One late August night, I found myself amidst a self-made tornado of laundry, school handouts and miscellaneous junk. I was in a frantic frenzy to find my checkbook; September’s rent was due in just a few days. I liked calling it, “September’s Rent” because to me, that sounded like I lived in a chic loft downtown with an eccentric roommate and a fat cat, or something. But I didn’t. I lived in my mess of a childhood bedroom, in the suburbs with my family and a rather slim cat. The rent I paid was only for a small parking spot in a private lot down the street from the school I taught at. The only little fragment of the city I could call my own.
I kneeled on the floor and bent down to look for my checks under the bed. Through the darkness and my blurred vision, I spotted my cat Burnsy’s round eyes reflecting light as he chewed on a plastic shopping bag. He stopped momentarily to gauge my reaction and see if I were going to shoo him away. When I ignored him, he returned to the bag. I scanned the rest of the floor noting: a wrinkled grey sock, a birthday bag from two months ago, two pens and a concerningly large mound of dust. I sneezed. This startled Burnsy, who scurried out of my room annoyed.
I squinted and noticed he’d been sitting on a yellowed piece of paper torn out of a spiral notebook. It was folded so tightly that it was almost completely flat, like it had never been unfolded before. It intrigued me, so I reached for it and pulled it out from beneath my bed. As I unfolded it, I recognized my own handwriting and was suddenly filled with overwhelming dread. I knew exactly what it was. I knew exactly when I had written it, and I knew exactly what it was about. Furthermore, I knew I didn’t want to read it. I tossed it onto my bed indignantly.
It was a self-addressed letter I’d written with goals for the future. I had written it almost three years ago as part of a Future Perfect grammar assignment I’d created for my first teaching gig. I cringed. I had changed a lot in the past three years. My life had taken some unexpected turns. I didn’t want to read some letter and find out I had failed to meet any of the goals I’d set for myself as a young optimistic new teacher. I wanted to have passed and exceeded those goals! Maybe I had. But I had to read the letter to find out.
I sat on my bed, feeling my checkbook beneath my sheets and began to read. “By June 29th, 2014…”
- I will have bought a new laptop.
Check. A white Toshiba. I smiled, the heaviness in my chest subsiding a bit. These goals weren’t so tough.
- I will have saved $5000.
Check. And I’d even bought a new car.
- I will have traveled somewhere cool.
Check. I’d gone to Uruguay for Christmas the previous year.
- I will have found a permanent teaching position.
Check. Three years and counting.
- I will have quit The Tap.
Definitely check. I had quit the steakhouse I’d worked at throughout high school and university a year after I’d started teaching and never looked back.
- I will have learned more grammar!
Triple check. As a new ESL teacher grammar tenses and word classes were absolutely terrifying for me. Now, I taught advanced grammar with ease.
- I will have changed a student’s life.
Probably check. I had a shoe box full of grateful letters that suggested I had indeed.
- I will have stopped biting my nails.
Checkish. Although I hadn’t exactly managed to kick the habit, I had found a working solution. Fake nails! It had become a bit of a ritual. The purpose of the goal had been fulfilled, I finally had beautiful, colourful nails.
- I will have stayed in a happy, healthy relationship.
This was to be determined still. I was in a new relationship, but I fully intended to stay in it. I didn’t want to mess it up this time.
- I will have moved out.
Check, uncheck. I sighed. Ugh. I came so close to getting through this list scot-free. I had moved to Tolbon just a few months after writing this letter, but moved back just over a year later. Now I was back where I had begun. I’d gotten nowhere. I felt chained to all the places that I never wished to stay; Bridgewood.
That night was tough. Not only was my lack of progress in the living department bugging me, it also happened to be the first night my maternal grandparents were sleeping over. They were starting the process of selling their condo and moving in with us. My parents had converted the main floor study into an in-law suite for them. It was located directly below my bedroom. I could hear their every movement. Every cough. It was freaking me out. Were they okay? Having a heart attack? I loved them to death, but there were too many people living inside this house. I needed out.
I crunched numbers late into the night and the very next day, I began my search for a chic apartment in Leafton.