Life: The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful

It’s Life. You Don’t Figure It Out. You Just Climb Up On The Beast And Ride’. – Rebecca Wells 

I remember when I was 13 and I had just entered high school. We were the little fish in the big pond and it seemed that our decisions within our social lives were the be all and end all of making it through high school alive. I remember looking up at the matrics (ages 17-18)  and thinking, ‘Damn! These girls are so grown up. Their school work must be so tough, they must all be in proper relationships and they most likely have life all figured out. They were the grown-ups of our school, they could hold a proper conversation about politics, science and economics and the teachers seemed to talk to them like a proper adult as opposed to how they dealt with little 14 year olds with braces and a school dress two sizes too big. Above all, being an adult meant that they certainly had their lives mapped out in front of them, finishing school and proceeding onto their business degrees at university followed by pursuing their high-powered careers. And then I turned 18.

I was the big fish in a small pond. My final year of high school was my favourite school year, I had good grades, I was playing first team sport, I had incredible friends & I felt on top of the world. We even had a matric lunch room and a matric lawn that no other grades could touch and above all, the younger grades would look up to us with eager to please eyes just as we once did. No sooner had I started my final year of school before I blinked and was standing in our school hall being called onto stage at graduation.

High School Sport

Before I could blink I was 20. I had just had the most wild year of my life working and living abroad in a junior school in England and traveling during school holidays with the very little money that we had managed to save during term time. I was completely in my own little world, surrounded by a family of new friends from across the globe. We were all in the same boat, fresh out of school and working abroad before returning back to our respective countries to continue with the lives that we had left behind for a year. As the end of 2011 grew nearer, I clearly remember my parents summoning me for Skype calls on the school computer, ‘You need to start making some choices Nicole. The University application deadline is looming and you need to put your name down for a degree and courses. Have you made a choice yet?’

I couldn’t have felt more confused and overwhelmed. The time had indeed arrived where I had to make a choice, a choice that I was told would shape the rest of the life…what am I going to study? I used to sit down during my lunch breaks and go through the course options online, scribbling down the courses and career paths that I didn’t want to pursue…a chef, a lawyer, an engineer, a teacher, a politician and so the list went on. My other list of what I wanted to do career wise was empty. A complete blank. I couldn’t have felt more lost.

My Gap Year – 2011

Soon I was 22 and I was once again standing in a hall full of people being one of hundreds to graduate in a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree majoring in Psychology & Environmental and Geographical Sciences. I remember leaving the hall that day thinking…what now? I was almost angry at myself that after all this time I hadn’t figured what it is that I wanted to do. I was panicking. Was I ever going to be interested in anything else besides surfing, the outdoors and exploring? Why can my interests not branch any wider? Why does it feel like I’m the only one who is still so confused? Sort your sh*t out Nicole!

At this stage, it was the beginning of social media for me. It was my second year of dabbling on Instagram, Twitter and writing occasionally on my blog, and I was beginning to devote more of my time and energy into these hobbies and into understanding how these platforms work. All of this was done on the side as I completed a post graduate degree at Vega School of Brand Leadership in Cape Town, hoping that studying for another year would help me to decide on where I wanted to, what I wanted to do, to figure out my path.

Working With Ultimate Ears in Austria

Instead I found myself resenting my course and dragging myself to university in the morning. I found myself resenting the fact that, although in a very privileged position to undertake a post-grad degree, I had taken it purely as a mere ‘safety net’. Soon 2015 had come to an end, my final exams were done & I was officially unemployed.

My Beautiful Post-Grad Class Mates

Here I am, two years down the line. Self-employed with my own little company, making a living off of something that I really enjoy; photography, videography and writing, which in essence are all enablers that aid me in fulfilling my number one passion, travel. The best, and scariest part, is that I’m still unsure of what I’m doing, I’m still a little fish in a very big, scary pond trying to wing my way through life, pretending like I’m knowing what I doing when actually, I’m not really that sure. Fake it till you make it though, right?

This year I have learnt that that’s alright. In fact, I think that it’s only normal to feel lost in life sometimes, to ask yourself, ‘Am I doing this right?’ and feeling confused at trying to answer it. Now that I’m older, I have conversations with people on an almost daily basis whereby I learn that a lot of those around us whom on first appearance seem to have it all together, from a secretaries to a CEO’s, they’re are all just figuring it out as they go along, and that’s perfectly alright. I’ve learnt to enjoy that aspect of life most as I’ve been trying to adapt and figure ‘my path’ out, the uncertainty of it all and from that, motivation to succeed.

So for those of you who are 16, 18, 21 or 25 and stressing about life, about school, about degrees, about projects. Ease up on yourself. If you have a solid, determined head on your shoulders, have some trust within yourself that you will figure out a way to make it all work out. To those who feel that you should have life figured out by now, save that until you’re 90, I’ve come to learn that half the fun of life is figuring it all out.

Me Figuring Life Out
Don’t use your age as a measurement of how successful you should be, and most of all, stop bloody comparing yourself to others, it’s wasted energy. I know because my competitive nature has spent a long time comparing myself to others, in sport, in academics and in my work.
They’re treading their own path, now we must tread ours.