Change Is Scary But Regret Is Worse: Why I've Dropped Out of Uni

Written by Ummay Aimen, Legends Report Writer

“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back....”
― Erica Jong

On the afternoon of Monday the 17th of January 2022, I emailed the course leader of the degree that I was - and am no longer - studying for, and informed them that I had decided to leave the course, that I did not wish to transfer to another course, and that I wanted to terminate my place at university.

I was going to send this heavy-handed email the day before, on Sunday. I told myself that I should probably sleep on it, to make sure that I didn’t regret it in the morning and whatnot, because it was very possible that I’d feel differently tomorrow, and I couldn’t just press ‘undo’ like on a Word Document…I had to deal with the consequences of my judgement and its actions. In this case, an email would be the first step in changing the film plot called My Life. Because after all, it seems to me that if I’m not the film producer and director of My Life, then it’s not really my life anymore is it? 

Also, although it’s often sensible and useful to ‘sleep on it’ when deciding to make a major choice, if I’m being honest with myself - and maybe you can relate - I was just making excuses. I was (and still am) scared. Nervous. Anxious. Confused. Disorientated. Frustrated. Disappointed. Stuck. I could go on…but hopefully - whether you’re in a similar situation to me or not - you are able to get an idea of my current headspace as I make my way along the path of uncertainty. And yes, there’ll be scary bears and some muddy waters to deal with but, as Frank Sinatra said (or rather, he sung):

‘I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing

Each time I find myself laying flat on my face 

I just pick myself up and get back in the race

That’s life.’

At the end of the day, our life is what we make of it. And like it or not, we’re going to make a mess of it sometimes. But that’s okay, that’s normal, and that mess is always able to be cleared up. Even though a lot of the time it feels like you’ve been scrubbing this mess for a while, and it feels like it’s not lessening. A lot of the time it feels like the mess is getting worse. And maybe it is. But guess what? That’s okay too. It really is. As long as we accept that what has happened has happened and that we start making a plan on how to adapt…and overcome.

An absolutely key thing to remember here is to always ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s your ego and pride getting in the way, or fear and distrust, or inexperience and lack of knowledge, or anything else…seek help. Help is there. You just need to have faith that it is there, that you will get it, and that your situation can and will improve. It’s not going to be an easy process to find support, and it’s not going to be a quick process, but you know what it will be? Worth it. It’ll be worth it. 

On the afternoon of Wednesday the 26th of January 2022, I had a meeting with the aforementioned course leader to discuss my decision, making sure that we were seeing eye to eye and both had the same understanding of my standpoint, thoughts and feelings. It was an online meeting. I don’t know if this made the discussion easier or trickier; for example on the one hand the nervous anticipation wasn’t building up from walking onto and across the university campus and finally arriving at the meeting room. But on the other hand, this ‘mental preparation’ as I call it, was inescapable and inevitable because I felt extremely nervous in the half an hour leading up to the start of the online meeting. 

Perhaps surprisingly, this anxiety wasn’t closely related to me debating whether I was making the right decision or whatnot (although that would’ve played a role in making me feel like that). The palpable release of physical and mental tension almost immediately after the meeting ended showed me that I had made and was making, the right choice. Instead, this anxiety was much more due to the personal realisation that by having this discussion with someone else other than the voices in my head, especially with this person being a senior staff member from the course, I realised that I was about to majorly expose myself. I was putting myself in a position of increased vulnerability.

I felt a clear increased sense of vulnerability because by agreeing to have this meeting - regardless of whether it was in person or online - I was essentially putting across that I know and understand that I will be elaborating on my honest inner thoughts, feelings and beliefs on the subject of wanting to leave the course and my place at university (for the time being). By agreeing to have this meeting I was also saying that I was okay with being on the receiving end of someone else’s values, beliefs and perceptions in the context of what they thought about my choice. In other words, I was asking someone else to take a magnifying glass to my situation, and what I had to say about it, as well as giving them permission to ask me questions about what I said (in the email) and what I would be saying (in the meeting). You don’t need me to tell you that talking about our personal life isn’t easy and that nobody likes being confronted!

In the end, it’s up to us to shape what tomorrow, next week, next month, next year and the rest of our lives will look like. Even by just listing it out like this, I understand that it can already seem like a big task that our mind is already telling us to procrastinate on. But then again, nothing worth having is obtained easily, and starting is the hardest part. After that, it always gets easier. Not easy…but easier. So if there’s something making you unhappy, and if you know that this thing will carry on making you unhappy unless you do something about it…then please, from the bottom and top of my heart: start the process of working through it. 

You deserve to be happy, to be safe, to exercise your human rights, to do what you like doing and want to do and so much more. You don’t need to wait for a new week to start, or ‘to feel motivated’ or to gain someone‘s approval or anything else before you do something to better yourself. Just like I’m the author of this article, you are the architect and boss of your life. Always remember this.

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