Hello fellow bloggers,
Below is an excerpt from my memoir, “Life in Between”
A boom. A bust. The universal wave that life’s pattern seems to follow. Its cycling crests so delightfully high that we nearly forget the desperate, disparaging troughs….like the sine function wave in calculus class that I just couldn’t grasp in time…
I came so close to calling this memoir “From A-Z: The Fall of a Straight A Student to Zee Rock Bottom,” or some cheesy junk like that. I planned to tell the story of how I ended up having to redo twelfth grade courses after maintaining honour roll status since the sixth grade. This was the story about that girl, me, who didn’t even make it into college after cramming textbooks and applying for elite universities her entire senior year. Writing this, I hoped to capture the agony of losing my conditional acceptance after my poor calculus mark reduced my GPA. I wished to express the embarrassment I endured on awards night when I told my old teachers and peers that I wasn’t even in post-secondary…after bragging about many scholarships all year. This story was basically going to be excuse after excuse about my pathetic circumstances…but I deleted that dramatic sob story half way through. You’ll come to understand, fellow readers, as I had to learn, that academic excellence (or lack thereof) no longer defines who I am…who I’ve become. I’ve realized that losing my conditional offer of acceptance and being forced to take a gap year hasn’t been my lowest moment but rather the greatest defining moment of my identity yet.
In fact, I’m realizing through the changes that I’ve encountered this year that the overly studious life I led during high-school was my rock bottom moment. This gap year, away from many academic pressures, has taught me how to just live…now that I’ve got a little time to breathe, learn, grow. Although taking this time between high school and post-secondary used to be my nightmare, the lessons I’ve learned about the real world have drastically changed me…for the better. These lessons have woken me up from the illusion in which I spent my high school years and they have prepared me for my future in ways unimaginable. So maybe I haven’t been living at rock bottom since my calculus failure. Maybe I’ve been somewhere in between the crests and troughs of life’s wave learning the imperative tools I’ll need to rise to my peak. And maybe, the truths I’ve encountered on my journey could improve the youth who come hereafter. So without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned living life in between.
Not everyone that’s kind is your friend…not everyone that annoys you is your enemy
It’s hard to tell who your real friends are when you’re exclusively isolated with them daily. Consequently, you tolerate a few frenemies who eventually camouflage into your group of actual friends. Once you graduate however, the real world exposes the true colors of these chameleons. How? Now that no one’s being forced to talk to each other through the confines of school, only people who truly care about each other will remain in touch. Case in point, of all those people at graduation who said they’d miss me and they wanted to hang over summer…only 2 or 3 people actually meant that. Or at least that’s how many people genuinely contacted me…other than when they needed something…and that’s okay! I’ve accepted that sometimes, even people who you bonded well with before were just meant to be kind faces at the time. Sometimes the people who played a backseat in your life will become the main characters in your story. But one thing is certain: true friends are those whose loyalty eternally withstands the chains and whips of time.
Public transport: You have to be at the bus stop by the assigned time…but the bus doesn’t
I’ll be honest: I was utterly oblivious when it came time for me to start busing to my upgrading school in September. The first day, I waited a whopping 5 minutes past the estimated time of bus arrival…a very long wait in my then-impatient mind. I finally headed home, deciding something must have been wrong for the bus to not have arrived yet. Thirty seconds into my walk back did I hear the bus racing past my stop the second I had left! I learned, from that and the stories of fellow commuters that I came to know after finally catching the bus, that you must be prepared to wait an extra–yikes–20 minutes. My advice for those here in Edmonton is choosing the bus that gets you to your destination early…especially during the winter when there’ll be delays because of ice.
Last but not least, growing up means taking leadership of your own life
The most prominent lesson I’ve learned in this year is that you can’t sit around waiting for others to validate you or tell you how to live your life; you have to take the lead no matter how scared you are. I’d spent my life allowing my grades to define me and waiting for my dream university to validate my worth. Once their acceptance was gone, I was forced to stop hiding behind my “straight A student” mask, face who I truly was and make decisions about who I would become. Gone was the comfort zone I’d always planned for: the one where I was in university and any degree I chose would be respected and admired by the public. With my life-long post-secondary plans demolished, I had to start making decisions that revolved less around what the public would think of me and more around what I actually wanted for my future. It was time for me to come into my own and I found that during such a confusing time my core values of resilience, respect, optimism and generosity remained unphased. That is, even in the face of an adversity powerful enough to destroy the academic reputation I’d spent years building. Ultimately, I learned that when all else fails in the outside world, all we really have is ourselves…so we might as well believe in that.
If I could sum my gap year into one piece of advice, it would be this. At some point, each individual must inevitably make life-defining choices alone: without the approval of a lover, friend, institution, parent or any other support system. In that moment, if we are comfortable, assured even with our flaws, comfortable even outside of our comfort zone, then there’s nothing that we can not do. I’m eternally grateful to the characters throughout the story of my life who have played a role in inducing this year of life-altering lessons at such an early age. More grateful am I to the reader that grows from this story thus helping me to accomplish my goal of paying these priceless lessons forward.
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