Life is Short

Emily N (2020 Alumnus)

“Life is short, the world is wide, and I want to make some memories!”

It’s one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite film – Mamma Mia 2 – and I could not help but to include it while I am writing this article in Greece! The editors of your magazine have asked to me to write an article on my thoughts and reflections on Year 12. I did not want to write about to how to study, or how much you should study or stress or procrastination or Uni or TAFE or anything else, because I am sure that is what you have read and heard from many other people. I want to focus this piece on you and your life, the great adventure that has already begun inside you. I want to tickle your desire for life outside of school and offer some very tentative wisdom on what is on the other side of Year 12.

One of the first things I grappled after leaving school is that life is short and while that may sound morbid, it’s true. We are given a finite time on this earth and it’s up to you what you want to do with that time. It is a daunting but exciting realisation. The realisation that life is short has offered me two things: a sense of urgency and a guiding light when working out priorities. This sense of urgency is not in finishing my degree as fast as I possibly can or rushing from opportunity to opportunity but rather in jumping deep into relationships, being curious about people, their worldview, what they love, what makes them happy and what sustains them. This urgency also manifests in being quick to tell people I love them and quick to tell people I appreciate them. These conversations, these whispers of adoration and affection, that for me is what is sweet about life. An understanding of brevity is also useful when deciding your priorities, you will be faced with many decisions and opportunities, and you will have to weigh up which course of action is best, a helpful maxim I have adopted when making such decisions is; What will my 80-year-old-self be glad that I did when I was younger? Make that decision, make your 80-year-old-self proud because life is oh so short.

The next wonderful thing about leaving school is that you realise how wide the world is! The world is complex, dynamic and inconsistent. I often found myself in Year 12 thinking I had it all planned out…. I would go to university, I would study this particular course, I would get this job, I would marry a person like this and have children at this age etc. Life is not like that; you cannot plan it. Life is like a river, you have to ebb and flow, bend, and straighten when your circumstances demand it. So, when the world offers you an opportunity that is not in your 3, 5, 10 year-plan and it seems good, take it. You will be more interesting and better for it, no matter how it works out. In order to see how wide the world is, you must provide space for the world to occupy in your conscience, listen first and let your words follow. This is not me saying to forsake your convictions, but let me encourage you to extend yourself out of what is comfortable, stop categorising everything and everyone to what is right and what is wrong. The world is wide, make space for it, because it has already made space for you.

Ultimately, the one thing that will stay with you from Year 12 is your memories; your ATAR will very quickly become redundant, you’ll throw out your uniform and you’ll burn your notes. And memories will be the only tether you have to your life, as long as you will live. Therefore, this is me giving you permission to make as many of them as possible. Soak in your final term as Year 12 students, take lots of photos (they help with the memory making) and live as much as you can in the moment. One of my school-friends’ favourite activity is to reminiscence on our time as Year 12s because it is one of the things that unites us now, especially now that our lives look so different. Enjoy precious class time with your peers and your teachers, enjoy lunches with your friends, enjoy the mundanity of Year 12 because one day you will miss it. So, Class of 2022, Life is short, the world is wide, and you should go make some memories. But before you go back to studying or making memories, I want to offer you one more quote, it is from my favourite poet, Mary Oliver; ‘What will you do with your one wild and precious life?’ I pray you will do great things.