it’s okay to change your mind

In the past ten+ years of my life, I bet I’ve changed my mind about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life over 15 times.

I grew up on a farm, surrounded by all sorts of animals. Naturally, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said Veterinarian. I loved animals then, and I still do now.

In high school, I realized maybe I was just attracted to the idea of healing something (or someone) that is injured/unwell. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a doctor – obviously.

Everyone was overjoyed to hear that. It’s one of those jobs in our society that is seen as the best. If you’re a doctor, you’ve definitely succeeded in life, right? At least that’s what many people think. So it was an easy decision to apply for general sciences at the University of Alberta – I figured it was the easiest way to get all the prerequisites required to apply into Medicine.

I was welcoming the 6+ years of University with open arms.

I wasn’t afraid, not really. No matter how many times everyone said to me: “university is different – don’t expect to do as well there as you did in high school.” Yes, I knew university would be different, but I also had confidence in myself; although I did very well throughout secondary school, I had always worked for it and been very independent.

I went through an entire year of university intent on succeeding so that my application for med school would be the best it could possibly be. I spent hours reading textbooks, memorizing ideas, and learning information so that I could spit it back out during a test. And it worked.

But what I hadn’t been focusing on was my interest in the material. I viewed my classes as obstacles that I could simply jump over and not have to worry about anymore. And at the time, I aimed to jump as high as possible.

Eventually I realized I didn’t enjoy taking classes I wasn’t interested in and wasn’t ready to commit the next 10 years of my life to the long hours of study + insane working times that come with becoming a doctor. I wasn’t passionate enough about it. Something didn’t feel right.

I believe it was during my second year, while trying to organize my schedule to fit around an organic chemistry class, that I finally decided it was enough (of course, this was probably during finals when I should have been studying and not contemplating the future).

So I changed my mind.

I spend hours upon hours deciding what I was going to change my mind to. All I knew was that this doctor thing wasn’t something I wanted anymore. If I remember correctly, a few things I considered were veterinarian (again), clinical psychologist, dietician, nurse, and occupational therapist.

I’m sure there were more. If you are my parents or my best friend, you’ll probably remember getting what felt like a billion text messages from me that said: “Maybe I should be a _________. I’d be good at that, right?”

I ended up realizing that I loved learning about the mind. Human behaviour fascinated me. From realizing how complex our brains are to understanding the huge amount of different influences on our actions, I was hooked.  So that was it, my major was going to be Psychology.

From there I looked at everything else I was interested in and landed on Anthropology as a minor. The great thing about Anthropology is that it is a broad field. I looked through the course offerings and found many different paths that sounded interesting to me. Human body? Check. Culture? Check. Prehistory? Check. I didn’t think about whether or not I would excel, I tried only to imagine if I would be fascinated by it.

I decided on yes. I switched to the Faculty of Arts and spent my third year learning every single bone in the human body; learning about chimpanzees and hominids (Google ‘Australopithecus’ or ‘Paranthropus’, I dare you) and evolution; learning about development and classical conditioning and neurobiology. I even took an art class.

The only problem was that I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my degree. After a while, I decided that it wouldn’t be the end of university for me. I decided I would do my Masters in Physical Therapy (or at least apply).

But by the time the application deadline was looming near, I still hadn’t done the work experience required for the application. Something definitely wasn’t right. Physical Therapy felt like a choice I had made to please everyone who looked at my psychology + anthropology degree as a stepping stone to a real career. I spent the 5 months before the deadline debating what I should do.

It took me a month or two after I had personally decided not to apply to start telling the people closest to me. I was afraid of what they would say and I was afraid of explaining myself because, at the time, all I knew was that something wasn’t right.

What I didn’t realize was how freeing it would be. All of a sudden I had made a choice solely based on what I thought I wanted in my life – or at least what I thought I didn’t want, without considering the expectations of others.

It made me happy.

Even though I spent the first few months of 2014 fully uncertain what would happen in my life come convocation, I was incredibly excited.

Then something awesome happened.

But I need to update you a little more before I do the big reveal ;)

I met Aurooba during my first few days living at International House, one of the student residences at the University of Alberta. She lived just down the hall. To this day I’m still not sure when or how we went from being acquaintances to friends. In reality, I think our period as acquaintances never really existed.

We both had big ideas and big dreams. We planned, set goals, laughed, and stayed up late for  completely random and unexpected reasons. Something just clicked.

We made huge plans in first year. Though we didn’t know what it would be yet, we were going to follow our passions and build something together (and change the world, of course). Let me tell you, the plans seemed impossible, but that didn’t stop us.

But with all of my mind-changing over the next couple years, those big plans were pushed to the back of my mind.

Until about 9 months ago, when Aurooba basically said to me: “Let’s do this.” (Yes – this is the awesome thing I hinted at.)

And we did. We are. 

We’ve come a very long way with PHOENIX|D since then, just recently launching our new website. (Which, by the way, I am still super excited about!)

But I’ve also come a long way since my childhood goal of becoming a Veterinarian. It might seem strange for some of you to imagine going from animals to medicine + bones + muscles to design + code, but there are many of you that will understand.

I’m on a new adventure now, and this is something I’ve never been so excited about. If I hadn’t changed my mind so many times, there is no way I would have ended up where I am.

—–

The point is that it’s okay to change your mind. Even if you’ve already told everyone. It’s okay to stop doing something that doesn’t feel right anymore. It’s okay to go against the grain of what people expect.

Think about it like this: if something you tried out isn’t making you as happy as you thought it would, you’ve just learned something about yourself. You should be celebrating, because now you can focus your energy on finding something that does make you happy.

And if that requires you to completely change your mind, please do it.

At the risk of sounding cliche, it really is your life.