The best-laid plans

A few years ago, I remember going to speak at a school and the teacher telling me her students were stressed out. They were in grade 10 and many of them were already dealing with the pressure of what to do and where to go next: what university to apply to (university, not college. Never college), what program to study, their career path. Their teacher told me the pressure they were feeling was driven by both external and internal forces.

I’m grateful for parents who were always supportive of my decision to pursue a job in journalism–which is kind of a big deal when you consider I was raised by two hard-working immigrant parents. They were both willing to look beyond the popular options of accountant, doctor and lawyer to see there was a storyteller in me. However, that didn’t stop me from applying unnecessary pressure on myself to perform. I had my one, three, five and ten year plans all worked out…

…but those plans never seem to take into account one oft-overlooked fact: life happens. My plan didn’t factor in multiple moves across the country or layoffs or delays–the unforeseen things that *seemed* to slow me down. Eventually, I learned I didn’t have to have it all figured out–no one does. Anyone who says they do have it all figured out is lying to you (and themselves, for that matter).

My faith also helps me cope with the ups and downs, valleys and peaks. Knowing God’s plans for me are–and have always been–good means I don’t have to worry (Jer. 29:11). The delays and disappointments become opportunities to grow and gain perspective. It’s what I tell students now when we talk about life after school: it’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m rejecting perfectionism for processing, because this process I’m going through is a beautiful thing, and choosing faith over fear so I don’t succumb to the pressure of thinking I need to have every step all figured out.

More than just a Masters.

I had absolutely no interest in pursuing my Master’s degree in 2006 when I graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber. I just wanted to work.

I’d already been volunteering at Rogers Television in Mississauga: first behind the scenes as a floor director, then on camera as a reporter (and then as an anchor and talk show host). I was hungry to get into news and a master’s degree seemed, at the time, like a waste of time. It would take another 10 years before the timing finally felt right. It was just a question of what to study.

A trusted mentor (one of my former news directors) told me not to bother pursuing a master’s of Journalism. “What’s for?!” she asked, pointing out I’d already spent over 10 years in the industry. She was right: there was no point…and my heart was telling me no. I looked at programs focusing on women’s issues and political science, but none of them really struck a chord–not because these weren’t worthy or noble areas of study, but because my heart was pulling me in another direction.

I’ve always enjoyed volunteering: at my local church growing up, at Rogers Television and with Junior Achievement in both Calgary and Vancouver. There’s nothing more rewarding than giving back to the community. I knew I wanted my masters to intersect with my passion…a passion that recently underwent a shift by way of my faith. 2017 was a transformational year, leading me deeper into my walk with God. Suddenly, this wasn’t about volunteering, but about serving: giving of myself to my church and community in response to the awesome things God was doing in my life.

That year, I decided to send a ‘thank you’ note to someone who’d helped me very early on in my career. While looking up his mailing address, I came across Trinity Western University and decided to check them out. That’s how I found their Masters of leadership program. Immediately, I knew it was the one: I knew it then, and on my first day of classes back in January 2018…and even now as I’m midway through course #4.

There is something about studying Transformational Servant Leadership–leading like Jesus–and applying those timeless principles to your work life. The journey, so far, has been character building and deeply challenging, forcing me to examine my actions and decisions through the lense of my faith. To boil this down: am I doing unto others as I would have them do unto me (Matt. 7:12 NIV)? The honest answer is no. I know I can do better.

And this is what my leadership journey is all about: doing better. My focus is on nonprofits (more about that project in a future post) and it intersects with journalism. My leadership studies are preparing me for this next phase in the journey. Once again, the intersection of life, work and faith.