the future

A New Dawn

I’m only in my second week of the new year and my life has already turned upside down. I say that in the best way possible.

The change began over the Christmas holidays, over which I couldn’t get the nagging little thought of work out of my mind. I’d had my annual performance review right before buggering off for two weeks of hot chocolate and Every Christmas Episode of Everything Ever (Community in claymation was the clear winner of the awesomeness category), and it hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. I’d submitted my self review about a week prior, and finally felt proud as I handed it in, seeing real achievements listed throughout. I’d built a network that spanned across the country, initiated and developed regular newsletters and communication pieces that engaged people, managed a social media presence, become chair of the global LGBTA steering committee, spearheaded a regional employee recognition campaign to promote organizational values, and been chosen as one of only fifteen worldwide colleagues to represent the company at a 3,000-strong attendee summit for corporate diversity. I’d been told they’d never had anyone like me, and I handed in my review (along with several areas for improvement, of course) with a real sense of pride. I’ve always had issues with self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough, but I was confident this year, I’d made some pretty big strides.

But apparently not. In 2013, I was to be spending less time on communications and more time on filing and learning the Canadian pension system, studying handbooks and learning the legal terminology needed to draft complex invoice schedules. I was to be more passionate about clerical duties and less about issues that are important at a corporate level, but have been lacking at a local one. I was to stop bringing forward new ideas and remember my position. And that haunted me for the next two weeks.

I’ve known for a while there’s been a discrepancy between my values, passions and strengths and the ones expected in my current position. I’ve tried desperately to bring forward what I believed was valuable and much-needed change, but there’s only so much you can do from an entry-level position. Everyone around me has always told me I need to be somewhere creative, somewhere that plays to my strengths and allows me to do what I love most of all: writing, design, social media, communications, and building a culture of respect, diversity and inclusion.

So over Christmas, I tried to find one. I found a position I felt would be perfect, but didn’t hold my hopes too high. Everyone and their dog makes the new year’s resolution of finding a new job, and the market would be saturated. It also asked for a professional qualification and several years’ experience in an industry I didn’t really have, but I applied anyway.

Then I was asked for an interview.

Then I was asked if I was interested in an even more ideally suited position: Communications Manager at a magazine/publisher. I spent 45 minutes talking with someone who saw everything I stood for, who was on the same page when it comes to relating with a team, building a culture of respect and creativity, who valued my efforts as key communications ones, not administrative “extras”. We talked openly about my anxiety and how I was continually trying new things to tackle it. We talked about psychology – he’d been researching the Myers-Briggs personality model hours before my interview because he, too, felt people work better together when they understand each other. I may have done a happy clap at this point. The next day I was called back and offered the position. I was told told one of the main reasons for the decision was because he’d read my blog the previous night. This very one right here, where I write about my struggles, my goals, my dreams… ironically, this very blog which a current colleague had forwarded to my supervisor in attempts to get me into trouble became the very reason someone else wanted me around. It was everything I’d ever wanted in a work environment.

So I accepted! I gave three weeks’ notice on Monday, and was blown away by the plethora of e-mails from people all over the world telling me how much of an impact I’d had. How integral I’d been to people and how much I’d done to stand up for what’s right. I had people in other countries I’d never even met telling me how much they’d miss me. And on a day where I felt scared, nervous about taking a leap into the unknown and questioning my ability to live up to what I hope to be, it was exactly what I needed.

via [http://gigiare.tumblr.com/]

I start the first week of February, leaving me a whole day off to transition. But that’s okay. I didn’t want to leave my girls here in the lurch, and I wanted to leave in good faith, despite the challenges over the past eighteen months. Because this place gave me opportunities. I met lifelong friends and I got to travel and be surrounded with thousands of souls committed to making the corporate world a better place. I got to put Winnipeg on the map, and I learned truly what I should be doing. And as if to solidify exactly what that is, I received an e-mail this week informing me I’m going to have my first work of fiction published in a literary magazine!

