A close friend of mine advised me not to make any big life decisions when you have experienced a major upheaval… but this is a decision I’ve been working on for years.
Here’s a little background.
As a child – teenager, I always wanted to be a veterinarian, so much so that i determinedly applied repeatedly to a local animal hospital until they hired me on as an assistant at minimum wage, from the time I was 16 until I was 19. I can’t believe it was only 3 years, because it seems like such a huge and formative part of my life.
Thing is, gaining entrance to doctor of veterinary medicine programs is extremely competitive, and while I was a smart kid, I wasn’t the smartest kid. I was on the honour role until I became seriously depressed (for a laundry list of reasons) and my grades dropped enough to disqualify me from the bachelor of science program at Guelph University. I was accepted to the agriculture program, but by the time I received that news, I just didn’t have the willpower to go. I promised myself then that I would go to university later in life, when I knew what I wanted to do.
I was so young then, that I didn’t know that depression can make you think you don’t want the things you used to want, and I have wondered in the years since, what would have happened if I had just gone and taken the agriculture program? How would my life been different?
I don’t dwell on that, I just reminisce on that particular fork in the road.
What I did instead was go to college and take nursing. This was a program that would get me into the work force quickly, (the RN program was just two years back in 1998), but I found my depression followed me into nursing, and that I am not really cut out for primary care. I felt like I couldn’t continue in that, and so I just decided to enter the workforce.
From there, I moved to Toronto, quickly attained a management position in one non-profit, then after two years switched to finance in the healthcare field. I took night school courses and got promotions.
But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like living in Toronto, and was thinking about leaving for a smaller tourist town when I met Sweetie. Well, I decided to give that a shot, and I’m so glad I did.
Together, Sweetie and I moved across the country to Ucluelet / Tofino, where we would spend the next ten years, where I ended up in a hospital job I loved, and where I started my psychic business. We lived a challenging and charmed life for years, yet it always had a sense of impermanence.
For two years before we were evicted by the new property owners of our rental so they could “move in family” and of course rent it out for more than double what we had paid, I had been ruminating on the question of what I should do – and this is when I seriously began to consider my options for a university degree.
Student debt was always something I have wanted to avoid, so attending a full-time program is not an option. I am also mindful of how burnt out I felt attending school full time, and I would really prefer to take courses as I can fit them into my schedule and build to a degree.
So that limits my options substantially, but there are a few great programs that meet these parameters. Quite a lot, actually. All of which were expensive, and I couldn’t justify putting money into school when the housing situation on the West Coast seemed so precarious (and it was!)
All that brings me to now – we are settled into our little Victoria condo, in a diverse neighbourhood (that we LOVE) and after all the stress and uncertainty, I am so so SO grateful to live here. At this point, I would not move back to Tofino if we had the option, as much as I miss it, it feels so good to be here.
Almost involuntarily, I found myself focussing on the university question. Time to make a decision! But how?
I was pointed down a rabbit hole when someone suggested massage therapists are in high demand in Victoria, and can earn 100k / year. “That doesn’t sound right,” I thought… but I had to investigate. I know six massage therapists, off the top of my head, and none of them are living like they earn that kind of money. Most are just trying to pay the bills, a few like to travel, and all have other jobs supplementing their income. Not what I had in mind.
Yet the colleges offering these programs would loudly say massage therapists can make this kind of money…. and maybe it’s my finance background, or my aries tenacity, but I just needed to see the proof.
This search led me to a great little corner of the statistics canada website! I’d been all over statistics canada before, looking for ideas on what career path to pursue, but had not landed on this particular page… a page listing the top 100 growing fields in BC. You could click on each job title and see the median, low and high end reported incomes for each job title, along with projected job posting numbers, and educational requirements.
Sure enough, massage therapist was among the top 100 – and I clicked on it! Ha ha, I was right! Massage therapists in canada, on average, make nowhere near what the programs want you to think, in fact, they make significantly less than I do in my current job. So that’s a no. I couldn’t really see myself working in a spa, anyway.
What I then did was click on every job title that intrigued me, even the ones I knew were impractical to pursue, and wrote down the key information in my little purse notebook (a handheld palm-size notebook with a picture of a beaver and the words “dam it”). I made a little chart of educational requirements, (2 year, 4 yr degree, Masters or doctorate) the projected job growth statistics, and the median salary.
I then made notes on the lifestyle and hours of the job. Did it require on call hours or shift work? If so, I eliminated them. Did they offer Monday – Friday, 9-5 hours with holidays off? If so I highlighted them.
Finally, I circled the job titles with educational requirements I could achieve through part-time study. This narrowed my list down to to three titles: healthcare management, which I have already been considering for years but I know is a thankless and stressful job, healthcare policy which is provincial government employment, and I just don’t have much information on what that job is actually like day to day, and… human resources. Huh!
I stopped at human resources. Here is a career path I have never considered. I thought about it. It actually makes a lot of sense for me.
The best part is a degree in human resources would still keep the other two career paths of provincial government employment and healthcare management open to me, but it would also open MANY more doors, as a degree in HR is widely applicable.
My favourite part of this plan is that there are programs that offer a 1 year certificate, a 2 year diploma, and a 4 year degree. I have found job listings that require only the certificate or the diploma, which do pay me more than my current position, so I could start reaping the rewards of continuing education along the way.
It’s not all about the money, of course, it’s about the stability and the choices making a higher income will allow; and I want to be sure that if I invest money into an education that I will make that money back in a reasonable time frame. I have about 25 years of working life ahead of me, and it will take a chunk of that time to earn a degree on a part-time basis, so it helps to be in a field where I can see some benefits earlier on. I also need to make sure that sinking money into an education will work out financially in the years I would have in the field.
The problem nagging me in Tofino was the math that just didn’t work for us long term. We were managing to get through, year by year, but it always felt like we were surviving, and our survival was a bit uncertain and precarious. I want a more solid plan for our life, and I want to make good on that promise I made to myself at 19 when I decided after completing my first year in nursing that I would not return for the second year – that I would pursue a degree when I knew what it was that I WANTED to do.
And I finally do! I’m so happy to have finally made a decision – and I know I’ll do well in that field.
My next step is to engage in a prior learning assessment, which will transfer my relevant college credits (from nursing and night school) and assess the skills I have acquired in the job market, through my early management experience, my finance job, and my hospital supply chain job. I am hoping to start with a year’s worth of credits, but we’ll see.
For now, I have to deal with a pipe that burst behind our shower and flooded the communal bathroom below… this is my first major issue as a new homeowner and it’s quite a stressful experience. We are going to have to rip out our whole shower to dry the wet wall behind it. This is just one of life’s hiccups and we will figure it out. Once we do, I’ll get the ball rolling on education.
This is the stuff of life my friends. Sometimes spirituality is set aside, temporarily, so we can engage fully in the practical matters of our home and community. Nothing wrong with that.
I can’t help but wonder if this burst pipe is a gift?
Did I tell you that I found out the previous owner of our condo has the same kind of brain tumour my mother had? There is a connection there I am tempted to make, as I’m sure my mother and grandparents were as involved as they could be from heaven in helping us find an affordable condo in the high-demand Victoria market. The one thing I wasn’t so keen on is this condo has a shower, not a bath. If it all has to get ripped out anyway, maybe I can have a bath tub installed while they’re at it. I would not be putting money into renovating the bathroom if this hadn’t happened, but since it has, maybe it’s just a tweak to fully feather our new nest.
We will have to see how things work out. Wish me luck!