The Rear View Mirror
A string of messages flooded my phone on Friday night.
“I’ve made a decision about the future of this page,” said the message. “I think we should move on.”
‘The page’ the message was referring to was the health & wellbeing platform I helped bring to life during my uni days.
Two years ago, I signed up to be part of an extracurricular program within the Law faculty. The application for the program had dropped into my inbox while I was trying to write a paper on Australian Consumer Law. I was about seven hours into the essay, and my vision had begun to blur from staring at the same sentence, so the application was a welcome distraction. I filled it out quickly and sent it off without a second thought.
The chosen applicants were asked to kickstart a project that would add value to the Law faculty. While other groups buzzed with the idea of creating apps and networking programs, the only thing I knew how to do was create a website and write. Together, my group turned that website into a platform where students could share their personal trials and triumphs in order to encourage others. A place where people could come, read stories, and say ‘me too.’
It’s been a while since I thought about that platform. Now that I’ve graduated from uni, I’ve kept my eyes firmly focused on the future. Life nowadays looks like juggling the needs of my clients, researching new projects, and brainstorming how I was going to grow my creative copywriting business.
But seeing my co-founder’s messages brought me back to those early days when the idea of creating something felt so foreign to me. I always thought that people who co-founded initiatives or platforms were old men over 30. So, when it was my group’s turn to start something, I was anxiety-ridden over how to start and what people would think about the project.
While lost in my memories, I opened the chat bubble to read the rest of his messages. Another group of law students were interested in taking ownership of the page; to revive it and reshape its future.
“I think we should give it to them,” my co-founder wrote. “This way, all the work we’ve put in will continue to carry on.”
While we sorted out the details of the handover process, I opened the page once again and was hit by a wave of nostalgia. I couldn’t see it back then while I was plagued with self-doubt and fear, but my group and I had invested so much work into the platform. It was now home to dozens of articles and stories that other students had boldly stepped out to share.
But beyond that, I remembered just how instrumental this tiny page was in getting me to where I am today.
What had started out as an obligatory uni project, ended up becoming the first step on my creative journey. While tinkering with the website and writing articles to be published, I recognised that I had a knack for writing for the internet. In fact, I thrived on it. Writing stories was something that came as naturally to me as eating and breathing. While it would take me days of agonising to wrangle a legal essay together, putting words to emotions felt effortless and purposeful.
At the time, my graduation was looming and I could feel the chokehold of adulthood tightening around my neck. Before I resigned myself to a life of writing vague emails and conducting mind-numbing research, I wanted to do something I felt naturally good at. Perhaps starting my very own space to share my stories is the outlet I need, I remember thinking to myself.
And so, one random afternoon, I created a website, slapped my name at the top, and started writing. That one decision to publish my first blog post and actually tell people about it pushed me to be more courageous than I’d ever been. It challenged me to accept a part of myself that I had spent years trying to repress.
A month later, that very same blog post landed in front of a CEO who decided to take her own leap of faith and hired me to write for her. It opened my eyes to a world where I could get paid to play with words. It’s led to friendships in different corners of the world, new opportunities, and new discoveries.
It’s been two years since entering the program and launching the platform. Despite everything I’ve achieved, I still feel woefully inadequate at times. I experience waves of self-doubt when I read other people’s words, and I have no clue if I’ll ever scale my business to where I want it to be.
But when those messages flooded my phone, I remembered just how far I’ve come.
Back then, I never would have imagined that one split-second decision to sign up for an extracurricular program would result in me discarding my law degree in favour of a creative career. I never would have imagined that one post, when read by the right person, would result in me learning about the world of business and entrepreneurship.
But it did.
All that to say, don’t discount the place you’re in right now or the path you’re on.
When we’re in the thick of the journey, it’s easy to write off the good things that happen to us, like how much we’ve grown as a person or how much our skills have improved. The finish line can feel non-existent. All we can see are the roadblocks we have yet to overcome, the challenges of today, and the chasm that exists in between where we are now and where we hope to be.
But it’s only when we look back that we can see just how far we’ve come. Things that once felt terrifying barely shake us anymore. The tasks that once felt insurmountable are now a piece of chocolate frosted cake.
And while I think it’s important to keep our eyes looking forward through the windshield to the destination up ahead, every so often, a glance in the rearview mirror shows us just how far we’ve come.
So good, Ashley. Great reminder that years down the road, today’s problems will have shaped who we are.