SAINT FRANCIS ELEMENTARY in Ville Constance, Quebec is where I attended school from kindergarten to grade seven. All along the contour of the school ran a thick hedge. There was about a foot of space between the hedge and the outside of the school through which many of the kids would run. Due to potential damage caused to the shrubbery, and the possibility of medical issues such as skin rashes and allergies, the school made it clear that no kids were allowed to run behind the hedge. But of course they all did. Except for predictably-boring Isabelle Rochelle Donhelle. I always wanted to, since my friends all did and it seemed like it would be fun, but I obediently followed every single rule that was clearly laid out before me. It’s some sort of inborn anomaly of mine. I always wondered what it would feel like though, charging through the brush, avoiding other kids coming from the opposite direction. I imagined what else might be found back there: wonderful treasures and hidden clubhouses with secret passwords and handshakes. I also considered the possibility that there would be scary animals back there too, and poorly trained kids using that prohibited area as a makeshift bathroom. So I did what I was told to do. I lived the life that I was instructed to live. I played by all of the rules that no one else would. I remained safe and sheltered.
I went back to Saint Francis on my way home from high school one day, during my first week at Doneau High. There was no one around. Without a thought, I put my backpack down on the ground and I ran behind the hedge. I followed it all around the outside wall of the school, running the entire way. I tried to be careful, but the branches scratched my face and I bruised my shoulder and knee along the solid red brick wall. Some of the branches had thorns, and one snagged my shirt, tearing a hole in it. I even muddied my favorite shoes.
I emerged right where I began, and stood in place for a few minutes, catching my breath. I checked my forehead for blood and removed the knots and leaves from my hair. Picking up my backpack, I limped home alone and embarrassed. My mother made me remove my dirty clothes on the porch in the freezing cold before I could come inside. And I wondered why I had ever made such an impulsive decision in the first place.
As silly as that story may seem, it’s had a significant impact on how I would choose to deal with change in my life from that point on. It was a very simple decision: I would avoid it.