SanitariumI can’t wait for this next chapter. I’m terrified, but I refuse to let that dictate my actions and mentality. I’m incredibly grateful, and more than anything, I’m excited. It’s kind of what I’ve wanted my entire life.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The evolution of New Year’s Eve is an interesting one, isn’t it? I remember as a kid going over to one of the neighbours’ houses and spending it crammed in a bedroom with my younger brother and the neighbours’ kids. I’m still friends with them today, all these years later. I remember spending hours taking turns playing Prince of Persia (2D!) with them until midnight hit and going downstairs to find both sets of parents absolutely loaded, and being completely mortified. That night was probably the reason I didn’t drink a thing until I was in my twenties.

I remember New Year’s Eve 1999 and all the excitement everyone around the world was sharing. I was 14, and I dressed up in the sparkliest silver dress I could find. We went to an out-of-town party in a big place where they had several halls, one designated for the under 18s. I can’t remember what was in it, but I think it was a fun time.

I remember New Year’s Eve in university, being 19 or so, having my first proper “group” of friends all come over for board games. I remember my parents coming home after their party and my dad joining us for a few rounds of Taboo. I think we played charades, too. I remember the feeling of pure content being surrounded by a group who simply adored each other’s company.

I remember New Year’s Eve newly single, sitting in my dad’s study writing out my resolutions for the upcoming year and chatting with an old friend overseas, comforted by the triumph of human connection over several time zones and thousands of miles.

I remember New Year’s Eve in Palm Springs, California, with a group of people I thought were going to become my family. I remember New Year’s Eve newly married, sad, scared and worried, because those people wanted me gone.

I remember the only time I ever ventured out on a Proper New Year’s Party. Tickets were $75, including cover and all drinks (which nobody could get anyway with the queues permanently thirty people long), but it was probably the worst one I’ve ever had. Someone had rented the Art Gallery and transformed it into an amazing venue with different themed rooms, DJs, even music on the roof, but their coat check volunteers had abandoned ship halfway through the night, and the holding space became a free-for-all looting session. Everyone was stealing everybody else’s belongings, and I remember sitting on the floor crying amidst the riot with my coat and camera missing. The police ended up getting called. I waited freezing for a good three hours before finally being able to get a cab home.

I remember last New Year’s Eve, going out for dinner with a splintered group of people who huddled in small clusters around a long table. I remember the lemon soup being the most delicious thing I’d ever had, and I remember being extremely thankful for a few people there, but more worried about being judged by the rest. I remember being new. I remember the excitement as 12:00 rang in a six-month anniversary with my boyfriend and running off on our own down empty snow-filled streets, setting off fireworks before dashing inside to warm up and drink peach champagne.

But I think this New Year’s Eve is going to be my favourite. I get to spend it with a handful of some of the best people I’ve ever known. If 2012 has taught me anything (well, it taught me a lot of things, but perhaps more so than anything else), it’s the value of actual love. Not just romantic love, but platonic love, too.

They say your real friends know you inside out, all the bad as well as the good, and love you anyway. But this year I actually saw that happen. I put my friends through a lot of crazy this year. I lost a few people because of it, but a handful were there through it all, all the tears, all the panic, all the worry and all the downright insane. There are things I put people through this year that I don’t even understand. They certainly didn’t, but they were there anyway, with hugs, reassurances in the middle of the night, and the occasional bottle of wine. They’ve shown me the meaning of the true human connection – when love outweighs absolutely anything else.

Friendship is a pretty amazing thing from a scientific standpoint – investing time, emotion and energy into a relationship without any evolutionary gain. The capacity to care is beautiful. It’s also pretty incredible when those relationships are completely open. I did some things this year I’d be embarrassed to write about here, but when you know someone is truly there for you, those things don’t become embarrassing because they’re crazy, they become embarrassing because you feel you let the other person down. Because they think you’re awesome, and sometimes, you’re not. 2012 was the year I realised with some people, I truly could be exactly the version of myself I am right now, and I didn’t have to worry about being judged. And for that, I’m simultaneously sorry and grateful beyond words.

