You CAN Go Home Again

It’s vacation time and I do love coming home to visit my parents. There’s something nostalgic about it. Comforting even. And as I drive up the 400 highway and start seeing road signs that are familiar, I feel safe again. Reminded of such a happy adolescence spent growing up in this area. I clearly remember my decision to join the military. I applied right after my first year of university and just waited to hear back. Since it’s a long process to enroll, I knew it would be months before I received a call and an offer. In October of that year, it was time to return to high school for our convocation ceremony in order to receive our diplomas. We were ushered into the little room where we were given our gowns, strange little box hats (I would love to do some research as to who thought THOSE were a fashion statement!) and then we had to fill out a card that said what we were doing after high school so it could be announced over the PA system as you received your diploma. I was feeling brave. Brave to announce to the room full of people that I was joining the military. So I wrote:  “Kelly Thompson is currently at York University, obtaining an Honours Bachelor degree in Professional Writing and has applied to join the Canadian Forces.” It looked like a sentence of contradiction. Military and writing?!?! Did the two go hand in hand? I felt comfortable that they did. I was going to make the creative and military worlds blend into one. So across the stage I marched to accept my diploma and over the PA someone’s voice announced: “Kelly Thompson is currently at York University, obtaining an Honours Bachelor degree in Professional Writing and has applied to join the Canadian Forces.” You know what that room full of people did? Parents and my fellow students and teachers? Most of them laughed. Maybe not full out, but they were certainly giggling. I’m sure they stared at my pointed-toe heels and spiky hair and thought, “Yeah, right.” They laughed at me. And it did not feel good. Now I sit back and look upon that moment and I’m able to giggle along with them. I still look in the mirror at my spiky hair and think: “Do I fit in?” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t but fitting in hasn’t become the name of my game. Instead, I feel empowered (oh, I feel this word is so overused, but it applies here) to do all the things I said I was going to do. I said I was going to pursue my dream of writing. I have. I said I was going to join the military and do basic training and fire a C7 rifle. I did it all. Even when many doubted me. Yes, returning home feels good. Not because I feel I have something to rub in the faces of others. No, I don’t feel it’s necessary to prove to them I could do it. Rather, I only needed to prove it to myself. And I have. That’s all I ever needed. So as I sit here lounging by my parents pool, I’m reminded of that girl who stood on the stage of her high school and was laughed at for chasing her dreams. That girl is somehow still a part of me. Still young and occasionally unsure. But she has become confident. And stronger. And happier. Because she never stopped believing it was all possible.  And I never will. Kelly

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