At the beginning of my time at TWU, I was wholly convinced- as I imagine most eighteen year-olds are- that I had my entire life trajectory neatly planned.
Indeed, I knew what I wanted and how to achieve it. Circa 2009, when I dove into my Psychology degree with both feet, nose to the grindstone, and any other cliché analogy you can think of, the last place I expected to ultimately end up five years on was back in Langley, with an interdisciplinary M.Sc. in Political Science/Sociology, work currently under review to be published using Feminist Political Theory to analyse Sexual Violence in Conflict, and any plans I may once have had to be a marriage councillor left long ago in the dust.
And yet, here I am. And I have never felt so at peace, so passionately engaged in my research, or so excited for the future.
While I firmly maintain that the most precious lesson I came away from TWU with was an appreciation for the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education to enrich the human experience and not as some hoop required to make money (how bourgeois!), It nevertheless remains true that the last semester of a (rather expensive) four-year degree is NOT a comfortable time to slowly admit that you no longer want what you’d spent the last three years blindingly convincing yourself that you did. In short, I panicked. Panic, as anyone will tell you, is not an altogether uncommon phenomenon for those about to graduate, but mine came with an identity crisis. I had to sit back and undertake some seriously committed, intentional self-analysis, realizing that for all my supposed ‘plans’, the reality of my future hopes remained vague and hinged upon a rather childish adoption of what others expected me to do. Needless to say, though also liberating, this was an incredibly humbling experience; as the proud “owner” of a shiny new PSYC degree, I assumed I had already self-analysed myself into redundancy.
I used to be of the opinion that Humility was an altogether boring virtue and, though nice in theory, wouldn’t actually lead to a particularly successful life. Not only has the intervening five years resoundingly contradicted that notion, it also led me to a radically different definition of ‘success.’ Humility, I’ve since realized, is about the only virtue that counts in life as, with it, the others come naturally.
Long story short, about ten months and much hair-pulling and nail-chewing later, it ended with me (completely out of character) taking a shot-in-the-dark and moving across the world to Scotland, basically on a whim and prayer, chasing something purely out of interest. I’d always wanted to study abroad, but I was originally thinking more of a mundane exchange semester setting. When my flight to the UK took off, I didn’t even know for sure if I was going to come back to Canada, or if I wanted to.
As it if it was my default setting, I quickly started planning out how my future would likely now look. Again, what I expected to come away with was certainly not what came. Being alone and initially isolated on a distant continent is a guaranteed way to evaluate and re-evaluate what you value, what you are passionate about, and how much you’re capable of. Luckily, the University of Edinburgh is incredibly diverse, Edinburgh as a city is stunningly gorgeous and enviably vibrant, and I was surrounded with people who both challenged and supported me, not only with self-exploration and the various shifts in zeitgeist I underwent that year, but also through the incredibly intense research topics I pursued. I have been blessed throughout both of my degrees to have met singularly incredible individuals who have played so large a part in my own evolution.
Being away not only reminded me of how vital travel is to the human soul, but also how much I value my family- not to mention Canada itself. I missed the majority of my beloved grandmother’s struggle with cancer- a reality I suspect will always haunt me- but when I flew home to visit her for the last time, seeing how convinced she was I was travelling the right path will always fill me with joy and awe.
Now, when I think back on the beginning of my journey, I can only cringe. I don’t doubt that the majority of young people are capable of sound, well-informed plans and opinions, and to dispute that is not my point here. Rather, I recognize that in my experience, the notion that it’s the journey, and not the destination that’s important is a lesson we all must learn for ourselves. Or, as a renowned Scottish poet once said, “The best laid plans O’ mice and men gang oft awry”. How thankful I am that mine did.
Besides, in hindsight I’m quite sure I would have been a terrible marriage councillor.