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. 🙂


  1. I love that I’m reading this piece after writing my own warbling account of indecision.
    You are an inspiration, Ms. E and I can’t wait to see you tap the map and say, “Mischief Managed”.

  2. This is kind of the attitude I took when deciding what to do in college and later in grad school. Risky, but worth it. And, thank you for this post, because I’m currently feeling kind of stuck in a situation, and it’s nice to be reminded that once I took risks and I have survived them just fine. Good luck to you, Emily!

  3. Yep I pretty much wrote on the similar topic today 😀

    I LOVE that tattoo, is it yours??
    I have always thought to live my life by my own ‘inner compass’. I actually have a tattoo I’d like to extend into a compass (it’s currently just a rose on my hips)… need to find a good artist.

    There needs to be a balance of intuition, trusting in the ‘universe’, but also TAKING CHARGE and trusting in YOURSELF. The universe can’t do something for you, so at the end of the day, the only people we can count on is ourselves.

    1. I am going to check out your post right away! I adore the tattoo too – I wish it were mine! My wrists are too tiny 😦

      Would love to see pics of the compass tattoo once you find a good artist 🙂

  4. Very intrigued here girlie! I loved this post, but I wish I knew what this dream was so I could cheer you on! Still rooting for you wherever the universe takes you next, sounds like an exciting time coming up!
    I also love that tattoo.

  5. This post is spot on and is exactly the way we should all be living. We can’t have our vision unless we are prepared to move forward, sometimes into scary, unknown territory. And sometimes it means giving up what we have. But the key word is “vision.” That’s what gives us direction.

  6. Love this post. Isn’t it wonderful to get to a point sometimes when we have perspective, and can clearly see where we have come from, and where we might like to go 🙂

  7. Hi Emily,

    When I was a kid, I thought that life would magically unfold before me and everything would fall into place somehow. Reality was a rude awakening of sorts. I had a similar awakening one day as I was stapling and filing papers in an office. It just isn’t the way to live, working your ass off while someone else benefits.

    As you say, we must forge our own paths and along the way we have to learn the lessons that life has for us. Everything happens for a reason and when we struggle with adversity, it is because life is giving us a chance to acquire the skills we need to manage greater challenges. I am glad you are well along the way now. It too has been my experience that the universe will not let us down if we take charge of our lives and never give up. 🙂

    Irving the Vizier

    1. I’m really trying hard to get into the habit of saying to myself “this is happening for a reason”, when things DON’T go to plan, and just have faith that it will become clear eventually – because it always has! I too have great faith in the universe 🙂

  8. The great thing about growing up in the 21st century is that there are so many paths in our lives that we can take. We have better and more opportunities that allow us to take a step back and reevaluate our decisions. I feel like there is so much I can still do and accomplish and I want to breath it all in. I hope you feel the same way.

    Great words, great post! 🙂

  9. I am so glad I’m not the only one who has gone through these struggles. My life is nothing like how I thought it would be. But it’s still amazing.

    1. It’s funny to think that even now, we can have some sort of mental picture of life 20 years from NOW – and how different it will probably be, too!

  10. This was beautiful, Em, and so, so true and wise, because life really doesn’t go as planned for most people, I believe.
    Trying to find your own path, your own happiness must be one of the most difficult tasks that is placed in front of us during our lifetime.

  11. My life isn’t at all how I pictured it at 15. I’m not an Olympic athlete, and that’s all I was focussed on back then. Instead, I’m a wife, a mother, and a recreational horseback rider with a big list of different dreams to work towards. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in “existing” where we are that we lose sight of our dreams. Thanks for posting this, very inspiring 😀

    1. Thank you! I think we can get caught up in things too easily – being caught up in the past never allows us to fully live, living solely in the here and now doesn’t allow room for dreaming, and being too caught up in the future makes us miss the beauty of today… it’s a fine balance 🙂

  12. Thank you for your honesty . It’s what I like most about your writing. I am in a place right now that has me not participating in life but just watching. It was one of those dark places but I’m beginning to emerge.

  13. Beautiful post 😉

    “…being allowed to stray and get lost and learn things along the way. ”

    If ANYONE feels this quote, it’s ME. I FEEL YA. Letting go of control is damn scary, but also calming in a strange, beautiful way 🙂

  14. that first step is terrifying! waiting for some kind of rejection, for some kind of failure, something that says ‘see? you shouldn’t have done that! you should have just stuck to what you were doing!’ it’s hard moving forward, trying to remember to breathe and to know that yes, everything WILL be okay.

    good luck in whatever adventure you’re about embark on! i can’t wait to continue hearing about it, in due time of course.

    1. Thanks!! I think this week I am experiencing my first “some kind of failure”, however I am dead set on getting there so I am not giving up!! Thank you so much for the encouragement – really means a lot 🙂

  15. i have a few things to mention here:

    1. woah, lady… this is an awesome post. i’m so stoked for you and i can’t wait to hear about all the details. in the meantime- good luck, trust your gut, and don’t ever give up on yourself. you WILL make those dreams come true.
    2. awesome new layout! i love it.
    3. i can totally picture that tattoo on you- it’s so… you. it might fit on your calf, on the side of your thigh, or arm though?

    big hugs!

    we totally need to catch up soon.


    (ps, when i typed in ‘big hugs’ i totally typed ‘big jugs’ and considered leaving it)

    1. LMAO you totally should’ve 🙂 I would LOVE that tattoo – and I contemplating getting something like it elsewhere, but then north would be pointing to my ankle or boob or something, and wrist would’ve been perfect…

      Yes yes yes let’s catch up soon. I’ve missed you!!

  16. EMILY! Geez. I’m completely sitting here, mouth agape. These are all the things that have been swirling in my mind in the past month. There is so much change I want, so many risks I want to take…but I feel like I’m just floundering with no set plan.

