Dear me at 17:
Today would be just like any other day.
This morning, you pushed open the heavy steel doors and entered the lobby of A.Y. Jackson Secondary School just like any other morning, along with the rest of your peers. You were hit with the same rush of cool, stale air and the faint smell of cooking grease wafting from the cafeteria. You were talking with the same people, on your way to the same classrooms to learn about the same things. You’ve even managed to finagle your same locker from last year.
Everything you’ve experienced this morning is exactly the same as it’s always been. And yet, you can’t help but feel that everything is different. You have been saddled with the keen awareness that very soon, everything is about to change. Everything is about to get a heck of a lot more serious. Today is the first day of your last year of high school.
Your parents, teachers and guidance counsellors have impressed upon you the fact that within the next two months, you will be tasked with choosing not only a University, but a career path along with it. Your bedroom is jammed full of brochures from various post secondary institutions. You’ve shoved them all away into a box in your closet, trying to pretend that the whole thing might just disappear if you shut your eyes hard enough.
You are someone who likes things to be simple and predictable. You like to know exactly where you are headed in life. As a child, you would read the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books backwards, choosing a conclusion first and then working your way back to the beginning through the path of your choice. Though you might like the idea of a road trip, you much prefer the destination to the journey. Similarly, though you want so badly to be an adult, to grow up and move away and start your own life, it’s the “getting there” that seems to be getting you down.
For the first time in your life you have been faced with the reality of free will. Endless possibilities. Sure, it sounds great, but it’s also absolutely terrifying. Each University brochure, each program choice, each field on each application stares you in the face like your destiny begging to be chosen. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to study? Which Universities will accept you? After all the hard work, will you ever even “make it”? It’s overwhelming. And the “I don’t know” of it all is sending you into a cold sweat.
Here is the thing: In this life, you NEVER know.
You might have the illusion of knowing every now and then. After Elementary School comes Junior High. After the commercial break, the show starts. After you breathe in you breathe out. There are some things in life that are very nearly sure things. But these are few and far between and even they can throw you for a loop sometimes. You harbour the belief that you are hurtling towards a point of no return- a point in your life at which you will need to have everything “all figured out”. But that point does not exist. Not now, not in ten years, not in fifty.
Stop being so serious, my dear! Choose a goal, sure. Choose a career path and choose the program of study that might take you there. If you get in and hate it, switch programs. Switch Universities. Switch cities, houses, hair colours, whatever. Allow yourself the space to move around according to your instincts. This is the first time in your life where you are able to listen to them. Stop letting this decision trick you into believing its magnitude.
This is your life, and you really can choose your own adventure. But no cheating this time. You’ll just have to turn the pages one by one and see where the story will take you.