The Difference (Four) Year(s) Makes

Big news: I've finished my capstone.

It's 66 pages, 16,700 words, and roughly seven months of my life. It's the reason I have 176 documents on my computer that come up when you search "consent" (although let's be realistic, it's not the only reason). It's occupied my thoughts for most of my waking hours for a really long time now and I handed it in on Sunday. Phew.

Now that I've almost caught up on sleep (staying up till 6:30am on the day it was due was fun, thanks Latex) I've emerged from this weird emotional state that I've been in for two days and decided to write a little reflection.

I've come a bloody long way in four years. 

So on Thursday night I attended our annual end of year event. I hadn't been since Freshman year, and for some crazy reason I decided to wear the same dress that I'd worn all those years ago. I snapped a picture and put them up on Facebook side by side for all my friends to see, and the funny thing is no one thinks I look any different. Sure I have shoes in the second shot, but really I almost look the same and some people couldn't even tell which one was which (can you?).

But so many ways, in the best ways, I feel so very different. Back then all I could think about was making it through each day. My uncle had just died and I was an absolute wreck, even though you don't see that in the smile I pasted on my face for the picture. 

Now I feel so much happier. I still have a lot of the same problems: I'm no longer grieving but I'm still stuck with very strong emotions on a regular basis. The difference now is how much I've learnt about how to handle them. I've found ways to get through and not only that, I can do it by myself. Sure I have a great support system that I turn to when I need it, but I don't have the same all consuming fear that I won't be able to cope when they're not around. And the absolute best part? I finally believe that I have friends. 

There's a line in Legally Blonde: The Musical (did I mention I had a profound realisation about my romantic love through the medium of this musical? It was a wild moment) that goes something like this: "I thought losing your love was a blow I could never withstand, look how far I have come without anyone holding my hand." It was losing that great love when I moved here that first sent me spiralling, but that devastation has given me a life richer than I ever thought possible. 

The core aspects of me are still here, but all the growth has come from the absolute hardest times. I presented about my work with my peer support group at an education conference last week and I was asked what the most surprising thing was. My instinctive answer was this: it's when I've shared the worst parts of myself that I've gained the most respect. 

So now I throw it to you. How have you changed over the last four years? Maybe it isn't four years that is significant, maybe it's four months. I'm sure you know that moment though: when your life changed and you couldn't have predicted what it would become. I invite you to walk on your own path of reflection, and congratulate yourself on what you have achieved in that time. As humans we follow a messy path of growth, but it's such a beautiful thing to be constantly learning and moving ahead. I'm proud of how far I've come, and I hope you can say the same.