. I lasted 2 weeks, 2 long, soul-destroying weeks.
“I hate this with a passion. How can I get out of it?” is what I used to think every day. Not having the guts to quit, I created my own private prison and was prepared to give up just about anything in return for the exit key.
As fate would have it, the key fell into my lap. At the end of my 2nd week of study, I fell ill with a mysterious, debilitating condition. This was bittersweet; it completely removed me from my work and social life, but it also gave me a viable reason to leave university without being labeled a ‘loser’ for quitting.
I unenrolled as quick as I possibly could.
I felt so free. Despite having no money coming in and being unable to visit friends, my sense of relief and freedom was immense. I wallowed in this state, trying to find a pill to fix my body, for more than a year.
After visiting countless doctors and natural therapists, I was beginning to feel better. Still slow and with a strong memory of hating uni, I allowed myself to realize that I had developed a strong interest in natural medicine. Tentatively, I explored my options and eventually enrolled in a private college to study naturopathy.
Remember, according to my school teachers this meant that I could never be highly successful in life, only mediocre at best.
I didn’t care. I’d had enough of listening to the opinions of teachers, principals and other so-called successful authority figures. My future was my business and I decided it was time to re-enter the world and focus on something that genuinely interested me.
It took me 5 ½ years to finish my naturopathic course. Most people do it in 3 or 4, but my health slowed the process significantly.
You know, I was actually pleased it took so long because it gave me time to discover what was genuinely important to me. Becoming a health practitioner is a big responsibility and I felt that taking the extra time was important (I was only in my early 20’s).
Fast-forward 10 years and I was loving my career. Educating others and helping them take responsibility for their health fed me on a deep level.
But then, an old feeling returned…
I realized I was unhappy. My old mantra of “I hate this. How can I get out of it?” was back. I guess it was listening to sad stories of struggle day in, day out that got me down.
Despite my proven ability to treat clients, I had developed intense anxiety that mainly reared its ugly head just before my appointments. I’d even try to barter with my colleague, asking her to see my clients in exchange for me doing some of her duties.
After 12 months of anxiety and bartering, I knew I had to make a change; but, I was still resisting making the final leap, just like I did with university.
What happened next?
Fate stepped in (again) and gave me my out. One night, I fractured my heel and tore ligaments from my toe through to my ankle. It was pretty bad and the pain was intense.
However… this was my exit key.
I happily called work for the next week telling them I couldn’t walk and was unable to come in. At this stage, I was so content not going to work that I hadn’t even considered going to the doctor to see what was wrong, nor had I got crutches to help me move.
Yes, I was hopping on 1 leg around my house (up and down stairs) for a week before I decided to do any investigations.
After I got the results, I milked it with work for another week. During this time away, I realized how plausible it was to leave – to quit the career I had worked so hard to create. I realized the feeling of leaving, with no job to go to and an impaired ability to walk, was far more enticing than the prospect of earning a steady income and dreading seeing clients.
The day I quit that job – and career – was just as freeing as unenrolling from university. Oh, it felt sooooooooo good!
But, reality set in just a few days later.
Having no income, no job prospects and little ability to walk had left me with no option but to make a change. After 9 months, my foot totally recovered and I was ready to make my move.
So, where am I now?
Much to the dismay of my high school teachers, I have a highly successful career that requires no university degree. It’s a creative job that demands passion, innovation and an ability to think on the run.
My husband and I run a film production house and we’re happier – and healthier – than ever before. Around the same time, we both made the decision to change our careers (he was a factory worker), and now, after years of learning, training and on the job experience, we run a successful business and work with organizations around the world.
This truly is what freedom feels like.
So, what have I learned?
Well, it’s obvious to me that life can be amazing even if you don’t have a university qualification. What’s most important is that you listen to the little voice inside that’s telling you on a daily basis if you’re moving towards, or from, something that makes you happy. If you use this as your barometer for success, not the words of you high school teachers, you’re on the path to true health, happiness, and satisfaction.
What’s your little voice saying?