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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

One year ago I realized I had to figure out what I wanted for my future. High school would be over in less than 10 months, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t push this fact aside any longer. I had a lot of conflicting feelings when I started my senior year of high school. On one hand, this was the year I’d spent my entire life waiting for, dreaming of. I had dreamt of the day when I would finally apply to universities, which program I would choose, and the life I would live, completely my own. Yet, when the time came, my mind went blank anytime I thought about what was next. It didn’t take long to determine that I wanted to study business, but the question remained: where? 

Growing up, I couldn’t wait to leave my hometown. When I was five years old, my father accepted a job in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. This prompting my family and I to uproot our lives in Ontario and move to a city with a population just shy of 15,000. I took pride not being considered a true “Islander” like my classmates. Most people in Summerside had generations of family preceding them, and roots deeply embedded in our rich red soil, but I didn’t. I had no connection to the Island, no extended family, and no old friends. I had to plant my own roots.

During most of my childhood and early teenage years, I hated living in Summerside. I felt suffocated by its familiarity and isolated in its emptiness. Sure, the summers were lively, as tourists flocked to marvel at our red sands and endless potato fields, but to me, this place was merely a pit stop on someone else’s family vacation. Those who lived here bore the worst of it. The closest thing we had to a restaurant was a fast-food joint or two, and if you wanted to go shopping for something other than groceries, you were pretty much out of luck. 

If you had asked me as a child about my plans after high school, I would have told you I was going to move to a big city. I believed I would have thrived in a bustling place filled with the opportunities that my hometown lacked. But that fantasy of escaping my hometown crumbled the spring before my sophomore year in high school when I met a group of girls who changed everything for me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone anymore, and the world around me started to seem exciting. They opened my eyes to the beauty in things I’d previously taken for granted, like watching the sun paint the sky with warm hues of orange, pink, and vibrant purple before setting, or the way that the ocean roared in the midst of a storm. We were too young to drive, buy alcohol, or go wherever we wanted without our parents permission, yet we managed to find ways to experience all that the world had to offer us.

At the age of fifteen, we craved the taste of freedom, concerned only with the adventures that would make for the best stories. As we started high school that fall, friendships ebbed and flowed in the way they do when you’re teenage girls.We were growing up, some of us apart, but we held that same desire to live life to its fullest capacity as a guiding anchor. Soon enough, we could drive and had our own cars, we found a whole new way of exploring. Going on drives with my friends quickly became my favourite thing to do. Whether it was on a sun capped highway with the windows down and music loud, or on foggy autumn mornings when the air was crisp with longing, we would just drive, sometimes for hours on end in whispered silence. In those moments, as we watched the leaves change colour and the ocean freeze over, we could forget that the end was near. 

Suddenly, the thought of leaving this place became as paralyzing as staying had once been. What would happen when I could no longer soothe my sadness with aimless drives fuelled by iced coffee and hour-long discussions about existential dread in a dimly lit mall parking lot? Staying here meant letting go of one dream, but what about this new dream—to get an apartment in the neighbouring city with my best friend and finally have the freedom to do all the things we’d been yearning for? Sure, PEI could get boring, but we managed to create our own fun. In the lack thereof, we saw potential, and I wanted to grasp onto this potential for as long and tightly as I could. 

Cameron Smith-Spain Europe Abroad Car Port Boats Palm Trees Sunny .Pdf
Cameron Smith / Her Campus

However, I’m not there anymore. You already know how the story ends, so you might be wondering what ultimately changed my mind.

I won’t pretend like one day, I suddenly woke up with perfect clarity about what to do with my future. Even after being accepted into two of the most prestigious business programs in Canada, I continued to question if I was chasing the wrong dream. After many months of deliberations (and conversations with my therapist), I ultimately honoured what I set out by promising myself that I wouldn’t make decisions out of fear. For most of my life, I had been a slave to my anxieties, relentless overthinking, and intrusive thoughts; but I refused to let fear determine this decision. When it came down to it, I realized it wasn’t so much my hometown I was holding onto, but the past. As much as I hate to admit it, in some ways I wanted to be in high school forever.

Once I started to reflect more intimately on my own dreams and ambitions, a terrifying truth revealed itself… I had to let go. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t stay here forever, frozen in time. Whether I liked it or not, the world would keep moving on with or without me, and I couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by. 

They say there are moments in life that permanently change us. For me, it was the time I finally told the girl who changed my life—my best friend, my person—that I was leaving Summerside. What made it even worse was as desperately as she wanted me to say I’d stay, that tomorrow we’d drive into Charlottetown and go hunt for apartments together, she allowed me sob as I tried to articulate the words to tell her I needed to explore what life had to offer me. We spent the next hour sitting in my car, and she held me as I cried, assuring me it was okay and that she understood. That day, we both matured a little more, together. I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I was scared out of my mind, but I also knew that there was a world beyond my hometown, and I owed it to myself to see this through. Truthfully, I am confident that I made the right choice, despite all the times I doubted myself. When it’s late at night and I tuck myself into my dorm room bed, I feel my younger self hold my hand and tell me how proud she is. I hold her a little tighter, and she stays with me as I continue to embark on this new journey.

Lauren Johnston

Queen's U '27

First year business student at Queen's University. Lover of coffee, window shopping, poetry, and good music.