What Now?

I’m 26, going on 27. I don’t have a full-time job, I don’t have a university degree, I don’t own a house, I don’t have an RRSP, I don’t have any idea what my future holds. I do own a car (shout out to Vinnie the Versa), I have a long-term boyfriend, I have awesome parents who are more than happy to let me live with them. I have many skills I’ve learned from experiences I would not have had if I followed a different path.

I am lucky – I was never pressured to “know what I wanted to be when I grew up.” The flip side to that is I knew what I wanted to be by the time I was 8 years old without anyone telling me I had to know, and that dream never changed until I hit university. When I was 8 I broke my leg and had to spend a night in the hospital, where I decided I was going to be a pediatrician and help little kids feel just as safe and taken care of as I did. For the next ten or so years that was my plan, so you can imagine how inconvenient it was when that plan fizzled.

I have always done well in school, getting fairly good grades without putting much effort into it (not proud of that), but in my General Life Sciences course at McMaster University that was very different. Backtrack, I didn’t get in to Health Sciences so I enrolled in Life Sciences. In my one and a half year stint at Mac I nearly failed multiple courses, and am 100% positive that I “pity-passed” at least two. I had multiple stress breakdowns, stayed awake into the wee hours of the night trying to cram everything in that I couldn’t seem to learn, and cried more than I normally do.

In the first semester of my second year I decided against continuing with the program – I was not the academic, I was not the person who could learn in a class with 600 other students, I did not enjoy doing lab reports or writing exams in gymnasiums where you had to leave your student card on the corner of the desk because no one knew who you were. Turned out I wasn’t about that life, so I dropped out after that semester and went to Calgary to live with my sister for six months (and this is where I fell utterly and irrevocably in love with Western Canada, but that’s a different story).

Upon returning to Ontario, I enrolled in Niagara College’s Winery & Viticulture Technician program – a two and a half year program in which I learned to, you guessed it, make wine (and properly drink wine, thank you). I was very passionate about it and truly enjoyed it. I completed a co-op at a winery after which they asked me to remain on throughout the rest of my schooling, then I would be full-time once I was finished school. I had it made! After about two years I realized that the job I was doing wasn’t exactly the role for me – I still loved the winery and the work, but I needed something with more human interaction.

I transitioned into more of a customer service role, which I enjoyed and was very good at. I had multiple peers tell me I was going to “go far” in the industry, and I was even recognized with an award given to 30 individuals under 30 committed to providing excellent hospitality services. I often conducted tours and tastings with customers, and regularly those people would comment on how “passionate” I was about my work – that was true until it wasn’t. I grew weary of the wine industry and the amount of time and money poured into something that, to me, seemed so trivial. I told myself I needed to work in an industry in which I felt I could make a difference in the lives of others – how could I have gone from wanting to be a doctor to selling wine? (I’d like to clarify here, I am not saying that the wine industry is trivial, or that selling wine is a career worth any less – it simply did not provide me with the fulfillment one may seek in a job).

I was going to go back to school eventually, but in the meantime I would live out my dream of backpacking Europe. I quit my secure job that I (for the most part) enjoyed to travel Europe and “figure my life out”. As is painfully obvious, I did not figure my life out. In fact, traveling made my life even more difficult to navigate. Often when I would people watch I would see various elderly folk, sitting or walking alone, and my heart would ache. Did they lose their significant other? Did their children move away? Of course, it may have been their choice to be alone – but that’s not what my brain told me. I wanted to befriend them, I wanted to be someone with whom they could share a conversation or a laugh or a friendly silence. BOOM – figured out. I was going to be a nurse! No, a social worker! No, I was going to work in a psychiatric hospital! Either way, I would go back to school and start my life.

Okay, so that didn’t happen. It was a year and a half ago that I went to Europe and here I am. In that time I’ve opted to not apply for jobs that I could foresee a future in, as I didn’t want to get “stuck”. I’ve chosen minimum wage jobs over well-paying jobs because I wanted to be able to leave. I’ve taken contract work over secure work because I knew there was an end date. I chose to have the freedom to do more of what I wanted (i.e. the Asia trip that I’ve been planning but haven’t been able to do for various reasons). My life is now a constant battle between “not wanting to miss out on experiences” and “holy shit I’m 26 and I’m working at Starbucks.”

For the record, there are very few things I would change in my life. I have no regrets about leaving my “good” job because I wasn’t happy, and I’ve always been a big proponent of “find what makes you happy.” I don’t regret taking less than ideal jobs to give me the freedom to do what I wanted, because at each of these jobs I’ve learned something. I don’t regret spending money on experiences and not yet owning a house (okay, part of me is always sad about this, but only a little bit). I don’t regret being 26 and working at Starbucks.

I am well aware that to an impartial reader, this may seem like the story of a non-committal, lazy millennial. It isn’t. I give every job I have my all. I can’t wait to find a career in to which I can pour my heart and soul – I truly look forward to that day. I know that I am going to find what it is that I am supposed to be doing, and am going to have no regrets about the road that lead me there.

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