End of Days

Some days I find it ironic that it was a move to Melbourne that triggered my sense of environmentalism: a city with over 4 million people that is expanding at a rate quicker than we can provide infrastructure, jobs, and houses (urban planner reporting for duty). Of course, it was more than just a move to Melbourne that did it, it was also the beginning of my degree in Urban and Regional Planning at RMIT.

Awkward mature age student reporting for duty

Today is the last day of classes for my undergraduate degree. I’m not sure how I feel. Part of me feels a great deal of relief because it’s been a long four and a half years (aided by injury, otherwise I’d have been out in December last year). Another part of me feels a sadness that I’ve never felt before. And then there is the part of me that is incredibly proud of all I have achieved in that time.

In March 2011, life as I knew it would be forever changed. On that hot Monday I stepped into an unknown world. Although I had been in a learning environment since graduating from high school in 2002, I had been paid to be in those classrooms as a part of my work training. This was something different altogether. I walked into a packed lecture theatre off campus at Melbourne Convention Centre (where sometimes you would hear and/or feel the rumble of the City Loop trains at Melbourne Central train station) just opposite my uni campus. Surely all these people can’t be doing urban planning too?! How ever will I remember everyone’s name!?

The subject was Contemporary Australian Politics. James I-Can’t-Remember-His-Last-Name was the lecturer, he had a voice that commanded the room as soon as he said welcome. The room was stuffy, the students were full of beans (first year class on the first day, remember?), and James captivated the audience. Four and a half years later, I don’t recall much of what was said that year, or even if it was this first lecture that he dropped it, but I will never forget the awkward laughter and sniggering from the students when James dropped the F bomb into his lecture. I think he said something along the lines of us all being adults so using adult language when discussing Australian politics was entirely appropriate. How right he was!

Alexie RicRac Style 2011 – 2015

In 2011, I wasn’t Alexie RicRac then, I was just plain Hollie. I was also pushing 100kg as I battled physical and mental health problems. I had no confidence, I was ashamed, I was scared. Here’s a little photo collage I prepared in 2012 (before I had skillz) that I prepared for a little blog I wrote about my weight loss journey.

As you can see, there’s not much about me in these pictures that looks the same as now. I still have the jeans that I’m wearing in the November 2009/June 2011 images, the black bolero from the December 2010/November 2011 images, and the sari in the January 2011 image. Everything else was either sold, donated, or binned as it was beyond repair.

I had dabbled in vintage styled outfits in the past (pre 2010) but it never really worked out because I lacked confidence, among other problems that weren’t just mine. It wasn’t until mid 2013 that I plucked up the courage and really stopped caring what anyone thought about how I looked. I was me and that was all that mattered.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

If there is one thing that being a uni student taught me is that it really is okay to be an individual. It’s sad that it took me 27 years to realise that but I got there in the end. I have so many friends to thank for believing in me and supporting me through uni – new friends and old. I remember when I wore my first bandana wrap to uni and had a quiff – the response was fabulous, so many people commented how much it suited me. Never mind people in the past who had told me that I was gorgeous when dressed in vintage-inspired attire. I only ever listened to the naysayers.

To any of my uni friends – graduates of any year from 2011 to 2015 – who might be reading this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done for me. You may not have realised it until now, but you have had a hand in shaping the person I have become, and for this I am forever grateful. I love you all immensely. Hopefully we can celebrate soon.

To my friends outside of uni, thank you for your constant support and belief that I could do this. I’m so honoured to have you in my life, and couldn’t have done it without you. Your understanding that I can’t always be there to celebrate or commiserate has not gone unnoticed. I am now free on weekends and holidays, so let’s do this!

To my family, immediate, extended, and the in-laws, your unconditional support and love means the world to me. I have nothing but tears as I write this, so know that these tears are tears of love and thanks.

And finally, to my Mister. The last four and a half years have been arduous to say the least. We’ve both completed our undergraduate degrees, we’ve faced some awfully hard times and some incredibly wonderful times. Helping you and nurturing you last year with your thesis was an honour, and a great learning curve for me that I was not in the right state to progress with mine. Your unwavering love, support – financial, emotional, mental, and physical – food, and strength have most certainly pushed me through. And, come 16 December when I finally get to graduate, I’ll have my one wish that I’ve had since you declared we had a future together: I will graduate with your name, I will be Hollie B., B. Urban & Regional Planning, Hons. I love you to the moon and back, and then some.