Lend Me Your Ears

Feb 3, 2014 by



The best part about what I am about to tell you is that I actually don’t need to explain myself. When I first started telling friends and family about the decision I had made, I got a lot of mixed reactions. Some sad. Some confused. Some worried. Some happy. Some unquestioning. Some supportive. It has been a real mix of facial expressions and words being tossed my way, and thus far, I have juggled them and promptly tossed the person’s feelings back at them to deal with. I have only my own feelings and state to deal with, and that’s the beauty of this decision.




I believe the universe speaks to us. I would even go so far as to say that we are all psychics. Every single one of us has psychic ability, and whether or not we are open to listening will dictate our ability to hear the universe. While I was on Saba, I met a man named Michael, the manager of my guesthouse. When I arrived, it was night; the rain pitter-pattered on the thick, juicy leaves lining the narrow staircase up to the office, and the frogs and birds brought the jungle around me to life at orchestral proportions. It was a song that I cherished each night as it lulled me to sleep. I bumbled my way up the path and into the office, and Michael emerged to greet me, his bright smile the first sign of the pleasant time I would spend there. During the 8 days I spent with him on the island, we grew to be close friends. He showed me old photos of his family, told me about his son and his favourite movies and all about his travels. He would bless the drinks we shared with Gaelic sayings, strange words I couldn’t understand but which felt beautiful and somehow familiar. I told him about life at home, all about my grand travel plans and I even shared some of my worries with him. Eventually one night, he asked me, “Do you believe in letting things happen?”

“Yes, of course,” I answered. I was quick to add, “but…”

He interrupted me. With that one word, but, the struggle and fight was hanging all over me. We talked it through, and I realised how much fight has been in my life for 2 years, maybe more. The situation has evolved such that I no longer know where the trouble and the struggle began, just that when I reflect, it has been going on for a while.

I used to be so good at not worrying on such gargantuan scales, at not trying to dictate my life based on what I thought should happen but by what was happening and working with that. I used to be so good at finding happiness in simple things and simple tasks and not fretting over the small stuff. What happened along the way? Where did I go so wrong? Well, for starters, when both your parents are struck with cancer, you get a bit of a jolt. That’s all I will say about that for now, because this post is not about cancer. If you are wondering, though, both parties are well. The struggle settled in sometime around then, and from all I can tell with the little hindsight I have (not quite 20/20 just yet, or 6/6 for my Canadian colleagues), this is when things really started to go badly for me. It was as if a bad wave of energy had entered my space and was only about to bring in more with it. Then I went away to school, and it all just felt… so… wrong. I had written about how difficult school was, and I tried to be as honest as possible, and I think I achieved that, but I felt as if I were banging my head against a brick wall from day one.

Do we see where I’m going with this yet?

So… not for the first time in my life, I’m taking a year off from school. And as I said, I actually don’t need to explain myself and my reasons for making this decision. I don’t have to answer to anyone. This decision was for me. There were factors in this decision that I am not going to share on here or in any format. There are things that no one needs to know about. There are even some grotesquely simple events that came to pass that ultimately forced me to come to this decision… an if A then B kind of situation, and A definitely happened. This was the universe shouting at me, begging me to listen. When something is as much of a painstaking and agonizing fight as this has been, something needs to change.




Since all of this turmoil entered my life, I began to feel as though I’d been tied to the back of a truck and was being dragged down a highway. The truck was picking up speed and showing no signs of relenting. Things were going too fast, and I felt as though I was losing any sense of control or slice of peace I’d ever had in my life. I was caught in an undertow, and rapidly running out of oxygen. In no way do I consider myself a control freak (in fact I’d say I’m quite the opposite), but this is me putting my foot down and standing up. This is me cutting the chain that has me tied to the truck. This is me throwing up my middle finger at all the garbage that has been flying past me on this highway, and this is me reaching over and pushing the big old metaphorical pause button on life.

This is me taking back my life.

