Set the scene:
It's March 15th. I run through the checklist once more:
- Purchased departure flight to Singapore for April 19? Check
- Create professional social media pages? Check
- Apartment prepared for renting out? Check
- Belongings sold/put into storage? Check
- Scan all important documents? Check
- Set up mail forwarding? Check
- Notice given to clinic? Check
- Travel insurance? Check
- Pay taxes and sign away first-born child to Canada Revenue Agency? Check
Whew - everything appears to be in place. Wait... my parents... I still haven't told them about my departure from dentistry to pursue modelling overseas. Shit.
It's not that I forgot to tell them. Oh no no no, this thought-mosquito has been pinching at the brain for months - I've just been conveniently pushing the conversation aside and keeping busy with other tasks. But here we are, one month from departure and my parents (and most friends) STILL don't know that I'm leaving Toronto to "go international".
The question must be asked:
"But Ian you silly goose! Why wouldn't you tell your parents of such an exciting adventure?"
Last time I checked, Chang was closer to Chinese than Czechoslovakian. To clarify, it's more than culture - I understood that their main concerns were for my safety and financial future. But through the filter of stereotypes and misunderstandings, I recalled our initial conversation as being... strained. Horrid memories flash of the substantially-large public fight I had at a Regina grocery store the very first time I mentioned going into modelling:
You will become homeless! You'll be pressured into drugs! Someone will drug you and do [insert unspeakable act]! You will become infected with [insert creative variety of diseases]! You're throwing your future away - what will people think?!
Finished with the cherry on the cake...
I thought you were a good son.
Since the incident, I still went into the fashion industry (initially in secret), which was paramount in me becoming a dentist.
One month from flying out and they still don't know. Countless sleepless nights and fervent prayers pass.
Not many know, but I call my parents almost every day during the commute home from the clinic - finishing work at 8pm in Toronto translates to 6pm in Regina, just before their dinner. Their voices fill my SUV's cabin as we communicate over speakerphone. Near the end of March (3 weeks from Singapore) something peculiar occurs - they call me instead... my mother speaks first,
"Ian, you've been working long hours at the clinic, and we are really happy to see that... but all of your spare time is devoted to modelling. You're still young... have you considered focusing on modelling for a short time? Then go back to dentistry?"
What. The. Hell.
I look around the car... towards the empty back seats... am I being punked? Have my parents been abducted and I'm actually speaking to spies whose plan is to lure me out of dentistry and into their secret lair from which point my organs will be harvested and sold on the black market?*
Slowing down, I ease onto the shoulder of the road. Regain composure. And then inform them that as a matter of fact, I would like to take some time off from dentistry and will soon depart for Singapore.
Silence. Dead air.
Five seconds feels like five minutes. My father's voice now fills the car,
"You have a history of making good decisions. We have no reason to doubt this one."
Those words hit me like a train. An invisible, yet palpable, weight lifts from my chest. Still sitting at the side of the road, we talk for nearly an hour about the next chapter in my life. My parents remain cautious but fully supportive. Throughout our conversation I keep thinking, "how many grey hairs have I caused with such unnecessary self-inflicted misery?"**
The hidden life lesson: Test assumptions before condemning yourself to further hardship. By challenging basic assumptions, it's possible to stumble upon simple and unusual solutions to long-standing problems. Like a cancer, what we think we know only leads to a slow and painful deterioration.
And if your assumptions are true? Then you can stand by this knowledge and open the conversation to discussion. I learned that my parents were proud of my modelling and saw how its positive effects rippled throughout other aspects of my life. Similarly, my parents' assumption of me becoming a heroine-shooting-sexual-deviant never materialized (thank God) - which brought them closer towards understanding the industry.
The final piece is in place - I am ready for Singapore.
- *Joke is on the harvesters, as I have one of the least efficient GI systems known to man.
- **Answer: none. Still no grey hairs.