The Western Walk

Today is my first Saturday since I finished exams! Still knocking on wood, waiting for the marks but so far things are going good (in case you’re wondering). Also for your information, as I am done school for the time being I will most likely be talking about my summer job, my hobbies, and my adventures over the next little bit. I’d love it if you would stay tuned for it but, I get if it’s not your jam! Today I thought I’d start by posting something pretty different. You probably don’t know that I love poetry and art (seeing as how I haven’t talked about it on here yet). So, without further ado I present, a poem. Hope you like it:

 

The Western Walk

 

Down many road,

Past many rest.

My feet are dragged

Forever west.

These ragged bones,

These tired veins

Guide me to

A better place.

 

Though every step

A mortal blow,

My mind can’t change

It’s set in stone.

Each path I take

Will lead me home,

A better place

No ragged bones.

 

But time won’t

Save me still.

This wandering soul

Will not be killed.

The wind and rain

Will write my bill,

For weather worn

My veins still thrill.

 

When home at last,

My burden gone,

Time will surely

Not go on.

No ragged bones,

No tired veins,

Only peace

Will remain.

 

xx.

Final Destinations: Veterinary Medicine

“I have arrived. I am home. My destination is in each step.” -Nhat Hanh

 

When I was young I thought when I get my drivers license I’m going to be flying, I’m going to have gotten somewhere with my life. Well that happened, of course- first my learners license and then my full license. Next it was, when I get a job and make a bit of money boy am I going to be the bon-diggity! Well, in highschool I worked in retail, I was a lifeguard, I taught swimming lessons, and over subsequent years worked at many other places. Then it became, when I get through high school then I’ll be somewhere! Well I did that, with top marks and all the while avoiding the poofy dress parade (Yeah, I didn’t go to grad, or walk across a stage and receive a diploma. Not to say the poofy dress parade isn’t wonderful, it’s just not me).

Throughout this I never thought of these things as goals, or milestones but as destinations where I could settle in and relax. Now you guys might think I am a bit of a dunce at this point, especially when I admit that until this year, at the age of twenty-three, I still had destinations and not goals in my head. This perspective was never an acknowledged part of my psyche but just an attitude that happened to exist upon examination.

So why the examination? Well, I got into the professional college of my choice.

This was a destination I had dreamed about since the age of six. I can say that specifically because at five, based on a kindergarten work sheet in my memory book, I wanted to be a paleontologist (because it was a cool, long word and dinosaurs were involved). At six my dad (my favourite vet in the world) had taken me to the clinic more, and on calls more and I realized… Cows are AWESOME! As are dogs, cats, flying squirrels, horses, and any other animal that might let me touch it and refrain from biting me most of the time. I mean heck, raccoons are pretty freaking great too.

Midway through the summer last year, after the application and interview process, I received the dreaded/much anticipated email: Hello Erika, Congratulations on your acceptance into the _______ College of Veterinary Medicine!

This was a destination seventeen years in the making.

I said I would only do two years of undergrad before I got in. I insisted that I would be good enough. I decided. That. I. Would. Attain. This. and I. Did.

Reading that email you expect a certain feeling. I expected elation; I expected to be on top of the world. I even tried to force those feelings. I did the whole girly squeal, I jumped around, and I tried to convince myself I was excited. Finally, I said to myself: you’re just in shock.

So, I called my parents and my sister and let them know. I mentioned it to my employer, and I posted it on Facebook. And I waited.

Now I know, the feeling never came. I was hollow, I couldn’t make it feel that exciting. Other people were more excited about it than I was. I may have felt a bit of relief or maybe mild pride, but nothing over the top.

Then off I went into vet med classes and events, and still no elation, just nervousness, and a bit of confusion.

Now, first year (knock on wood, since marks aren’t back) done, I’m still all nervousness, with a bit of resentment, a bit of excitement, a bit of anticipation, and a newly developing consciousness that it was a GOAL, a step on my path that I really wanted to reach, and never thought past.

I have found out that I didn’t plan past this, because this is when I imagined the chapters of my book would run out and the reader would sit back and say, “My gosh, wasn’t that exhilarating. For a while I didn’t think she was going to get in, but she did!” and then put down the book, no sequel to be written.

Obviously my book isn’t over, but for a long while it felt like it ought to be. I had reached my greatest aspiration, now what?

I’m still wrestling with this. I mean obviously I’m going to become a vet, I’m going to work, I’m going to do things in life that I want to do, but where is it all going?

My faith says—super long term? Heaven. My head says—well that does shit all for me now.

Midway through my year in vet med a moment occurred that really made me sit back and ask: why are you so miserable right now? You’re where you wanted to be. So, I decided to see what I could do about my personal elephant, not the one in the room but the one in my head.

I went and saw a counselor, and we chatted, and I went back every three weeks for three months. I had nothing particular to say, I had no idea what I might get from it, and I didn’t really think I had a diagnosable mental health issue, I just needed to get what was in my head out and sort through it with someone who could be impartial.

