On January 6, 2016, I sat in my favourite chair, staring out the window of my fifth floor studio in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, depressed as heck, pondering life, and writing about it. Questioning my career and almost every other aspect of my life, I’d been toying with the idea of returning to school — something I’ve always loved and found mostly fulfilling — for the past few months, but for what, I wasn’t sure. As I sat, writing everything that came to mind on post-secondary potential, the most profound realization hit me square in the face. I was one hundred per cent going to return to UBC after a 10+ year hiatus, get admitted to its creative writing major no matter what, finish my undergrad where my community of like-minded creatives would mushroom, and proceed to be the best at creative writing I could possibly be forever and ever. I hadn’t been so excited and certain of something for ages and when I checked the date on my phone to time-stamp this momentous occasion, you can imagine my astonishment when I saw “Epiphany” scheduled. I said to myself, “Self, how many more signs do you need? This is it!”
What does life look like one and a bit years later? Well, it’s come with almost as much mind-bending as Inland Empire, and as sure as I was that night in my chair, turns out that what I knew would be was not. I was wrong and/or changed my mind about everything. EVERYTHING. Here’s what actually happened.
I quit my coveted “adult” job as an editing and publishing specialist where I spent the last half-decade honing and using my communications skills and education, being compensated well, making regular RRSP contributions, and paying MSP on time for the first time in my life. A long-term live-in relationship with the one I thought was The One ended. I moved solo into my dream apartment in the heart of Vancouver (also a quick-fix that was way more than what a person like me should spend on rent) only to sublet it and move soon after, pulling the millennial’s signature move and shacked up with my mom in Victoria (one of the best decisions I’ve made, by the way).
I was accepted back to UBC to finish my bachelor’s. But because I got rejected from the creative writing program that I was one hundred per cent sure of, I was going to take the BA route instead and major in English. Then post-secondary life threw me yet another curveball when I got accepted into grad school in Victoria. So I skipped the undergrad altogether and started my master’s degree in communications.
Also, Epiphany is a Christian orthodox holiday, not a planned life moment I unknowingly scheduled for Future Laurel.
If that A-ha! moment was so palpable and clear last year, why didn’t I commit to making my “creative writing dreams” come true, try harder, and apply until I got accepted? Because life happens and it’s ridiculous and unrealistic to think that moments of profound realization will always manifest, are worth exploring and pursuing to the end until they’re wrapped up in a neat little package. Life is chaotic. Things change and there are better options that we don’t know exist when we begin or continue any journey. In retrospect, I think I was more drawn to the packaged prestige and exclusivity of that creative writing program, not how it could be fulfilling and rewarding and lead to a more content Laurel in the big picture. And I found something better and more fitting for me, even if I did feel the sting of rejection initially.
Therein lies the challenge, because the question we’re inevitably asked when change abounds is “What are you going to do next?” or “What are you going to do with that?” over and over and over as though the chaos turned into order and we’ve got it figured out now, thanks for asking.
So I’m trying something new. I’m embracing the unknown, seeking comfort in the chaos, and declaring “I don’t know!” with confidence(ish). Because so many of these choices and changes were based on feelings in my metaphorical guts (and a lot of things beyond my control), it’s not always easy to articulate why we do something or what is at the end of it.
And whether you can articulate your reasoning or not, who cares. You don’t have to.