Leaving School With Sanchia Grace Gillies

Current location: Bilgola, NSW

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At some point during our early 20’s there seems to be a number of questions that most of us will ask ourselves, including “what the hell am I doing?” “who am I?” or even “what on earth was that?”

Does this sound like something you've heard yourself say before? Well guess what, you’re not alone. Over the past few weeks I’ve interviewed a bunch of people about their experiences during this time of transition, and these sorts of questions emerged as a common theme. Their responses were also really different, which just goes to show that there’s no right way through it.

Finishing high school can be daunting. It’s a time when most of us feel an immense amount of pressure to ‘do well’ and ‘succeed’. But what does it really mean to ‘succeed’? For me, personally, the term ‘to succeed’ is to be happy within myself, no matter what is going on around me.

The first few years out of high school represent a whole new chapter of life and it’s a time that is full of trial and error. Maybe you had an absolute breeze finishing high school, maybe you found it hard, or maybe you didn't even finish. Either way, when you popped out the other side, you might have found that you had no clue who you were, or perhaps you felt like you had to have your whole life figured out.

I look back on the last eight years of my life and if there’s one thing I've realised, it’s that life will keep on happening and we will always be okay, YOU will always be okay.

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“Will I ever be good enough?” was probably one of the biggest fears that has crippled me in the past. I didn’t have the courage to take action to do the things that made my heart sing. It has really only been in the past few years that I’ve been able to move through this and realise that we are always good enough, and we are always worthy of having our dreams come true. We really can do anything if it’s coming from the heart.

When I was younger I wanted to study marine biology. I had an obsession with dolphins and sea life. My dream of becoming a marine biologist was crushed when I was told that I wasn’t good enough at science to pursue it. Is that something a 12-year-old really wants to hear? Of course not! That one comment had a serious impact on the rest of my schooling life, especially in science, and I remember just giving up a lot of the time when things got tough.

During my last years of school, I definitely did not take anything very seriously. I personally found school really hard; hard to focus and learn, hard to navigate my emotions and feelings, and hard to find true friends when I didn't even know myself. I felt very isolated; and at times I remember feeling like no one really believed in me. I also felt like I had no room to bloom and that no one understood my frustration about the way things were structured in school. At one point in my schooling life, my parents, peers and teachers were worried that I would go nowhere in life, but deep down I knew that wasn't true and I wanted to prove them wrong.

After graduating school (just) I had no real idea of what I wanted to do. I remember feeling so lost on the inside and I sure as hell had no idea how to express that on the outside, other than partying and drinking way too much. I guess that’s when it became easier to put on a mask and surround myself with walls rather than face myself.

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The first few years out of school were some of the funnest of my life, and I wouldn't change them one bit. Each and every experience I had during those years led me to where I am now, and they helped me grow into the person that I am today. For the first few months after finish school, I mostly just hung out with friends and went to the beach. However, after about six months I was lucky enough to start working for two incredible ladies in the pre-school that I went to when I was a kid. I did a traineeship in childcare studies and definitely grew up a hell of a lot. I honestly believe that that opportunity and experience, working at the childcare centre, is what brought me out of a self destructive rut. It taught me to take responsibility for myself, my actions and how to care for others. After working there for a couple of years I had saved up enough money to travel around Europe. After travelling for a few months, I decided to stay in London to live and work as a nanny for over a year, which was another amazing experience, that really helped me learn more about myself. During this time I really focused on getting my health back on track and this is definitely where my passion for food, health and wellness began to blossom!

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Since moving home from London a couple of years ago, my life has changed a lot. I’ve had a few career changes and a few challenging life experiences. However, I feel quite strongly now that I’m on the right path for me. While I have an idea of where I would like to go in the future, I’m also choosing to stay open to the unknown, because you never know what could come your way! I’m now studying nutrition at uni, which I love. Five years ago I would’ve laughed and run away from the idea of studying at uni and committing to something I’m actually interested in. But times have changed and I’ve made a commitment to myself to give everything my best shot (you never know until you try hey).

I know that it may sound a little cliche, but I am truly grateful for every little thing that has happened to me over the last few years. I’m excited about the person I’m yet to become and the experiences that I’m yet to have. I’m learning more and more each day and it’s awesome.

Periods of transition can be uncomfortable, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Go easy on yourself and take your time. There really is no need to have your whole life figured out at such a young age. Your 20’s are for learning about yourself and experiencing different things.

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If you are currently going through a huge transition in your life, please remember that you are not alone. You will figure out what you want to do and who you are. It may change many times, and that’s okay! We are constantly changing and so is life; things will pass and you’ll feel relief once again. There’s only one way to find out if you like doing something and that is to give it a go. For now, find something that really makes your heart sing.

Stay tuned for interviews with a bunch of different people about their experience of leaving school…

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Written by Sanchia Grace Gillies

Edited by Georgia Fletcher & Samantha Callender


Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000.

Leanne Westlake