When I began my studies in February 2010, I had no idea what to expect or what I was in for. It had been two years since I had been in a classroom and I had never lived with strangers, but I think that was the best way to enter the university world, with no idea, that way I didn’t have unrealistic or high expectations. The best way is really to go with the flow and be open to new experiences—that’s how I’ve had some of the best times of my life.

However as great as it is to not have too many or too high expectations when it comes to being open to positive experiences, you also have to be open to the possibility of the unexpected, in particular when life throws you curveballs.

On March 23rd 2011, a good friend of mine and many, George Matchett passed away unexpectedly. I remember that day very clearly, I had a busy day with classes until 3.30pm and everything went according to plan. I remember being in line at the Subway on campus at about 12.30 and received a text message from the Campus East staff which said that a “critical incident has occurred and to meet in the dining room at 1.30pm”. I just brushed it off as another meeting about safety and to prevent break-ins by locking our doors, and I also had a writing theory class at 1.30, so I didn’t go. Before my lecture, I went to buy a chocolate bar and saw my friend, Ness crying and being comforted by another friend, Alice. I went over to her and asked what was wrong and she said simply that “George Matchett died this morning.” I asked her if she was sure and she said yes. I generally don’t believe things I hear off the grapevine, but when it comes to major news like this, it is generally true. I spent the rest of the afternoon numb and checking my emails to hear from Campus East.

After my class had finished, I went on one of the public computers in the McKinnon Building and logged onto my Facebook page, which said it all. My newsfeed was filled by statuses by my fellow Campus East residents and friends which pretty much said the same thing: “RIP bro”, “worst day of my life”, “worst news ever”, etc. One of the Residential Advisors (RAs), Jacob, was online and I asked him if it was true and he asked me to come back to Campus East and that he would talk to me then. I made my way to the bus stop and as soon as I got on, I started bawling, it hit me, I knew it was true. It was the longest bus ride of my life.

When I came back it hit me even more, he died on Wednesday, which is usually the loudest day of the week due to the fact that it’s uni night and everyone usually starts pre-drinking mid-afternoon—well when I got there, it was completely silent and around fifty residents were sitting outside of his room in tears and silence. I made my way back to the self-catered units and to Jacob’s unit, which was right across from mine, and he confirmed the news for me. He also told me that his flatmate, who was my flatmate in my first year, Cameron and another friend of ours, Lisha were looking for me earlier to check that I was okay, which was truly touching. I also called my parents later to tell them about it.

The funeral was held on March 31st in George’s hometown of Grenfell, which is about four hours away. Two hundred of us from Campus East alone caught the bus at 6am to make the funeral service at 1pm. George was incredibly popular and kind and as a result, his funeral was attended by well over 1000 people. All of the Campus East residents stood and cried together. Although his parents were friendly, I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t talk to them at the wake. We left Grenfell at about 4pm and got back at about 10pm. It was one of the longest and most emotionally draining days of my life. Two years on and his death still affects us all and we still think about him.

Three weeks later, my paternal grandfather suddenly passed away from a stroke and I had to travel home for his funeral. Because of the two funerals, I had to ask for extension on a journalism assessment, which I got, but not before breaking down in front of my lecturer and humiliating myself. When you apply for academic consideration, as some of you may know, you need proof like a death certificate or obituary as well as medical certificates for medical issues, make sure you have those. As for your lecturers, even though they are there to teach you, they are human beings and very considerate ones at that, never be afraid to tell them what’s going on and how you’re feeling, just try not to break down like I did.

Life will always throw you curveballs and usually you can’t prepare for every one of them, I’m not saying to be afraid of these things if they do happen, just be open to the fact that things can and will go wrong sometimes, but like the positive experiences, they shape you too.

I still miss you George and I hope you’re still looking out for everyone.

This column, along with a short story reflecting on George’s death originally appeared on Tertangala and can be found here


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