I’m taking a year away from school. This was not an easy decision to make, but once I’d made it, I began to sleep better, wake up brighter, and suddenly there was space in my day again for happiness. For the first time in a long time, I am beginning to trust myself to feel happy again, and I mean that deep-down-in-your-gut kind of happiness. I had become too accustomed to being unhappy, and I no longer trusted myself to deal with happiness. I had come to learn that it wouldn’t be around for long anyway, so why even bother?

My path through life has never been linear. I say this was a difficult decision, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense. Out of my high school graduating class, I was one of only 2 people who did not go directly into university. This was coming from a class that broke records for the monetary value of scholarships offered to us from universities across Canada. Big things were expected of us. So what did I do? I moved to Europe. What did the other person do with her time? She did a lot of things… but now she is a successful choreographer and it’s been fun to watch her develop and find success, and to know that I’m in good company. Taking a year off after high school was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and I remember there were a lot of doubters and worriers at the time, people who did not think it was a good idea. Taking a year off now is consistent with the trail I’ve always followed. It’s a little under-visited and grown over, but it is the trail I’ve always liked best, the one where I feel most comfortable.



So here I am; I write this from Winnipeg, not Waterloo, where all my thoughts are centred around what book I will read today, how hard my cousins are going to make me laugh, visiting my grandparents, and how many pairs of socks I should wear to stay warm.

And what am I going to do with my time (my whole, entire year) off? That is a very good question. While I refuse to divulge any plans until they are official (as I’ve done this before, and those plans collapsed), I will tell you this. I do know that I want optometry, and that in some capacity I will be resuming my studies before the year is up. I am going to be using this year to gain clinical experience I wish we could get earlier on at Waterloo. I am shaping my education to suit my needs; I am undergoing a self-appointed internship. Surely everyone wants to know about what travel plans are in my future too. Well, for those, you’ll just have to wait, but I will say that they are wild and terrifying and beautiful and replete with human connection, and while I can’t wait to be in the thick of all of those plans, for the first time in a bazillion years, I’m happy to just sit here and listen to the universe.



All photos are from Saba.


Please like my Facebook page so you can join me on this exciting year ahead. It’s my way of putting you in my pocket and taking you with me. Follow me on twitter and Instagram too. Don’t be a stranger!

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  1. That’s so brave, Colleen! Well done for listening to that inner voice and making a decision that feels right for you at the time being. School will always be there when you are ready to go back, in the meantime, being close to family and focusing on yourself and your happiness are just as important. Wishing you the best during your little sabbatical and sending a big hug your way. xo

    • Colleen

      Thank you Audrey. I know you had a similar internal voice shouting at you before you were to go to England for grad school. Sometimes it can be so hard to listen to that voice, but once you start to listen and adhere to what it is telling you, things can seem to get a little easier. Anyway, I’m a huge advocate for taking time off from school. I understand this isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it has always been so for me. Sending you a big hug back. xo

  2. Emy

    As weird as it may sound, the past weeks I’ve been thinking of you quite a bit, and believe it or not, the same day you posted the first segment of the Ripple Effect, I was about to send you a message on your facebook page to ask you if you were doing fine… why ? I’m not sure why I just felt like maybe something was going on with you. So strangely enough this post doesn’t surprise me.
    I am very sorry to hear that the past couple of years weren’t nice to you and your loved ones as well. Though different in many aspects, I’m pretty sure our situations are also similar. And if taking a year off is the way for you to just … get better and sort of jump back into the life you love and want to live, go for it! This is amazing and I wish you all the best really.
    Know that you have a flat completely open to you in Paris, I’m serious! I know you didn’t really like Paris, but I believe that summer in Paris is special, it just heals the mind!
    Be well and take care of yourself!

    • Colleen

      Oh Emy, thank you for your comment… It’s nice to hear that you can relate and that you were thinking of me. Strange, because you weren’t the only one… I guess I was giving out some pretty strong energy, and those in tune were definitely picking up. That warms my heart. Aaaannd…. I MAY just have to take you up on that offer to crash with you in Paris. I think it’s time I give the city another chance. I would love to see Your Paris. x

  3. Good for you with going with your gut and just doing it. I really admire your courage and the trust you have in yourself. I´m sure it´ll end up being the right decision and I can´t wait to hear about these travel plans!