I’m not going to make resolutions for 2013 – I have a pretty good 30 Before 30 on the go, and I’ve always maintained that you shouldn’t wait for an excuse like the turning of a calendar to start making things happen. I look back on 2012 with a deepened appreciation for those dearest to me, and I make them a hope and a promise: that they will always know how cherished they are, and that for their sake, I will always remember what I’ve learned, where we’ve been, what we’ve shared… and use that to be the best possible person I can be.

And for anyone reading these words, Happy New Year. I hope your 2013 brings introspection, courage, adventure and education. I hope your understanding of yourself and the world around you deepens and with it, an appreciation. I hope you chase your dreams, even if you’re afraid, because every day in this upcoming year is another chance to do something amazing. I hope that even if you screw something up, there’s something to be said about people that try. Besides, with the biggest cock-ups come the biggest lessons, and lessons are awesome. I hope you learn great things, read great books, and hear songs that set your soul on fire and make you proud to be part of the human race. I hope you remember small kindnesses and compliment strangers, and I hope, at least once per day, you find one thing to smile about.

The Butterfly Effect

 “Wisdom comes from experience.
Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”

– Terry Pratchett

Contrary to popular belief, I’m twenty-six years old. (I’m really hoping for some sort of prize if I still get asked for ID a decade after turning eighteen.) I’m at That Age where everyone around me seems to be busy Being Grown Ups and doing all the things my teenage self thought I’d probably be doing now too. Friends are earning degrees, planning weddings, welcoming babies, climbing the corporate ladder, celebrating anniversaries, buying cars and houses, and all the while I’m reminded that the clock is ticking, thirty is just around the corner, and my life is far from what I thought it would be.  I think we all have ideas of what our lives will look like when we’re younger, largely based on the patterns of those around us (my parents met each other at sixteen, married at twenty and had me two years later – and for most of my high school years, I thought this was probably going to be my life course too! Prime opportunity to make use of the word “crikey”?), added to interests, goals, hopes and dreams… but how many of us actually end up living out the life we imagined we would?

By my mid-twenties, I definitely thought I’d have graduated university. I thought I’d have been married a few years, maybe with a kid on the way around this age, and I thought I’d be living in my own house. Not a big house, mind – I envisioned a little bungalow somewhere with hardwood floors, walls I’d painted turquoise and sage green, and a garden I’d somehow enjoy tending. I definitely thought I’d be able to drive, and though I was passionate about pursuing psychology, I was told I’d never find a job in it, so I imagined I’d be using my finished university degree in driving to work every day to my job as an English teacher, which would be unaffected by any sort of social anxiety, and which I would love. I imagined the only debt I had being the mortgage on my house, and I imagined planning trips every year to faraway places. I imagined having taken a year off in my early twenties to launch myself across the Atlantic and explore India or Australia, and I think I always imagined I’d be living back in Europe. I imagined getting home from work by 4:30 and having an hour or two to catch up on housework, prepare actual meals from actual recipe books (and actually enjoy cooking), and sit down at my dark cherry mahogany dining suite with my family, a glass of wine in hand and classical music floating in from the living room. I imagined spending the rest of the evening in a nicely decorated study, catching up on marking, and I imagined going to bed by 10:00 with enough time to read every night.

How frightfully grown-up my illusory mid-twenties were going to be. And how frightfully boring

I ended up moving out at eighteen with someone I was dating at the time, and when that fell apart, moved straight back to my parents’ basement for three weeks before finding the first of a series of flatmates that ended up being… let’s say… interesting characters. I moved five times in seven years, cohabitating with people who didn’t realise the expenses of living alone (and moving straight back home after a few months), didn’t own plates or cutlery (and insisted on stockpiling all mine in their bedrooms for weeks at a time in what I can only imagine were endeavours at breaking some sort of horrible Guinness record), and stole movies and CDs. People who took monthly phone and Internet cheques from me, deposited them in their bank account, had us disconnected, and then broke my bedroom door in an effort to burgle their way in to use my computer. I ended up dating a series of bad people who left my self esteem in tatters, and ended up agreeing to marry multiple times because I thought that’s just what people did – that life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect, and we just go through the motions. I never imagined for a second that soulmates and fairytale love existed in the real world and ended up settling for what I thought I was worth, getting myself thousands of dollars in debt, emotionally and physically abused, and picking up pieces repeatedly as a result of my own inability to believe I was worth any more. I dropped out of university two years in because I couldn’t afford to keep going and live on my own, and because my dream of teaching English didn’t line up with the anxiety disorder I’d developed (and subsequent incapability of speaking in public). I lived in a series of apartments, I went through a series of groups of friends, and I drifted for years, just floating along through life, never taking any risks, always settling for less, never truly fitting in and never truly comfortable with who I was. No direction, no assets, and definitely nowhere near the picture I’d drawn of what life was going to be. But you know what? Being where I am now, I genuinely couldn’t be more thankful that things happened the way they did.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
– Helen Keller

