“You never thought things would turn out like this, did you?”

I had my second and final exam on Thursday. I totally blanked out during it. The paper was just fine. I recognised all the questions from the past papers- could visualize all those times I had sat and gone through it, but I could not for the life of me write it down. I felt tired and I couldn’t think straight. I wanted to be worried about it afterwards, but I just felt relieved, happy to have it done with. These past few days since have been a blur – sleeping too much, eating badly, binging on dramas and the internet. The semester isn’t even over but I’ve settled comfortably into a lazy post-uni routine. I’m not happy. I spend my days lazily, laughing, wasting time away, but end them crying. I can’t get rid of my sense of unease, of my worries.

I wish I was going somewhere this summer. Last summer I went to Japan, the summer before that it was Singapore and moving to Malaysia, the summer before that it was South Africa. Last year I went to South Korea, Thailand and Japan. It was so great to be travelling like that. My finances are too much of a mess to do anything like that this year. A part of me is tempted to dig into my – admittedly meagre but still existent – savings. I know I shouldn’t – but I just want to get away. Yes, I want to run from it all. It did not quite work when I went to Edinburgh earlier this year – so I want to go further.

I was going through my old journal entries earlier. “Although I don’t mind taking the long road, I do want to end up where I originally planned,” I wrote once. Well, I’m not entirely sure I’m ever going to end up there. After I failed my A levels and was given another chance to go to university I saw it as my fresh start, my chance to work towards my own happiness. I made a bunch of goals for myself, big and small to check off. Criteria for happiness and turning into an adult- go to university for my foundation year, do well so I can transfer to the course of my choosing to do electrical and electronic engineering, study abroad in second year, get a internship after my second year, then get a good job at the end of it all. My ultimate dream was never anything grand – just a steady 9-5 job, a small apartment, being able to travel, move abroad. Meanwhile I wanted to learn to drive, make friends, learn how to cook and eat properly, learn Japanese, learn how to apply makeup, join a society and learn something new. There were things I wanted to do and things I thought I ought to do because that’s what everyone my age seemed to be doing. (Or had already done – I was already behind my peers a little because I had suffered from depresssion, heck I was behind the from the moment I immigrated to this country and since then I’ve always felt like I am playing catch up.) Anyway, I had everything planned out and I thought that if I just worked hard enough it would all unfold just like that. I was so full of hope for that future.

As time has passed I have been able to tick off so many of those boxes- I got into university, I got to study abroad, I got to travel, I joined societies and tried new things. But nothing was OK. I put my all into my degree, and have managed to struggle forwards, but everything else had been left behind. I never quite managed to learn to drive, I never quite managed to learn how to connect with people again, I struggled with my weight and my appearance and eating, and finally, I couldn’t get a job. So now I’m questioning, and I’m fearful. What if everything doesn’t work out? I’m beginning to realise that there are some things that no matter how much you want them, or how hard you work, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll obtain them. Its an obvious thing, isn’t it. But I was so wrapped up in my dreams and my hope that I couldn’t see how I was setting myself up for this sense of failure – that I was loading myself with expectations, burdening myself with them. Its a double edged sword having goals. It gives you the strength to keep going, but you can get so attached to them that it makes you inflexible, it makes you put yourself under pressure, messes you up. You set yourself up for being crushed when you can’t meet your expectations for yourself.

And I’m scared. I tell myself to let it go. I have to be more flexible with my future, I have to be more open to disappointment, to taking a different path if necessary. But my dreams mean so much to me. I have these pictures in my head of how I want things to be, and its these fantasies that have kept me going. I clung so hard to the future I wanted, to the person I wanted to be, and now I realise, it may not happen.

We’re always told to dream big, that if we work hard enough and are positive enough then everything will work out. But its not like that, is it? Sometimes you have to be realistic, sometimes you have to let go, adjust to new circumstance. We cannot have everything we want and that’s OK, I know that. Its learning how to take the opportunities you have and to make the most of what you have got that counts. Staying positive and believing that even if its not want you want, maybe it will be what you need. But it’s hard to accept. I may not end up with the job I really want. That graduate job I crave may not end up belonging to me, and maybe it isn’t the right path for me. I may not end up living where I want. I may never be able to live abroad, or travel as much as I want. Again, is this really what I want or need any more? I’m probably never going to be able to look how I want. That’s also OK, it’s better to be healthier than to pressure yourself to look how you think you should. I’m always going to struggle socially, and this is something I have to work on- my expectations of other people are also just as ridiculously high as my expectations for myself. I think part of all this is learning to accept myself – both my strengths and my limitations. If I give it all up though, will I really be happier? Because what on earth do you do when you give up your dreams? How do you keep on going, moving forwards, when you are not sure what you are going forwards for? Just what pictures should I keep in my mind to give me strength when it gets hard? Do you just keep going for the sake of it? How? When it hurts this much.