Obviously I wasn’t there super frequently, and I did most of the talking but having someone who would sit and listen and offer perspective when I was hitting a wall was one of the most helpful things I think I could have done. Having someone who had “nothing better to do” than listen to me ramble for a bit, every so often did me good.

Let me be clear: I still am not diagnosed with anything that would require a counselor (I mean I have health stuff, asthma for example, but not mental health stuff). I’m not saying that to give the impression of “Oh, no, not me, I’m not a headcase”, I’m saying that because I don’t want to self diagnose, or claim to have something I don’t. What I did get from going to a counselor was a sounding board, and an outside perspective on my thought processes—one that could point to some of them and say “do you think that’s healthy?” or “do you think that is fair to yourself, or kind to yourself?” or “what if you thought of it from this perspective…”.

Now I’m working on new goals, smaller ones, which will be accomplished more quickly, that I won’t be able to build up in my mind. I remind myself occasionally that not feeling isn’t a problem and neither is feeling. Many things have happened this year, some bad, some good, some pretty neutral. Between all these happenings I have changed, learned, freaked out, and continued on. Much of this has occurred with a bit less purpose than normal, and a good proportion of it has resulted in what I would call some of my… less graceful moments, and less impressive results.

I no longer have a destination (other than an ultimate one), and I have a bit more self awareness (which oddly enough makes me a more pleasant to other people), and I am content but not complacent. So a toast: to you, to the journey, may we move ever upwards!

xx.

 

“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” –Lao Tzu

 

 

Racing Onwards But Not Upwards

From my Agro self (written last year):

When I graduated high school I was really done. Done with the system and it’s regulations and rules. I took a few years off to be my own person. Now I’m in my second year of university: Watching all the fresh faced 18 year olds streaming in for orientation week, ready to start school… again.

Not to sound discouraging but they’re crazy. Some of them are just 17! I listen to their conversations and I hear people who don’t have money to go to school, people who are being bankrolled, people who are still dependent. I hear people who have no idea why they’re studying what they’re studying (and getting a “good” job doesn’t count), or they don’t have a realistic view of what they’re getting into. I watch them move through the university, perfectly made up, wearing their best clothes, still attempting to snub the people who don’t appear good enough to them. What they don’t realize is that it’s no longer a popularity contest, it certainly was never a race, and acting as though you’re better than other people doesn’t actually make it so. This peculiar type of immaturity makes me wonder when it was that we decided that we didn’t have enough time to gain experiences and instead should stumble after one another to broken university systems like the blind leading the blind.

When did our society become obsessed with the speed at which we arrive at a destination instead of the journey we’re making? The speed mentality says that the straightest line to a destination is the best because it’s faster but if we do that we’ll find ourselves blasting through mountains with dynamite instead of journeying over them and experiencing the beauty. I have a friend who is in his thirties- he’s a certified chef, he’s worked at grocery stores, and Shoppers Drug Mart, he was a florist, and was going to go into pharmacy but was inspired after his first year back at school to go into an honours English degree. I remember last year talking with him about marks and averages- after two years out of school I was unimpressed with my return performance. My friend said something that really hit me, knowing his history, “You have so much time.”

What I am convinced of, as a “mature” student, is that expectations are not always right. The expectation that you will go to university or trade school or go straight to work and stay there is wrong. Life runs something like this: Don’t think too hard about things, race through the week to the weekend, then race through the next week. Race to own your own place, race to settle down, race to retirement. Run hard! Wait, stop! I can run forward forever with my eyes closed like the world encourages me to, and really get nowhere because I didn’t realize that I was running on a treadmill instead of the open road: racing onwards and reaching no significant destination other than a socially acceptable adult life. I want something more interesting than that. I want to climb a mountain and stand on top and scream, whether everyone thinks that’s great or not.

The pressure is there though. I plan on applying to a secondary college this year, one that is difficult to get into, and I told some friends (a pair of married engineers) that if I didn’t get in I would be taking a year off. I’ve talked with my parents, especially my father about this before. I have no plans to let university rule my life the way high school did, when I want a break I’ll take one and do something I want to do regardless of it’s relevance to my degree. The family friends I told this to though, were horrified. They started assuring me I was smart and saying there’s no reason I needed to do that. They’re right, I don’t need to take a year off, I want to. I never want to catch myself following sheople around just because they say they’re right.

I’m sure some of these first years are going in with open eyes, and really want to continue school but, how many are going to piddle away first year (and all their money) partying because they really aren’t there to go to school? Stop racing onwards! Start climbing upwards! I’m not saying don’t work, but rather work hard at whatever you like- don’t consult the world. Want to be a saddle maker for horses? Search out a great saddler and ask if they take apprentices, if they don’t find someone who does. Want to be a travel writer? Earn some money, travel, write, send your work to people see what they think. Want to try out something? Try it out, maybe you’ll end up wanting to take a degree in it. Take a journey to what it is you want and let the experiences along the way shape you.

All you first years, I have loads of love for you, dream big. Don’t sell yourself short just because the world wants you to. Find what you love before you shell out thousands of dollars a year to take a degree in it.

xx.