Lessons Learnt

The last year and a half has been useless. Well, its been useful in that I realize calling any period of time ‘useless’ is a contradiction.

Life is not  a checklist of acquisitions and achievements, there’s no one keeping score but yourself.

Time is not useful or useless, it is either enjoyed or endured. And all that stuff I didn’t get to do…….I had so much fun not doing it!

There! It wasn’t useless at all, was it? I’ve learnt to quit keeping score!

If I was keeping score, I would mention I got offered two PhDs.  I gave those up for a third PhD. Then the day after my visa came, and I had literally and metaphorically burnt all my ships, the HR people called and said they couldn’t afford me. So no PhD. Not a one.

That little shard of my heart that harbored the scientist wishes, I think it slipped through my fingers at some point when I was piecing my heart back together. Its not there anymore. I don’t want it now. I just want a career, any career, and I want to be happy. I learnt that. I learnt wanting specific things can turn into an obsession, and you end up giving someone the power to destroy you. I won’t make that mistake again. I’m the only one who gets to determine my happiness. Not a scholarship committee, not an HR lady, not the visa office. Me. And just so that I don’t forget this year and a half, and end up making the same mistakes again, here they are in writing.

Lesson 1. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Or, if Cardiff offers you a PhD, and you get the visa, don’t give it up for another PhD that doesn’t have the paperwork yet. Even if its Imperial. Specially if its Imperial.

Lesson 2. No one cares. The neighbours, your aunts, the bitches in high school with their peroxide blonde hair using daddy’s money to launch a clothing line. They don’t give a shit about your life. They’re not the one’s who lie awake at night trying to come up with a career plan, they’re not the one’s negotiating work hours, they won’t hold your hand when the world falls apart on a Thursday afternoon. They don’t get a say. Block them out. Don’t live your life to impress people. Live your life so that you are at peace. Which would automatically stop you from caring about people who are nothing more than an item on your newsfeed.

Lesson 3. Even people who do care, don’t get a say. No one gets a say except you. Not your sisters, not your parents, not your brother. They love you, and they want to see you happy, but they can not make your decisions. Don’t listen to them. Ask them for advice, hear them out, but don’t really listen. You’re going to make mistakes. You could get a first from Cambridge, and three PhD offers, and still wind up being unemployed and hopeless in a year. Life will disappoint you. Make sure you have no one to blame.Make sure every mistake is your own. And make every decision from your gut. Not your heart, it’s too involved, not your brain, its too distant. Go with your gut. Those mistakes are the easiest to live with.

Lesson 4. Interim rocks. Be happy. If you can’t sleep at night, go check out the sunrise. If you don’t have an office to go to, go hang out at your mom’s. You don’t have a party invite, putter around the house in high heels. God’s giving you a break. Take it.

Lesson 5. Sorrow doesn’t justify inflicting sorrow on others. Don’t shout at your dad. It’ll hurt you more than any job rejection ever would.

Lesson 6. The broken, twisted people are often the most interesting ones. Develop a healthy taste for irony. Be amused by what life has up its sleeves. Smirk. Be supercilious. Its good for the soul.

Lesson 7. Don’t take sleeping pills. Or muscle relaxants. Or blood pressure medicine. No one, no thing, should hold such sway over you as to reduce you to a pill popper.

Lesson 8. Effort does not equal result. You could work yourself silly and not get what you want. But work nonetheless. You won’t have any regrets that way. Best case scenario, you eventually get what you want. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a lot of bargaining chips come time to choose your hell fire.

Lesson 9. Buy things. Things are good. Things are great. Things can make you happy. Never regret anything that makes you happy.

Lesson 10. Don’t be nasty to employers, no matter what stunt they pull. Don’t be servile either. Keep your dignity, and give them theirs. Don’t take bullets for them, but don’t aim at them either. You will need references. Preferably not blood stained ones.

Lesson 11. Listen to a really sad song and cry it out. But just one. Then switch to Beyonce and Disney. Its amazing how potent cheap music can be.

Lesson 12. Bend a little. Just a little. So that you don’t break.

Lesson 13. If you have people who sit next to you when you’re sniveling, you’re blessed. Don’t take them for granted. And return the favour. More than anything, I have realized over the last year just how much I am loved. I would never have stuck with me if I had a choice. I was a mess.

Lesson 14. Be honest with people, no matter how tricky the situation is. If someone else wants you, it only makes you that much more desirable as an investment. Don’t try to juggle job offers silently, it will only end badly.

Lesson 15. Don’t volunteer information. When it comes to money and jobs and careers, live on a strictly need to know basis. There’s so much more fun stuff to talk about.

Lesson 16. Laugh. Sing. Dress up. Don’t think about the future. Think in the short term—not further than your next cup of tea.

Lesson 17. ‘There is no such thing is happiness or misery. There is only the comparison of one thing with another.’ Don’t compare.

Lesson 18. Breathe. As long as there’s life, there’s capacity for happiness. Breathe. You’ll be fine, poppet.

Lesson 19. Keep moving.


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