Post-Convocation Life: Blessings, Challenges, and Turning Points

A Year in the Books
Man, I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since convocation already. I remember back when all of us could only think about that next exam, finishing that dreadful group assignment, or deciding where we’d grab a snack before class started.

But now, here we all are. All suited-up and graduated, all hungry for success, aspiring for greatness, and excited for the prosperous futures that await us. I remember being so excited for this moment. At the time, it was like: Man, this is it. It’s finally here. Yet, despite the great anticipation I had to fly away from the nest of university, I was not prepared for what was to come. After 1 year, I would’ve hoped to be a little bit further, a little bit higher, and just a little bit wiser. Yet, I find myself more lost and confused than I’ve ever been in my life.

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Family at Convocation

Now, that’s definitely something typical Asian parents would not want to hear! But it’s true. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life (or at least this is how I felt when I first began writing this post last Fall). Nevertheless, this definitely was not how I envisioned things would be like a year ago. I remember being a hopeful and optimistic graduate, so eager and excited to enter the workforce. But now, fast-forward one year. Here I am, in a place I never thought I’d be in, making a decision I never thought I’d be making…

I’m heading back to school again.

But that is a long story that I hope to unpack in this long overdue post.

Good Start 
So coming out of school, I thought I was pretty set. I had a solid job lined up for me after graduation at a reputable accounting firm, I was in a wonderful relationship, I was making money, my family was proud of me—everything just seemed to be unfolding rather nicely.

I know I always had my share of doubts with my decision to study commerce, a subject that I had little passion or history in at the time. Yet there was a certain intrigue and possibility surrounding it that made it enticing. But at 17, I guess that was enough for me. I also really didn’t want to take a fifth year, mostly because I was to arrogant. I subscribed to the notion that the victory lap was only meant for people who were legitimately lost (which I pridefully wouldn’t admit about myself). So in light of all this, these developments served as a profound source of affirmation for me. I was convinced that I made the right decision 7 years ago.

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In June 2017 when I got hired,  we threw a party to celebrate our brother Emmanuel.

Soon after I got the job, things took a bad turn, like J.R. Smith’s Game 1 blunder. I was deeply overwhelmed by the horrific gap between the theory I learned from textbooks and how that theory would translate into the workplace. What also made it hard for me was the limited training and support available to me. The co-worker who was supposed to train me completed about 50% of the training and then went on vacation. So I was basically left for dead, but no big deal, right? Well, it was, but I still tried my best. Sadly, however, I could hardly do half of the job. To say the least, this was an utter nightmare.
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As a “Bookkeeping Assistant” I found myself having a wide range of duties. The job had me doing things like issuing cheques and setting up appointments for my boss, which are reasonable. But then I also got assigned strange duties like shutting off an elevator with excrement in it. Needless to say, this definitely wasn’t what I expected coming out of school. But to make a long story short, I got fired after a month. My boss felt that I didn’t take enough initiative to take ownership of the job, that I was too slow, and that I made too many mistakes. But the truth is that I did put a lot of effort into catching up. I stayed over time almost every single day, I constantly ran back and forth asking questions, and endured so much nonsense in the process. I did make a whole lot of mistakes, but what do you want from someone who got half-trained? Needless to say, their comments were appalling and caught me off guard. If I’m recalling correctly, I had to hold back the tears until I could get myself into the car to go home.

Second Try
So that wasn’t the greatest start, but deep down, I still believed that God had a good purpose in everything that happened.  A few weeks after the firing I started sending out resumes again. While I waited, I volunteered at the annual kids’ summer camp organized by Lighthouse Ministries which I had volunteered with over the past 3 years. It was nice to see some old faces again.

Just as the camp wrapped up, I got a call for an interview from a packaging company in Scarborough for a position as an Accounting Assistant.

To say the least, that interview was interesting.

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The kids I taught at Lighthouse Camp.

I didn’t know this at the time, but it turns out that the Financial Controller who interviewed me actually worked under my previous employer before, the firm I got fired at. That’s when I thought, “Well, isn’t that great? Just when I thought I escaped that witch’s shadows. Now her former slave can torture me too.” 

