I remember it like it was yesterday.
I had spent the day working in my dead end job at a betting shop, counting down the hours until I could close up and go home.
About 20 minutes before the magical 9pm mark when I could shut up shop for the night, a customer walks in.
At first I thought he might only be in the shop for a few minutes. This thought was quickly disproved.
He starts betting ridiculous sums of money on greyhounds. However, he wasn't doing it in a conventional way. He had two other friends in the shop to distract me from what he was doing.
Right before a race was due to start he rushed to the till and slapped his selection down. As we had to check if we could accept large bets on greyhound races with head office, there was a rush to get it through.
This tactic is known as a slow count. The customer places the bet just before the race starts. If the greyhound is nowhere near the front, they will leave the shop without paying, leaving you short of money. If it wins they will demand payment immediately.
It was illegal, but as I had never encountered this before, I was oblivious to what was going on!
Inevitably, his bet won. I didn’t have enough money in the shop to pay him. It was company policy to not keep large sums of cash on the premises for obvious reasons. We kept just enough to keep us ticking over.
I told him to come back tomorrow to pick up his winnings when I would have the money. He wasn’t happy. Not one bit. We argued for about ten minutes, before he realised he wasn’t going to get anywhere and left.
All in all, this encounter meant I was 20 minutes behind in closing the shop, which meant I would get home later than usual.
I hated the job. After I graduated from university, I wanted to go to Australia. There was just one problem. I was scared.
Scared of going to another country by myself. Scared of taking a risk. I got a job instead and existed within my comfort zone.
I cycled to and from work. Compared to the job, I felt free when I cycled. However, that night I just wanted to get home as fast as I could.
Stupidly, I was cycling without my helmet. I’d never had an accident. I’m a good cyclist, it wouldn’t happen to me.
I was two minutes away from home when I approached an intersection.
I saw the car coming, thinking it stop and let me past. Surely, they had seen me? Surely, they were going to stop?
I cycled straight into the side of the car. Luckily, the car had beat me to the intersection and I collided with the car and not the other way around.
I was extremely lucky. I had a few cuts and bruises, nothing serious.
I exchanged details with the driver, picked my bike up and walked the remainder of the way home.
I was in shock. I was unaware of the music pumping into my ears through my headphones until I walked through my door.
I got myself together, had a shower and went to bed. I woke up the next morning with the dread of going back into work on my mind again.
It was then that something clicked within me.
I was 22. Potentially, I would have many more years left on this planet. It could have all been over last night.
I looked back and thought, am I proud of my life so far? The answer was undeniably, no.
When I got home from work later that day, I applied for a visa to Australia. Within a week it was granted. A few months later I left to go and live in Australia for a year.
If I had never gone to Australia, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.
Six years later, I have lived in 3 different countries. I have done things I had only dreamt of. I have seen some incredible places and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
Life is too short. It can be over in a flash. If you drift through life without truly living, you’re wasting a precious gift.
Existing from day to day is no way to live this life. Ask yourself what you want out of life and go after it.
Make no apologies.
We only get one shot at life. Make the most of it!