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Samantha Wills

Contributing writer, Bec Hanna

Contributing writer, Bec Hanna

At the very delicate age of six, my life fell apart around me. My dad left, my mum was severely depressed, and our home that was once so warm - became cold and empty. One of my earliest memories is trying to work out how to use the washing machine after hearing my brother being teased at school for his dirty clothes. But despite the haunting material and emotional deprivation, I was a solid reader amongst the chaos; within the few years of all this happening I'd worked my way through the school library and spent most of my time buried in an obscure book that was far more reliable than my reality. One day, I ended up with a Psychology textbook and thought I'd see how far I could get. I would have been about 10 years old, and most concepts were still a little beyond me, but I will never forget reading about chemicals in the brain and how they interfere with our mood and happiness. Something changed in me, and from that moment I was extremely curious about drugs, the brain and why people think and act the way they do (essentially, cognitive neuroscience). 

But, confined to the limitations of my public school system, I continued to fail at subjects for which I was indifferent, and worked only hard enough to pass so I could get my certificate and start working. I was raised on the notion that if I just earned enough money to get by, then somehow an acceptable level of living would be achieved, happiness only a fleeting opportunity. Looking back, I realise how much I had wondered about my worth during that time, and how little self-respect I had. My price was so low, along with my standards, and I was still just hungry for food, rather than life. I was standing on the edge of success and failure, and constantly surrounded by people who had given up on themselves. 

After 10 years of 'working', spending more than I earned, and nose diving deeper into depression than I'd ever imagined was possible - I considered myself 'finished'. This was who I had become and who I'd always be. In a similar experience to Elizabeth Gilbert, my pivotal moment also occurred on the bathroom floor (in my apartment in Sydney). I had been sleeping for days, and suddenly became hysterical with a desire to go 'home' but I had no idea where home was. I had never been more lost in my life. 

Luckily, I convinced myself off the floor, and I booked flights back to Adelaide where I'd grown up. In the airport, I found a book called 'The Emotional Life of Your Brain' by Dr Richard Davidson. It reminded me of a passion that I'd folded and hidden somewhere deep down beneath my conscious surface. I remembered; I was curious about the brain, and it might hold the secret to healing myself. 

After moving home, learning about meditation, and reading 10 more books by Neuroscientists, I'd decided it was time to live the life I was really destined for. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Medical Science with a major in Neuroscience, and now I'm halfway through my second year of study. I feel entire planets away from the person I used to be. I feel incredibly strong, genuinely intelligent, and more inspired than the front row at a Tony Robbins event. 

I think I might even become the next Tony Robbins. 

I may not have found my Ikigai yet, but there's one thing I do know. It's now my responsibility to save others. I'm a neuroscientist-in-training and I've got every opportunity in the world to share this knowledge for the greater good. Find the six year olds who are broken, find the teenager without self-worth, find anyone who just needs to know how powerful their own mind is - and teach them about the endless possibilities, the electricity, the wonder, that is the human brain. 

If I could go back and just say one thing to that scared little girl from 1996, it would have to be; 'You are everything you need. You have the brain to navigate this world. Don't let anyone convince you it takes money to be smart, or take that spark away from you. You are powerful, because you are you.'

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