I recently reread that quote, “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do,” as credited to Oprah. And to be quite honest, I absolutely believe it. Yah, go ahead and follow your dreams, but at the same time, be realistic. Get something solid under you first.
I remember when I dropped out of university in St. John’s, my second semester back to school. Pretty much the second week. I had to drop out. I had no choice. I was dying there. My soul was becoming bit by bit, day by day, more troubled. My anxiety was, in fact, so bad that I would literally watch the sun rise in the morning, and set in the evening, and rise again the morning after. And that went on for days. I tried to eat, but I couldn’t. I felt like I’d throw up. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. And my heart was racing, let me see, pretty much, all freaking day long! It was dreadful.
But I knew I wanted to get an education. I knew I needed an education. I had to get some kind of paper under my belt. It’s the way of the world. Or at least that’s what I was taught. And that’s what I grew up believing and still believe. I place a high value on education. Probably because both my parents are teachers, who have always encouraged the same.
But I also remember telling my mother and father, while travelling that long road home, a then university drop-out, how I wish I could just disappear to some tropical island and live out my days writing. In some small little hut, on the ocean, someplace far, far away.
Was that a reasonable dream? Probably not. How was I going to pay for that hut. I wasn’t going to build it from seaglass, beach rocks, and seaweed. And even if I did. Sure as shit, I was going to have to pay taxes on it. I needed a foundation, not just to build that beach hut, but to build my life on.
I didn’t quite spend my 19 coming of age party like the rest of the 19 year old’s around the country. I spent my 19th birthday in the hospital being diagnosed with anxiety. With both a doctor and a nurse recommending that I be medicated for the same. And school? Well, school was my biggest trigger. My irrational but all-consuming fear, was the fear of being a failure. Of never amounting to anything. I knew I needed money. Not to buy happiness, but to buy myself the basic essentials I needed to survive. I wanted to be independent. And being independent meant I needed money. And having money meant I needed a career. Nothing fancy, a middle-class job, I hoped, that would allow me to pay the bills.
So, instead of dropping out of school altogether, I took a break from St. John’s. From all the strange faces. From the familiar faces that had become so strange. And I moved in with my grandparents at the tender age of 19 in Goose Bay, Labrador. I took university courses but on a community college campus. Not because it was what I wanted to do at that time. I didn’t want to go to school. I wanted to live in a hut in St. Tropez. But rather it was because it was what I felt that I still had to do. To get where I wanted to one day be.
Sure, I had to leave St. John’s. But still, during what I look at as the toughest moments in my life, I still knew I had to keep moving. I had to. And so I did what I had to do.
So, what did I do? I did an English degree. My marks improved. And so did my confidence. And following that degree, I completed a social work degree, because it’s next to impossible to get a job with an English degree, as I soon found out. But still it set the foundation for post-graduate programs. And after being accepted into journalism and social work, I had another tough decision to make. I could choose a career I would get hired in out of school, or I could try and bite the proverbial bullet, and go after my dreams then and there.
And, you know, maybe this would be a much, much more romantic blog post if I told you I chose journalism. But I didn’t. I did a degree that I was confident I would be able to get work in afterwards. And something (perhaps it was my intuition) told me not to make life any harder on myself than necessary.
Once I knew I had that piece of paper, and I had myself set up for the job market in this economy, I decided, hey, I’m going to backpack Europe. I spent the last 6 years doing what I felt like I had to do. Now it’s time that I start doing what I want to do. And just like that, I travelled through 20 something European cities.
So right now, with an education you can’t take from me and with a solid career under my belt, and albeit I’m not living in a hut made of seaglass and beach rocks, I am writing. I am writing passionately and fiercely. And people are reading what I’m writing. I’m writing posts during my 15 minute breaks, during my lunch hour, in the evening, and in the home that I bought, because I did what I kind of had to do first. And I’m still just 27.
I can write while I enjoy a brewski on my back deck, or out on my lawn. I can write while parked on my ski-doo in the wilderness if that’s what should please me. I can travel during my holidays and I can write while I still earn my salaried paycheck. Maybe that’s less romantic. But it feels good to know where my next meal is coming from.
Between work and all this late night writing, I am getting a little tired. But I’m also taking the entire month of July off. So, guess what I’ll be doing? I’ll be kinda living the dream I’d never quite forgotten. And maybe I’ll rent a hut someplace. I mean, who knows? I have options.
If you’re a dreamer, dream big. And perhaps, you’ll make it without an education. I’m not really sure what the stats are on that. But there’s plenty out there that do it. Perhaps you believe in yourself more than I do. Maybe you give less of a fuck than I do. And maybe you’ve got 8 years on me, and you’re making thousands off your blog you started 8 years ago. I mean, I don’t know.
How many people get that lucky? Because it takes more, at least I believe, than just talent and hard work. Maybe it also takes a stroke of luck too. And maybe I’m wrong. But this is just my perspective. This is my worldview. And for me, Oprah’s message is a realistic one, that still offers us dreamers a way to still reach that end goal.
But, like I always say, wherever you are right now, is exactly where you were always meant to be anyway.