I sat at my computer at a loss as I read down once again at the piece of paper enclosed in my hand.
‘Please explain in few or more sentences why you are passionate about this course.’ I retraced the words back over and over in my head, settling on the word ‘passionate’ when a wave of negative emotions crashed over me.
Over the past few months, I had set myself up for what was to come. I was in my final year of college in New Zealand and like the rest of us, I was on my path to secondary education. Throughout my school years, I was lead to this moment. After many career expos and online quizzes telling me what career path I was going to take it was finally time to decide what I would study at university to set me up for my life.
But as I sat there come near the end of my application form, this one word ‘passionate’ abruptly stopped me in my tracks. So far the application process had been somewhat simple, I included what documents needed to be involved, I talked myself up to the best ability but now it was time to talk about why. And until now I hadn’t really thought about it, because up until this moment I hadn’t been listening to myself but to the opinion of others.
I gazed up at the screen my hands frozen in place and the page blank, I had gotten so far in the process why was I so stuck now. I decided to take a small break in hopes that the words would come back to me over time. I scanned my mouse up to the tabs on my computer screen and clicked to one I had opened earlier on. It was a site for animal conservations overseas that you could volunteer at. I scrolled through pages and pages of images of people bathing with elephants in Thailand and people creating paths for baby turtles in the sandy beaches of Madagascar. I could spend house viewing these sorts of things it always made me feel so happy inside.
But I was stalling so I decided to retrace back to my application form and get it done and sent off. I googled templates and advice on what to include in my response and that was that. Finally, I had done what I needed to do and my application was sent off now all I could do was wait for the callback and the rest was history.
Still, something inside me felt off but I brushed it off and continued with my day. School had lead me up to this moment, study was the choice we were encouraged to make and I had made it so far in the process so I couldn’t just let that all go… could I?
A couple weeks later me and mum were talking a drive over to the city for a day out from our small town comforts. I was aware I would be hearing back from my chosen university and I was very fearful, I couldn’t quite understand why but I just assumed it was the fear of rejection. Not long into our drive, I received a phone call and I knew instantly it would be the school and my heart sunk so deep into the pit of my stomach.
“Hello, there I am Diana from Christchurch University and I am calling to discuss application results, am I speaking with a Tayla Harter?”
As my heart retraced it steps back up to its assigned place and I began to find my voice again I replied back with a simple,
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Great, well I would like to inform you Tayla that we have viewed your application and we would love to invite you in for the final interview to secure your space in our school.”
At the moment my heart had done a triple summersault and was dropped down on the floor and my ability to speak was shot. But also in this moment of fear, something switched inside me. My mum in the driver’s seat was looking frantically between me and the road as she continued to drive unsure of what was being said on the other line as my face was fixated on the road and no emotion was shown.
I sucked down a deep breath and let the words flow out of my mouth before I could even come to grips on what I was saying.
“Thank you Diane, but I’m sorry I am going to have to decline your offer as something else has come up.” and with that, I proceeded to listen to her accept my decline and wish me all the best and that was that. The phone line cut out and I sat there in silence my mum still frantically looking back and forth waiting for an explanation. Suddenly after a long pause of silence, a big smile grew on my face and I knew at that moment with no idea why but I had done the right thing.
Explaining to those close to me of my impromptu decision to turn down secondary study was a difficult conversation to have to say the least. For one, my mother was furious, she couldn’t quite fathom how I had come so close to an opportunity that is encouraged to then throwing it all away just like that with no plan B whatsoever. I was on a path well planned out for me, I would move to Christchurch, go to Uni for three or however many years in a subject that tickled my fancy and from that, I will be able to get a carer and be financially stable and the rest is history. But I have always been someone to make abrupt changes based on my emotions if something isn’t right and if I’m not happy then I will make changes in my life in order for things to feel right again. Throughout my early teenage years, I suffered from extreme depression and anxiety I would let these emotions take over me and I would react in such terrible ways until it got to a point where things had to change, I was so afraid of change, afraid it would backfire and things would get worse, afraid of every little thing there was to be afraid of. I was helpless so on I went I moved back to my hometown and made the changes each small step of the way to recovery. I wish I could say I was completely cured of all my problems and off I went jetting into the sunset but that’s not quite how it works, but things did get much much better for me and I was finally feeling good about life again.
Now, this example of my ability to make changes in life is a rather extreme example but it was this big change in my life that gave me the courage to be able to listen to myself and trust my inner intuition to make choices of what was best for me in order to live a happy fulfilled life.
So when the application process came along and I knew in my gut something was off after many stages of fear induce ignorance I knew in myself that I had to let go and accept that this wasn’t the path written out for me even if it was the easy option.
