Chapter 18: Never say never

Four years ago, if you had asked me to come and join you for the gym, I would have answered: “Sorry, but there is no way I am coming. I am not a gym person.” This all sounds like a big lie when you consider that I am a loyal, daily visitor to my local gym these days. But it is true – I used to despise the gym; I used to be convinced that the gym is not for me. Yet, here I am, with my opinion completely shifted to the opposite.

Nowadays, if you tell me that the gym will close for a few days (which is currently the case due to Coronavirus, and it is not just a few days but, in fact, weeks), then this is my worst nightmare coming true. What this story teaches you is two things. On the one hand, it demonstrates my entitled, first-world-privileged attitude; honestly, I should not complain about anything if a closed gym marks my biggest problem. On the other hand, and more importantly, it proves that you should never say never.

I went through a few of such unexpected turns in life – some bigger, some smaller; but they all started with heavy prejudice and stubborn beliefs, which were both largely unjustified at the time.  Back in high school I took Higher Maths. Out of all subtopics like Algebra or Geometry, I hated Statistics the most. I remember how much I struggled with the concept of hypothesis testing and p-values (in case you struggle understanding these concepts too: they basically help scientists to determine whether an outcome that was measured in a study sample is applicable to the wider population). Anyways, do not bother too much if you got lost there, the main point is that all I wanted was to never perform statistical tests again. I was convinced that I could never ever do something related to statistics in my life. Yet, Statistics crossed my path again when I started studying Psychology.

I was not happy at all on the day when our lecturer introduced statistical concepts in First Year. I struggled even more to understand because everything was explained with the English instead of the German Maths terms. That means that even though I had probably come across certain concepts, equations, and stuff like that before, it all sounded new to me because of translation barriers. In short, I celebrated the day Statistics lectures ended.

However, on this very day today, I am one week away from handing in my Bachelor thesis, and, guess what, the main word count is dedicated to explaining my statistical analyses. On top of that, compared to all other sections of my thesis, I enjoyed writing up the statistics part by far the most. I can even extend the climax of my story by telling you that I will continue with a Postgraduate degree afterwards – of course, and without any doubt, in Statistics. I turned from being a statistics avoider to a wholeheartedly invested statistics nerd (hit me up if you have any Statistical questions!).

Speaking of my Bachelor dissertation, I was certain that I would never do research in Psycholinguistics – you know, the part of Psychology exploring anything to do with language. As you probably foresaw, I ended up looking at language after all, specifically at different types of words and how well you remember them. Similarly, I had never imagined myself to be working with the supervisor that I am collaborating with now because I did not like him as a lecturer when he taught my class for the first time. Today I could not be any happier and satisfied that I ended up with him as my supervisor because he is, hands down, amazing.

Times change. Circumstances change. Life changes. Life leads you onto unexpected paths, and before you realise, life tricked you into taking corners you believed you would never dare to cut. During my teenage years, I never thought of myself as a highly social person. I assumed that I was fine without many friends and without seeing the few friends I had very often. I was pretty off-track about that. Ever since the break-up with my ex-boyfriend when I was 22, I transformed into a social butterfly. My number of friends grew exponentially over the course of only a couple of months. While I used to see friends at most twice a week, I started seeking social contact every day. I nourished and flourished in various friend groups. The truth is that being social fulfils me, it energises me, it heals me, it motivates and inspires me. Looking back, I wish I had stopped lying to myself earlier about the whole ‘being an introvert’. On the other hand, I am grateful that I connected with my true nature in the end because later is better than never.  

Honestly, the list goes on, and on. I used to be preoccupied with finding a relationship. I cannot grasp where the urge to secure a boyfriend was born from. However, I eventually distanced myself from this irrational pressure, thank god. I fully embrace my life as happy single these days; in fact, the idea of a relationship evokes a substantial number of aversive ideas in my head.

I also used to strictly defend my decision about moving away from Germany as well as my intention to not return home. Well, odds are that I will be buying the return ticket, which gets me back to Germany for good, very soon. The more I contemplate about times where “I would never….” turned into “Hold on, I changed my mind about it”, the more examples pop up from my memory. Again, it is small things, such wearing lipstick or eating marzipan, to bigger things, like travelling to Africa or looking into adopting as alternative to bearing my own children. 

In the end, judging the day before sunset leads to restricting biases. Even if it has rained all day, you never know if skies will clear to reveal golden rays of sunshine welcoming the night. Do not judge before you have tried. Stay open for new experiences. Keep staying open even after the first trial might have failed. Allow yourself to try something before you decide if it is for you, or not. Allow yourself to try something several times before you derive a final judgement about it. Of course, on some days, clouds of rain do not yield, no matter how hard the wind is trying. Sometimes, a first impression remains unchanged until the end. But that does not mean it is pointless to grant second changes and second thoughts. The thing is that if you shut yourself down from something or somebody too early, you may hamper connecting with your true self and you may hinder the discovery of a new path to happiness.

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