Timelines, Expectations, and Arbitrarity

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Sunset the other day while on a walk with my dad, stopping to appreciate the beauty all around me

It’s taken me a really long time to reject the concept of a predetermined timeline that a human life should have. I’m still not sure that I’m quite “there”. While deep down I believe that not following the path that the majority of my peers seem to be taking will lead to a life that suits me well and that I wholeheartedly love, it’s difficult to not let surface-level anxieties and insecurities control my actions and pull me back. I often find myself stuck in a mental game of tug-of-war between who/what I want to be (or at least what I think I want to be) and who/what I feel like the world around me tries to push me to be.

I’ve spent a lot, even most, of my teenage years watching others my age move “forward” and meet milestones that I thought I too would accomplish. Most of my classmates identified their key interests, completed grade 12 in one year, graduated at 17/18, began driving, and went on to post secondary school immediately after. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve shed hours worth of tears over each of these moments as I watched them pass me by. While so many my age were gearing up for the next phase of their lives, I’ve spent a lot of time simply trying to stay alive and functional. A life spent largely in hospital does not leave much room for basic humanity, much less lofty long term goal setting and pursuing complex interests. Due to so much time spent out of school I had to spend an extra year completing a final course, a course for which I ultimately still submitted my final project from a hospital bed, mere weeks before I was due to move hours away to attend university.

Once at university, I maintained the expectation that while I hadn’t before, I could now stay on a standardized path, that with enough hard work I could fit the mold that my new school expected of me. My school reinforced my own toxic beliefs, leading me to believe that the only way to a successful career was through their rigid rules, regardless of personal cost. I was not able to meet their expectations, and my attempts only led to anxiety and constant illness. Cue more tears and anger, both at myself for “failing” and the institution that was supposed to be helping me learn, yet who’s rules put up endless roadblocks to meeting my goals. Cue more screaming that it simply wasn’t fair that I couldn’t seem to meet many milestones in my young adult life that my peers appeared to do with ease.

One of the best choices that I have made to date was to realize that my surroundings were working nearly entirely against me instead of with me in pursuit of my goals, and remove myself from them. I have since allowed myself the space to know myself outside of institutions, be it hospitals or schools. I have since allowed myself to figure out who I want to be, and how I want to become it; not what a board of executives dictates I should be and do.

Severe illness does funny things to your perspective; all of a sudden the little details matter so much more, and the parts of your life that seemed so important become nearly arbitrary. The prestige of a post secondary education matters far less to me than it used to; as long as I can create and I can live an otherwise relatively financially secure life, I nearly don’t care what my educational background looks like. My life has taken countless infinitely frustrating turns that I had no control over, yet in that frustration I am finding peace, and opportunities that I would never have imagined. Maybe I’ll head back to post secondary, maybe I won’t. For now, I’m pursuing education in my own individual ways, and finally enjoying this wild ride, having accepted that I can’t force nor anticipate the turns and the drops. Hey, maybe the best moments happen when you finally let go of some control.

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