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Chelsea O'Byrne/The Globe and Mail

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I’ve always fantasized about visiting a psychic.

I imagined sitting down in a spooky, candlelit room across from a jewel-clad woman with a mole above her lip. She would rotate her hands around a murky crystal ball, peer deep into my eyes and, consequently, into my soul. “I see great things ahead of you,” she’d tell me, nodding her head.

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I loved the idea of a psychic who could reveal truths about my past and my future while a black cat loomed in the background. She would tell me that so long as I was careful, I would eventually achieve some sort of greatness.

In high school, I was never able to see the psychic I had been dreaming of – the one I learned about in movies and cartoons. As it turned out, she didn’t exist. But it seems I’ve become a version of that same woman, although maybe one with fewer gimmicks. While I might not have chunky jewellery, a crystal ball or a black cat, I do have tarot cards – and they tell me I’m going to be all right.

I bought my tarot cards on a whim last summer. I was working as a barista in my university town, taking an American literature course, and feeling stressed out about life in general. When I wasn’t making fancy lattes or studying modernist poetry, my time was spent asking myself if my English degree was ever going to be worth it, whether I would ever find work in the writing industry and how many more summers I would have to spend getting tipped nickels and dimes for making decaf skinny cappuccinos with hazelnut syrup.

One day, in an act of anxiety-induced procrastination, I decided I would become my own fortune teller. I bused to a bookstore that specializes in mysticism and the occult, bought a tarot deck that looked pretty and rushed home to use it. When I walked through the door with the cards and a little black guidebook, my girlfriend was confused.

“What, so you’re a psychic now?” She shuffled through the colourful cards, squinting her eyes with skepticism.

“I mean, I guess so,” I laughed.

We joked about it, thinking the cards were kind of funny – right up until we started using them.

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I shuffled the deck, cut it into three smaller decks and dealt four cards on the table. According to my book, this was called a “clarity spread,” which would guide me through any confusing or alarming situation. At that time in my life – the summer between academic years – I was feeling especially confused about my future. I was frustrated I wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to, and that I was working a minimum-wage job while my friends worked internships and travelled the world.

The first card I pulled showed a little yellow snake coiled around a blossoming branch. Daughter of Wands: a young woman who is involved in a creative field and excited about her work, but anxious she isn’t working enough.

“Oh my god, that’s me!” I shouted. My girlfriend’s eyes widened as I read the description.

“Read the description for the next one,” she said.

And so I did. The Wheel of Fortune card told me about positive and inevitable change coming my way, while the Chariot led me toward perseverance and the Two of Pentacles taught me about balance. I felt validated. My insecurities about being stagnant, about not being involved in a creative industry, about receiving rejection letters rather than notices of publication – all of these things suddenly felt normal.

From then on, card readings became a regular thing. If I was stressed about work or school, I pulled cards. If I felt uncertain about what to do, I pulled cards. And if I needed to sort out my feelings, I pulled cards. Every time, they reminded me I was going to be okay.

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The reality is that being a young person (or any kind of a person) is confusing. Constantly faced with choices about relationships, school and work, the cards validate and help me work through my emotions. Often, they point to things I’m unwilling to admit to myself.

If I’m not focusing enough on academics, pulling the Eight of Pentacles card makes me admit it’s time to put in the work. If I feel unsure about the people I surround myself with, the Three of Cups reminds me to value loving friendships, while the Death card suggests toxic relationships should come to an end. And when I pull the Lovers card, I’m reminded to take time to appreciate my once-skeptical girlfriend.

Sure, the cards might be a hoax. They might be just vague enough I can apply them to whatever situation I’m dealing with, or just detailed enough they make me exclaim, “This is about me, and me alone!” But, regardless of whether or not the cards “work,” they’ve taught me a great deal about myself and pushed me to face issues I tend to ignore.

My fascination with fortune tellers probably stems from my years-long uncertainty for my own future and my deep-seated desire for validation. More than anything, I want to feel reassured and to know that everything is going to be fine.

I shuffle the cards, cut the deck into three and pull a card from the top. Three of Wands: building a solid foundation for yourself, and looking into the future with conviction.

Gabrielle Drolet lives in London, Ont.

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