So I didn’t finish university – it doesn’t mean I’m not clever. I know I kept up an excellent GPA, and I know I still spend much of my free time reading and learning more about science, psychology, language and the world around me. Textbook clever, I think, is just as valid as real-world clever. So I’m still thoroughly undomesticated – I still hate cooking and would rather do six loads of laundry one Saturday afternoon a month than keep up with it weekly, but I keep things clean, and I spend my time on other, more interesting things, like writing or sci-fi nights with friends. I know the person I am today is a result of having been through complete and utter crap – and it’s not easy, but I fully admit I was the only one who allowed that crap to happen. That’s why I’m so determined today to stand up for myself, stand up for what I believe to be right, stand up for others who’re taken advantage of or can’t see their potential, and stand up for my own self worth. If life had been easy, if I hadn’t wanted for things so desperately, I would never have had any reason to push myself out of my comfort zone. If things had fallen into my lap, I could have been living the life I imagined, thoroughly sheltered from real world experience, thoroughly limited in my outlook on life, and thoroughly bored. As one of my favourite musicians once said, “darkness defines where the light is”, and I firmly believe that things are so much more meaningful, and so very much more appreciated when you’ve had to work to get them. If things had been easy, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have challenged myself, I wouldn’t have attempted things I wanted to be able to do, I wouldn’t have met half the amazing people I have in my life today, and I would never have experienced soul-stirring, life-changing, epic, fairytale love I thought only existed in fiction. I wouldn’t have learned to prioritize making a difference over making money, and I wouldn’t have learned how incredibly much there is in this life to learn, to attempt, to soak up, to throw yourself into and to experience with every fibre of your being. I wouldn’t have felt the need to tell those I love just how much they mean, I would have taken things for granted, and I wouldn’t have learned the valuable lesson of acceptance. I wouldn’t have stories or battle scars, and I wouldn’t be fuelled by such insatiable passion for making the most of the time we have.

“What are you thinking?” he asks.

I know he hates it when I cry – he is completely undone by the sight of tears – so I blink hard against the sting. “I’m thinking how thankful I am for everything,” I say, “even the bad stuff. Every sleepless night, every second of being lonely, every time the car broke down, every wad of gum on my shoe, every late bill and losing lottery ticket and bruise and broken dish and piece of burnt toast.”

His voice is soft. “Why, darling?”

“Because it all led me here to you.”
– Lisa Kleypas

Life may be far from what I imagined, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. There’s something about catching or missing a trainbumping into someone instead of passing them by, the wrong person getting their hands on an ordinary sports almanac, or preventing the wrong medication being given that may help illustrate my point – I do think there’s something thoroughly fascinating about the whole butterfly effect. I may not have a degree, a family, a house or a car, but I reckon I’ve got life experience by the bucketload. In the past, at times, things have definitely felt confusing and downright catastrophic. But they all led me to the here and now. They made me stronger, more aware, and more passionate. More grateful and more determined. They led me to true friends, true love, and true appreciation of what’s really important in life. My timeline may be off, and I may have taken a few wrong turns. But at the end of it, it was a terribly big adventure, and from where I’m sitting now as a result of the course things took, I wouldn’t wish for things to have been different at all.

Now, somebody stop me before I embarrass myself terribly and start quoting Rascal Flatts. :) How about you? How do you feel about the darker times in your past? And did your life turn out the way you’d imagined it would? 

