From Liabilities to Lessons: A Backstory On Making the Most Out of Our Experiences
Everyone has a story and personal journey unique to their own experiences. After looking back on my own, I recognize how much I’ve evolved and grown through each challenge and obstacle. I grew into myself and became a person I am proud to be.
The purpose of this piece isn’t to tell my story but rather to show others that each hurdle thrown at us isn’t meant to bring us down. Instead, we should use experience, good or bad, to learn and grow. When we change our mindset from “Why is this happening to me?” to “What is this situation trying to teach me?” we can become more capable of understanding and managing people and new situations. In other words, we become more in control of ourselves, our actions, and our emotions by letting go of things we cannot control and learning how to respond better to unexpected situations or people.
I will touch on how I used this attitude to overcome and cope with some of my lived experiences and the lessons I learned as a result. I hope that, by reading this, others will strive to turn each encounter in their life into an opportunity to learn, heal, and grow. I promise you this attitude can take you far and help you get through the most challenging times.
A Child of Two Immigrant Parents
One title I am proud to uphold is being the child of two hard-working immigrant parents. However, maintaining this role hasn’t been easy.
My parents grew up in a much different domestic and cultural environment than I have. They both went to school in India, so they weren’t accustomed to many of the attitudes, beliefs, and social environments practiced here. They also endured many hardships early in their life, which caused them to miss out on many valuable opportunities. My grandfather passed away when my dad was 18, after which he and his family were bankrupt and moved to Canada to stay with relatives. My mom moved to Canada when she was 15 to care for her aunt, who was ill while going to school and working in a factory, where she still works.
After living in Brampton for over 20 years, their mindset was still limited because of the company they surrounded themselves with. As a kid, this didn’t impact me much, but their expectations of me grew as I got older, making it challenging to do what felt right for me and create my own identity. They had an opinion on everything I did, from the courses I took in school, the internships I applied to, the clothes I wore, and how often I saw friends. They would compare me to my cousins and family friends, which often made me doubt myself and my ability to make decisions concerning my future, among other things. I felt I had to explain and justify every decision for their approval, which eventually got exhausting. I began questioning many of my school, career, and personal choices, further affecting my confidence and mental health.
Over time, I realized that I couldn’t change their mindset but could change my own. After spending two years in Kingston at Queen’s, I grew more confident in myself by having more independence and freedom to choose without the opinions of others. I stopped explaining every choice I made and spent my time doing things that made me happy, fulfilled and confident, including building a career that reflected my passions, skills, and hobbies.
Instead of feeling upset and angry for not having parents that supported every decision I made, I learned that my parents pushed me to rely on myself more and trust that I could create my own path and make my own decisions. I realized that I don’t need anyone to validate me and my choices and that I’m enough for myself. I also figured out how important it is to block out the noise. My parents didn’t have the same academic opportunities and social experiences as I did, so they didn’t understand why I did certain things and the range of career possibilities out there, and that’s okay. They had a hard life and were exposed to a different lifestyle growing up, and it took me a while to come to terms with this.
My lesson from these experiences is that you don’t need anyone else to validate you. Trust that you can reach your goals and make the right choices. You know what’s best for you, no one else. People only understand you from their point of view and experiences, so never expend your energy trying to make them understand you.
Navigating My Mental and Physical Health
Toward the end of middle school, I started experiencing stomach pain and discomfort and got sick multiple times. I lost a lot of weight and underwent a few tests to figure out what was wrong. Sometimes I couldn’t eat without exercising, or it would hurt to touch my stomach. There was no clear trigger or cause, so I changed my diet and exercise routine and was given different medications. I was diagnosed with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). A few months ago, I was told I might also have Gastroparesis.
The first few years after the pain and discomfort started, I struggled a lot physically, mentally, and emotionally. I felt overwhelmed, irritable, and lacked energy while trying to balance school, extra-curriculars, my health, and family and social life at the same time. It came to a point where I became obsessive about my health, and I isolated my family and friends and often felt alone.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it got harder to manage my symptoms. Gyms and schools were closed, so I had to exercise from home. I also didn’t get to see my friends much, so it was hard to distract myself from my anxiety. Eventually, I developed GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). Managing my exercise and diet routine became stressful, and I started to get heart palpitations and chest pain. The stress affected my sleep, and I had insomnia for several weeks. Oftentimes, I took out my anger on the people around me. I was always so worked up and frustrated and didn’t realize how much that affected the people in my life.
