CHOOSING HAPPINESS

~*~Disclaimer: This post is a wall of words about life logistics! Fun stories coming soon :)! ~*~

In my last entry I wrote that I decided to move to Melbourne “quickly and confidently.” To quantify this, I was absolutely certain of this huge decision after thinking it through for thirty minutes or so. From the outside I guess it seems pretty psychotic for me to change the direction of my life so drastically, so quickly, but it is something I have some prior experience with.

I spent my first semester of college not happy. Not “unhappy,”  just “not happy.” I attended the University of Maryland, which was a huge, public college located twenty minutes from the house I grew up in. I picked the school because it made sense on paper; the education would be good quality for an affordable price. But in practice, Maryland just wasn’t the place for me. My life seemed fine from the outside; I had plenty of friends, did well in my classes, went out often, but through it all stuck a feeling I couldn’t shake: I felt like I shouldn’t be there. I can’t really explain or describe this sensation; I just felt like I was going down the wrong path in life. With the support of my incredible (seriously, so incredible) parents, I decided to transfer to Tulane University the following semester.

So, I got this unsettling feeling of “not happiness” and then decided to do something that I thought (very hopefully) would make me happy. Such an deceivingly simple concept: choosing to be happy.

Fear of the unknown is the root of any excuse we have when we choose to stay content with being not happy. (In theory; obviously money and opportunity come in to play in the real world). Transferring to a school halfway through the year was terrifying. I didn’t know if there was housing available until the day before I left, I rushed sororities my first day on campus and then was left to figure out how to make friends past the freshman honeymoon period. I was jumping off a diving board into a cold swimming pool with a murky bottom. But potential happiness was (and still is) more important to me than how daunting all of it was.

Let’s take a much needed break from this #whitegirlproblem and talk about slaves in Ancient Rome.

Chariot racing was one of the most popular and dangerous sports of the time. The slaves of wealthy families were responsible for piloting a tiny, rickety chariot from behind four huge, powerful horses. The charioteers forced their opponents into the walls and bumpers to get each other to crash, and for added excitement, the reins to the horses were tied at the slave’s waist. When there was a collision, the slaves would be dragged by the horses around the colosseum until they freed themselves. The men in this brutal position had two options: they could let the horses drag them on the floor, or they could stand up and run with them. In both cases, they’re getting pulled in an unknown direction unwillingly, but their attitude and effort changes the experience of the ride. The expression “running with fate” is adapted from this theory. We’re at fate’s mercy; getting pulled by time to an unpredictable future. But we have two options: We can be passive and settle for the joyride, or we can stand up and take fate into our own hands (or, I guess, legs).

Integrating myself into the cliquey Tulane social scene was not easy. I put a tremendous amount of effort in meeting people and making friends. Learning how to talk to strangers, take rejection, find happiness in solidarity, and make and strengthen relationships were invaluable experiences that have transcended time and now are crucial skills I depend on while traveling and living on my own. My first year was really tough, but I left New Orleans this past July with two things that make all the work I put in worth it: genuine friends and authentic happiness. From the difficult transition, I learned and proved two more crucial life lessons: everything happens for a reason, and everything works out eventually.

Achieving happiness takes a combination of three things: the guts to overcome the fear of the unknown, the hard work to stand up and run, and the trust in that everything will be okay one day.

 

In Perth I had reminiscent feelings of the “not happiness” I experienced at Maryland. At first, I did what I could to remedy the situation; I joined clubs, made friends and looked into moving off-campus. But when it came down to it, I had to be honest with myself and accept that staying in Perth wasn’t my path in life. So, I plucked up some courage and made some moves towards achieving happiness.

Leaving Perth was not a decision I took lightly in the slightest. It was a huge deal to leave a program run by such dedicated, kind, and supportive people. I felt horrible hurting those that had done so much for me. But, in the end, it’s my life and I have to do what is best for me.

So what was best for me? I had absolutely no idea. I just knew I wasn’t going to waste my experience abroad being “not happy” and I wanted to take advantage of the fact that I was in Australia. So, on a Friday morning I googled “Sydney vs. Melbourne,” and the rest is history. Kind of.

There were a lot of logistics behind the huge decision I made so cavalierly. Because I withdrew from classes at Curtin, my student visa in Australia became invalid. To apply for a new Work and Holiday visa, I had to be outside of Australia’s borders, so I booked the cheapest international flight I could find, to Bali, Indonesia.

But, something that was even more difficult than dealing with government bureaucracy was sorting out the housing and rent at Rotary International House. Honestly, dealing with the manager there was by far the scariest and most difficult part of this entire journey. He almost charged me an enormous bill in unused rent because I was moving out early. My fate and future happiness was at the mercy of an elderly man named Norm.

My flight was scheduled to leave for Bali on Sunday evening. In three days I dissolved my relationship with Perth, planned for my not-so-distant future in Melbourne and got ready to travel through Indonesia alone for a week.

I got super lucky and found a quirky post on flatmates.com.au looking for a subletter. I checked out the flat via Skype later that day and secured my very affordable housing for the next two months in Melbourne. After doing a little research and consulting some friends about Bali, I booked my flights and accommodations. And that was it.

It’s a scary idea and nightmare for some; a nineteen year old girl traveling through Indonesia alone to then move to a city where she doesn’t know anyone. But, I trusted myself and fate enough to know that everything would work out, which is has and is.

 

I’m fortunate that the experiences in my life came together to prepare me for taking up this opportunity when it presented itself. This incredible adventure has already taught me so much, brought about so many opportunities to pursue my passions and interests, and provided incredible life changing experiences. It’s the most exciting and liberating life that I’m so lucky to live. I’ll be documenting my story and sharing my perspective on this reflection projection/blog; if you’re interested you can subscribe to receive emails when I post something new!

~pc n luv

Michaela

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