I am one of these people for whom taking a decision is very hard. Whether it’s choosing which pizza I want, which degree I want to apply to, what to buy from Sephora or which Youtube video to watch next, I am the most indecisive person ever. It drives some people crazy – like my boyfriend sometimes – because for them, it’s so easy but not to me. To me, making a decision entails choosing a path, a direction to follow and possibly… regrets. I am always scared of making the wrong decisions, of thinking “well, you should have gone for…” and basically, of changing my life for the worst (I might be exaggerating this but you get my point).
I like to think that when I do have to take decisions that will matter and affect my life, I do take my time, assess the pros and cons and trust my guts. I try to make sure now that when I finally decide on something I’m going to be fine with the end result.
For some reason in January, I’ve been reflecting quite a lot on my life. Probably because it felt like that month lasted for years, or because I’m soon going to be finishing my studies. I’ve come to the realization that some decision have really changed my life in the long term and have been one of those decisions that actually matter.
The Big Move
Not many of you will know that I was actually born in Paris. My dad’s family moved their after emigrating from Portugal whilst my mom’s part of the family is from where both my parent’s currently live, in the south-east of France. My mom moved there for the last years of her studies to be with my dad and they ended up having me there. However, my health there wasn’t good, I was always sick and my parents – especially my mom – weren’t really happy there so they decide to move where my mom is from. Whenever, like for this past Christmas, we go back to Paris, I always wonder who I would have become if we had stayed there. It was quite a big change and I’m glad we did it before I got too old – I was 4 1/2 years old at the time. It would have been so different growing up there, I would have been used to never seeing mountains, it would be normal for me to take trams/buses/subways when they are packed, to have so many people around at all times and to live a very fast-paced life. It would have been so different…
I was 6 years old when my sister was born and boy, it was time. I had been asking for a little sister for so long and was actually so flipping happy the day she was born. I remember my parents had bought me a Cinderella doll to give me on that day in case I got a bit jealous but I couldn’t care less about it. It was finally happening! Even to this day and unlike many sisters, we actually get along really well despite our age difference. She is so funny it’s actually unreal and even though we have different characters, we have never really argued. It like lasts a few minutes and that’s it. When I meet someone new, I always wonder what it would have been like have I had a brother, or no sibling or if I had been the youngest one or worse, if I didn’t get along with them. I wouldn’t change it for the world to be honest.
Meet the boyfriend
I thing this was the best decision I’ve ever taken. Deciding whether to get in a relationship with someone or not has to be one of the hardest decision to take. It can change everything, by being the best, or one of the bad decisions you will ever take. It was one I took extremely seriously. I was never one to have many boyfriends and to want “to just experience new things” like some girls in my school used to say. For me, it was finding this person I could imagine spending the res of my life with and counting on, trusting, and having as my partner in crime and best friend. Doing the big jump was hard but I could feel deep in my guts it was the right thing to do. It was so scary but seven and a half years in, I don’t regret it. Except when I go home at night and he hasn’t made the bed… just kidding, he is actually doing way more cleaning and cooking than I do.
I’ve always struggled with friendships. I don’t care how many friends I have, I just want to be able to count on them, open up to them, laugh my arse off with them and never feel judged but understood. I think I can count the real friends I’ve had ever since I was born on one hand probably, the others have faded in my memory. When I started high school, I could feel deep down that the friends I had were the wrong ones. They forced me to be someone I wasn’t, they made me feel uncomfortable, not good enough. But that was before I met E. I still remember the first day of high school like it was yesterday. We made a game with our homeroom teachers to get to know each other but trying to remember the names of all our classmates. And for 95% of them, they ended up giving me her name and calling her Gabrielle. I didn’t know her and both being a bit shy, we didn’t hit it off until the beginning of 2010 when the history teacher changed the seating plan and I got sat next to her. We laughed so much. We ended up learning that we both were obsessed with english and reading and watching movies/tv shows in their original versions, that we like the same genres, had a similar sense of humor, could identify with one another, had the same values in life and friendship and basically discovering she was the friend I had been waiting for all along. We did so many sleepovers, laughing hard, eating haagen-daaz ice creams whilst watching Harry Potter movies or Rom-Coms. Though life after High school means we don’t see each other much and talk whenever we can, I’m so glad to have opened up to her and made her the best friend I’ve had all my life.
