Since moving to Edinburgh and starting my masters, I’ve enjoyed so much of it. My feet float around the city, my heart clinging to every building and statue. It’s such a remarkable space in the world. I feel at home, which is strange to admit since I am thousands of miles away from family and friends. But it’s the truth. Every time I leave my flat and look over at Edinburgh Castle, whether misty or gleaming in the sun, I can’t help but smile.
However, because of my visa, I’ve been stripped of my autonomy. I see opportunity at every corner yet I am not allowed to feast at the table. Freelancing is forbidden; any entrepreneurial exploit lay dead at my feet. And I feel that inside of me. Though beautiful and magical, this city is also expensive. Without writing, photography, videography, and even teaching dance classes, I’ve struggled to find my source of income. With that, the connection to myself that I was building as well.
Without realizing it, I’d been constructing a means for life that I rather enjoyed. I love taking pictures of people and events, of writing for a health magazine. I know I can still do all of these things at my leisure, which I do (literally tapping away at these keys), but with looming debt in the distance, it feels foolish; it’s a locked peddle.
It was either stay in the states with this freedom, but feel like something was missing, or take a risk on myself and give up my sense of stability for a time. The latter seems crazy to most, but I find the former even scarier.
I listened to a podcast yesterday with guest psychologist, Dr. Gad Saad. He talked about something called “anticipatory regret”. It’s a studied concept, one that I’ve intrinsically been following these past two years.
An example could be about smoking — you understand that if you start to smoke, you will heighten your chances of lung cancer in the future, so you chose not to smoke. You save yourself the regret in the future by choosing, now, not to smoke.
It’s the same for me about leaving the states. I anticipated the regret of not going, of allowing the drill in my chest to keep swirling downward until I’d be split open, to gaze at this bifurcation of who I was and who I wanted to be (even if it meant leaving everything I knew behind in order to become everything I know I can be). A path had to be chosen, and I’m still so grateful I picked this one.
This path continues to show me that one commodity, though taken for granted by so many, is the most precious one of all: time. It’s not something we ever get back, yet we treat it like a fracture that will heal or a spare tire that can be found in the back of an auto parts store. It can’t be serviced, or bandaged, or even planted. This is it.
Instead of understanding its sensitive construct, we squander it. We spend it worrying about people who don’t love us back, outdated pressures and societal constructs of where we should be in life, and worse, gambling on tomorrow because it sounds like a nice a place to store our goals and future.
Besides listening to my podcast yesterday, I also made my way to campus. There are strikes on this week, something that I stand behind in solidarity, but is also causing me some unease. I am paying a lot of money to be in a country that has also tied my hands behind my back, financially. So, to stay studious, I booked out our new film equipment for the next few days. I want to become familiar with a camera that I’ve barely touched, yet will be the central piece in filming my dissertation.
I arrived fifteen minutes early, having the acute awareness to walk there straight from the gym instead of going back home to just turn right back around.
“You’re early,” one of my lecturers stated. It didn’t come out in an endearing way, but almost rudely. After having sat in a seminar where the notion that arriving anywhere late was repeatedly endorsed as being disrespectful, it was a surprise greeting. She laughed it off in a strange manner as me being “very keen”, even after explaining I had only just come from the gym.
When she asked myself and a fellow student (also there to play with a camera) if classes were going well so far, I mentioned the strikes and that I was glad we could rent the equipment out so that I could be productive with this time off. She, again, made this face, saying, “you have all year to learn the camera. You have time.”
It’s the farthest thing from the truth. Time flies by in an instant. This masters is intense and I know it’ll be over in a blink. This. time. is. precious. We should be encouraged to be curious and want to learn, especially with how independent this course can become.
This tendency for people to copy and paste their perceptions onto your blank canvas is so perplexing. I’m not fresh out of an undergraduate course. I’m not in my early to mid 20’s with “all this time”. Life is short, and mine has been riddled with obstacles, and landmines, and bombs falling from the sky. I must anticipate the regret of not seizing every opportunity here that I can take, while I am being depleted of those in all other areas.
I’m done playing chess on someone else’s timeline. If you want something, do it. Get it. Make it. I fiddle with my film ideas and change trajectories with their purpose because the more I read, the more podcasts I ingest, the more time I spend out in the world hearing, seeing, interacting with people, I learn more about this path I chose to take. It’s always for the better. But if I just told myself “I have time”, who knows where I’d be — probably in the states, hiding depression behind a smile that was getting too heavy to hold.
So, don’t just look at your life, look into it. You are a domino. You are the genie. Be the main character of your story and decide your ending. Bifurcation is where we get to choose whether we listen to others (“you have time”), or where we can unpack the procrastination of tomorrow and start living it today.