The Stranglehold of Memory

Be kind to me
My robot heart is fragile too
Keep it well, keep it true
My robot heart
- Hawksley Workman

There’s something that’s been bothering me a lot lately, and it comes in the form of discrepancy. I think we all tend to feel unsettled when we’re not at peace: when our actions and thought patterns defy what we want them to be, it causes inner conflict. I find that usually, simply recognising the existence of that discrepancy is enough to move toward doing something about it. But what happens when the gap seems impossible to close? Sometimes, when a behaviour or thought pattern has been so deeply engrained for so very long, it almost feels impossible to do or see things any differently. The stranglehold of memory exerts such a strong force over our minds that even when logical actions and reactions are staring us in the face, we can’t help but surrender to the reflexive patterns we’ve followed our whole lives.

One of the reasons it’s causing me such distress is because it goes against everything I try to stand for. As I mentioned not too long ago, practising acceptance of the past and focusing on the future is something that helped me get on with life after everything was thrown up in the air. Reminding myself that we only get one life, and making it a priority not to waste a second on things that have already happened has allowed me to be more productive, more proactive, and more positive. But I find I keep slipping up. I allow my mind to default to panic and disaster mode at the slightest sign of history repeating itself, despite all present-day evidence to the contrary. The trouble with investing your whole heart into people is that you give them full permission for the potential to hurt you catastrophically. And when people have done just that, and repeatedly, it’s hard not to put a guard up. One thing I’ve reiterated many times lately is that no matter how many times my heart has taken a beating, it’s not going to stop me from putting it straight back out there. But what happens when you do that, yet your mind is unable to let go of the fear it could all happen again?

“But don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while,
even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”
- Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller’s Wife

A good friend recently gave a good analogy. Imagine if you were assaulted or mugged in a dark alley one night. You’d probably be a little scared of dark alleys for a while, even if they were the most beautiful alleys on the planet. It’s the oldest of lessons: touch a hot element and get burned, and you’ll learn not to make the same mistake again. But that goes so very much against how I want to live life: I want to take risks and hope for the best; I don’t want to cage myself in and become a prisoner of fear. I want so desperately to be able to get to the end of my life and look back without regret – to say I gave it my absolute all, and have “oh wells” rather than “what ifs”. I want to live with passion and zest for life, believe in happy endings and in the innate goodness of people. I want to believe that people care about each other, and I want to believe in love. Not just settling for unreliable friends and acquaintances, or a partner you wish understood you. Not just settling for a job that pays the bills but doesn’t make you excited every day. But finding those fairytale endings, those brilliant friends who’d cross oceans to make you feel better when you’re down, that perfect partner who knows you better than you know yourself, with whom you never have to wonder, that amazing job that seems designed for the most unique skill and interest set that belongs to you alone… I want to believe in it all, but I can’t stop my mind going into panic mode at the tiniest imperfection. I can’t shake the feeling that investing my heart into things in similar ways I’ve done in the past is going to result in disaster, so instead of accepting and believing that sometimes in life things can work out, I default to it’s happening all over again in some futile form of self-preservation mechanism. I inadvertently doom my own existence by allowing past events to dictate a future that by all rights has every potential to be wonderful.

I realise life isn’t perfect, I realise I’m not perfect and I realise people aren’t perfect. I realise that nobody can live a fairytale existence free of hurt, pain or disappointment – that’s just real life. I realise I probably need to lower my expectations of the world – not even expectations; hopes… any situation can go brilliantly or terribly, I just don’t know how to break free from the worry that’s become so at home in my mind after a series of life blows. It’s human nature to want to protect ourselves, but I’ve always maintained that by guarding ourselves we miss out on the incredible depths of emotion that could be felt by opening our souls to another human being. Greater openness involves greater risk of destruction, but living a half-life isn’t really living at all. So how does one break away from the risk of self-fulfilling prophecies? If you always expect the worst, it has a habit of becoming manifest. We inadvertently plant seeds of sabotage that will allow us to feel comforted should things fall apart, giving ourselves the option to later say our fears were fully justified. But doing this destroys the present moment. Kindness is questioned, assumptions are made, and the path that could be walked in bliss and beauty is strewn with imaginings of worst case scenarios, or detours to hunt for signs that history is doomed to repeat.

