Throughout my life I’ve often been told that I stay surprisingly positive during hard situations. It’s never really resonated with me because I always felt that I was behaving normally. My instant reaction to receiving difficult news is to skip three of the five stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, only focusing on bargaining and acceptance.
By that I don’t mean that I live in a delusional bubble where I pretend everything’s amazing when it really isn’t. What I mean is that every cloud really does have a silver lining and there’s a road through all obstacles. It may not be the road I would have chosen had I been given another option but it’s a road none the same and I can take it if I want to.
Let me give an example of this. A few years back I moved abroad to study medicine and I had chosen a school that I was told was very good. I’m quite old to start studying medicine as I’ve already finished a degree but it was my dream so I thought to myself, heck, I’ll just do it. Then I moved my whole family to that country and started attending the school, only to learn that I had been lied to.
I have a fair amount of experience with Universities. I’ve completed degrees at two of them in Iceland and I’ve even taught at one. Therefore, it didn’t take me long to realize that the quality of the medical education I was undertaking was horribly poor, and I knew I’d never be happy with completing my degree there. For me, this was a harsh curve in the road since I had quit my job in Iceland, moved my family and couldn’t even go back because I had dogs that would then need weeks of quarantine, something I was not about to put them through.
At this point it would have been easy to jump straight on the denial wagon, imagining that the school wasn’t as bad as it obviously was and just going with it. I would then have spent 6 years there, wasting an immense amount of money, as it wasn’t cheap, and I would have had to sustain myself as well and in the end come out a doctor, even though I’d definitely always feel like a sham. So what should I do? Move away from denial and straight to anger?
With anger I could have gone straight to the pity party with the ‘all is now lost’ story. I could probably have felt sorry for myself for years, jumping between people that would be willing to listen to me since a pity party generally doesn’t last very long. With time I’d probably manage to dig myself into such a deep hole of self-pity that I wouldn’t even see the sky anymore. That was an option I wasn’t too fond of so what was my next one?
It was bargaining and with bargaining, I suddenly had loads of options. For one, I could move to another country and use my previously acquired education to get a job. I’m a quick study of languages and I knew I wouldn’t have a problem with getting a job in Scandinavia, for example. I could also start looking for another medical school that I could attend, one that had a reputation of pushing the students and forcing them to study to finish the degree. One that was the opposite of the one I was currently attending.
After careful considerations I pretty much chose both options. I applied for a school in Scandinavia and got a part time job to go along with it. I then drove my family from where I was to my final destination and started school there. I can’t begin to explain the difference between the two schools; the teachers were amazing, so well informed and up to speed with the newest research, the demands were sky high, just the way I wanted them to be and I was on cloud nine. I had found exactly what I wanted and all it cost me was a small delay and some money.
So there I was, having completely skipped over the fourth stage of grief, depression, and was dancing around in my acceptance, after a successful bout of bargaining. My family was happy, I was happy, and although it may not have been the route I had foreseen, it was still a route I could be very content with. Of course there have been some pitfalls on the way, as there always are in life, but I’ve maintained my methodology. I don’t see a reason to make things worse for me than they have to be so I look for different roads, pick one and move on.
If we only get one life, I’m going to make damn sure I live mine to the fullest and I hope you make the same decision. It will take some practice to get the hang of this but I promise that if you do, it’ll be well worth it. There won’t be cloudless skies but you’ll learn how to appreciate it none the less. As my boyfriend said when I had told him how much I like the current weather, “You always say that about any weather and now it’s pouring rain. Is there any whether you don’t like?” He was right, I like all weather, because each and every one has its own special charm.