After a year filled with self-doubt and disappointment, I decided to pack a large hockey bag full of clothing and bug spray and fly across the country for a summer job. I didn’t know it at the time, but that job would change both me and my perspective on life in ways that I did not think were possible. I had the incredible opportunity to work in a welcoming, inspiring, and beautiful community in northern Alberta for four months, where I learned a lot, not only about a new culture and place, but also about myself. I was scared out of my mind to leave all of my friends and family and go to an unfamiliar province, but my decision to take this job has been one of the best I have ever made. This summer allowed me to reflect, grow, and gain perspective and insight into new possibilities. I know the experience will continue to have a positive impact on my life. At the end of every week this summer, I would open a document and write down the most important thing I learned. I ended up with a compilation of thoughts, lessons, and realizations that I had acquired throughout the summer. This is that document.
Week 1: Being judgemental says more about you than the person you are judging. There is so much more going on than what people show upfront and you need to accept these deeper things with open arms.
Week 2: Embrace being so scared you could projectile vomit. I entered a province and community knowing absolutely nobody and, strangely, I felt safer than ever.
Week 3: It’s okay if things don’t go as planned. I locked my co-worker and I out of our house at 10:30 pm this week and it took us an hour and another person to get a spare key. I was so frustrated with myself, but the situation was out of my control, so I’m learning to laugh at it.
Week 4: Stick up for yourself and communicate how and what you feel clearly. I used to believe that it was important to be agreeable, but I see now the importance of doing and saying what you think is right.
Week 5: The real and meaningful successes of teaching and mentoring won’t necessarily happen right away. Don’t feel like you’re failing if you don’t see immediate results and don’t expect to see results or get positive feedback. Trust that you are doing a good job.
Week 6: You won’t understand how strong you are until you’re put in a situation where your strength is tested. You are far more capable than you think.
Week 7: Relaxing is key.
Week 8: Your eye won’t stop twitching for 11 days if you don’t get more sleep and don’t stop drinking so many chai lattes.
Week 9: Stand up for yourself and do not be afraid to speak your truth.
Week 10: You are so lucky.
Week 11: Everything works out the way it’s supposed to. There is no point in being stressed.
Week 12: Getting to know people is one of life’s biggest gifts. You can learn something important from everyone you meet— about yourself, about them, about how you can improve or change your outlook. Never miss an opportunity to learn and grow through others.
Week 13: Getting food poisoning and being at the West Edmonton Mall is one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a 20 year old thus far. Imagine what it’s like finding bathrooms in such a maze. You have to lie and say you were on the hunt to find your dad some sandals, but really run away due to sickness. Essentially, you could get sick somehow, and who knows if it could be passed on? (Sorry.)
Week 14: You will never be too old to miss your mom. Even though you love running from home and exploring, home will always be your favourite place.
Week 15: Sometimes, you just need to do what is best for yourself.
My 2nd year of university was the most difficult year I have had thus far. It was filled with more self-doubt and anxiety than I was used to, but these feelings, although I looked upon them as only negative, also opened new doors and opportunities for me that I would not have experienced otherwise. I felt strongly that I needed to prove to myself that I could overcome those thoughts, and without doing something proactive, I would not be able to feel better. When I doubt myself, the best way to shut those feelings down is to go out and prove that I have no reason to feel that way. Travel the world, work a job that intimidates you and throws you out of your comfort zone and makes you go a little mad, and do it because you want to grow and learn and experience new things— but most of all, do it for yourself because enriching experiences will only serve you well and make it easier for you to be your own cheerleader.