So many people end up in a career that their parents pursued, or in a career that somehow influenced them deeply as a child. Lately, I have been doing interviews for summer camp and spoke with a girl who has deeply wanted to be a physiotherapist since the time she was 10 due to a condition that she was born with. She watched the physiotherapists help her, and she knew she wanted to be one of them some day, helping other people with similar conditions.
Similarly, we see circles and cycles of repetition within all of us in strange and unique ways.
It can be something exceedingly broad across global generations, like clothing or furniture fads from 40 years previous suddenly becoming new again. It can also be found in small idiosyncratic consistencies like preparing a food item the same way your mother does, just because you saw it that way as a child and absorbed that as the only way.
We all return to something we know. Sometimes when we least expect it, and many times we don’t even consciously realize that we have. Sometimes it may be because we feel safe, and other times perhaps we are desperate to use our experiences for the betterment of others.
The latter is where I find myself right now.
I grew up with my mother on social assistance. We had barely any money to survive on, and I remember it well, though I admit that I lose sight of it sometimes. Right now, my house is filled with food, and there were many times as a child that those cupboards were bare. On a day to day basis, I don’t usually think about it, but when I am at the grocery store those tendencies circle around in my mind. I see a great sale on some pantry staple and I feel the need to buy as much as possible because over time, it will save a lot of money. What if we don’t have any money next month? At least we’d have food.
As a child, I was very familiar with the local food bank. The food bank filled my home with more food than I can ever imagine, and I will forever be grateful to them. I also remember the feeling of my mom and I walking into the social assistance office to pick up an emergency food cheque of $20. We took that money and were able to go to the grocery store and have enough food to last until the next assistance check came through.
One time my mom even went so far as to budget literally $1 for fuel in the car. My mind circles back to that moment almost every time I ever put fuel in my vehicle. I remember the shame and embarrassment I felt, and for the first time truly realizing that we were poor.
At 30 years old, I have now seen my life come around in a circle that I never saw coming.
I am returning to the world I knew as a child, but this time I will be on the other side of the counter.
Starting in just a few weeks, I am beginning a new career, working for the Provincial Government in the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.
I get to be the person who hands out those emergency food cheques, and know first hand the kind of good it can do. I know that I am going to encounter bad situations and poor temperaments. I know that there are going to be many people with addictions and mental health struggles. Some people love to point at those things and use it as evidence that it’s a wasted effort.
From a personal perspective, when you have literally been someone sitting in the same waiting room as all those other people, I can safely tell you that nobody is better than anyone else. We may have different capabilities, temperaments, or mental wellbeing, but at the end of the day we are all humans who desire the same fundamental basics like clothing and shelter.
This is the beginning of a new career for me, but it’s not really a new life. I’m just going to be returning to a life I have already lived. This time, I am coming back in with very different skills and understandings. I hope that I am able to take my positive, inclusive, and eager personality combined with my own lived experiences and begin to make a difference in the lives of the people around me (however small my part may be).