Today I accepted my offer at Ottawa U. It feels weird to officially be a grad student; offer pending so long as I finish my undergrad and don’t prematurely take off running.
Only four months ago, I was sitting in my childhood bedroom writing a reflection on where I have been and where I am going. I was struggling, and continue to struggle with forming some kind of path in a world full of opportunities (a challenge especially hard for a commitmentphobe like myself).
The job market sucks at the moment, so I figure it would be best to stay in school.
But I decided to stay in Ottawa for a different reason.
Four years ago, a month after I turned 17, my mum and dad drove to Carleton to move me into residence for my first year of university.
I was sitting in the front seat beside my dad, while my mum slept in the backseat surrounded by all of my stuff. I remember looking out and watching the trees and farmland quickly pass me. When I was a kid, I often yelled at my parents in both times of anger and times of excitement that as soon as I could, I would move out and go to school and find independence.
Sitting in the front seat of the car, I felt differently. I felt alone and scared. I was terrified that I had made the wrong choice, that it was too soon, that I wasn’t ready.
I remember turning to my dad and asking, ‘Dad, if I asked you to turn this car around right now, would you do it?’
He replied, ‘Layla, sometimes you have to do things in life that will scare you. Like right now, I’m going to take my hands off of the wheel and cover my eyes!’
And he did, and I screamed and he laughed and kept on driving.
Petrified, I yelled for him to take me to Carleton as fast as he could, and they moved me in and set me up in my tiny residence room that (not surprisingly) was still bigger than my room at home. I was officially a grown up and I couldn’t even drink in Quebec.
My dad did all of the things I needed, from driving to Canadian Tire to pick up hooks for my door, to sitting with me and putting together my paper lantern Christmas lights since that was the first thing I wanted to do before unpacking my stuff.
My mum sat on my bed and unpacked my clothes, making sure all of my clothing was hanging in the same direction.
I could tell my parents were overwhelmed helping their firstborn move away. My parents, I think, deal with these emotions by doing everything they can to smooth the process, which I appreciate, but it quickened the time we needed to move in and before I knew it, we were done.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when they left. My dad gave me a hug and a kiss and left, my mum told me not to cry because it would make her tear up, and she gave me a hug and a kiss and then they were both gone.
I remember still feeling unsure about my decision, but now I was stuck and I had to face the music.
Last night, I turned to my parents again for guidance about the next big step.
I asked them what I should do and where I should go, but like the last time I was faced with this decision, they did not provide any definitive answer.
My dad told me to go where I feel happiest; regardless if York or any other school offered me a bigger scholarship, so long as I had enough to get by, what should sway my decision is the people I have and the things I look forward to.
When I first moved to Ottawa, I hated the city. I didn’t feel that it was as exciting as Toronto, there weren’t enough music halls, or art galleries, or communities like the one I had left behind on Toronto Island.
Over the past four years, I have been proven wrong (well, maybe not about the live concerts, but I guess I’ll live for another twelve months). I have changed and experienced more than I could have ever predicted, and the people who are now around me I am thankful and grateful for. I am lucky.
For the first time in my life, I have made what I have always thought to be an impractical decision. I made a life decision based on my feelings, and not on the logistics of the choice.
The decision wasn’t easy. I miss my family and friends back home, I’m annoyed at missing huge life events with both of these groups of people, and I miss the city and Island community.
However, I chose Ottawa U because of the people I have here and the friends who feel like family. I chose it because of the communities I have become a part of. I chose it because I am excited to discover and explore parts of the city I have yet to see.
I have never made a decision based on emotion. I think being finished my undergraduate degree at 20, I am in a place where I am willing to jump in any direction, regardless of where I will land.
I have never been comfortable in any one place, and comfort often scares me. I am a thrill-seeker and adventurer, and I know that I will not have a permanent home for quite some time. There are too many places to see, too many people to meet, too many stories to hear and tell and share.
But I must admit, it’s kind of nice to know I have a sense of comfort here.