Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Dear John...

I had a really interesting conversation with someone from back home the other day. I'm going to twist the story a bit to protect his identity since he still claims to be enlisting in the Canadian army, but we'll call him John. You see, John and I have some history from high school. John was older by a couple of years, and I don't know why I was attracted to him, but it certainly had nothing to do with his ambition. John is 20 years old now and still
lives with his parents in the same house, in the same city. He's been working at the same job that he hates and is only doing it for the money, but... He isn't doing anything with the money. He's living at home and not going to school, because he keeps changing his mind. Ok... Doesn't seem so bad, right? A lot of young people live with their parents after high school because its cheaper, which makes sense. And people change their career paths all the time, and "John" has been especially close to his mother since he was considered the man of the family when his father had left at an early age. But I moved out for a short while when I was 16 to study in France, and even though I was only gone for 3 months, I learned so much about independence. 
What would you pick - THIS, or university?
Then, at 18, I moved to Italy. To enjoy life. To learn a beautiful new language, to meet new people, to try delicious food, and to be happy - something that I feel I lacked during high school. I thought, you know what? I deserve to have more beauty in my life. I'm going to go to Italy. And it was the best decision I ever made. 
Anyway, I asked John how things were. He told me he was alright. I asked him if anything changed with his life since he left in terms of his job, his family, and no - nothing different. I realized how lucky I was to escape from John who very obviously has different dreams than I do. Dreams that if I went along with, I woudn't be satisfied with. I realized that the most important thing in John's life is making money, even if he doesn't do anything wise or pleasurable with it. I, on the other hand, define riches by happiness and 
experience (although I admit to being somewhat high maintenance... What can I say, I like my French perfume). Even though John may have a lot more in his bank account, I still feel that I'm the richer person. 
What this also taught me was that John was, in so so so many ways, very wrong for me. I knew this from the beginning, but isn't that what dating is about? Finding out what you like, what you don't like, what you need, what you want, and what kind of person you find yourself most in-love with? Years ago, John had promised that he'd be out of our small town, and that he'd be studying in a big city. He promised he'd get away from his family and start a life of his own. I, more than anyone in this entire world, know that John was never any good at keeping his promises.
Reflecting on my conversation with John has helped my plans for next year become a bit more clear. My friend Carlie gave me a piece of advice that I will cherish and carry with me forever: "A rushed decision is the worst decision." Even though I'm stubborn and do what I want, I've come to terms with the fact that sometimes its ok to ask for help. Its ok to admit that sometimes, I don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going, and sometimes, I need to see things from a friends' perspective.
My European friends think its silly for me to be so worried about school, because most of them just travel for a couple years before settling down. One of my friends put it best when she said, "How can you commit to something as big as a career at such a young age? You aren't exposed to anything. There's nothing wrong with taking 1, 3, or even 5 years off to celebrate you and have experience so that when you finally decide to sit down and hit the books, you love the books you're hitting."
I bet the people reading from back home are thinking, Oh no, she's not doing anything with her life, she's never going to go to school... But actually, I'm doing something amazing with my life. And I'm really happy with it. It doesn't matter how anyone else feels about my life, because it isn't a monument to anyone. It belongs to me, and I love it. I promise that I won't spend my whole life floating around the world without a stable bank account, a home, and a degree. I won't wind up living the same old boring life hoping to one day move up and make some money and go to school. I'll do it. Because unlike John, this girl knows how to keep a promise. Especially one that she makes to herself.

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