I didn’t have to share about that part of my employment history, but I felt compelled by the Spirit to share. I knew it’d be game over if I did, but I wanted to honor God by being transparent. So with that said, I decided to share about it. And then somehow, some way, I ended up getting the job! I don’t think anyone in their right mind would’ve hired me, so I know for certain that this was God’s gracious doing!

Early Grind
By the time I began working on this post last year around October, I found this new job pretty manageable. However, at the beginning—it was insane. Coming in, I was replacing an employee who resigned and who had 1 week to teach me his entire job before he left. There was just so much to learn in such a short amount of time. I had to write down everything in a notebook. In fact, I now have 2 notebooks of cheat notes. I mostly had A/P-related duties with some light payroll administration and inventory management duties. I think the 2 main challenges I faced on the job was dealing with the monstrous volume of work and receiving uncalled for criticism. Early on, I had to stay overtime several days each week to ensure all my work was done and it didn’t help that I was working with a crazy supervisor. I got scolded for things beyond my control and got blamed for faults that weren’t mine. These experiences definitely overwhelmed me and I was naturally driven to pray. I wrote all my prayers on sticky notes which I stuck under my desk.

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A glimpse of my messy work station.

Mental Health
While all this went on, I started experiencing a heavy and radiating tightness in my chest. Then, along with this tightness, I found myself breathing heavily while experiencing an overwhelming anxiety. One Sunday night, it got so bad that I had to get it checked out at the Toronto-East General Hospital ER. While I was there, they ran some tests, but the doctors told me everything came out fine. That’s when they shared that this might actually be a mental issue, not a physical one.

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Whenever I felt overwhelmed, I wrote out my prayers on sticky-notes and stuck them under my desk. By May 2018, I had over 300 notes.

I later found out that what I experienced were panic/anxiety attacks. I didn’t feel ashamed about this as I believed that this experience was basically synonymous to someone feeling physically ill and needing to see a doctor. And so, with the encouragement and support I got from my friends and family, I got connected with a therapist whom I’ve been visiting for a few months now.

A Resurfaced Problem
With work stress and the cloud of mental health issues hovering over me, I became increasingly stressed and frustrated over my situation. And so, in a desperate effort to self-medicate, I reverted back to an old pattern. That is, I fell back into the shackles of pornography. It’s a painful reality to confront when you thought you had the struggle beat, but with the change of life’s circumstances and a few dumb decisions, everything was undone. But what has profoundly encouraged me is the support of a close brother. This brother shared some of life-giving words with me when I was at my lowest point and picked me back up. He reminded me that freedom isn’t something we work tirelessly to attain, but  it’s something we receive and respond to because we’re already living in it, in the life that we now live through Christ. We don’t fight for freedom, but by it and from it, we fight on.

My Comrades
Okay, so I’m sure this workplace doesn’t sound like the most pleasant place to work—and it’s totally true. But what made it a bit more bearable were some amazing troopers I met there. Initially I felt like I walked into a war zone as a lone wolf, but I’m thankful for the comrades who looked out for me. From getting blasted by supervisors for no reason, to getting bullied on the job by superiors, we stood by one another. Phillip, Michelle, Kathy, and Vivian, y’all the real MVPs!

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This is the only photo I have with my team. Photo was taken at a Chinese New Year banquet hosted by the company.

When we think about someone like Bill Nye, we immediately think of him as “the science guy.” Yet, if you think about it, he isn’t the most educated dude when it comes to science. The man only has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering! But through his show and his great passion for promoting a scientifically-rich culture, he became the science guy! Now, in my situation, the truth I couldn’t bear acknowledging for the longest time was that no one ever saw me as an accountant. Not only did I lack passion on a personal level, but amongst my peers, I was never seen as the Accounting guy—ever! Yet, for whatever reason, that bothered me and made me try 10x harder to prove my critics wrong.

But why did everyone say what they said? It’s because they knew me and the me that they knew wasn’t about this debits and credits, consolidations, and tax planning stuff. They not only knew what  I was good at, but also what I truly enjoyed and found meaningful.

