Sleepless nights, Drinking whisky and Quitting… my alternative story of success.

I want to stay within the comfort of my warm house but I also want to dive out of a plane with no parachute into the Arctic. I want to grow and push my career but I also want to quit my job to start a food truck. Either way, I know in doing all this I will be pushed to where I want to be — The middle. More specifically… my middle, for this is the meaning of success.

Leaving a top university for green tea.

When I was attending school, I had no problem with it; but it wasn’t very high in my priority list. My priorities at that time actually included going to the gym, playing games and watching long TV shows (I love you Michael). University was a dream I had not considered. It was a mainstream goal that was there for those who had school as their forefront priority — but for me, it was not somewhere I thought I would end up. My bad GCSE and AS level grades didn’t help the concept either.

Skip to the middle of summer: this reckless, distracted but ultimately curious teenager had somehow gotten themselves into one of the top 5 art/design universities in the world. Crazy right?? I wasn’t going to miss this chance!

My university experience was incredible. I was very happy, I studied and worked hard, I loved the course, had an incredible social life and most importantly — I met my beautiful girlfriend.

Skip one year later, I’ve left university, I’m working professionally in a design agency full-time, I’m drinking green tea, still meeting up with friends, working on various exciting projects… oh and I’m still falling in love with that same girl I met at university — all whilst still being happy. So what exactly happened between now and then? (more to come on that question later).

Sleepless work nights and House of Cards.

Whilst at university, we had intense 2–4 week long projects that we had to complete. These projects would be comprised of receiving a design brief and then going about the design process (which would include research, experimentation, testing, feedback, documenting, sketching, etc.) During these time constrained weeks; I found myself going through a whole plethora of activities including: lack of sleep, stressing out, not eating well, exercising poorly and not being able to be mentally present during social interactions. (Drinking this usually helped the sleepless nights.) The work heavy periods of university had me begging for the deadlines to be over with and for the holidays to begin.

Once the blissful holidays started, I no longer needed to freak out over large quantities of work. Instead, I could eat lots of my favourite food, watch House of Cards, catch up with family and ultimately relax within the comfort of my home. But then, 3 days in, I started craving something. What was this something? I already had my fair share of food, already watched all of the latest House of Cards season, and had enjoyed my fair share of lie-ins. So what could I possibly be craving? It was work. A sense of responsibility. I personally don’t believe in the concept of boredom, but I imagine that those who refer to it are referring to a similar experience — a lack of everyday purpose.

I wanted to go back to university and I wanted my next brief. How could this be? How could I be eager to return to the place I had left to relax and recover from. You see, one minute I’m complaining about lack of sleep, the next I’m oversleeping. Yet in both situations I wasn’t truly happy. So what came of this? (once again, more to come on that question later).

Drinking Southern Comfort with a Russian and going sober.

Another thing that I worked on whilst at university was the art of drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol at university is different from drinking in any other situation. It’s like a socially-accepted alcoholism where everyone around you is also an alcoholic and you all pat each other on the back whenever you finish your next bottle of Bacardi Oakheart spiced rum. When I look at my experience with alcohol whilst at university, I realise that it was an absolutely brilliant tool for starting any conversation.

You could be sat nervously with a Russian student who doesn’t speak a word of English, seems unapproachably tough looking and BOOM! 3 hours go by, you’re both on the floor trying to do a push-up competition whilst pulling each others arms whilst listening to Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’ on repeat — all because you shared a few too many bottles of Blood Orange Southern Comfort. Alcohol is a great social-barrier destroyer. A nice drink or two can allow you to drift through funny stories, accents, social classes, and styles of dance moves in the space of one night.

So would you be surprised to hear that I actually stopped drinking for a year? That’s correct. For the year of 2016, I promised myself I would not drink a drop of alcohol — I even stayed away from those little chocolates with Whiskey in them. I set this goal at the start of the year as my ‘new years resolution’. The reason for quitting was simple — but in order to explain the reason, I have to talk about the result. During the year, I was a lot happier, my mind was clearer, my work ethic improved, my friendships became deeper and more meaningful and most importantly, I could remember a great night the next morning. I was simply more present. I lived every moment in its truest form and was totally myself…

But I actually never committed till the end and had a drink in early November. I went 10 months and only had 2 months left, but then I gave up on the challenge. Why? (Now, we’re finally getting to the reveal-all, tell-all bit).

The reveal.

Every so often, I craved for a push. I felt as if I had settled. My body desired a drastic change or leap of faith. I needed to touch an extreme. Following that, I then found myself becoming familiar with the extreme opposite. Why did I do this? Why did I reach such highs and then immediately demand for such lows. Well,

  • In going to university, I discovered what it meant to experience life as a student. I got to understand and appreciate deadlines and the academic process. But ultimately university was unchallenging for me, I wanted to work in the real tech industry where I had worked previously. Some suggested that I should not have even bothered with university as I could have just gone straight to work and been 3 years ahead everyone else. But I am not competing with anyone else; and more importantly I had experienced first hand what it is like to be a student, that is something that can never be taken away from me. The friendships and relationship I had established during that year are incredibly important to me — not going to university would have deprived me of that. Despite not being in university anymore, I have learned to be a student — a student of life. I am studying, reading and creating more than I ever did during university… all thanks to university.
  • After being both underworked and bored during the holidays and overworked and stressed during university semesters; I learnt that I must accept the truth about stress. Stress got my work done. I never handed anything in late, and my work was always well received — so stress was actually my friend during hardship. Embracing it allowed me to love having work, so much so, that the time that I had off, felt like a relaxing chance to gather my thoughts and plan out how to approach the next semester — or even start working on it in advance. This gave me incredible inner peace. Peace that I would not have obtained without being both stressed and bored in such extreme ways.
  • Why did I give up on not drinking for a year despite it having so many benefits? That’s because I had already achieved what I had set out to do. The reason I set the new years resolution was to rethink alcohol. Could I have as much fun on a night out with friends without it? Could I have a deeper and more meaningful life by experiencing events sober? Was there actually an obtainable euphoric high that could be felt without taking any external substances? I answered these questions. Now I could return to drinking… but as a new person and with a new mind. Drinking is now an option, it’s not compulsory. Also, alcohol can actually taste good! (That’s without having 5 drinks beforehand too!)

Conclusion.

In all three of these scenarios, I used unconventional and unusual means of coming to an answer about life. Why was this?

It’s simple. In touching both extremes, we give ourselves the opportunity to realise what we wholeheartedly love. And in reflecting afterwards, we discover how we wish to live and most importantly, we learn where our balance truly lies.