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Most might ask the question, “What do you mean by Take the Long Road? And in what context?”. That is something I’ll answer straight away. I suppose what I mean is, don’t settle. Don’t do what is easiest, that which doesn’t sit right, but is the option that takes the least effort. When we have a bad feeling, or a bad vibe, we should pay attention to it. If anyone has listened to the Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters, they will know what I mean when I say that the bad feeling is our natural, primitive instinct sensing a threat or a danger to us. Now, whatever that danger might be, whether your safety, your health or even your mind is in danger, taking that easy road could damage your mental health. That bad vibe is something we need to listen to.
We can all give several examples of having a bad vibe, I’m sure. Those moments when you can be so certain about something, but the next moment your stomach is churning, and you feel on edge. A good example would be from one of the people that got a bad vibe before a flight, so didn’t travel on it, and unfortunately those flights ended up crashing. There are two stories that I’m aware of concerning tragedies such as these, though there have been many more instances illustrating this throughout human history. Ambiguous I know, but a truth nonetheless. So, why is what I have just said important? And how does it relate to the title?
Well, to add some context, not so long ago I wanted to join the Royal Navy as a Warfare Officer. I decided I wanted to do it during my second year at university and started my application in May 2016. After successfully completing my AIB in 2017 just before my 22nd birthday, and thus having finished my application, I only needed to be accepted to Britannia Royal Naval College in one of the three intakes that they have per year. It was bizarre, because in the months coming up to this May, which was the intake I was waiting to hear about, my gut feeling was telling me that the goal I had set myself two years ago no longer sat right. During my second year of University I had become disillusioned with my degree, and I began to wonder, “What am I doing here? Why am I doing this degree when I don’t want to go into academia, or teach?”, and most importantly, “What do I want to do when I get out of here?”. I needed a goal to aim towards, and the Navy had provided that. Before going to uni I had thought about the RAF, but decided that I was smart enough to go to uni, so why wasn’t I? Everyone else I knew had gone or was going sooner or later, so surely I should? Well, with that thought, I did exactly that.
The problem with this was, of course, that history, the topic that I had loved so much at school, was not something that I loved as much as being active and practical. Most of all, I wanted to read books that I wanted to read, not those that I had to read. I have always been a bit more of a Jack-of-all-trades, rather than one to specialise. My disillusionment in my second year showed me that academia was not for me. I love learning and developing my knowledge, but it was not what I wanted from a career, and I became unhappy. Like most youngsters, I am goal driven and I needed something to aim for - something bigger than my degree (which, in my mind, was just a piece of paper that you paid £9000 a year for, and that was just the tuition fees!). So, I made a decision that led me to go full circle, the Forces were for me.
Ever since I was in the Air Training Corps, all my friends knew that I was going into the Forces. In fact, to this day I can still quote something a friend said to me years ago when I told her that I was starting my Naval application. She said, “Meg, it wasn’t a case of whether you were going into the Forces, it was a case of which one”. I was quite pleased with that, though other people may not have been. I just know it is what will make me happy.
But, going back to the Navy application, was that job right for me at the time? Yes. Was it right for me later? No. I realised in the months preceding May that it was not going to push me enough. I started to question whether it would allow me to do something with engineering, with the coding I was teaching myself, and whether it would fulfil my need for a constantly varied job. I didn’t think so. More importantly, would it keep me constantly occupied and never bored? A bored Meg is not good for me, and my gut instinct continued to say that no, it would not fulfil those things.
So where are we now? It is June, not quite a month since the May intake started at Dartmouth Naval College. I got the call in April, saying, “Unfortunately, Miss Johnson, you did not make the May intake”. Was I disappointed? Yes. Was it because I was sad? A little, but mostly it was because a huge amount of time and effort goes into a military application, and not just into the application itself. By the time you have finished it, you know yourself better: your strengths, your weaknesses and, most importantly, you know what you stand for. I learned a lot about myself from it, and I have grown from that. Now, I am travelling, writing, doing what makes me happy and endeavouring to do an enormous charity challenge with a friend, which will take me by foot, by bicycle, and by sea-kayak, the distance of the British coastline by September 2019. That’s a whopping 7,723 miles, according to Google! As well as that, I have returned to home turf - an application to the RAF.
I hope you have gauged how the title of this piece relates to what I wanted to say, and what I hope you take from it is this: what was once right for you might not still be when the time comes for it to actually happen. You might have been a different person when you started out, or your priorities might have changed. It is remarkable how much you can change in a short amount of time - if you want to. The final thing that I hope you will take from this story is: don’t be afraid to take the long road. That longer road might have a lot of sights and events that will happen along the way, which will give you the life that you really want for yourself. Do something because it is right, not because it is easy.