Fuck it

For the last 72 hours of my exchange, walking any further than my kitchen was enough to exhaust me. Wiped out by a (thankfully non-COVID) virus, my final stretch in Edinburgh was punctuated by fits of coughing, and hours of bedrest.

Those last few days are a bit blurry, but I remember my last hour on Scottish soil very clearly. My mate Victor and I sat in a Wetherspoons at Edinburgh Airport, eating our last ‘Scottish big breakfast’ and using Spoons’ excellent table service app for the last time. It was about 6 or 7 in the morning, and as our whirlwind exchange grinded to a halt, we were sad, but too tired to process the full extent of our sadness.

The last week had been full of feelings and farewells that felt rushed and incomplete. Things progressed at a startling pace. On Thursday night, our flatmate Matt’s decision to book a flight home came as a shock, but by the time we sat down for farewell pizzas on Friday morning, another 5 or 6 of our friends had followed suit.

We had dinner and drinks that night, none of us quite able to fathom how we’d been making travel plans together just three days before. Who knew when we’d see each other again. Months? Years? Were some of these goodbyes final?

By Sunday, there were only a few of us left, and all of us except Michael and Emma had flights booked that week. More goodbyes came, but none of them felt real. Nothing felt real. How it could just be over? How could this be happening?

Amidst all the chaos, timelines became muddled. I’d banked on missing the first half of the AFL season, but now I’d be back before Round 1. Michael, Victor and I had tickets for a soccer match in Manchester in 3 days, but I’d be back in Australia before kick-off. I’d see my brother in Melbourne a week before he was supposed to touch down in Edinburgh.

Then there were the lasts. The last evening run through the Meadows. The last can of cider. The last game of table tennis in the rec room. The last gulp of damp, mouldy air in my student kitchen (that one wasn’t so hard actually).

I would have killed for one of those cop-out endings favoured by Grade 3 writers (“and then he woke up, and it was all a dream!”) but whoever was writing this script had long since grown out of that cliché. This was happening. I was flying home. The world was as fucked as the news headlines were as saying.

Goodbye meant goodbye.

///

The words fuck and it, when combined, are the two of the most powerful words in the English language.

All the best experiences in life come from saying fuck it. Yes, experience X will be a challenge. Yes you might dread it. Yes it’d be easier to run, or hide, or run and then hide, or hide and then run. But fuck it. Just do it. Go and see.

I went for a walk one night last week, and for whatever reason (I swear I wasn’t high) I was in the mood for philosophising. I didn’t stray into existentialism or metaphysics, but I had this thought that, because some of the most important people in my life were strangers just two years ago, in two years’ time I could easily by surrounded by totally new faces. I could be hanging out with new people, dating new people, podcasting with new people (sorry Sweeney), and that excited me.

I know that fuck it is often more easily said than done. I know that it can be extremely difficult to throw yourself into new experiences, and I’m certainly no stranger to inhibition. There were times in my late teens where so much as sending an email to a teacher filled me with nauseous terror.

But fuck it has always been part of my DNA. The best experiences in my life — exchange, joining the Law Revue, asking various girls out on dates — have all come from moments of impulse.

It’s not that I’ve talked myself out of doubts, it’s that I’ve recklessly pressed ahead in spite of them. Signed the application form, sent the Insta DM, RSVPed ‘going’. On occasions I’ve deliberated for hours whether I should do something, concluded that I shouldn’t, and then gone ahead and done it anyway.

And as terrified as I was every time, fuck it has always proven to be the best policy. Because you can recover from disorienting social experiences, and you can heal a broken heart, but one thing you never get over is regret. Regret taunts you. It gnaws at you. It’s a constant sore.

In two years’ time, my life, your life, anyone’s life could be totally unrecognisable from what it is now. But only on condition of a fuck it. Combine those two words, embrace the terror, and watch what happens. It might be brilliant, it might be awful, but at the very least, something will happen.

And what is life, if not a collection of brilliant and awful somethings.

///

My flight was an hour earlier than Victor’s, so I was the one who had to gather my stuff, stand up, and initiate the goodbye.

This goodbye was the strangest of them all. We’d lived together, made friends together, travelled Europe together, stayed up late to watch coverage of US primaries together, barged into pubs at 8am in the morning to demand they play Nick Kyrgios’ Australian Open game together, and now we were saying goodbye with a handshake and a hug.

A handshake and a hug — that was it. It felt so insignificant in comparison to everything we’d shared. But what else could we do? What gesture, what action would have felt like a satisfying ending? A backslap? A chest bump? A headbutt? A ceremonial bonfire?

Goodbyes may feel rounded in movies, but even the most talented screenwriter couldn’t script a real-life goodbye. Not a satisfying one.

Because a real life goodbye is never satisfying. The word escapes your mouth before you’ve stopped to think about its meaning, and by the time it sinks in, you can bump chests or light a bonfire, but it’s too late.

Maybe you smile at each other, maybe you hug again, but whatever you do you walk away thinking…

“Oh. That was it.”