USA, Here I Come!
This was one of those decisions that lead to so much anxiety and tears in the building up to going. For my 2-year post-A level course after high school, it was mandatory to do an internship abroad. I applied to so many in the US and finally got one in Miami. I can still remember the excitement of going to such an incredible city! But the build up to my departure was so hard. I felt so bad leaving my boyfriend for 2 months when we had never been apart for more than a week and when he was going to graduate. My sister kept crying at the thought of me leaving for so long and my parents, especially my mom, were quite anxious at me leaving on my own 5000+ miles away from home at 18. I knew it was something I needed to do but goodness it was hard.
It ended up being the best life and job experience ever. I met incredible huma beings there who taught me so much about myself, life and their jobs. Plus, it’s always something that makes a difference whenever I apply for an internship or when I talk to people. It’s quite something when I think about it and to be fair, to this day I don’t know how I did that. I could do an entire post about this if it’s something you’d like to learn more about…
Oh, so that’s what it is…
I have always been an anxious person. My mom is the same and my sister has grown up to become anxious as well. I had trouble sleeping, I often thought I had a stomach bug without having the symptoms, I would feel very uncomfortable in certain situation, had headaches, hard time breathing normally etc. But it was when I decided to move to Grenoble for the first time in 2015 that it changed for the worst. I was leaving in dorms and felt the worse I have ever felt. I had anxiety all day everyday, panic attacks at least 5 times a week, I’m pretty sure I also got depression, I felt insecure, afraid, alone and desperate. It was my boyfriend who pointed out that it wasn’t normal, even if it was my first time not leaving at home. I felt so ashamed I never actually told my parents, afraid they would brush it off at one of my others “hypochondriac” moments (well with retrospect, these moments were actually due to anxiety and were real feelings).
I blamed myself for deciding to “experience life as a student” instead of going to live with my boyfriend and to feel like this. I ended up having the worse year of my life, and realizing thanks to Zoë, aka Zoella, that I was experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. I was relieved to put a name to what was happening but also desperate because I had no idea how to deal with it. I ended up going to see a therapist towards the end of the year at the request of my boyfriend and she helped me to understand the symptoms and recognize them, and also that some of my anxiety were linked to my perfectionism issue. It took 3 years for me to work on it and feel better, but it has been quite the struggle.
Welcome, new Brummies!
The first year in Grenoble was also the year my boyfriend and I applied to spend a year abroad in England. We were so anxious at not getting in the same University and being separate – which would have been the worst for me and my anxiety/panic attacks. We were incredibly lucky to both get accepted at the University of Birmingham for the school year 2016-2017. It was such a long process trying to find an accommodation, getting the wifi, the heating on, finding where to go grocery shopping with having a heart attack at the checkout and getting used to the new scholar system. To be honest, it was a hard year. We were so cold because the heating was so expecting we didn’t use it that much (we had to pay 150 euros per month just fo gas and electricity and the rent was enormous), the climate change was rough, we were alone without our families and my sister was having a hard year and my anxiety was still quite bad.
However, I still think it was an incredible experience. It taught me so much about life and myself, I loved hearing and speaking English everyday, discovering a new city, a different way of life. The University was so good and beautiful. The teaching was so different and I actually quite preferred it. It was such an enriching experience and one I’ll never forget.
Coming back to Grenoble wasn’t the easiest decision. I had such a bad experience the first time I was afraid it would be the same this time again. It was a source of anxiety for a few weeks but then I decided no, it would not be the same this time around, because I would treat this differently. I decided that this was a chance for me to be happy so I started looking at all of the bright sides so that the bad ended up being extension of the goods: the tram scares you? well it will be a way for you to go into town to go beauty shopping; the course is a bit stressful? yeah but you will be able to study and talk in English all the time; living surrounded by people may very well give you a lot of anxiety again? maybe, but it also means going back to living with your boyfriend again, etc…
And I have to say everything is going well. This school year is the year my anxiety is under control, I feel good wandering around alone and I don’t feel anxious in my apartment.
When I think of it, who I am today is the result of many, often scary, decisions I’ve made and don’t regret. Yes, it has been very tough at times, but I to me, you get what you work for and fight for.
Do you have a decision which has changed your life?
PS: Happy Valentines/Galentines guys! Hope you have a day full of love with whoever matters to you in life.