So coming back to the word ‘passion’ what was I really passionate about? It was quite obvious that university didn’t quite fit into that equation as it was the last thing I wanted to talk about, hear about or just quite frankly dive into the world of. I wasn’t ready to think career, man, I barely knew how to take public transport, in fact, the idea of public transport terrified me. I had never even left my own country I’d been living at home my whole life growing up in a system. I didn’t know a thing about myself or what I wanted to do in order to receive a decent paycheck every week. I had much more I needed to learn but in order to learn it, I had to do what I really felt that passion to do and that was…Travel. I had never been so sure about anything other than the fact that I wanted to travel the world, experience new cultures, have every day be different and exciting, to learn, to grow and well just all of the above really. Now I’m sure you’re reading this probably thinking, ‘oh well yeah sure who doesn’t want to travel, I wouldn’t mind dipping my feet in the sandy beaches of Maui right now’.
But for me, it was about more than just visiting the tourist hot spots of the city or relaxing out on the beach working on my tan for days on end (although probably a good idea considering I’m almost transparent). It was about wanting to learn more about myself, to immerse my self in such a culture that I kiss the grounds of my own beautiful country in gratitude of how lucky I am, I wanted to wake up, to see more, do more, I mean I was from New Zealand for god sakes this place was so tiny and so far from anywhere else I was just bursting to see what was out there, to be anonymous, to not be known for my past, or focused on my future, to just be and explore new grounds every day.
So that’s what I did.
Before I even had the chance to grasp onto time it had slipped away beneath my feet. Five months had passed since I had turned down and moved on from the idea of secondary schooling. In these five months, I successfully finished college and all my exams with it which for me was a big deal in itself. I had been so caught up in getting into a secondary school that I forgot to move back a few steps and congratulate myself on even making it through college. Due to my struggles at an early age, school was very difficult for me. Not in the academic sense as such, as a student, I always produced relatively good work but it was just a matter of whether I was going to do the work.
I missed a lot of my first few years of college mainly due to the fact that I just didn’t go. I didn’t like the school environment, I wasn’t able to enjoy what I was learning and I was struggling with my own demons in my head that the idea of going to school was not an option for me half the time. I just wanted to isolate myself and distract myself through rebellious acts. Then I was forced within myself to make a decision and that’s when I decided to move back to my hometown to finish school there. With only two years left of college, I was confronted with the harsh truths of reality and was given two options, one was to continue down this path of pain and destruction and the other was to rise above it, push through harder than I have ever pushed before and make it through school and not just make it but excel. And well quite frankly that’s what I did, not so simple as put but when I sat there with all my ex-college peers, while voices echoed around the hall of our successes I exhaled all my inner demons and congratulate myself for making it this far and knew within myself that this was the true beginning for me. I put behind me my school days, my struggles and my mistakes, I was to put one foot in front of the other and just moved on. There was a big world out there waving a welcome banner with my name on it and I was ready to get out there and experience all that was on offer.
So before I knew it school was over and a few months on had passed I had been working full time over the summer holidays saving every penny while planning out my travels. I had switched between many ideas of what I was going to do in the new year. I weighed up moving to Canada, getting a visa and working over there for a couple years. I weighed up travelling to South Africa and working at the animal conservation. But for some reason, only one idea was sticking in my mind and that was Australia. I had always loved the idea of Australia and it was the only other place in the world that I had close family, but my initial thoughts were, it’s not enough. Australia was just across the water, it was so familiar to my own home, I had had dreams of living in communal homes in the middle of the Africa Sahara, reading books in hammocks and waking for sunrise each day before heading out into the unknown to treat to the wildlife. But for some reason I was being led to Australia, all these big dreams were all crashing beneath me while Australia had its path woven out right in front of me with big LED signs pointing me forward. So I did what I had to do and I called my Aunty and Uncle in Sydney, Australia, asking if they had room to accommodate me and they were more than happy to have me come to stay, so I booked my one-way ticket and that was that in just one week I would be leaving the comforts of my home and moving to Sydney (with absolutely no plan might I add) to start my new life.
Although the months of work leading up to my departure felt so incredibly slow and painful, by the time I was being waved off by my mum and her partner at the Christchurch international airport ready to leave my old life behind and start a new, those weeks leading up to it had seemed to pass by so quickly I could barely grasp what had even happened.
But I was ready, more ready than I had ever been, everything leading up to this move had flowed into place so perfectly and everything about what I was doing just felt so right…scary, but right.
I, of course, had my internal anxieties about where I was going to live how I would make money and all of the above, I had saved a small amount to get me on my feet from my summer job and accommodation sorted for a few weeks by my Aunty and Uncle but getting on my feet was the be all end all and I was giving myself only a few weeks to be able to achieve it. So to say I was nervous was a bit of an understatement but deep inside me, I trusted that things would work itself out for me and I would be on my way, I’d never felt more sure about anything in my life other than this move.
So when I stepped off the plane and into new soil I felt a happiness rush over me that I had been unable to feel for such a long time. I handed my suitcase over to the taxi driver and sat myself down in the back of the taxi ready to head to my new home for a few weeks.
As the car began to take off along the motorway I wound down the window as I felt the cool Australian breeze brush against my face, I felt so incredibly free in this one moment, I knew waiting in front of me was the chance to build a life completely of my own, a life not encouraged by my parents or my peers or the expectations that surrounded me, it was all up to me to decided what I wanted my life to look like.
And that’s what I sought out to do.