Twelve years led to this graduation
By Craig Allan, Business Manager
People in my generation need higher education if they want a chance at a halfway decent life.
In June 2009, I graduated from high school. As I sat in the audience of the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, with my diploma in hand while watching all the other kids get their diplomas, there was only one thing on my mind: it’s all downhill from here.
School was never easy for me; I could never get high marks, I was in essentials math classes, and no matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to get just C’s. When I sat there on graduation day, seeing all my peers (many with gold tassels and different sashes indicating excellence around their necks) I felt defeated. I thought, “No one will ever want me. I am doomed to be destitute on the street.”
I went to Douglas College in the fall of 2009, mostly because I didn’t want to get a job. I took History classes because I was always good at that and after my first few classes I was averaging A’s and B’s. But even then, I could not see any work value I had to offer the world.
By 2011, I had completed all the classes I was interested in taking. I got a job, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with work, so I left school. By 2015, I was doing great. I was in a job I liked, working at Target Canada, and a job I didn’t like. I was about to quit that job (to work at Target more frequently) when the news came down that all Target Canada stores were closing. Now, not only did I still feel like I didn’t belong, but even the places that wanted me were getting shut down.
With no plan for the future, I went back to Douglas informed that I could get a certificate if I took a few classes. I figured I had nothing better to do, so I applied. I got that certificate in June of 2016, which also came with a ceremony. Despite the many years removed, my feelings of not being marketable or desirable for a job hung strong.
I thought since I was so undesirable I should just work and maybe something good will happen to me. After all, my parents never really went to post-secondary and they managed to find well-paying jobs. If they could do it, so could I. I was blind to the fact that the world my parents grew up in no longer existed. People in my generation need higher education if they want a chance at a halfway decent life.
In 2019, I decided to be proactive. Even if I didn’t have an idea of what occupation I wanted, I decided I should still get a degree anyway—working two jobs, six days a week, and not even making enough money to cover half the average rent in the lower mainland was not sustainable. I took one class in the summer with a plan to save up enough to attend classes on a more full-time basis in 2020. January 2020 comes around, and I officially went back to school. I planned to get my first 60 credits at Douglas and then go to Simon Fraser University in the hopes of graduating with an English-History double major degree. My plan slowed a bit by the coronavirus pandemic, but so far, the plan is working even better than I expected.
Unlike before, where I just kept my head down and did the work, I decided this time I would put myself out there. I joined the school’s paper and met great people who showed me that I do have value and I have something to offer the world. I went to conferences, staff parties, and for the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere, which gave me more confidence and helped me get through the difficult classes. And hey, now because of my new job, for the first time I have a level of financial security of knowing that I will be making a certain amount of money every month!
In June 2021, I will receive a diploma in General Studies (if I passed a challenging Statistics class—fingers crossed). This time, the ceremony will be different. Replacing the in-person ceremony (due to the pandemic) will be a box mailed to me with my diploma inside. Replacing the in-person ceremony will be a sunny disposition instead of the feelings of uselessness and dread that I have suffered through for the last 12 years; I now see my future with more joy and promise. I don’t know what the future will hold for me, but what I do know is that my outlook is bright; my potential realized. I go forward with confidence and enthusiasm about the path that lies ahead.