This photo was taken by my Dad the day we drove 8 hours to my new apartment, my new university, and my new independent life. I was 18, 2 months out of high school and ready for a whole new phase of my life. While my friends were going on gap years or enjoying the last month of holidays, I started studying. While they all hung out together and sent me snapchats of pool side summer views, I was alone, thrown in the deep end, trying to make new friends.
Making the decision to move interstate to go to uni was never really on my radar, and was very last minute. I wanted the college experience and on the off chance I wouldn’t get into any colleges in my home state my Mum made me apply inter-state, you know, as a back up. When I devestatingly got into my dream college, but not the uni it belonged to, I found myself deciding to completely leave all my friends and family behind and uproot my life within hours of my current college’s deadline.
Making that decision was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I knew I’d miss my family, but I knew they’d always be there, it was my friends I was most worried about. What if they forgot me? What if they made new better friends? What if they all changed at uni and I didn’t like them anymore? The funny thing is I now struggle most with missing my family. My friends were amazing, some I did grow further apart from, thats so be expected with any high school friends regardless of whether you move or not, but there is no one I’m completely not friends with. Moving away is the greatest test to see who your true friends are, and I am completely blessed that mine rose to the occasion. We text and sykpe constantly, they get excited when I come home and make time to see me, and most incredibly of all, some have even booked plane tickets to come and visit me, which is I think the most flattering thing anyone has ever done for me.
Ironically it’s missing my family I struggle with the most, I’ve always been extremely family orrientated, and my extended family are all extremely close. I find myself more upset at missing out on family birthdays and time with my aging grandparents than anything else. In September of my first year of uni my childhood dog died completely unexpectedly. I got a couple of texts throughout the day saying he wasn’t feeling well and then the next thing I know my mum is calling saying he had to be put down. Not being able to be there to say goodbye, not being able to mourn with my family is something I don’t think I’ll ever recover from. Having to awkwardly call my boyfriend, who I’d only been officially dating for 2 weeks to comfort me because I didn’t really have anyone else was a harrowing realisation. You never realise how great the distance is until you can’t be there when something unplanned happens.
It’s only been downhill from there. About a month later on the morning after halloween I got a phone call informing me that one of my best friends, who had also gone to study abroad, had been killed in a hit and run car incident. Again I called my boyfriend and didn’t come out of my room for 3 days. It was also 3 days before my exams. I had texted my mum the news, I couldn’t call her because I couldn’t talk through the tears, and she didn’t read my text until later that night. Not being able to get in touch with the people you need is an unexpected and horrible realisation, and extremely isolating. My university made me go to councelling which was horrible because I just blubbed my way through it. The councelling so soon after the occurance wasn’t very helpful, but I wish I’d gone back a month or two later when I was still not dealing with the depression well.
Over the last semester of that first year I missed so many family events, the deaths, my brothers university graduation (I am noticable missing from the ‘family’ portraits), some medical scares of my elderly grandparents, my family choosing and adopting a new puppy, and so many other important events. I didn’t quite realise how much this had affected me until it was the night before I was due to travel overseas alone for the first time. It was about a month after that univeristy year ended and I was going to do a university course in Greece. I had been so excited, never one feeling nervous or scared until I found myself at 1am the morning I was set to leave, having a panic attack on the floor of my bathroom.I wasn’t scared about the trip, I was scared about leaving my family again, about what was going to go wrong this time, what if someone died again? I couldn’t fly back from Greece as easily as I could from university, and communication would be severely limted, what if something happened and I didn’t find out until days later? I went on the trip anyway, faced my fears, cried the entire flight over, and had the best time.
As I’m typing this I don’t have a solid conclusion for this post. I still have panic attacks every time I have to leave home and I have not figured out anyway to stop them. What I have learnt is that not matter how left out you feel, your family still loves you, no matter how much you’re missing someone, they’re probably missing you the exact same amount, and most importantly no matter how embarrassed you are about how you’re feeling, surround yourself with people who love and care for you. Throughout my most challenging times I have been so lucky to have my friends stand around me and support me. If you have ever been through something similar, or are going through it now, please know that it will get better, maybe not permanently, but over time all wounds heal, sure they leave a scar but scars only give you thicker skin.