You know, that incredibly awkward stage we all went through when we were creeping from childhood into those angsty, brace-faced, vulnerable teenage years. Everyone goes through it and then they’ll look back and laugh at their tween self and how far they’ve come since tweenhood.
Well, I must confess. I am a tween. I’m a 26 year old tween.
I am now an Optometrist. I graduated in June of this year. So I’m like one of those newly ripened bananas that has just barely turned from green to that beautiful yellow color without acquiring any of those brown spots quite yet. But that’s the banana that you’re not going to eat yet because even though it’s ripe it’s hasn’t softened to that perfect ripe banana texture. That’s me. I’m done with school, I’ve passed all my boards exams in Canada and the U.S. But I can’t work yet. As a U.S. citizen married to a Canadian and now living in Canada, I am going through the process of becoming a permanent resident. What that involves is stacks of paperwork, application fees, an exhaustive process of proving you have a legitimate relationship with your sponsor (my husband). Not a very interesting process, so I won’t get into it… But after your application is all finished, sent in, and received… All you are left with is the sit-back-and-wait part. Until such time, I am not legally allowed to work in Canada.
So here I wait, not a student, not a REAL optometrist , in my opinion, because I’m not working yet. Right in be-TWEEN.
So if you’re wondering if the second time being a tween is still awkward, it is. I am here in limbo watching the world move around me. I watch as my colleagues have moved into the working world. I look up to them as they either start their residencies or they are now being called Doctor (last name here) by their patients. They are scribbling on prescription pads, treating eye infections, taking care of their patients, and donning their long white coats. So yes, I am that awkward tween wondering when I can be like them, all grown up, a REAL optometrist.
But during this stage, I am finding this time to soul search. I have always wanted this time. When I was in college, I wanted to study abroad to soul search. It never happened as I rushed to finish all my coursework, fulfill my optometry school pre-requisites, obtain some relevant work experience, take my entrance exams and graduate in 4 years. So my next opportunity was to take a year off in between undergrad and graduate school. It never happened as I let expectations take the best of me. In my head, others had the expectations that breaks weren’t allowed. It wouldn’t be accepted well if I took a year off to see the world and to just, well, take a break. So it didn’t happen. I had to follow that straight ahead path. I had to be perfect. So when this soul searching opportunity came back to me, during this tween stage, you would think I would’ve embraced it with open arms. Quite the opposite. I felt the need to hide from or distract others from what was happening. Because what was I doing with my life? Nothing. But everything at the same time. I wasn’t working and I wasn’t going to school. To a lot of people and even to me at some points, that meant nothing. But I was planning a wedding from another country, I was getting to know living in a new city and a new country. I was sleeping in, I was dancing around the house by myself to music, I was burning everything I cooked as I embarked on the journey towards some form of domestication. I was crying because I was lonely in a new place and felt I was going to lose friendships and relationships with those I moved very far away from. I was frustrated going through the struggles of moving in with my then fiancé, my now husband. And I was laughing and smiling as I fell deeper in love with him. He is the one whom I owe my gratitude during this time. He is the one that made me feel that after 21 years of school I was actually allowed to take a break before plummeting head first into the working world. When I told him how disappointed people would be in me, or wondered “What will everyone think?” His response was, “Who cares.” I seriously look up to this man.
So I’ve been reading self improvement books because what better thing to do when you have lots of free time with yourself than improve yourself? I am in no way, shape, or form perfect but I am a perfectionist. I think a lot of us are. We feel like we have to fit into this cookie cutter of the perfect human being. You have to follow these rules but be cool at the same time. You have to look put together but it has to also look effortless. You have to go to this school and graduate with a respectable major so you can find a respectable job and marry a respectable man with a respectable family when you are between the ages of ___ and ___ so you can pop out a perfect little family at the right time. But as someone wise once told me, “Who cares”. It’s so hard not to want to be perfect with all those expectations from society. But I’m going to try something new. I’m going to let myself feel vulnerable, try new things, suck at new things and let myself suck without hating myself. I’m going to enjoy fashion, and makeup and all those things that I’m not supposed to because I’m supposed to be smart and I’m not supposed to care about those things. I’m going to take a lot pictures that might not be very good. I’m going to share my thoughts and actually feel that they are valuable because everyone’s thoughts are valuable to someone. I’m going to do the things I enjoy and I’m going to try my very best to stop worrying about who I’m supposed to be or what I’m supposed to be doing and… Just. Be.
And as much as being a tween is an essential part of crossing that threshold from a child into adolescence and beyond, this tween version 2.0 has and will be an essential part of my personal growth.