Why is it so difficult to let go of former hurts and simply embrace the opportunity for a fresh slate? Why are we conditioned to allow the past to dictate and curb our present ability to live? Why must memory exert such a frighteningly strong stranglehold, and why is it so difficult to simply choose to shape the future instead? I want to live in the now, free of the worry of the then invading all over again. I just don’t know how to break free. My mind is being a frightful rebel to what my heart wants it to be.

Oh, you delicate heart
There’s deep enough wells for our tears
When we break ourselves carelessly
Through a tumbling down of our fears

A One-Way Ticket to the Rest of my Life

Recently, as you may have read, I came to the decision that it was time for a bit of direction. I was full of ideas and dreams – but had no plan in place to help them become part of reality, and it was high time that changed. In years of late, I think I’ve become more of a big-picture thinker – whether the current situation is life-shattering or miniscule, I try to think of how my future self would look back on my current course of action. Perhaps that’s why I have such difficulty understanding people’s choice to perpetuate rifts and disagreements – we’re only given a finite time on this earth, so why choose to waste time on something futile? 

This mentality has been the fuel for the newfound decision to take direction of my life. I don’t want to look back in fifty years time at my twenties and say I wasted them, settling for a job that, though pleasant, doesn’t exercise my strengths or passions. I don’t want to say I wasted these years surfing Facebook, watching back episodes of Star Trek, or saving for a rainy day instead of spending time actually living. I don’t want to live in a state of the perpetually unfinished – an education once started but never complete; an idea for a story once hatched but never written; a dream once borne but never transitioned into actuality. Now is the time I can make the choice to take control, and though the thought slightly terrifies me, there are three things that have been swirling around my mind, desperate to escape the confines of the immaterialised and take shape to become the rest of my life. It’s easy to talk about dreams and bucket lists that have no set expiry date, meanwhile being perfectly content to coast through the day-to-day without taking any risks. I’m happy that I started my 26 Before 26 last summer – it’s pushed me through my 25th year and made me grasp opportunities, take leaps, and do things I’d always dreamed of, but never had the proverbial balls to try. But these were all small things that though in part, add up to me becoming more comfortable with myself, don’t ultimately influence the grand scheme of things. I may be more comfortable in front of a group, and I may have developed a few new skills, but this isn’t the stuff of great magnitude. This isn’t stuff that charters the course of the rest of one’s life. 

But these three dreams, these three swirling ideas that wrap themselves around my day-to-day, may very well be just that.  I only have three more years as a twenty-something, and I need this decade to close on accomplishment. Three more years, three big ideas. It’s going to take patience, dedication, and financial hits. It’s going to take a shift in priorities, lifestyle changes, and lots of perseverance. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of faith, and a few big risks. But I can’t break this pull I’m feeling; I’ve been offered a one-way ticket to a threefold destination, and there’s no stopping the train. One of these stops involves higher education. One of these stops involves my biggest passion in life, and the pursuit of the ultimate dream. And one of these stops  involves something that wasn’t on my radar this time last year, but now seems the only way forward. Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken small steps into this new territory – and I’ve never felt more strongly that life is becoming exactly what it was meant to be.

Second Star On The Right, Straight On ‘Til Morning

It hit me a few days ago, while looking through recent posts, drafts, and randomly jotted ideas, that a great deal of what’s been on my mind has subconsciously been revolving around the idea of direction. Titles talked of ships lost at sea, of searching for clues, and of living in the void – the paradox of knowing what I want, yet having no map nor compass to tell me where I am going. [Sidenote: I am in love with this tattoo, but my wrists are far too small!] As was pointed out several times toward the end of 2010, last year was one of finding myself. Scratch that, creating myself. Taking steps to take an image embedded on the walls of my mind to a living, breathing girl who finally gets to call the shots. Eliminating the deadweight and breaking through those self-contructed ceilings. My life is accompanied by an ongoing list of goals, of things to strive for, because I believe in continual growth and continual experience, and that the only life worth living is one dictated by no other but yourself. But until now, those goals have paved the way to a vague and hazy destination. I’ve had no direction. I’ve aimed for the sky and hoped for the best without giving second thought as to what constellation I want to land in. I think there’s a lot to be said for living in the present moment. But I don’t think it hurts to have a bit of a plan.

