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I grew up in a small town where most kids don’t graduate year 12, let alone start University. I had big dreams and knew years before I finished high school what course I wanted to do and where. I needed to get out of that town…

Bachelor of Journalism at UQ was my dream, nothing else came close. I studied hard, got into the course and took a year to work my butt to the bone so I could afford to move interstate to the big city of Brisbane. What I couldn’t see was that a year’s worth of saving quickly vanishes moving your starting your first apartment. I didn’t have a safety net. I worked 2 jobs until the course load of full-time study and 40+ hours of work on top was too much. No one had told me how hard it can be starting up, because no one around me had done it before. I lived week to week and could never seem to get ahead. Maybe I’d save a few hundred only to have my car break down. At birthdays I’d get some money from family, only to have hours at work cut because of a ‘quiet season’. Life was hard, but worth it.

When I started my 3rd year however, I had double jaw surgery from impacted wisdom teeth that was causing nerve damage to my face. It was unforeseeable and unlucky I not recover smoothly. My health deteriorated very quickly in the week that followed, and under doctors’ advice I quit my job. I dropped out of my course. I cried for weeks. I could only think to myself “what a failure”, “what were you thinking” and “how didn’t I see this coming?”.

But, that’s just the thing. Life flips around and one day you’re healthy – the next, whether it’s physically or mentally, you can be knocked down and unable to get up without help. It does not mean you are weak, it does not make you a failure. There is nothing wrong with trying, just like there is nothing wrong with taking a step back.

I moved to Sydney to be with my partner’s family, the first real family home I had lived in since I was 12 before my parents divorced. I got accepted into Charles Sturt University with credit for what I completed at UQ. My luck for the first time in years seems to be on the up. Only it wasn’t luck. I was choosing to take control and not let myself become overwhelmed with negative experiences. I took ownership of my life, and while the path I am on today is a little different than what I imagined at 16, doing what is right for my health is the best decision I could have ever made.

Through distance education at CSU I have managed to balance doctor appointments, working from home, studying full time and making time to regaining my sanity! In fact, my grades are the best they have ever been and the staff at CSU are aware of the struggles life brings and allows us to work university around our lives.

Following your dreams isn’t always the best advice. Sometimes I dream I can fly – that doesn’t mean I should jump off a cliff to follow it. Be honest with yourself, only you know what is right for you.

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