In the end, I think the words my friends didn’t go to waste. My attention was drawn back to all these thoughts as I got so sick of the repetition of opening and closing periods, the new mountain of invoices that would magically appear on my desk each morning, and the suffocating internal controls of my workplace.

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Workdays were pretty tough, but it was nice to see views like this after a long day.

This is when I knew I had to stop lying to myself. I had to let go of my pride and admit that I made a big fat mistake. I realized that I couldn’t find true fulfillment in proving others wrong and pretending I knew what I was doing. The truth is, for 5 years of my life, I had no clue! I saw God’s name written all over this wall that I just ran into and had no more interest in trying to hop over it. It was time to throw in the towel.

At this point, two things held me back from making a much dreaded yet much needed career pivot. One was the expected backlash I’d get from my parents.  Another was the frustration I expected Michelle to experience as our projected engagement time drew closer. I knew that if I walked away from the job now that our plans would be pushed back as I would no longer have financial staility. But thankfully, both my parents and Michelle assured me that I have their support and this gave me the peace and the courage to take a step of faith. And so, with that said, I quit my job in early May.

Self-Examination
In finding my personal passion and gifting at odds with my current profession, I went through a serious self-examination period and began thinking long and hard about my next step—something I didn’t do at the age of 17. The mistake I made in high school was that I knew I should have stayed, but didn’t. Then I took it one wrong step further and pursued a field of study that I knew nothing about. But this time around, I knew I had to go, I just didn’t know where.

In the sessions I had with my therapist, I found myself sharing thoughts that I never shared with anyone else before. My therapist took me on a journey in which I revisited every major decision I ever made. In the process, I learned so much about myself. In some ways, I was remembering what made me me. I was then able to be honest and admit to myself that I didn’t like the work I was doing, that I was passionate about journeying with people through difficult transitions and decisions, that I was uninterested in getting my CPA, that I deeply interested in promoting the mental well-being of others, and that I loved writing and hope to author a book some day.

So then I began think: Maybe I should pursue a career in clinical counselling? The profession seemed to align with my strengths, my passions, and the opportunity was there. I also got to receive it first-hand and witness what the day-to-day duties entail. So then I began to involve the community in my decision this time around and I actually received a lot of support and affirmation. I felt confident with this new direction, for the first time in my life. I felt like I was truly honoring God in how He made me, and that I was finally willing to take wise counsel from my nearest and dearest peers. I experienced a deep sense of peace, and with that, I made my decision.

Tyndale Seminary & SCHC
I applied to Tyndale Seminary in late May and  by the grace of God, I got accepted into the Masters of Divinity Interdisciplinary program. I sadly missed the deadline to apply for the Clinical Counselling program so I was advised to enter this program first and to proceed with taking counselling courses. The hope is that I can transfer over into the program next year.

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While I’ve been waiting for school, I picked up a part-time job at a food station that sells Filipino food and began volunteering in a hospice program organized by the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities (SCHC). Starting this month, I’ll be making visits to clients who are terminally ill and seek to maximize their quality of living through meaningful conversation, various activities, and programs.

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Our group at the final training session for the SCHC Hospice Program!

Well, that’s all for now. I hope to really get back into this writing and not be so self-conscious about what I put out there. I hope everyone who either read a bit or miraculously made it to the end were encouraged in some way and that you would journey with me as I begin this new chapter. I’ll need all the prayer support I can get! Let me know your thoughts via comments or some other platform! Thank you for reading!

 

 

2 thoughts on “Post-Convocation Life: Blessings, Challenges, and Turning Points

  1. Sarah Rocha says:

    Jackie, that was so encouraging to me. Thank you for sharing your process and reflections. What a journey you’ve been through! It takes a lot of strength to admit your mistake and be willing to revaluate yourself in light of how God made you to be. I’m excited to see you come alive in your true passion! I’m thankful you are being so genuine and transparent in your pursuits. (It makes me want to share with others as well!) I know you will be a blessing to everyone you meet and in this new field. Praying that God continues to give you wisdom and that resiliency to keep going. And that you continue to depend on Him in everything because you are so loved and He is faithful!! In Christ, Sarah

    Like

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