Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Who Am I?

Today is my birthday and as I turn 36 I feel a weird cyclical sense of familiarity to the way I had felt about things exactly half my life ago, the fall that I turned 18.  I feel like this is going to be an inspiring year and it's going to be a tough but rewarding year, but I'm going to work to earn it.

In grade 12 I had a "career planning meeting" with my school`s guidance counsellor.  Essentially I was told that my grades (mostly Bs, some As) weren't that great and specifically my marks in math and science would make me an undesirable candidate for university.  I felt defeated and resigned myself to the possibility that I would take some sort of program in college in something generic like "BUSINESS" and then become a grown-up.  They gave me some brochures about programs that I wasn't passionate about and then sent me on my way.  I wasn't even done high school and felt like a failure.

Christian Slater's character in Pump Up the Volume sums up my experience with my grade 12 guidance counsellor, "If they knew anything about career moves would they have ended up as guidance councillors?"

After a few months post-meeting with my guidance counsellor I had an idea inspired by an acquaintance who had also changed schools and moved to a school that focused on arts, creativity and a proactive community spirit.  I was going to spend my last year of high school focusing on whatever I wanted to study before I hunkered down to my career path to become: Generic Employee, at Something I Don't Give a Crap About Corp.

The World Studies program offered at this school featured trips to local food banks, a Holocaust Learning Centre, Model Parliament at City Hall and museums. The English program focused specifically on books that were currently banned in other local high schools at the time like Othello, Being There and Cat's Cradle. Writing courses featured workshops led by real published authors and journalists.  It was going to be amazing.

mom and infant son
Jack & I, both trying to figure out "who" the other person is.

On my first day of classes the loudest personalities I was surrounded by were either very artistic, free spirits, vegans or politically minded nerds.  I sat quietly on the sidelines as I watched people become fast friends while I was ignored.  When asked questions about my activist and political leanings I had very little input to give and people seemed disinterested in me, so I disconnected further.  The entire day felt like I was standing outside looking in. That night at home I sat in my room and cried my eyes out, quietly - alone.  I didn't even fit in on the Island of Misfit Toys and I didn't know what to do.  I had decided there was no way that I was going back to my old school.  I'd spent months convincing my parents that this new school was the right choice for me, so I'd have to suck it up.  I put on a smile for my family and pretended that everything was okay.

As classes commenced something changed.  I got engaged.  I became more confident.  I was passionate about everything we were learning and anxious for more, new information.  Teachers and classmates alike became more like colleagues (with a sprinkling of friends) and I was okay with that because I was learning so much about myself each I didn't have time to notice.  I didn't have dramatic high school friendships to manage or crushes to swoon over.  It became one of the best years of my entire life, albeit a very solitary year.

The next year I went on to university, on partial scholarship for a program in English Literature, at the encouragement of the amazing guidance counsellor from my new school.  After graduation I took some courses in play writing, sitcom writing and journalism while I worked.  This fall, half of my life later, I will be completing my post graduate certificate in Public Relations and I'm excited to ask myself what I'm going to learn about next.

I've had some trouble relating and connecting with people over the past few months and I don't know why, but things have seemed different lately.  Instead of focusing on isolation, I have embraced my "me time" using it to read, research and follow my curiosity down the rabbit hole.  On my 36th birthday I feel like it's somehow that infamous first day of school all over again.  I am learning to be a mom of genuine kids because Molly and Jack aren't babies any more.  I am learning to take time for Chris and I.  I'm going to jump in with both feet and ask the question, "what am I going to learn next?". Maybe I'm a little bit closer to figuring out who I want to be when I grow up.

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