    • Colleen

      Thank you Jessica. It’s funny because I don’t think of myself as courageous, but I guess making this kind of decision makes me so. I do hope you keep in touch during this year off – maybe our paths will cross, who knows!

  4. I love all of your posts but for me personally this was your best ever! I was very moved by it. I have known and believed all of my life that we all possess that psychic ability. It’s whether we want to really keep the dial tuned into it or not. Most definitely the universe talks to us daily in sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle ways. I gravitate towards people and friends who have the courage to dig down, grasp their own self honesty and run with it. All of our right and perfect health blessings being sent to you and especially your mom and dad. We are not only excited for this next chapter in your life but so very proud of you, Colleen! 🙂

    • Colleen

      Thank you Mike… your encouragement and support has meant more than you could know!

  5. Love. Sometimes the most difficult thing you can do is just be honest with yourself. And you’ve already conquered the second-biggest hurdle, which is filtering out the noise. I love the visual you gave of tossing a person’s feelings back at them to deal with, because yes. Most peoples’ bad reactions to your good news comes from a place of their own insecurity.

    Congrats to you! I can’t wait to hear about your plans!!

    • Colleen

      Oh Katie, your comments always make me smile. And it’s true that people express their insecurities in… well, interesting ways. I know you can relate to that. I can’t wait to be able to finally share my plans… and let’s keep in touch through it all. I can add you to my postcard list!

  6. I can understand how difficult this decision must have been. I too have debated it and I have decided that when I am done my bachelors degree I would like to take some time off before continuing on with my masters. Good luck with the future!

    • Colleen

      I am a huge advocate for taking time off from school. Lots of people are so rushed to get the education done with, but many forget that the real education doesn’t happen inside a building with a professor nattering at you. You can *learn* things, sure, but the real education happens out in daily life. I hope you find some space for yourself. It is most important to look after yourself and stay healthy and happy. No education is worth forfeiting those things! Thank you for the kind comment, and I send you my best as well!

  7. You seem so confident and content with your decision, I am so excited to see where this year “off” takes you. I know it’s not a year off, exactly, because you will be doing so much with it!

    • Colleen

      You know… I *am* confident and content with this decision. Once I’d made it, I felt so liberated. And I really hope we keep in touch during my year off (and after!)… I have lots of great things planned!

  8. fran mulhall

    Wow…Colleen,,,,,well I check in on your blog from time to time …I love reading it…I instinctively went on it today…I am sitting at my desk feeling rather emotional at the moment…only you can appreciate how that feels!!!
    I am truly SO SO SO proud of you for being so courageous and forthcoming with your thoughts and feelings…I so agree thatwe are only on this journey once…let this be time for you to reflect and do what is in your heart!!!! We so need to have a drink together!!! all my xoxoxoxoxox aunty fran

    • Colleen

      Auntie Fran, you are my favourite human. I can’t wait for some rums together. Big hugs xoxox

  9. Wow. It sounds like you’ve really been put through the wringer lately; I don’t blame you one bit for needing a break and wanting to take a step back to re-evaluate your priorities. I think it’s not just so brave that you wrote about all of this here, but that you’re actually taking the break that you need, even though you’re absolutely right that it’s not a choice most people likely understand or would make. I know from personal experience how soul-crushing advanced degrees can be and if you’re not careful, they really can make you doubt yourself in ways that are so hard to overcome. I’m so glad to hear that in making this choice, everything has seemed a little brighter and you feel like you can find joy in the simple things again. I hate that the Western way of looking at things make it seem that deviating from the safe, well trod path is a recipe for disaster, when rarely is that ever the case. I’m excited to see what the next 12 months will bring for you, though I’m glad to see that already you have found so much peace. Hugs from Ho Chi Minh City!

