A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Why It's Ok To Change Your Mind & Making Decisions in Your Twenties

If you've read my recent post updating you on the key parts of what's gone on in my life over the past nine months, you'll have seen that up until late August I was set to spend this next year doing a masters in International Relations at Exeter University.

Fast forward to now, and I'm living at home with my Mum and Gran in London, working in a temping job at Wimbledon until the 7th December, and flying out to New Zealand to spend around six months travelling on the 10th December. Oh, and I should probably mention that I had only decided to do my masters in April this year. Before that I wanted to spend this year travelling but didn't really have a clue how I was going to go about it.

It's safe to say that that's a lot of changing your mind and today I want to talk about why that's ok.

Those who know me in real life will tell you that I am characteristically not a spontaneous person. Sure, I sometimes love to have a spontaneous night out or unexpected plans every now and then, but I'm a planner through and through. I love lists and I love being organised. If we're talking Friends characters I am definitely a Monica, not a Phoebe... I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture. And so I always thought that when I graduated from uni I would very much have a plan worked out and be raring to get straight to it.

In reality, three years at Exeter went ridiculously fast and before I knew it it was the Easter holidays of my final year of my undergraduate degree and I wasn't anywhere close to having that plan.

As I've mentioned before, I've wanted to travel for years but I always assumed that by the time I got to third year I'd have found someone to do those travels with. But it just worked out that none of my closest friends wanted to do the trip I dreamed of after leaving uni and I wasn't keen on the idea of doing it alone. More importantly, by Easter I was *terrified* by the fact that I didn't have this plan that I always thought I would and by the fact that uni felt like it was ending far too quickly for my liking and I just didn't feel done with it.

At that point I was hugely panicked but quickly dismissed my Mum's suggestion to do a masters to give myself another year by saying that it would be a classic 'panic masters' (where a student suddenly faced with the horrific thought of having to face graduate life decides to do a masters to postpone facing said life) and that no one would take me seriously.

But then, of course, over those weeks of Easter the idea of one more year to 'get my head straight' and enjoy studying in Exeter became more and more appealing. I mulled over the decision for a few weeks with my closest friends and family and eventually concluded that doing this MA would be a good option for me - it would be in a subject I'm hugely interested in, it would be another qualification and most importantly, it would give me another year of structure. Really, from the outset it was clear that this masters was not going to be done purely for love of learning, but it was going to be done because I thought I would enjoy this extra year of being a student and figuring out what I wanted to do after university.

And so I went full steam ahead, slightly scared that people would judge me but also aware that it wasn't like I was about to announce to my friends and family that I'd decided to pursue a life of crime - I was going to do something that is largely very respected. While this decision clearly wasn't one my heart was fully in from the get-go, I want to emphasise that it wasn't an inherently bad decision and I'm sure it would have been fine had I gone through with it - it just wouldn't have been following what I really wanted (but was afraid) to do.

In the meantime, I met my boyfriend Liam. Liam who told me when I met him that he was going to New Zealand in September and planning on spending nearly a year out there. Yep, Liam was going to the one place that has been top of my list since my sister moved there when I was thirteen and that I'd just a couple of months ago chickened out of doing myself. I'm not gonna lie, that was difficult to swallow. But I just thought from the very start of us dating and with this knowledge that he was going away that I had made my decision to do this MA and I was obviously going to see that through because I had committed to it. And you can't change your mind once you've made a decision like that, right??

Wrong. Of course you absolutely can.

Do you want to know one of the best things about being twenty-one, with the privilege of being able to live with family rent-free, having no children, no husband, no mortgage and it being the twenty-first century? You can easily change your mind. You can make mistakes and then correct them. You can try new things and make decisions that might seem a bit crazy and not really know what you're doing but go full steam ahead with them anyway. You are not trapped in any one direction.

Revolutionary, I know.

But two months ago, I could not for the life of me get my head around that. I was anxious and miserable for a few weeks and felt so lost, not realising that it was because my eyes had suddenly been opened to the fact that, you know what, I could actually do this travelling thing that I've always wanted to do. I wouldn't have to wait another year and I could actually do it now. And I could try to make it work with this boy who I really, really like and want to be with, whose plans kind of fit in with what I had originally wanted to do with this year. But I was so scared of changing my mind, of what people would think, that for a few days I let myself be a ball of anxiety refusing to acknowledge that I had a choice to make in front of me.

That is madness. In hindsight, I can't believe that at that point I was considering spending a year of my life doing something that no longer appealed to me at all and that would cost me an arm and a leg just because I was scared of what other people would think. When you hit your twenties you've spent almost your entire life being conditioned to think that life is highly structured and that you have to know what you're going to do after what's right in front of you and always be working towards the next thing. It's how the education system works. But it's not how life works. And if you are lucky enough to be in a position like I said before where you don't have many responsibilities, now is the time to put yourself first. Now is the time to think about what you really want, and not be afraid of it but to go out and go for it. And I was afraid to do that.

As a Monica, changing your plans last minute, going travelling to the other side of the world and not really knowing what it's going to be like when you get there and committing to a new long-distance relationship is far from the done thing. But, I have finally (for the moment) stopped caring about what people may think - and, side note: nobody I have told about my new plans has been anything but thrilled for me at finally getting to live what has been a dream of mine for years. And if they hadn't been then (unless it was because of genuine concern) screw them. Whatever I thought the 'done thing' was is just not in the slightest worth doing solely for the reason that it is the 'done thing' or because I was afraid to stray from that.

And so I have learnt that this period of my life is this amazing time in which I'm not tied down in any way and that I can go out, explore and try new things and live a life that isn't structured in the way it has been up until now, but that's one I've been wanting to experience for the longest time.

I am *so* lucky to have such supportive people around me and to have realised that I have the freedom to make decisions like this and, in case you needed to hear it, I wanted to share today that you have every right to change your mind and that you are not trapped on one path. Obviously that is hugely dependent on privilege and on personal circumstances but, if you have that privilege, by all means make the most of it. I am grabbing my freedom with both hands and, while I'm still a bit scared of what's to come over the next few months, I could not be more excited for this next chapter and to see where it takes me.

I also think it's important to note that even if changing your mind turns out to be terrible, you can change it back again. There's such a fear surrounding changing your mind which has caused a belief that you have to be so sure of whatever decision you're making. But life is not always that simple, circumstances change and you can only plan so far ahead. I might hate travelling and want to come straight back. I don't think that will happen, but you never know. If it does, it won't be the end of the world and I'll still have learnt some huge life lessons from it.

So know that it is ok to change your mind - the world won't stop turning, if it's a decision that's right for you the people who matter will be nothing but happy for you, and your twenties are the time to explore, change your mind and make a million mistakes. And I definitely plan to do just that.

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