Dust begins to settle after 4-year whirlwind
Times of transition are among the most stressful periods in life. There is no doubting that. It does not come as a surprise.
I finished earning my four-year journalism degree last week, and with that, a stage of life came to a lurching end. Lurching, because the last semester (and years) have been crammed full of juggling multiple jobs, a full course load and all of the regular life chores and activities that pack the to-do list of young people who live on their own. Plus, I was arranging a move and securing an apartment in New York.
Suddenly, though, my scheduler was free of pressing deadlines. There are no more homework assignments. I was no longer a student.
I liked the sound of that. But as I talk with other students in the class of 2012, I’m realizing we are all lost, empty, searching for a new identity. There were no fireworks as we left school. It was incredibly anti-climatic. One of my classmates remarked, “I feel like we should all walk out together and close the door behind us. You know, like they do at the end of a season on sitcoms.” That comment summed the moment up nicely. Just like at the end of a season on a television show, there is that lingering disappointing realization that the story won’t continue to unfold for countless days.
My four years at Kwantlen Polytechnic University have been rocky. There were several times when I nearly dropped out because of financial difficulty. There were quite a few times when I skipped meals, and then I learned to visit the food bank. There was the time when I left my abusive boyfriend and began rebuilding my life by living in shelters, finding new social groups, new jobs and for a while, a “new” name to write under.
After that, I started collecting work — hoarding it, even. I felt like I could not turn down any offer of work because I did not want to ever see an empty bank account again. I remember that one scholarship specifically made the difference of me staying in college; I believe it was a miracle that it came when I was receiving tuition collection notices. After paying the bill off, the scholarship brought my bank account up to $4. I am adamant that one day I will pay that blessing forward by investing in other students.
Now, I am in a very different place. My work ethic and financial planning were never the problems (I was sometimes faulted for working too much). Anybody can wind up in abusive relationships; I met many other women that had been in similar positions and it is often the most unlikely women.
There was one who was married to a criminology professor. There were many with kids. There were older women and younger women and women of all nationalities, languages and ethnicities. The most common factor was that they were often the nurturing and compassionate types. I suppose those are qualities that dangerous and manipulative men target as traits of women who are easier to take advantage of. Some women return to their captors or find themselves in similar situations later on. The shelters had many repeat visitors. I will never be one of them. I will, however, speak out about violence against women for those who can’t speak for themselves.
The shelters weren’t perfect by any means. They were rife with corruption. That is a story, or maybe a book, for another time. But they provided the safety and encouragement I needed to rebuild my life.
And I have. The latter years of my university education have been filled with work, work, and more work. I have been published in a number of publications and won eight student awards. I learned how to build websites and created several for clients. I’ve been spending countless hours each week working for my university’s gang prevention research project as a research assistant and web editor. And, of course, the highlight of my schooling was my incredible experience interning at MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews in New York City.
I fell in love with the buzz of the network and the city. I was awestruck by the great teamwork, high spirits and extreme kindness I discovered at MSNBC. And in the city, I discovered that being there would place me in the vicinity of so many driven, intelligent and hardworking people that it wouldn’t matter what I was doing — I’d still be growing as a person.
That’s ultimately why I’ve decided that my next step is to move permanently to New York City.
It’s a big step, and it is riddled with unknowns.
For starters, I do not have a job lined up. I will be one of so many other New Yorkers trying to “make it.” And then there is the leap into a city where I know only a few people, have only a few friends.
Only in saying my goodbyes have I realized how many truly amazing and inspiring people I have in my life here in Vancouver, B.C. I will miss my best friend (shoutout to Amber Rainkie) the most: you have taught me so much about friendship. You really have no idea how much you have changed me for the better!
And I am frightened about sharing an apartment. Living with other people can be great, or terrible.
I am trying not to be scared too much about (a) moving thousands of miles away from a place and people that I’ve loved, (b) not having a job to go to, (c) trying to find new friends and become familiar with a new neighborhood, or (d) potentially failing and wishing I took one of the many job offers back in Vancouver.
I still collapsed yesterday after the goodbyes and a Skype conversation with the new roommates was too much.
I feel like I will be completely alone for the first time in a long time. What if I’m making the wrong decision? What if I’d be better off staying in Vancouver, collecting more work experience right off the bat, where I have the support system and a home and I won’t be investing my life savings into a guessing game?
These are the thoughts that are plaguing me this week as I prepare for my flight out on May 1. I’ve finished packing and all that’s left are more goodbyes and that gnawing doubt. I keep reconsidering delaying my move or not going at all.
On the upside, I’m making a list of awesome things I can do as a new grad who is only working part-time from home (I will retain my web editor position for the gang prevention project).
I can begin a new adventure! This adventure is potentially less risky than moving to a different country was in 2008.
I can start writing “just because” again.
I can now travel if I’m so inclined, and bus trips from New York City to other major destinations are very cheap!
I can take up Toastmasters again.
I can find a volunteer job, though I am already volunteering for Five Hole For Food. (Another shoutout!)
I can get involved in a local church.
I can visit all the museums and sights.
I can put all of those awesome home decorating ideas on Pinterest to the test.
Also, I can paint my room!
I can pick up fitness classes again.
I can do SO MUCH networking. I adore networking!
I can get to know the local media and hopefully add a few more bylines or broadcast experience to my resume.
I can read tons of books. I am a big reading nut.
I can take on new studies out of personal interest. Maybe a foreign language or a new skill. Or I’ve always wanted to study physics in-depth.
Why am I saying all of this to the whole world? I suppose I’m still looking for that finality in the end of my student life. It’s also in part because I know I’m putting words to what others are or will soon be feeling. It feels like an end but it must be just the beginning. It must be.
We’re all in this life together, so may I say to those of you who have been there: us grads are keen to hear your wisdom and success stories. We are ready to jump when asked and most of us are energetic and enthusiastic about the path of learning, hard work and discovery that lies ahead. To those who are in the same boat: hold on tight! There’s no telling where life will take you next, but be open to making changes or considering unexpected opportunities and your future will exceed your expectations. To those who have yet to see the final days of school: don’t live for the day when you have finished your last assignment and attended your last class. Live for today.
On that thought, today is a great day for me to take that walk in Garry Point Park that I’ve been wanting to take for several months. Until next time.