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20th (Part VII)

November 15, 2012

Here it is: the final part of “20th”! (Please see sidebar for Parts I through VI.) I had a blast sharing my story and I hope all of you enjoyed it. Coming up, I have some exciting new stories that I’ve just been dying to tell! So make sure to come back tomorrow and subscribe! 🙂

When I arrived home on Friday, October 11th, 2012, I tried to get as much done as possible. But soon, I was too tired to even move a muscle (on account of only having slept 2 hours the night before). Early the next morning, my family had left the house to carry out their usual Saturday routine. I was left alone at home to unpack. As I was sitting there, back to the wall, staring out into space, I thought about how I felt about finally being home. I felt weird. I felt sad – sad that I had to leave that part of me behind, if only for a little while. For the next week, I spent my time unpacking and just sitting around. I didn’t feel like doing anything. But in the moments when I truly felt at my laziest, I would always pick myself up and tell myself to go out to the coffee shop to write. Finally, my first Friday back, I was scheduled to start volunteering as a teacher’s assistant at my high school.

One of my former teachers, who is now my good friend, had told me that she was going to be away that Friday and wanted to know if I could come in and help the supply teacher. She told me that the last supply teacher didn’t do much so it would be great to have me there to keep the kids in check. Of course, I said yes to the offer. What classes were they? Two back-to-back grade nine applied french classes. Now normally, I would be excited at the prospect of “teaching” some classes, especially with my whole revelation about becoming a teacher and all. But for some reason, as that Friday loomed nearer and nearer, I found myself dreading it. Why? I found myself coming up with all sorts of lame reasons. I don’t want to wake up at 7am; I don’t want to walk there in the bitter cold and rain; I don’t want to “deal” with a bunch of 13-year-olds; I don’t have the energy to work with 30 people at a time. Et cetera, et cetera. But after a couple of days, I realized why I was dreading it. I wasn’t dreading it for the dumb reasons I was coming up with! I was dreading it because I knew somewhere deep down that if that day turned out to be bad, and I realized that I didn’t like teaching after all, then this whole moving-back-to-Toronto thing would have been a huge mistake. What’s more, I would have ended up back at square-one again.

But good thing that didn’t happen. Though, it did take me a couple of days at school to realize that I did actually love it after all.

I cannot express to you the joy that I feel when I am teaching someone, especially the joy felt when teaching a younger person! Today I noticed that after having been at school for two weeks now, I have already become attached to some of the students. The students are precious; some of them call me “Ms” while one girl likes to say, “Thanks sweetheart” whenever I finish explaining things to her, which of course, makes me throw my head back and laugh every time. In another class I help out in, Beginner Strings, the teacher (who, of course, loved me and still does) lets me conduct while she accompanies us on the piano. I simply love it! It reminds me of the joy I used to feel playing in an orchestra. I won’t ever forget that day when the music teacher was away and I got to conduct and teach the class all by myself. Even the supply teacher had asked if she could join the orchestra and try her hand at the cello. What’s more, just simply interacting with the kids makes me so happy. I love seeing the smiles on their faces when they understand a question. I especially love it so much that though they see me as an authoritative figure, they are not afraid to joke around with me. I think I finally understand what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence.

The majority of my days now are spent helping out at school, writing, reading, and tutoring my brother. Although lately, I have added baking to the mix. For the first time, I feel like I’m actually living my life. I feel as though I have been given the gift of seeing what my life would be like after I graduate from school and I am so excited for it all.

The other day, I was having dinner with my two friends, telling them how I will always look back on this year as the turn of a decade (literally and figuratively).  I reminded my friends of how we always used to imagine how fantastic our twenties would be. After all, your twenties is when you usually settle down, get married, start your career – all the big markers of life! I was telling them that it really hit me the other day, how exciting this decade is going to be! I’ve only been twenty for a little under two months and already, I have experienced so many life changes. But I know now that I should get used to this because there are still so many more to come.

Even with everything having been said and done, I am still completely happy with my decision to leave McGill for the year. Sure, it’s only a year, and people go on exchanges to other schools all the time. But that’s not the point. The point is that I know what I want to do now; I know who I want to become now; I know my purpose in life now. I feel so much happier, so much stronger knowing where I’m heading. I finally feel as though I have found myself again – that I have found the real Tina Ta and now, I can once again show her off to the world.

I am so completely thankful for everyone who has supported my decision and has made me feel so incredibly happy for following my dreams. For once in my life, I feel as though I am in charge – as though the reins of the chariot are in my hands! Never in a million years had I ever dreamed of “taking a break” from school. I am so one-tracked minded (i.e., stubborn) that no matter how much pain I’m experiencing, I will still trek through something all the way to the end. So even to my own surprise (as much as to everyone else’s surprise), I was so shocked that I actually followed through with this. Shocked, but extremely proud. I was so proud that I had the courage to do it. It was scary, but a good kind of scary.

When I was telling various people about my story, I noticed one word that came up a lot: “courage”, namely: “Wow, you’ve got courage” or “Congratulations! You’ve got guts”. It made me happy to hear them say that as I don’t get that very often by playing things safe like I normally do. But what stuck out to me was the way people said it – as though they wish they had the courage to take their life into their own hands. To those people out there who are feeling stuck in their situation, all I can say is: you are not doomed; there is always a way out. Even though it may seem like the longer and more complicated path than the one you’re on now, it’ll all be worth it in the end. Put yourself first and do what you want because after all, you’re the one that’s there for the whole ride – nobody else, just you.

Dropping my courses was the best decision I had ever made in my life. There was instant relief when I did it. Suddenly, I no longer felt stuck; I felt as though I had options. What’s more, after I dropped my courses, I suddenly had time for social interactions. I had always prided myself for being so incredibly independent; I always thought that depending on others for anything was a sign of weakness. But after I dropped my classes, I realized how important friendships are and more generally, how important social interactions are. With all the time that I suddenly had, I was able to “hang out” with people, to get to know each person better; I felt so incredibly connected with everyone. It was amazing not just to only talk to people, but to talk with them. Does that make sense?

I finally feel like I’m living my life. I feel as though I’ve been given the psychic power of being able to see what my life will look like in a couple of years, after I graduate from school. It is truly such a gratifying feeling. Although I will be going back to school full-time in just two months, I know that there is truly something wonderful waiting for me at the finish line. I think the problem with university and/or college is that students enter it, holding a wonderful and idealized picture of how the future is going to turn out, but along the way, we students often forget all about that wonderful picture. I think the act of holding an idealized picture of anything is a wonderful thing. Even now, people often tell me that I should quit “idealizing everything” and stop “living in my imagination”. But I just don’t understand why I should stop doing these things. To idealize or to imagine is to think of all the possibilities, and to think of all the possibilities is only to want to enrich your life. But perhaps by our third year of university, we have already crumpled up that picture and thrown it away in the wastebasket. But honestly? I think it’s high time for us to go digging in the dumpster; we need to each find the pictures we’ve drawn for ourselves, digitally remaster it, and hang it up on the wall of our 300-thousand-dollar condo for everyone to see.

That girl who was sitting on her bed, back to the wall, staring out in space, is so distant from the girl I am today. That girl who was supposed to write a 10, 000-word thesis on a topic related to Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics and Maslow’s Self-Actualization turned into this girl who wrote a 10, 000-word blog post about all the incredible changes she experienced in 2012.

You know how you hear people talking about “that year” that changed it all for them? The year that turned their life upside down? Well, now I can say that my 20th year was the one that changed it all for me.

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