I still don’t know what I was waiting for

Two years ago, I was on the verge of losing my second job in four months. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had that gut feeling something wasn’t right. I’d been having sleepless nights for weeks and woke up with crippling anxiety every morning, the voice inside my head saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I’d have to psych myself to get out of bed to go to work and suppress any thoughts I had about calling in sick. I didn’t want to be the person who couldn’t come in to work because of an anxiety attack.

When I was let go from my job the morning of May 1st, a sense of relief immediately washed over me instead of panic. I didn’t have to do it anymore. I didn’t have to spend my work days counting down every minute I was closer to going home for the day. I didn’t have to spend my entire Sunday dreading the sound of my alarm going off the next morning for the start of another week I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through.

Don’t get me wrong, losing a job sucks. It’s terrifying because you need a job to pay your rent, bills, feed yourself, and all the other basic necessities of life, especially when you’re a 30-year old woman who lives on her own. I still had an EI claim open, so luckily I was able to go back on it while I did some job searching, but that quickly turned into some soul searching instead.

You know the rest, I’m sure, but anyone who’s known me for any extended period of time – dating back to high school – knows that I’ve always wanted to go into journalism. I started my writing career at 13 years old, writing poems in old teacher’s planning books my mom would bring home. I had been keeping a diary since I was nine years old, and wrote in it every day (I still have them in storage). In high school I excelled in all of my English courses, loved writing essays and spent a lot of time writing fiction in my spare time. I continued writing fiction until my mid-20s.  In grade 11, I knew I wanted to be a journalist, and briefly job-shadowed at the local newspaper. Grade 12 I was in the journalism course, which was basically putting the yearbook together, but I still enjoyed it. Later on, I started blogging more frequently, and eventully started writing for Canucks Hockey Blog.

I gave that dream up in my early 20s, quit university and worked full-time in a Walmart photolab. I did that until I had enough of working a low-paying customer service job and went and got my legal administrative assistant diploma.

At the age of 23 at the end of summer 2007, I got my first job as a legal assistant, even before I was done the program. It was exciting to me because it was my first ‘real’ job and the idea of working in a law firm was always glamorous to me.  My work-place quickly started feeling like a second home, my co-workers were like family and I stopped regretting not going back to university for journalism.

Fast-forward to 2014-with a move from one city to another and several jobs in between- when the opportunity finally arose to pursue that dream.

It wasn’t as if the lightbulb finally went off in my head when I decided to go back to school; over the course of a couple of years, I’d been longing to do it.  At the time I was in my late 20s, had a stable job and decent income, was paying off consolidated debt and student loans I accumulated in my earlier 20s. The timing didn’t seem particularly right, especially with some debt I still had a couple of years left of paying off. I also made the excuse that I was ‘too old’ to go back to school at 28 or 29, so I kept trying to make the best out of a career I wasn’t that passionate about.

By May of 2014, I had been 30 for just over two months. I’d lost two jobs since the beginning of January and any desire to stay in that field had been stripped of me.  The last job being the final straw, so to speak. I was unemployed, and my consolidated credit would be fully paid off by July.  I would’ve been a fool if I didn’t seize the opportunity and apply for the journalism program, which would start up again in September.

So here we are, 20 months after starting the program.  There’s no way I could express how much gratitude I have towards the Langara journalism program, my instructors and classmates. When I look back on things I wrote when I first started to where I am now, it’s a complete 180.  I knew it would be one of the most grueling things I’d ever have to do, but at 30 years old, I wasn’t fucking around anymore.  Wanting something and following through with it aren’t always correlated, but when you’re determined enough and want something, it is- and it was.

Three weeks ago, exactly today, I completed my internship – the program’s requirement to graduate – and I start my first job in the industry on Monday. I’m so incredibly lucky that I got a job so soon after finishing the program, especially when I don’t technically graduate until June.  I guess when I have that piece of paper telling me I have a diploma in journalism, that’s when it’s real.

It still hasn’t hit me that I’m officially stepping into a new career and that this dream I’ve had since I was a kid is becoming a reality. The last two years of my life have been the biggest roller-coaster, because even though the decision to go back to school was a no-brainer, I could’ve easily kept looking for work in the industry I was working in because it was familiar and comfortable. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I made sacrifices by stepping back and learned a lot by doing so.

I’ve had support from so many people – family, my boyfriend, friends and classmates – while I pursue this. I don’t think I would have been have as successful without the people who matter most to me and their support.

Over the last two years, I’ve worked no more than five months (including last summer when I worked full-time from May-end of August) and have lived primarily off student loans.  It’s been easier since my boyfriend moved in with me last November, because he’s also stepped up in big ways when I couldn’t. The idea of having a job again, in my preferred industry, is so incredibly thrilling.  I don’t even know if that’s the right word, but what I do know is that I’m not going to take it for granted. I know that I’m excited to finally be a part of this, I know that it’s not going to be easy, and I know that I still have so much learning and growing to do.

But I can’t wait.

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Author: Jocelyn Aspa

early 30-something. journalist. sports fan. puns. cats. mental health advocate. not taking myself seriously (most of the time)

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