I was talking to a friend recently about how our younger selves envisioned our grown-up lives. We joked about how we thought we’d have husbands, children, degrees, and own our own homes by the time we hit 25. When we were younger, it seemed like the only option. The road was paved straight and smooth, and marked clearly along the way. My parents did it by 22; 25 would be easy! So what happened? I think life happened; the very thing that occurs when what you are told as a child that what you should be doing with your life doesn’t line up with what you want from life. Of course, I wanted an education, a career, a relationship, and the proverbial white picket fence. I still do. But I think, as with so many things, lessons only sink in the way they were supposed to when they come from within. I’ve learned in life that one must forge their own path of their own devising, being allowed to stray and get lost and learn things along the way. One can be told to do this and not to do that, but none of it’s going to mean anything if it isn’t intrinsic. The realisation has come lately that what I am doing in my day-to-day existence does not necessarily line up with what I want to be able to say I did with my life. And if nothing else, discrepancy has to be the fuel for change.

In my early twenties, my problem was that I had no idea what I wanted. I didn’t know what the path looked like or if what I was being told to do was what I really should be doing. I remember struggling, at seventeen, to figure out what I wanted to do in University. I was always drawn to English and Psychology, even advertising, but I was told I’d never get a job in any of those fields, and that people “spend years paying lots of money and getting into lots of debt to get degrees they never end up using.”  Still under my parents’ roof and rule, I tossed the ideas aside, and continued with my application for University with no idea what I was working towards. As long as it wasn’t what people had told me I couldn’t possibly pursue, I figured simply being inside an academic institution for nine or ten hours a day was enough to say I was on the right path.

But then life happened. I moved out, spent money on furniture, broke up with my then-boyfriend, got kicked out of our apartment, and had to go crawling back home. Except my parents had downsized when I’d  moved out, and there wasn’t any room at the inn.  I spent three weeks on a sofa in the basement surrounded by laundry and boxes, all the while hunting for my own place. But I couldn’t get my own place without making more money. And I couldn’t make more money while I was still in school. So then began the chapter of adult independence. I had to work to live, and I didn’t have the money to pay for schooling, rent AND food. So I very reluctantly eliminated the non-immediately-essential.

The years since were full of life lessons, and I wouldn’t change my twenties for the world. Yes, they may have been full of heartache and moments darker than I’d ever dare share, but they also taught me who I wanted to be. The Universe will always provide hints as to what path you should be on. If you aren’t listening, it’ll just try harder until something catastrophic zaps you with a lightning bolt and literally throws you back on track. If you are listening, you’ll be led to where you’re meant to be. Lately, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that in fifty years and I look back on my life, I’ll be filled with regret if I never took the risk of following my passions. There’s a fire in my heart waiting to shine brightly and every day I choose to spend updating someone else’s spreadsheets is another day I haven’t followed my dreams. I know what those dreams are now, and they involve great risk. Throwing everything that’s comfortable and routine up into the air and taking a big giant leap into unfamiliar territory. They involve following a rocky path without streetlights or signposts along the way, with no guarantee of a destination; no guarantee that at the end of it all, the dreams will come true. But I suppose that’s where having faith in the Universe comes in. And you know what? It hasn’t let me down once.

The near future may be shaping up to be wildly different than I’d thought just eight or nine weeks ago, when the clock struck midnight that cold, bright New Year’s Eve. The path may be as unclear as the Marauder’s Map to a Muggle. But sometimes, I think you just have to take a leap, follow that star, and trust your instincts as your guide… knowing that whatever happens, you’ll end up at the right destination. I wish I could talk about it in more detail, but for fear of jinxing things, I’m going to have to wait until it’s real… but for now, I’ve decided to stop playing it safe, and take action. To stop wishing and start doing. To forge my own path, having faith that it truly will be the right one for me. Let Project: Rest of my Life commence… now. :)