How to choose your own adventure

Georgie Nielsen is a former lawyer who grew up in Townsville, studied on the Gold Coast and now works as UQ’s Outreach Program Coordinator. After deciding law was not her cup of tea, she swapped the courtroom for the classroom, and now works with high school students to raise tertiary aspirations. She shares an insight into her experiences and the importance of following your passion.

Sometimes, I think life is like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book – the kind you may have poured over as a child, deliberating over your options before hastily turning to the nominated page. What a shame when your choice resulted in your character’s adventures coming to an untimely end! When I would read these books, I would often flout the rules and would usually skip ahead to analyse the outcome of every choice prior to committing to a particular path. Sometimes I would even be guilty of turning back to the very beginning if I was not fond of a particular conclusion or outcome. If only this approach could be applied to life, and we had crystal balls instead of snow globes, and there was a legitimate cosmic link between our futures and the creases in our palms.

But since the only ones who show any sort of predictive fortitude are meteorologists, the rest of us mere mortals are left to stumble through life, hoping our choices result in favourable outcomes with minimal regret.

Georgie at 17, ready to make life-changing decisions.
17-year-old and ready to make life-changing decisions?

As we journey through life, we reach pivotal milestones which can have a huge bearing on the direction our lives take. One of these moments occurs during our final year of schooling. We are forced to trust our 17-year-old selves to decide what we will do after school. I find this particularly concerning, given my 17-year-old self was a vegetarian who accepted the idea of life without bacon. At the age of 17, I also thought becoming a lawyer sounded like a great idea. After all, Law and Order accurately depicts real life, right? With blind ambition, I set out to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, it can be difficult when reality does not match your expectations.

At the age of 22, I found myself polishing the routine of my life in a job I enjoyed, but did not love. Like the uncomfortable reality of accidentally eating the husks off some edamame beans, I found it difficult to digest the fact that this could be my life for the next 40 years. Rinse, lather, repeat. I had reached a fork in the road; one for which Girl Guides had provided inadequate preparation.

I had a few choices. I could learn to love being a lawyer, but it was difficult trying to love something that gave me grey hairs. I could go back to university full time, but given my parents had cut me off several years earlier, this could prove financially difficult. I could start looking for another job, and for me, this was the scariest option. I began by thinking about what I was good at, and what I enjoyed.

I realised that I loved writing and speaking – while I considered this realisation to be great personal progress, my next issue was that my qualifications did not reflect these passions. Given that lying on my resume could result in a criminal conviction or jail time, I knew that I instead had to convince someone that the skills I had were transferrable into a creative and dynamic field and that given a chance, I could deliver.  I looked at areas and industries in which I could see myself working, and began the process of submitting applications and contacting employers. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for a position, and while I didn’t get the job, I had put myself out there and was then offered a different position that better suited my strengths. While in this position, I jumped at every opportunity to showcase my skills and to gain as much experience as possible. Sometimes feeling like you have something to prove can be the best motivation.

Making new friends at a rural school visit.
Making new friends at a rural school visit.

We can’t predict the future, nor can we alter the past – all we can do is make what we think to be the best decision at any given point in time, and hope to goodness that it serves us well. And boy, can it be scary, especially since priorities, perspectives and people can change in a heartbeat. If you do find yourself in a similar predicament, where you have given your 17-year-old self the reins of your life, be brave and make a change. Don’t berate yourself for “wrong” decisions – instead, find what you enjoy, do it well and take chances. And if you are taking a leap of faith with your career, don’t forget that sometimes it can feel like a game of Snakes and Ladders. Luckily more than a dice determines your future, and giant snakes are usually only found in the Amazon – but the premise is that sometimes you need to go backwards to go forward. Regardless of my nostalgic musings, take a deep breath and remember that your fate is in your own hands.

Fortunately, you have two.

Working at UQ Open Day.
Georgie at UQ Open Day.


Last updated:
5 October 2016