Knock, knock

I know who’s there; I’ve looked through the peephole. But I don’t open the door, because I’m busy with exams and papers, and they should know that. They can hear me rattling away in here, with the occasional wail of ‘I’m so tired!’ At times like that, they leave me in peace — but they don’t go, oh no. They’re sitting right there on the doorstep of my mind, waiting for moments like these when it’s temporarily quiet within, and then the knocking begins again.

It’s not that I don’t want to let these thoughts in — I do. I want to give each and every one of them the time and attention they deserve, as a proper hostess should, but I’m afraid I haven’t got enough to spare, not for all of them at once.

I’m afraid opening the door a crack will let the whole lot in, and that’ll be the end of my GPA as I know it.

(I’d really like to know when I started caring about my GPA so much. It’s not as if it reciprocates.)

But my visitors are accumulating and I think I should let one of them in. Just one, for now. Maybe if they know that each of them will enter in time, they won’t try to ram the door?

My first guest brings with her a smile and a memory that has me smiling away, too, at least at first:

About a month ago, I was sitting in one of my classes just loving the lecture that was happening before me. I was so very pleased with myself for taking this class to begin with; it was exactly what I’ve wanted for four years.

For four years. Isn’t that a long time to wait? something whispered inside me.

And that quickly, I couldn’t let go of the thought: I could have spent the last four years doing the things I really care about.

Let me throw in a couple of caveats here to explain what I mean: my life is not one long story of doing things I don’t care about. As a general rule, my UBC experiences and my degree are in areas I love. There are plenty of things I wouldn’t change, and I think one day I’ll have to write it all out, to explain the other side of the story, of why I did what I did.

But this side of the story is the one that says why I didn’t do the things I care about. This isn’t a matter of ‘I wish I’d found this sooner’, which depends on luck, but a matter of not doing the things I knew I cared about all along. Oh, I had my reasons. We all have our reasons. Sometimes these are legitimate, like financial, y’know. When we get right down to it, though, mine were all to do with fear: with being too afraid of potential failure to dare to try.

What did I really have to lose, though? Watching my dreams crash and burn, I suppose. No one voluntarily signs up for that. Except I have now lost four years’ worth of time I could have spent working hard at what I like doing, at building up my own skills, at really changing and improving and shaping myself to be what I wanted to be. And while just trying your best doesn’t always mean that things work out, I’m now feeling the edge of the cliche (or rather, its absence), of being able to say, ‘At least I tried.’

This kind of miserable thought triggers other miserable ones, such as thinking of all the things I haven’t done in the past few years that I was so intent upon in my first eager, hopeful year:

  • I haven’t written or painted or played the piano nearly as much as I wanted to — heck, I haven’t touched a paintbrush in almost six years, even though this was one of the things that made me deeply happy once upon a time.
  • I haven’t explored Vancouver nearly as much as I wanted to, despite my best intentions.
  • I haven’t gone dancing.
  • I haven’t gone to poetry slams at Cafe Deux Soleils.
  • I’ve yet to make a trip to the UBC Farmers’ Market in the summer.
  • I haven’t walked along the beach, haven’t gone biking frequently, haven’t gone swimming, haven’t sat and read on Granville Island, just listening to the music, all summer long.
  • I haven’t read all the books accumulating on my shelves.
  • I haven’t become an amazing cook or baker; I still don’t know how to make my mother’s dumplings.
  • I haven’t been brave, haven’t taken risks or pushed myself out of my comfort zone nearly enough times to even register on my mental radar.
  • I haven’t become the person that I wanted to be by the time I’m 21. I’m not even 21 anymore.

This isn’t generally an exercise I encourage anyone to do, by the way. It makes you sad. But I really wish I had thought a little more about what I wanted to achieve while I was in university before I got here — not a detailed list to follow stubbornly, because that doesn’t allow for the change that inevitably happens, but some general articulation of what I would like.

I’ve thought about making this list for the time I hit my next milestone age of 30, but that’s a whole lot trickier… How do I plan things that I want, like a family and a career, when one is not entirely within my control and I don’t even know what I want the other to look like?

The older I get, the younger and less sure of myself I feel. All the clear-cut plans I had in first year have dissipated and I’m now evasive when asked what I want to do. I don’t know what I want to do.

I wonder what the future holds for me. It's terrifying, honestly.

Or how. How will I combine and/or balance what I want with what I need? How do I pay my rent and feed myself and buy some new clothes to replace the ones I’m always mending now, and still be happy doing what I do? Aren’t these the questions facing most graduates, anyway?

I still want to do that list of things I haven’t done, to feel a little less bad about myself a year from now, when I’ll be graduating and there really won’t be another chance to change my Vancouver story.

I also want to not be thirty years old and looking back at the last decade of my life, wishing I’d taken the risk to do the things I care about, after all.

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