How my Grandads journey to Canada, and stories of loved ones in the past, serve as a reminder to feel less afraid of the post-university unknowns.

I think it’s fair to say that thinking about what comes next after university is daunting for most of us (if not all). Wondering about future jobs, income, and opportunities that we hope will provide us with a successful life can become a major stressor when we don’t know whether these goals will actually be achieved. I can’t even count how many nights throughout quarantine I have laid awake worrying about whether I will be happy with how my future turns out, especially since at the moment there is no way of knowing. As an avid overthinker, it feels fair to argue that some of my worries are linked to that, especially since I am only just finishing first year. But the more I hear about others fearing their futures, the more obvious it seems that thinking about the unknown is troubling for many of us. So, knowing others have gone through this at one point or another, it has become clear how reassuring and educational past stories can be. Learning how others have been able to turn their fears into fuel, and the ease of knowing that we can do the same, allows us to feel optimistic about the future. 

When my Grandad was in his early 20’s, around the same age as most of us in university right now, he began to kickstart his future. Knowing that opportunities were limited where he grew up in Charleville, Ireland, a small town outside of Cork, he decided that the best chance he would have of the life he pictured for himself could only be achieved elsewhere. So, he left Ireland to venture out on his own. With not a lot of money, he boarded a ship that would take him to Montreal, Canada. My Grandad had expectations for himself, as many of us do, that pushed him to take risks to fulfill them. He had no interviews lined up, no job waiting for him once he arrived, but had a goal of building a career in advertising. As soon as the boat docked, he began knocking on every ad agency’s door in downtown Montreal looking for that one company that would realize his potential. Unfortunately, with his lack of experience and different writing style based on his Irish background, his hopes to fulfill his goal were not achieved right away. It took years of moving through companies in journalism, PR, and eventually a move to Winnipeg until he began working in advertising. But because of his determination, he rose to become a top executive at J. Walter Thompson Advertising and, eventually, President of their European division. The risk he took in the beginning by boarding that ship and leaving his family, friends, and my Nana behind was huge, but worth it once he achieved his expectations. 

Using this story from the past, here is what feels most significant to remember for our own futures:

First, the importance of being resilient. Everything is more competitive nowadays, with companies’ countless expectations required of applicants to find the ones they feel are best suited for the job. But even in the past, as is evident today, getting to the end goal doesn’t happen right away. Being able to face the difficulties of being turned down, no matter how many times it happens, and not dwell is necessary for all of us to learn. By being resilient through these moments, it is almost guaranteed that what you set your mind to can be achieved if you care about it deeply enough. At some point, the end goal will be possible if the drive to get there is not lost. 

Second, the importance of creating our own opportunities. I sometimes get carried away with the idea that if something is meant to happen for me, it will on its own. But more often than not, this isn’t how it works. Relying on things to be handed to us limits our ability to reach our goals because it leaves our future up to chance instead of being in our control. Whether that means moving halfway across the world to pursue a career, or doing something a little closer to home, the idea of creating opportunities for our own future is a really important skill to carry over from stories of the past.

Third, and most important is remembering that there is no point in fearing something that can’t be predicted right now. Learning to push down the fear takes time, especially since it is built up from outside pressures, including expectations and our overall desire for a future that makes us proud. But, by remembering how much time we have before we start navigating careers, and future opportunities, it becomes easier to feel more hopeful than stressed thinking about what will happen later on when our minds start racing. As well, something else that can be learned is to instead turn our fear into a reminder of how driven we are in creating a successful future for ourselves. Knowing this will help us avoid getting caught up or stuck in our worry because it is a sign of how hopeful and passionate we are about reaching our goals.

The past is an essential tool for looking at the future. It’s stories close to home, like my Grandads and those of the critical figures in your own life that allow us to feel optimistic about the future, and more in control of what will come after university. It’s inevitable to face challenges along the way, but it’s calming to know that many people before us have held this same struggle and were able to overcome it. Especially now, these fears play on our minds because we have so much time to think about them and feel limited in being able to start taking steps towards our goals. Nevertheless, by pushing these fears down, thinking about the future will hopefully no longer be full of worry. Instead, let it be filled with more excitement with the knowledge that the expectations we set for ourselves can be reached.

 Inspired by the life and legacy of Jack Cronin


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