    My life is so different than what I thought it would be. Sometimes, I even wonder if I even want children, which is something I’ve ALWAYS thought was a part of my Master Plan. All those goals and plans I was making are quickly being thrown out the window as I make my way through life. It’s quite exciting, although scary at the same time.

    1. A good mix of excitement and nerves are what makes life worth living 🙂 I have no doubt at ALL that you have a bright future ahead… even if the picture of it is a little hazy right now, I am absolutely certain lots of good things lay ahead for you 🙂

  17. Being in my early 20’s I can relate to how you felt in your early 20s on so many levels. Each day I debate what my future holds. I used to be more into “planning” but I’ve slowly learned to let plans go and just see what each day brings. I met someone in italy who told me that he decides to be who he is, every day. There is no past–there is no future, just the day at hand and what has to be done during that day at hand, and if all those things get done then the next day will probably just go as well and the next day and so forth–and then everything will just find it’s place, without looking for it or trying to make it happen. Of course, for goals and dreams and passions, we gotta look to the future a bit, but we can’t take our dreams not happening tomorrow or the next day as the end all be all. We all have our struggles and the early 20’s are tough, but it’s good to know when you aren’t the only one who found/is finding struggles during that time. i really enjoyed this post and I am glad to have you back on the blog world.

    1. Thank you so much, so glad to be back!! That’s fascinating what that guy in Italy said. There’s definitely something to be said for just deciding to start fresh every single day. What a neat way to live 🙂

  18. What a beautiful post! You couldn’t have said it better….really. I sort of had a mini breakdown not too long ago and told mom that I feel so old because I still feel lost sometimes. She was quick to remind me of everything I have now and that I should be grateful. I am definitely grateful but of course I have my moments/days where I feel that way. I do believe that things will always get better if we allow it to happen. xo!

    1. I’m sorry about your breakdown!! I know I get that way too sometimes – especially now I only have three more years in my twenties, and I realise I still don’t have a degree, or own my home, etc… but things can definitely get better if we allow them, and actually take part in shaping the future 🙂

  19. Girl. Can I call you girl? I love this post, and it speaks so much to me about where I’m at in my life right now. My blog was started because I’m attempting to figure myself out/create a new self/learn what I enjoy, and being in my early twenties makes it hard. Being in school makes it hard. I don’t know where we get these ideas that are lives are going to be magically perfect by a certain age, but I’ve definitely struggled with that myself. Though I DIDN’T think I’d be married by 25 (I am), or ever, I definitely thought I’d have my shit together enough to have a career by now. Whatev, life is harder than it seems when you’re young, but it’s also better in a lot of ways.

    1. Of course, haha! I’m excited to read your blog now – part of why I started writing this blog was to discover myself and figure everything out too 🙂

  20. As a kid I used to play the Game of Life all the time. I’d play it with friends, or even by myself. I always thought I’d end up getting married at 18 or 19, going to school, getting a degree, having a herd of children and end up living in some beautiful and enormous house. All those things could not be further from my current reality and I’m so glad life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to when I was a kid.

    And cheers to taking big leaps of faith and forging new paths!

    1. Ahhh I remember the Game of Life! I love how wildly different life can shape up to how you imagine – kids’ visions of the future aren’t always the best for us, or the most interesting 🙂

  21. I don’t know if you realized this when you chose that image, but the line about an image embedded on the walls of your mind turning into a living, breathing girl made me think about a tattoo that you want but you don’t get. And then, when you do, it’s been there all along but now it’s a more visible part of you. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in my creative writing class and my mind’s all English literature-y. I don’t know.

    I loved your references – Harry Potter, Peter Pan. Some of my favorites growing up. Keep following your dreams. My fingers are crossed for you.

    1. Thanks my love 🙂 I love what you said about it being like a tattoo you don’t get – I hadn’t thought of it that way when I chose the image, but now I’m wishing my wrists weren’t the size of a five-year-olds so I could get a lovely compass like that! (And a literary mind is the best kind :))

  22. First of all, I love that tattoo. And I have been seeing a lot of tattoo pictures lately that I’m starting to think the universe is trying to tell me something. Like, “Get a tattoo already!!!” :p

    I love this post. I remember, when I was younger, I also had this PLAN (yes, plan) to get married at the age of 25. Guess what, I’m 28 and still single. Not that I’m complaining. Okay, I am. A little. Hehe.

    I know you can reach your goal. I have faith in you like that.

  23. My life at 30 definitely does not look like I expected it to look when I was younger. I never imagined I’d be single and childless. But I also never imagined a solo trip to Paris, so there are great things that are happening to offset things i would consider ‘disappointments’. And really, I grew so much during my 20s and have a much better idea of what I want out of life!

    Great post!

  24. This spoke to my heart on so many level, especially the thought of updating someone else’s spread sheets… You are amazing Em, you have already shown that, but I am looking forward to seeing where this will take you… Always here.

  25. Ms. Emily Jane, my wonderful and supportive friend!!! Thank you for all your support on my blog. It just amazes me how someone I’ve never met can be so great to me, especially after getting heat from people I actually I DO know—some old coworkers got wind of my blog and I heard them gossiping about it. They read my blog, the one where I regretted leaving, and thought I was “blaming” my friend for sending me home to China. I never felt so misunderstood and I was so upset, but then I read your comment… and well I felt human again. You’re really a great person Emily.

    And I just discovered—your British!!! I thought you were Canadian… expat *living* in Canada… I see, I see. So does that mean you speak with a British accent? I think that would be lovely.

    Love the new layout!!

  26. I just want to mention I am just very new to weblog and definitely loved you’re blog. Likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You really come with awesome well written articles. Appreciate it for sharing your web-site.

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