I went through a big period of my life thinking ‘what if?’. I became obsessed with the notion, and the very simple sentence starter quickly turned into a poisonous dagger to my young heart.
You see, I had big plans when I was in high school (but then again, who doesn’t?). I struggled for years trying to pinpoint exactly what I wanted to be (i.e. what job did I want to study for that was sufficiently going to pay the bills and support my elaborate fashion and travel expenses) and would feel shit at the beginning of every school year when we had to select the subjects that would support our chosen university course – or in my case, which ones I found mildly interesting and knew I could get good grades in.
My guidance councillors were oh so naive, and didn’t even give me brochures for universities out of the state. Online courses were dismissed and taking a gap year was frowned upon and when it came round to applying I had no fucking clue what my calling was yet.
In the end, applied for a Bachelor of Creative Writing, majoring in Journalism (or something similar to that) at QUT, an excellent university in Brisbane. I wasn’t writing regularly, but I hadn’t found any other passions that I thought I could turn into a money machine, so journalism was where I landed on. Thankfully, I had plenty of encouragement from my teachers, who would happily accept second and third and fourth drafts for English assignments to push me that little bit further. I remember one of my teachers saying he was excited to see me in five years time, being a badass music journalist working at Rolling Stone (a solid dream of mine, so you can imagine how chuffed I was). I thought that hey, if these educated adults could believe in me, then maybe I had a shot.
Brisbane was my one way ticket out of my home town, and a place I had often visited and longed to call home. I considered it as my new leaf, and the opportunity to really be me without the small town judgements hanging over my head. I was excited to meet people who liked the same music as I, and show me all of the local treasures, and throw picnics in pretty little parks and spend every other weekend dancing my pants off at gigs.
I would get a cool job in the meantime (probably at a fashion store or working for as an assist for a local magazine) and have a cute little flat somewhere close to the city and I would head up to the Sunshine Coast during holidays, and then when I was graduated and good and ready, I would head down to Melbourne and work at a rad magazine and have a generally cool life.
But then graduation rolled around, and I knew I wasn’t ready for all of that just yet. I had always said I was taking a gap year, and wanted to go to Bali and other exotic places. But I stayed with my stupid high school boyfriend (being naive and in your first relationship is NOT a good mix) and basically just spent the whole year online shopping and working and hanging out with him.
No grand adventures were had, that’s for sure. And after a year of supposed soul searching, I came up with nada. I had barely written a word, and I began to doubt myself. How can I even call myself a writer if I don’t even fucking WRITE?!, I would think in despair. What if I showed up to the course and everyone else was more experienced and passionate and better connected than I was? I shoud’ve just gave the finger to my inner voice and pursued it anyway, but I didn’t. Journalism was off the cards, for now at least.
After endless researching, and cursing myself for not saving up to study abroad, I came across a very cool course that seemed like it would not only be practical, but satisfy my bubbling creative urges. A Bachelor of Business & Creative Industries (majoring in Fashion) sounded like the perfect mix for a lost gal like myself, and as fashion was something I have always enjoyed, I thought it would be the ideal way to check out the industry without having to pretend I could design clothes (hint: I am a TERRIBLE drawer).
I left my home of 13 years with an overflowing suitcase and a lot of excitement. I won’t go into all the Brisbane details, because that’s a whole other story, but basically the Business half sucked (so bloody boring!) and the Creative classes fascinated me beyond comprehension. I had no idea about the industry that had been hidden from me for all those years. Everyone was so stylish and eclectic and had done SO MUCH STUFF. I was inspired and determined and couldn’t wait to see where this world took me.
One of our guest lecturers spoke about her career so far, and she had already worked in Sydney, London and Brisbane and was only 27 or so. She seemed like such a remarkable and hardworking woman and I knew instantly that I wanted to be like her as she combined fashion, branding and journalism into her repertoire.
But then I left the course. Six months in, and I vanished without a trace (although honestly I think my Economics teacher expected that one) and moved back home. Looking back, I want to throw that Vivienne out of her city view window (the fall would only rattle her) and give her a stern talking to. She left a city that she loved and a course that she enjoyed to make a horrible relationship work. She gave up everything she wanted to do and lost herself completely in order to be a ‘good girlfriend’, but again, that’s another story entirely.
She consoled herself (and the questioning others, as there always are) that she wasn’t really into that degree and wanted to become a primary school teacher instead. Which was all well and good, until a year and a half into that degree and she realised that the Australian education system is corrupt and it will never nurture everyone accordingly.
I have to admit that I’m doing alright now – hell, I even managed to go to Bali since all of that! – and am now studying for a career that both fascinates and inspires me and has me bloody excited for the future.
But what if? What if I had stayed in my Creative Industries course? What if I had graduated when I was supposed to and landed a job at a fashion publication or working for an e-commerce store. What if I shined at this job, and was fast-tracked to work for a glamourous company in Melbourne that would set the foundations for my eventual move to New York and/or London? What if I never came home?
Like I said, I used to be obsessed with this idea. When things were going horribly, I would often think about what could’ve been, and romanticise the shit outta that wistful situation.
Nowadays, I’m in a much better mindset, and I don’t think about the choices I should’ve/could’ve made back then. I was young and impressionable, and under the finger of a not-so-great partner, and my self-esteem was practically non-existent. No wonder why I regretted my decisions and questioned my thoughts. I was lost! I thought that if only I had the chance, things could work out how I once wanted them to.
But you know what I think about that – *lots of swear words and cussing*. There’s absolutely no point! I’ve become quite the little mystical gal of late, and genuinely believe in fate, and things happening for a bloody reason. How that if I didn’t make all of those silly decisions that I wouldn’t be where I am now, feeling confident and calm and happy. How I would never have had this cute place or ran into my lovely boyfriend at a nightclub (that story is actually the textbook definition of fate, even if James continues to deny its existence) or got to form special bonds with my two little brothers.
I could go on and on about the things that wouldn’t have happened if I stayed in that degree. It now almost scares me to think how differently things could’ve gone, because I am so proud of how I’ve grown and of all the things I’ve done in these past few years.
Sure, maybe all of my wildest dreams would’ve come true and I’d be living somewhere fantastically foreign right now, running around a beautiful city in a trendy trench, moulding seamlessly into the crowds of a busy subway station. I would be busy out of my mind, but happy, but of course, distracted by my multiple devices going off, chiming about the different elements of my life struggling to gain my attention. I would stop for a moment, attempting to silence the chaos whilst juggling all of my belongings, and in the midst of it all I wouldn’t hear the boarding call for my train, and end up late for the remainder of the day.
But what if I never missed the train?