What I Have Learned from Making Tough Choices
Have you ever struggled with making a decision? Or once you’ve finally made a decision, do you worry about whether your choice was the right one? Do you ask yourself, “what if” questions, or envision elaborate stories about what “could have been”? One of the greatest adversities I have faced in life is making decisions.
I am the type of person who always wants to do the “best” thing for me, or make the closest decision to the “best” decision as possible. I think it’s part of human nature to want to succeed and become our best self. Unfortunately, like many people, the focus on making the ‘best’ decision often leads me to not make any decision at all. I also find that I regret many of the decisions I make because I constantly feel that I could have selected a better option, or could have had a better outcome. Throughout my short life, I have come to the realization that there is no crystal ball that allows you to know how things will pan-out. You never know whether you have made the right decision until you look back in hindsight. Looking at my life in this exact moment, I can say that I am happy with where I am and how far I have come. I can also say that I do not regret a single decision I have made, because I would not be where I am without the accumulation of these decisions.
I remember in grade 12, I was petrified with moving on from high school and making the huge life decision of selecting which university program I wanted to pursue. I researched almost every university in Canada and weighed out the pros and the cons of each program I was interested in – only to end up making the decision to stay back and do an extra year of high school because I just couldn’t decide. The entire year, I felt as if I had made the wrong decision, and beat myself up over ‘wasting my time’ and being ‘too stupid’ for not preparing myself for university. Spending this time back in high school led me to see all my old friends move on to universities across Ontario, live in amazing residence buildings, experience awesome parties and complete their first year of school before I had even decided on what program I wanted to do. In all honesty, it was very difficult to watch everyone else move on, while I was still “stuck” in high school. My friends had magically matured before my eyes, while I was still “just in high school”.
In hindsight, I look at this experience in a more positive light. Since I did not feel ready for university, I decided to apply for the University Co-operative Education Program (UCEP) at my high school. I was fortunate to get accepted into UCEP, which allowed me to spend my first semester on the University of Waterloo campus, taking two high school credits (calculus and something else I can’t remember), one university credit (Health 101) and working as a co-operative education student with Dr. Heather Keller. The most interesting part about this experience was being immersed into the university campus and learning about the various research opportunities that Dr. Keller was conducting within the retirement setting. Overall, this experience made me much more confident that I could succeed in university and that I was “smart enough” to thrive in that environment. By the time I was ready to apply for university at the end of that semester, this experience allowed me to finally narrow my interests down to nutrition or kinesiology. My biggest goal was to get into an accredited nutrition program (there was only one near my house) so that I could become a registered dietitian. I applied for the programs and didn’t hear back until the middle of second semester.
My second semester back in high school wasn’t quite as rewarding, as the UCEP program ended and I was back in high school. By end of second semester, only 5 ‘fifth years’ remained and it was a very lonely time in my life. I finally heard back from the university programs and I found out that I was not accepted into my dream nutrition program. I felt like I had failed and that the entire year was a waste of time. Since I had been accepted into Kinesiology at Wilfrid Laurier University, I decided to do it because there were some options for taking nutrition courses once I got into third year. I felt like that was the best solution at the time because I did not want to wait another year to re-apply to the nutrition program, and perhaps I was ‘not meant to be’ if I studied nutrition.
Again, looking back at this decision in hindsight, I can say that the universe was looking out for me. Even though I wanted to study nutrition more than I wanted to study kinesiology, I ended up with greater appreciation of the human body, learned about the importance of movement and began carving out my career path in the co-operative education program at Wilfrid Laurier University. In co-op, I started a small business called, “Northern Girl Fitness” where I wrote a fitness journal and started a blog (which was always a dream of mine). I was also fortunate to get a placement at a retirement home where I implemented a Walking Program that won an award and sparked my interest in health promotion and program planning/evaluation.
During my fourth year, I ran into the same dilemma of not knowing what to do when I graduate. I ended up meeting two professors in my fourth year that had similar interests to mine, and helped me decide whether graduate studies were right for me. After weighing the pros and cons of working or applying for more school, I decided to apply for Graduate Studies at both Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, to simply see if I could get in. To my surprise, I got into both programs (which made me realize that it was meant to be). I ended up choosing the program at Laurier because it was thesis-based and it allowed me to work closely with two professors that have my best interest in mind.
In a recent interview with Olivia, at LivYourLife (check out the article here), I opened up to Olivia about some of the struggles I have overcome and how I stay positive. Within this interview, I mentioned how the poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost has helped me to be more at ease in my decision making. It reads:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost
Today, I sit half way through the second semester of my Master’s Degree. Even with my thesis looming in the back of my mind, I feel so proud of all the obstacles that I pushed through and the decisions I made to get myself here. If my high school plan worked out, I would have been graduated from a nutrition program and potentially a registered dietitian by now, but instead, I find myself pursuing a different interest that I never thought I would have – looking out at a completely different landscape then I would have ever imagined. In hindsight, I’m glad that I created my own path and stayed back for an extra year, even through all my friends were doing the opposite. I’m also glad that I stuck through school and pursued my interests. Sometimes, paths diverge and you may not know where you are going, but in the end it will work out – it always does. I still find myself sitting here and wondering, “what will I do next”, but I know whatever decision I make will be the “right” or the “best” decision that I can. Whichever path I take, will lead me on a wonderful journey because, man! My life has been a journey so far!
Hope you have a fabulous week.