I’ve done school on and off my whole life, but I never really found anything I enjoyed. I did Travel and Tourism; hated it. I did Business Administration; hated it, that was horrible. I did Public Relations; hated it. Then I became a hairdresser, and I liked that. It was still creative, and having that skill in a trade, you can literally go anywhere with that.
I ended up working at the hospital because of my hairdressing certificate.
I was working as a hairdresser with breast cancer patients. I did a lot of work with wigs. It was a job I really enjoyed, but eventually, I got compassion fatigue. I don’t know if its an actual term, but it’s something I heard a lot in health care. To me, it meant knowing I was no longer the right person anymore to help these people – people often going through the hardest experiences of their lives – because I was so burnt out.
I’m thankful that I’m now in a position where I can focus solely on school, and I’ve found a program I actually really like.
I was briefly at University of Waterloo and I was really enjoying my studies there, but at the time I just couldn’t afford it. I was pretty upset when that didn’t work out. It’s hard to make those decisions, choosing not to do something even when you really want to because you know it will be better for you in the long run. Looking back now, I realise I didn’t really have a focused plan either.
I think that if I had really wanted to continue school, I would have done that. I would have done anything possible to stay in school. I would have been poor. I would have worked 500 jobs. But I didn’t. Sometimes that’s how you know it wasn’t really the right thing for you.
Back then I already thought of myself as an older student at 25. Now I’m 35, but I’m at peace knowing that this time I picked the right thing.
I’m coming into the Creative Writing & Publishing program with intention. Maybe that intention isn’t to get a manuscript written, but learning the skills I need to succeed in this field is just as important. I don’t know specifically where I’m going with it, but I like this program’s unique marriage of both creative writing and publishing. That overlap of skills is the kind of thing that really helps you out there.
University teaches you how to learn and think critically, but once you get that degree, you may get a job or you may not. A trade teaches you how to do something. In ten years, I may not be the most up-to-date on hairstyles, but I can always learn, I can always do a basic haircut. I will always have those skills to fall back on.
You never know what’s going to take you where. Hairdressing has really helped me a lot. It’s helped get me to where I am today.
Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes you just realise that you just don’t want to do what you’re doing anymore. But if you have a goal, no matter what age you are, if you can, just try. Especially if you have the opportunity and the only thing to overcome is yourself.
--Tammy Storey, Honours Bachelor of Creative Writing & Publishing
(Interviewed and written by Eugénie Szwalek; photos provided by the interviewee)