Standing at the Crossroads.

At the tender age of 23, I have now reached the end of my school/university orientated life that was filled with essays, books, exams and the soul crushing all-nighters. It feels as if I am in my car, right by the STOP sign at a set of crossroads. Where do I go from here? Am I making the right choice? Where will I end up? Millions and millions of nagging questions going round and round in my head like a ferris wheel on crack cocaine.

My first mistake was choosing the wrong degree, but I can’t blame myself too harshly as I find it very hard to believe that every 19 year old knows bang on what they want to study, and then magically come out with a job relating partly to that degree choice. I was good at English; I used to write mini ‘novels’ when I was younger and always had my nose in a book and was even lulled to sleep due to the soothing sound of Stephen Fry narrating Harry Potter books. But unfortunately, as I grew older and began to understand that the world wasn’t the happy shiny place I had seen through my young eyes. Instead I began to learn about the politics of the world and the issues of terrorism. 9/11 in particular caught my interest; I could only think one question as I watched those planes crash into the crumbling world trade centers. Instead of jumping onto the ‘all Muslim’s are terrorists’ Western bandwagon, all I asked is: “but why would these people do such a terrible thing? What angered them so greatly to cause them to react in such a horrifically violent way?” There are always two sides to the story after all. From that day forward I was fascinated by Islam, Jihad and every aspect of the Middle East.

I chose my degree because I wanted to learn and understand about what drives such a minority of people to commit such disturbing and violent crimes – this did not necessarily mean I was good at the many History or Sociology style essays that my course demanded. I had dropped History at the age of 13 (in favor of Geography) and had no real clue on how to write a successful economics or sociology based essay. With no previous experience, my many weeks and nights of research, reading and working produced mediocre essay grades. It quickly became disheartening.

Now I stand on before the crossroads, full of ambition to head out into the REAL world (and not back to the bubble of boozing, late nights and half hearted work). I want to work, I want to finally start LIVING my life. I am grateful every day that I have had an experience that showed me there is a beautiful gold lined path leading to a career that I am passionate about and also extremely good at. I used to be passionate about my degree, but that does not automatically mean it is meant for me or that I will succeed in it.

A piece of paper (a degree), does not get you any more further in life than someone with self determination, passion and confidence in what they want to pursue, and I hope many others realize that University is not the only way to succeed in what you want in life. Time, experience and passion are truly the vital ingredients to lead you onto a life that you will love and never look back on and regret.

Don’t ever let parents/significant others/friends ever try to keep you from what you truly believe is the right thing for YOU. Once you can manage that, the crossroads won’t seem as scary as you think.

From London with love,

Caitlin

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ALWAYS follow your instinct

ALWAYS follow your instinct

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The monsters inside.

Inside each and every one of us is a smouldering dark pit of unwanted memories, resentments and emotions. This pit within us has the ability within seconds to turn us from a settled happy person, to a raging monster whom we don’t even recognize. Maybe we thought we were always that ‘settled’ and ‘happy’ person, but deep down we all know there is a monster, big or small, inside each of us that sometimes we cannot ignore or control.

As children, we are told of the scary monsters beneath our beds or the ones inside our closets at night. The only scary thing about these ‘monsters’ was that in reality they were not the big hairy ogres that lived in our imaginations, but instead were the memories and emotions that lived and grew inside us.

I remember the day that I started to realize the difference between the monsters of fantasy and those of reality. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and as usual I was sat at the kitchen table doing exam revision whilst my mother made coffee for my father, who had just come in from rowing. There had been a quiz inside one of the Saturday papers titled “how well do you know your daughter?” and my mother thought it would be fun to test my dad on the questions. My mother began with the ‘easy’ ones first: “Name three of her best friends”, my father ‘ummed’ and laughed whilst guessing random names, however none of his guesses were right. “What is her favourite subject at school?”, he didn’t know. “Name a music band she likes”, no answer. “What is her favourite sport?”, another wrong answer. “What is her favourite TV show?”, another wrong guess. By the end of the quiz I was feeling so disappointed and embarrassed that my own father clearly knew nothing about me, but laughed it off and made jokes to try and mask this horrible truth.

This ‘horrible truth’ then manifested itself quickly inside me, growing over the months and years. Every time my father let me down, from not being at a school music recital I was playing in, to only wanting to watch TV and be alone on weekends, the anger, sadness and resentment I felt slowly created a bigger monster inside of me. This was not a monster I could get rid of by simply turning on the lights and looking underneath my bed, but if I could have seen it back then, I would have been too scared to face it and let it out.

Many of us do not face up to the monsters inside of us. Sometimes we would rather pretend that these monstrous feelings inside of us do not exist as we know that facing up to it would mean us having to acknowledge painful memories which then makes that pain or memory much more real. Although facing up to our own demons and monsters puts us in a vulnerable position, the choice to try to tackle each horrible or scary monster shows great strength. The more we acknowledge our feelings, resentments and memories, the stronger we become, as we now feel that we can tackle these monsters, rather than ignoring them.

When my father announced that he and my mother were going to get a divorce, its safe to say that my monster obviously felt it could be contained no longer. By that point it was so big that it was uncontrollable, and all the anger and tears poured out in a rage that wouldn’t be out of place on the Jeremy Kyle/Jerry Springer show. My monster took hold of me and unleashed its burning anger, almost leading me to smash one of the standing lamps on him (I think the only reason I didn’t do this is because my mother told me it was an expensive lamp). I was scared of myself, but this monster wanted to hurt him so badly, for all the years in which nothing had been said. Tears streaming down my face, I told my father: “even if I did smash this lamp on you, it wouldn’t even come close to the pain that you’ve made me feel“.

I had ignored and tried to run away from the ever growing monster that held all the painful emotions and memories of my father for so long, allowing it to fester inside me over the years. As a result, I painfully learned an important lesson: running away from your monster will only turn you into one.