Goodbyes are hard. If you don’t believe me, believe Kermit the Frog, who, in his famous treatise The Muppets Take Manhattan, pondered:

Saying goodbye
Why is it sad?
Makes us remember the good times we’ve had
Much more to say
Foolish to try
It’s time for saying goodbye

Well said, Kermie.

///

A week or so after I got back to Melbourne, when the last symptoms of that virus receded, I started a list on the notes app of my phone. Every time I had a memory of exchange, I would add it to the list, to make sure I never forgot anything worth remembering.

Truth be told, this system only lasted a couple of days, because the constant bouts of nostalgia quickly became a bit overwhelming. I haven’t touched that list since March, but I dug it up to write this article, because I want to share a few of the entries.

Some of the memories cover specific moments or experiences: beating Manja from Austria in table tennis, but getting thoroughly beaten by her in squash; drinking ‘venom cocktails’ at Subway (as lethal as it sounds); playing the card game ‘shithead’ with Daniel from London; watching Iris and Sara from France cooking cheese fingers in the oven without an oven tray; having milkshakes and burgers with Emma at BRGR on a rainy Tuesday night; and running up Arthur’s Seat with Michael, stopping at the top to soak in the bright purple sunset.

Some are places — the supermarket Lidl, the restaurant Wings, the city Belfast — while others are just funny stories or observations; “visited Salisbury Court (a Uni residence hall) — all the Americans looked the same!”; “every time Michael says his name, British people think he’s saying Marco”; and “in Alicante, Victor tried to say thank you to a waitress in Spanish, but couldn’t remember the word so he just shouted SI!

Others are vague and make little sense to me 7 months on. As hard I’ve tried, I can’t for the life of me work out what “1914 early on”, “rainy curry” and “the soup” refer to.

Since I’ve got back, I’ve found it hard to let these memories fade. I still remember things, but not as vividly; I remember what happened, but I remember less and less of what it was like to live through what happened. Regretably I couldn’t find a Muppets song about memories (“memories — why are they sad?”), but I’m sure Kermit has grappled with this at some point too.

Partly due to being in lockdown for 5 and a half of the last 7 months, I’ve also struggled to, quote unquote let go. I haven’t been able to resume my old life in Melbourne, so I’ve been desperately clinging on to this wonderful new life I got to live for 2 and a half months on the other side of the world. I dream about being in Edinburgh at least 3 times a week, and I can’t recall a day where I haven’t, for some period of time, thought about my time there.

I haven’t cut my hair since I got back, I haven’t deleted all the Edinburgh-type apps (bus timetables, laundry payment) that are clogging my home screen, and I wear my Edinburgh Uni t-shirt as often as I can. I watch videos about Edinburgh on YouTube and compulsively check the Insta stories of my Edinburgh friends every morning, out of some masochistic desire to see exactly what it is I’m missing out on.

Above all, I’m filled with this unfulfillable urge to go out and show people in Melbourne how much Edinburgh changed me. How much more confidence I have. How many funny anecdotes I have. How long my hair is now.

Maybe Melbourne opening up again will make some of these feelings easier. I am gradually, incrementally feeling more at peace about things. Reminiscing about the good old days more often makes me happy than sad now. I know that it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all, and I’m getting better at internalising that.

But there are still days where it feels like this is an itch that can never be scratched, that nothing short of a time machine will make the lost opportunities of those lost 3 months hurt less.

I’m know that I’m wrong, and I know that these feelings will fade, but knowing a thing doesn’t always mean feeling that thing. Because a truth about life is that you can still feel something that you know is unfounded or untrue. In those last few days in Edinburgh, I felt like nothing that was happening was real, even though I knew it was.

This truth about life can be happy and sad. Feeling in the face of knowing can be what sustains hope, but it can also leave you deflated and exhausted.

I’m not though. Deflated and exhausted, that is.

I’ve drawn pleasure from music, from drawing, from Zoom chats with friends, from starting podcasts, from philosophical musings on late-night walks.

I have energy most days — to study, to exercise, to read, to write.

And from all of this — from goodbyes, from memories, from runs in the Meadows, from cans of cider in a damp, mouldy kitchen — I have resolve.

When the time allows, and when Dan Andrews condones it, I have one resolution.

Whenever another opportunity arises, whatever opportunity it is that arises:

Fuck it.

I’m taking it.

--

--

--

Recommended from Medium

Can’t Find The Right Career Opportunity? — Raz Coaching

5 things no one’s ever told you about success.

Purpose and Passion

Are You Addicted to Failing and Misery?

Gary Vee Is Wrong — You Shouldn’t Spend Your Twenties Hustling

Stop Saying, “Am I Doing Enough?” and Ask, “How Can I Do Things Better?”

What Are You Going To Do When You Grow Up?

How Affirmations Saved Me From Disaster

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Dan Crowley

Dan Crowley

More from Medium

Of Modern Poetry & We Grow Accustomed to the Dark

A nice article about Nish Kumar.

Negative Opinions on the Serpent and the Sax

Song of the Seedling