One of those pieces of paper was an acceptance letter from Queen's University. The second piece of paper was an acceptance letter from Ryerson. It was what was contained on each that was most important.
It was a decision being made at the ripe-old age of 18 that would ultimately have an impact on, well, the rest of my life.
On one hand, I had been accepted into one of the best physiotherapy programs in Canada, the only program that would accept you directly out of high school. Unless you are a graduate of McGill (our rival academically and athletically), you know that Queen's is the best university in Canada [insert obvious alumnus bias here]. My grades in high school had got me an acceptance letter. Yeah me.
On the other hand, I had been accepted into one of the finest photographic arts programs in the country, and the only program at the time that offered a Bachelor's degree for your efforts. My grades had laid the foundation for acceptance, but it was pushed over the edge by my portfolio.
And there I sat, trying to figure out what life would hold for me. In which direction should I go?
In a moment of what now appears like mature thinking (or just plain young luck), I remember simplifying the decision to one comparison: how long would it take me to get to where I wanted to go long-term after I graduated?
The long-term goal as a physio was to work with an athletic population. If I positioned myself correctly, selected my jobs well and worked hard, I could get there over a relatively short period of time.
The long-term goal as a photojournalist was similar - working in the sports world and being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, just like the work of iconic photographer Neil Leifer. But to get there, I was going to have to not only work a lot of events, but probably have to hope for a little luck in getting my work into the hands of the right people along the way. Advancing would probably require more than just taking good images, something that would, to some degree, fall out of my control.
And so the decision was made.
Thirty years later, and 26 years of clinical practice down the road, I certainly believe that I made an amazing choice. Either I enjoy what I do, or I am crazy to still be doing it after all these years.
What amazes me most, in hindsight, is that on that summer day, I somehow found the wisdom to make the decision. I didn't know anything about going to university, nor did my family. Life provided an opportunity, a moment to have an impact and to lay the foundation for the future.
Somehow, I grasped it and the rest, as they say, is history. I certainly don't think I truly realized the impact of that decision when I was 18; the magnitude was lost in the thrill of the collegiate adventure and a strong dose of the innocence and naiveté of youth.
It is a moment that is not easily forgotten - each and every time I pick up the camera, look through the viewfinder, and compose the next images of life in front of me.
Photo credits: xddorox