When I finished high school 25 years ago, I had the idea that I would become a research psychologist. I was interested in the clinical aspect of it, but I did not think it would suit my socially awkward personality. If I went into research, though, I would be able to satisfy my desire to try and figure out what makes people tick. In some small way, I might even be able to make the world a better place.
I graduated high school with good grades and went off to university to pursue a Bachelors degree with a psychology major.
You know how life has this way of barging in and messing up all your plans?
Life barged in and messed up all my plans. During my second year at university, I met someone who I initially thought was charming, but who turned out to be a chaotic and disruptive force. I compare that part of my life with a tsunami. A gigantic wave rushes in and knocks over everything in its path. When the water recedes, the landscape is completely different. Some things have been turned upside down, others have completely disappeared. Virtually nothing is recognizable, and the only way to move forward is through a process of recovery and reinvention.
One thing is clear: after such a disruption, nothing can ever be the same again.
I did finish my Bachelors degree, but I abandoned the dream. I did not have good enough grades to pursue further studies, and even if that weren’t the case, my sense of self had been so completely obliterated that it would not have been possible.
In the 20-odd years since then, a lot has happened. I spent some time drifting, both metaphorically in my own mind and literally through travel, and eventually washed up in a career. I moved to Canada, had children, got married. I have buried my father, been thrust into the role of special needs mom, started running and discovered a passion for writing.
I have a lot to be thankful for, including the fact that in spite of the storm that I endured all those years ago, I have managed to make a life for myself. There has always been an undertone of regret, though. Regret for the poor decisions I made back then, and regret for the fact that I had a dream that got swept away. While the career I did end up in has been pretty good, I have never been able to shake the feeling that this is not what I want to do, that I have been living my whole adult life in response to things that happened a long time ago.
Maybe I cannot pursue the dreams I had back then. Maybe those dreams belong in the past along with all the ugly stuff that happened there.
What about new dreams, though? Is there anything stopping me from pursuing them?
In a move that has surprised absolutely no-one except myself, I have made the decision to go back to school. I have enrolled in a post-graduate certificate in fiction and non-fiction writing, and this will be followed up with a Masters degree in creative writing.
It is daunting. Quite apart from the extra time commitment that this will involve, my mind keeps drifting back to how my first shot at a university education went so wrong. I freely admit that I am scared. A part of me feels like that naive kid who made dumb choices. On the other hand, though, this might be a chance of personal redemption, an opportunity to get it right.
I owe this to myself, and I owe it to that scared, overwhelmed kid of long ago who gave up a dream.(Photo credit: Raoul Luoar. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)