Views from the end

Today is my last day of school. Today, I join the ranks of countless other students around the country and the world in finishing up their education. Today, like so many other students, I’ll be able to say that phrase every student looks forward to from the minute they step foot in a classroom: School’s out FOREVER.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had the chance to say that phrase. But, to be fair, the last time I had that opportunity, I didn’t know that I could say that. The last time I graduated wasn’t so much a celebration of the end, but more of a rage quit… that somehow ended with me getting a degree.

When I left university back in 2013, it wasn’t because I had completed the necessary credits to graduate, but rather because I had had enough. Enough of school, enough of life, enough of something that meant nothing to me.

I’ve always been the kind of person who knows what they’re doing and where they’re going. Nothing frustrates me more than doing something without knowing why I’m doing it or what end I’m achieving. That’s one of the main reasons why I left university: I didn’t see the point of doing it anymore.

There are a few other reasons why I left, but to tell you all of them would mean that we’d be here for the next few months or possibly even years. Needless to say, I left university in need of some serious professional help. And so, I took the next year off to heal and figure my life out.

After a year or so, I had stabilized and decided it was time to re-join the world. Miraculously, when I decided to make my return, my university told me that I actually had enough credits to graduate. So, I opted to move on.

I spent a few months applying to every random job I could find and, although I had a few interviews, my job search ultimately led nowhere.

In between applications, I decided to look into going back to school. I figured, at worst, it could be another failed experiment. At best, it could be the start of something new. Looking back, I don’t think I realised just how much this decision would change my life.

So, why journalism? Unlike many j-school grads, I did not dream of being on TV or the radio for as long as I could remember. I didn’t spend every waking hour writing down my every thought in some blog that I peddled to the masses. Instead, I decided to pursue journalism because of a very simple conversation. Some time during my dark period, I signed up for this site that paired young professionals with industry leaders. You pick a mentor, answer a few questions about why you want to meet with them and wait to see if they respond back. I ended up going for coffee with a VP from the Toronto International Film Festival. During this conversation, I told her my life story. She listened, patiently, to the entire rambling tale. When I was done, she looked at me and said that writing seemed to be the common thread in my life and, because of that, maybe I should look into journalism.

It’s very possible that she said this in order to say something, in place of nothing. Either way, it goes to show that you should always be mindful of what you say to others because you never know how seriously they will take the words that come out of your mouth.

Fast forward to a few months later, when, after several frustrating hours of fruitless job applications, I decided to take a break and look at schools. I didn’t really have a plan in mind aside from going back, so I decided to take the VP’s advice and look into journalism programs.

After three business days and countless emails sent back and forth between me and admissions officers, I ended up getting accepted to a few programs. I chose the one that I felt most comfortable with and officially enrolled.

This was on August 25, 2014. School started on September 2. Talk about cutting it close.

From the moment I stepped into the school halls, I felt way out of my comfort zone. Turns out, that feeling would be my natural state for the rest of my life.

One of the first memories I have of j-school was news reporting class. My instructor was a former crime reporter for the city’s populist right-leaning paper and tough as hell. He wasn’t afraid to tell you just how bad your writing was and we knew that from day one. Our first assignment was to come up with a lede for an article. If I remember correctly, it was some unremarkable story about a new commissioner for something. I remember writing something down, then hesitating because it sounded so stupid in my head. Then, I recanted. I told myself, if I’m going to do this, I might as well dive headfirst into the deep end. Turns out, my instructor — the one that I thought would never be impressed by anything — actually liked my lede. You know, the one that sounded stupid in my head.

That was my first lesson from j-school: just do it.

Over the next two years, I’d learn more than I learned in five years at university.

Just some of the lessons I’ve learned:

If it scares the living shit out of you, do it.

Always say yes, even if you don’t know all the repercussions of what you’re agreeing to.

It’s better to apologize than to ask permission.

Always go for the moonshots. Sometimes, you’ll fail. Other times, you end up on a paid trip to Los Angeles, mingling with industry leaders or in a scrum with the future Prime Minister.

Everything seems impossible at 8 a.m., but you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish between then and noon.

Always take time zones into account.

It’s Ukraine, not THE Ukraine. And news conference, not press conference.

Always hit record. And make sure you have a memory card in your camera.

Sleep is both overrated and absolutely essential.

If you think you’ve hit your limit, keep going.

But, by far, the biggest and most important lesson that I’ve learned in the past two years is this: you can always start again.

I learned this lesson early on. It’s a post-graduate program, so everyone has at least one degree under their belts. We came from all over the world with a wide range of specializations. But the one thing that we had in common is that we were all starting over. Almost all of us had ventured out into the real world, tried our hand at becoming real adults, and ended up coming back to school, mostly because there were no jobs to be had.

And look at us now. Many of us are working in the industry before we officially graduate. A few have summer contracts lined up. Others are still finalizing their post-graduation plans, but I’m confident we’ll all figure it out.

It’s easy to look back and see just how far we’ve come. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. Truth be told, I kind of enjoyed this trip down memory lane. But, it’s much harder to predict what comes next. And while I can’t tell you the future, I can tell you this: no matter what happens, you’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine. After all, you can always start again.

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