We are all forced to make difficult decisions at some point or another in our lives. Decisions that could drastically change the course of events of our lives. How do we know if we’re making the right choice? What lies in store for me on the path I don’t take? These questions, though consuming, are inevitably empty – you can never answer them, and mulling them over and and over again through your head will do nothing for you expect drive you crazy.
Recently, I was offered admission to a PhD program at my dream school in my dream city – The University of Sydney. It has been my dream to complete a PhD for years; I can’t even remember not wanting one. In a perfect world, there would be nothing holding me back from saying “YES!”
But, (there’s always a but), the world isn’t perfect. Following our hearts comes with a hefty price tag sometimes, meaning that something will need to be lost in order to make room in your life for what it is you really want.
In September, I found out my father was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a rare type of blood cancer characterized by abnormal production of plasma in the cell. This was right around the time I fell in love with Sydney after moving there in July.
Am I a bad daughter for not wanting to come home? Was I a bad daughter for not coming home right away? I did, eventually, fly home. In January, I returned to be a full-time, primary caregiver for my father who was scheduled to have a stem cell transplant.
When I was leaving Sydney, in my head, I thought for sure that I would be coming back. I would complete my PhD in Sydney in one of the highest-ranked, competitive schools in the world, and I would live and dream in a city that felt perfect for me.
With dedication, I created a nest there for myself, a home full of friends and family that were dear to my heart and whom I wanted to return to. Leaving all of this behind now felt cruel. I had no good memories back home, which is why I left in the first place.
When I got home, however, it became harder to stick to my original plan. My dad was a lot sicker than I thought; he kept a lot of things hidden for me, and I didn’t know just how bad he was. It was hard to see – he looked like a completely different person.
The dad I knew before, the one who drove me to the airport and sent me off, was gone now. And replaced by someone else, a weaker, sicker, version of my dad.
How can I leave him, when he looks like this?
Although his hematologist assured me that it would be okay to go back, that after the stem cell transplant was over, he would be fine to live his life on his own again and had his own support network, I just felt like I couldn’t.
I ended up applying to PhD school here in Canada, and I did get offers that I would be happy and grateful to accept – but nothing comes close to the dream of returning to Sydney, and completing my PhD there as I intended. It was also the first place I ever got into, despite being rejected in the past.
Is it bad that I haven’t rejected The University of Sydney’s offer? After all is said and done, is there a chance that I could return?
How do we balance our commitments and ties to family, while also fulfilling our own dreams? It’s hard. There is no right answer, and it all boils down to what you fear losing more, I suppose.
On the one hand, the sadness I feel over missing out on the opportunity to return to Sydney and undertake my PhD is overwhelming. But it would be crushing if I returned to Sydney, and the next time I returned home, it was because I had to, because my dad was sicker now.
Every moment spent in Sydney, is a moment lost with my dad, who has an incurable form of cancer.
But then again, on the other hand, what if I stay home, and it’s the opposite – my dad becomes healthier, beats the odds as many do, and my staying home ultimately stole an opportunity to fulfill a dream. I’ll never get that dream back again.
There are no do-overs in life. Just taxing decisions, and tough consequences.