Scarlett’s story: On graduation and finding hope

A guest post by BIDN alumni Scarlett Stock, who attended our workshop in April 2017: Before I Die I Want To…Be Me.

Tomorrow I am graduating from University. How do I feel about entering ‘the real world’? Numb. To be perfectly honest, I feel numb. I’ve tried to write this blog countless times, but all I could come up with was cliché nonsense – ‘I’m nervous but excited,’ ‘I’m so proud to see three years of hard work pay off,’ ‘after three years of ups and downs, I can’t wait to see what comes next.’ Pff. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the job I’ve got lined up makes me feel so passionate about the prospect of the positive change I could make over the next two years. However… those phrases do not encapsulate how it feels for me to leave behind the most thrilling, emotionally draining, empowering and character-affirming time of my life so far. For me, there are too many conflicting emotions to process.

And I’ve realised that’s okay. Some people are terrified. Others are overflowing with enthusiasm. What I’ve learned is that there is no ‘right’ way to feel about change; although a core factor that has kept me some version of sane is self-awareness.

On the day I got my 2.1 degree result, I felt absolutely nothing (that, and a tinge of relief). I sat in bed and thought “Oh, I should probably tell my family.”

“GOT A 2.1 LAW DEGREE!!! Xxxx” were the words I sent, as I sat there straight-faced. I felt like I should be happy. Or, failing that, at least try to sound happy – like everyone’s Facebook statuses announced throughout results day.

For me, these three years have been tough, but the most fun yet. I’ve figured out how to be happy. And the biggest part of that is learning what makes you happy; living life on your own terms. Hence, the prospect of leaving uni, a place where I really discovered my happiness, was not something I wanted to face. Being someone who is usually the ultimate evader of change, I knew that accepting I was in my final year was one of the greatest mountains to overcome.

So what did I do? I forced myself to research jobs, no matter how much it pained me. I forced myself to be completely aware that I was leaving. I’d talk about it openly, instead of avoiding it.

I was so in the moment, I could readily process every part of the last times at uni. In the days that I stopped facing up to the situation, going into a state of denial, reality would soon hit me slap-bang in the face and I would feel awful. Lost. Scared.

However you feel about your next steps in life – be aware of it, and don’t let that stop you progressing. You need to give yourself what you need. You are unique.

In my job-hunting research I stumbled upon the Before I Die Network. I was lucky enough to be in London on the day of their goal-setting workshop, and along I went. It was the most mentally stimulating and emotionally exhausting five hours of my life. It made me question what I want and who I am, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

One of the greatest lessons from that night – success is on your own terms. Whether it’s money, or travelling, or helping people – you have to figure out what you want out of life.

Me? I’ve always been involved in charity work. It was staring me right in the face the whole way through my Law degree that this was the sector I was made for, but I just didn’t see it – owing to lack of self awareness.

The Before I Die Network helped me to ask these terrifyingly large questions; in 100 years, what do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to achieve? Nothing meaningful happens if you don’t open your eyes to this.

Once you find the answers, then you work on the how.

For now I’m entering my first stepping stone towards the impact I want to make in my life. I’m open for the how to change along the way. And I’m excited for it to do just that.

Olivia, who founded the Before I Die Network, instils this sense in her work of us all being unique and extraordinary. It’s a wild notion in a world where we all feel the compulsion to fit in. But we each have something distinct and irreplaceable to give.

Sounding too hopeful for you? A graduation speech transcript Olivia sent me has stuck with me since the day I read it. One part in particular – ‘The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.’

In times where everything feels futile, I remember: It makes sense to be hopeful.

So I intend to fill myself to the brim with hope, embrace success on my own terms, along with however that makes me feel, and then fling myself full-throttle into my next chapter – because there’s no reason not to.