    • Colleen

      Hey Steph, I’m so glad there’s another blogger out there who can relate to the advanced degree soul crushing. It’s not a simple thing to relate to or understand, and it’s nothing like an undergrad degree! I totally agree with everything you said. Plenty of people over here were shocked that I would take a year off (and there were several immediately and unconditionally supportive people too which was really nice). But it’s not about the end goal, the destination. What kind of person am I becoming on this road to become an OD? What kind of doctor will I make, and how can I look after other people, if I can’t look after myself? Thank you so so much for your support and kind comment. Hugs to you. xo

  10. Best of everything Colleen! A year off can be very rewarding in so many ways and when you go back you’ll have renewed energy – they may not even recognize you. If you come south during this year, lemme know. 😀

    • Colleen

      Thank you Maria! I have a friend in Tempe, so maybe I will try to swing a trip down there… if not this year, soon I hope! Thank you for your support and kind words. 🙂

  11. I am so happy for you, just letting go. As always, well written, but I’m so glad you have the chance to let this year shape you and be about getting better and being better, away from academia. It’s wonderful when you let a weight go and suddenly your days just feel… different.

    Anyways, I can’t wait to see where this year takes you and as always, I’d love to hear from you if you need anything (or just have something funny to say! Haha.)

    All the best, good vibes going your way, but if you’re wearing multiple socks then maybe you don’t need them so much. 🙂

    • Colleen

      Sally, I’m so glad we’ve become friends this year! Your friendship means so much to me.
      Thank you for your support and understanding… I’m looking forward to how this year will shape me too. It’s going to be an interesting evolution. I know that much already.
      I will be putting you on my postcard list. Hope that’s ok. Ha. xo

  12. Courtney

    Beautifully written my dear.

    In this program, life can get so noisy that it is often hard to hear our inner voices. I’m so proud of you for taking the time to pause, listen to yourself and follow your gut. I know you will thrive over the next 12 months and experience so much laughter, adventure, love and true happiness. You absolutely deserve it.

    We will miss having you here, but know that we will always be here for you with open arms, glasses (/bottles) of wine, and chocolate cupcakes in the shape of a ‘C’.

    • Colleen

      Courtney, I miss you so much! And thank you for commenting! xox
      While I’m not eager to be back at school just yet, I can’t wait to be reunited with you. I’ll be expecting dem cupcakes.

  13. Have I mentioned how much I love your writing? Good for you for doing what felt right. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we have the choice to forge our own path, rather than following some predetermined one. I’m excited to read what you’ll be doing this year!

    • Colleen

      Jessica, thank you so much! You are so right.. it is easy to forget our own path. I’m glad I’ve regained that sense and that I have my path in front of me again, and not someone else’s. Can’t wait to share my plans with everyone. Keep in touch. xoxox

  14. Best decision ever. Always do what feels right. If, in this year, you decide you want to become a full-time sheep herder, please do so. You only live once (I can’t believe I went there, but it’s true) and you should always follow your heart. Now, since there’s only a small sea in between us and you have all the time in the world, please come and visit. I will bake you something gorgeous!

    • Colleen

      Full time sheep herder! Haha… If that happens, you will be the first to know that is for sure.
      Thank you so much for this comment Angela… following my heart. Sounds so simple, yet it is something that is easy to forget. I am making this year about that, and hopefully get myself back on track. And… my heart right now seems to be in your kitchen. I’m no baker, but I am a soup maker… so together we pretty much have a full meal!

  15. Oh wow, this post makes me really hope we meet someday. At the risk of sounding silly and/or cliche, I feel like we are kindred spirits. I needed to read about someone taking control of their life today. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Colleen

      Emma, that means so much. Thank you. I would love to meet one day! I like to think of us as kindred spirits too… I’ve always been drawn to your writing, so I’m honoured that you would say that. I hope you are well. Sending you my best.

  16. So glad that you listened! I’m hoping I will follow suit soon enough and finally listen to the universe shouting at me. Thanks for this post!


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