It’s not that I don’t believe people should follow their dreams. Of course they should. Sometimes I get encouragement along the lines of, “I’m so proud of you for pursuing your dream.” I always appreciate these comments, but to be honest, it isn’t exactly how I see this experience.
When our oldest son left our home 5 years ago, it was like a vacuum sucked my soul dry and three things happened. First, I entered into a major depression. This lasted several months. Second, and this required some time for me to work through, I realized that the void could be filled with sleep (my drug of choice during this time), alcohol (of course) or anti-depressants. I went to see my doctor. I had never gone to anyone for personal help before, not with this much at stake.
I’m not sure why I chose to humble myself enough to ask my doctor about anti-depressants rather than secretly self-medicate for as long as I needed (possibly forever), but I did. The ten-minute conversation and the positive questionnaire (as in, I registered a positively dysfunctional DSM IV score) triggered something in me. I told her I would think about the medication and come back in two weeks. I considered all things very seriously. If our son remained in care with the Ministry of Children and Families, I had seven years before he exited their care. Seven years. What were we going to do in seven years when we became responsible for him again?
It was spring. Every spring since I was 22 I had thought about medical school. Every year I pushed the thoughts aside quickly. If I did allow myself to entertain these thoughts, it was oh-so-briefly. Not possible. Not the right time. Maybe later. I should have tried when I was younger. I should never have dated that army boy instead of going to school…
But this year I had time. I had nothing but time. It was possible…maybe. I looked into the UBC medical program online. There was a satellite site in my hometown. If everything went as smoothly as it possibly could, I could complete medical school and three years of pre-requisites in seven years. There were a few things to consider. I was older. I had been out of school for a long time. There was the issue of whether I was intelligent enough or even an appropriate applicant. And what about my husband? This was not the kind of thing you pursued without agreement from your spouse. In hindsight perhaps the biggest miracle of all was that he agreed, sincerely. The day he expressed his support was the day I registered for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology degree at UNBC. Why wait?
I went back to my doctor and told her I thought I was going to be OK. “I’ve thought about this a lot,” I said. “I’m going to make some changes. I’m going back to school.” I doubt this woman knows the pivotal role she played in my life. She didn’t ask what I was taking. She didn’t laugh. She just looked at me as if she knew I was going to be fine.
So I don’t see this as pursuing a dream, not exactly. I did not wake up one day and say, “You only live once. I’m going to risk it all and chase this dream of mine before it’s too late.” That would indeed have been both brave and inspirational. No, it wasn’t like that. I had everything to lose if I let this opportunity slip by. It was a survival attempt. It was desperation. The words “gift”, “blessing” and “things happen for a reason” seem so trite to me that they are almost offensive given our situation at the time. Almost, but not quite, because my only explanation is that it is as if the very hand of God reached down and pulled us to safety. And this brings me to the next thing…
(To be continued)