Brushing the hair back from my face I stare at the clock and realize that it’s midnight already. My eyes are burning but there are still a few pages left in the chapter on covalent chemical bonds that have to be read by class tomorrow morning.

Pulling the kitchen chair up closer I’m careful not to knock one of the sawhorses that is holding up the door acting as the horizontal surface of my desk. I drag the table lamp closer to take advantage of more of the yellow glow on the pages.

…for the second- and third-period elements, the n=2 and n=3 s2p6 sets comprise the octet. Some of the third-period elements (Si, P, S, and Cl) can bond to more than four atoms, and thus need to involve more than the four pairs of electrons available in an s2p6 octet. This is possible because at n=3, an additional set…

The spare bedroom cum office door swings open with a crash. Looking up into the face of my husband I can tell that he is angry again that I have spent the entire evening holed up with my chemistry text book rather than with him.

Since returning to school at the ripe age of 25 I have been doing very well. I do, however, put a lot of time into it and work very hard to get the marks I think I will need to continue on. This going back to school thing is new to me and, although I am very proud of myself for doing it and for doing so well at it, I am still very insecure about what it all means and where it might take me. I study hard to cover my insecurities; it’s a trait I still have.

It is turning out to be very hard on my marriage. As I gain knowledge, and confidence, my husband feels left out and worries that we are growing apart. He is concerned that I am meeting people and having conversations that he isn’t part of. He fears that I will realize that I am capable of so much more and that I will leave him behind.

He is right.

Our argument turns into an ultimatum of sorts where it’s clear that I will have to choose. It is in that moment that I realize that nothing will ever be the same for me again. I don’t say the words that night but suddenly I realize that I have been trying to fit my life into a mould that is just not working for me.

I want to go to school. I want to live in a city; right in the middle, in a high-rise where I can walk out and be right in the center of everything. I’m not sure I want to have children. I’m not sure I want to be married. I want to travel. I want to have interesting conversations. I want to speak another language.  I don’t want to be beige. I want to be unconventional.

Not long after this I moved to Vancouver to really go to school.

On a day I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed and somewhat scared I remember walking across the parking lot thinking to myself ‘Well, Gillian, this is what you said you wanted. This is what you gave it all up for. It’s up to you now to really make it happen. You can do it.’

So I did.


This is when everything changed for me. When the trajectory of my life became undeniably obvious. When I realized that life was living me rather than the other way around.

I am living that life now. The one that I dreamed of in that moment. The one that seemed so impossibly far away.

I’ve made course adjustments since but it is that moment, sitting in that room arguing with my husband, that I always come back to. When I remember fearing that giving up everything would mean having nothing; and then realizing that giving up everything would mean having nothing but potential.


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