It wasn’t until last year, after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, that I developed a balanced and healthy routine. It definitely wasn’t easy. It took me a while to feel like myself again, make friends, manage my classes, and take care of my physical and mental health, all while moving to a new city and school. What helped me the most was surrounding myself with supportive, kind, and uplifting people who encouraged and motivated me to be my best self and make time for hobbies and activities that fulfilled me. I started getting into music, weightlifting, basketball, movies and shows, and biking, and I dedicated more time each week to these things.
As hard as navigating my health issues has been, it taught me to be patient, calm, organized and, above all, resilient. When faced with something new, uncertain, and unexpected, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed initially, but in time, trust that you will learn how to handle it. Whether it be a job interview, an exam, or anything else scary and new in your life, use these experiences to explore your true potential, build new skills, and improve your mindset.
Not only did I get better at managing my time, but the time and effort I spent to improve my mental and physical well-being showed me how much I can really handle. It also encouraged me to learn how to find solutions to tough situations by focusing on what I can control, not what I can’t control. I can’t change my health problems, but I can manage how much control it has over me, my body, and my mind by developing healthy coping mechanisms.
Finally, I recognized how important it is not to put your stress and anxieties on other people but to communicate how you’re feeling so people know how to support you best. Feeling the way I did for so many years helped me become more empathetic towards other peoples’ struggles and not immediately react because they may be going through something I don’t know about or can’t visually see.
Establishing and Embracing My Path
Finally, I wanted to walk through my journey thus far in the Commerce program at Queen’s. Like many others, I felt very out of place in the program. Everyone seemed to have their lives figured out and knew exactly what clubs they wanted to join, what internships they would apply to, when, etc. I was intimidated by other students in the program who came from well-known high schools and had professional experience. Some of my friends signed up for case competitions only a few weeks into first year while I was adjusting to living away from home and managing my classes.
My first experience with March Hiring didn’t go as I expected. During March Hiring, Queen’s Clubs hire students for various roles and positions through a series of applications and interviews. I applied to nine clubs in my first year and was only accepted by one. Meanwhile, most of my friends were accepted by multiple clubs and had internships for the upcoming summer. I thought I was behind everyone else and felt overwhelmed going into my second year with no internship experience or many clubs.
Eventually, I gave in to the pressure and started paving a career path that wasn’t mine. I convinced myself that I wanted to pursue a career in finance and started looking into clubs, internships, companies, and careers in the industry. I didn’t really know why I was doing it, which should’ve been my first hint that finance wasn’t for me. As I was applying to finance roles in clubs and at companies, I struggled to answer why I wanted to go into finance, but I continued to tell myself I liked it. I think the biggest influence came from what other students in the program were doing, including some of my friends and pressure from my parents.
Everyone says second-year Commerce is the most challenging, and they’re not wrong. The classes are more demanding, and students recruit and have to keep up with club work throughout the year. I similarly focused on recruiting and finding a decent finance-related internship for the summer.
By February, I heard back from most of the companies I applied for and was rejected by the ones I had heard from. At this point, I was stressed since March Hiring was also coming up, and I was struggling with the mental energy required to complete more applications and attend more coffee chats. As a last resort, I decided to call a few family members asking if they knew of any internship opportunities. My uncle got back to me about two potential internships. One was a finance-related role at a CIBC branch, and the other was a marketing position at the Canadian Premier League (CPL) – a Canadian soccer league.
I emailed both companies and heard back from the Marketing Director at the CPL, who requested an interview and eventually hired me as the league’s first marketing intern after reviewing my resume and chatting with me. The feeling I got while preparing for the interview and researching the company was different from when I applied to finance firms. I was excited, passionate, and eager to hear back. This experience encouraged me to embrace my passion for sports and marketing, which has always been at the back of my mind. Not many Commerce students I’ve interacted with are going into the sports industry, which influenced my academic and career decisions a lot in my first and second year. I learned, though, not to care about what other people around me were doing and to chase opportunities that fuelled my creativity and confidence while helping me reach my highest potential. When applying to roles during my second year of March Hiring, I only applied to clubs I was genuinely interested in and passionate about and received ⅔ positions I applied to.
What I want others to take away from this is everything happens at the right time. I don’t regret anything I did in first and second year. In fact, it taught me that we all have our own path. Just because someone else is at a different stage than you doesn’t mean you’re behind. Failure is also a part of the process and the journey. The opportunities that are meant for us will come to us, and those that aren’t will pass by. Go through life at your own pace. Research, plan, work hard, and try new things to understand what drives you. If you’re happy and content with where you’re at and where you’re headed, you won’t feel the need to measure yourself to other people’s success. There’s no definite timeline for everyone.
I hope you enjoyed my life lesson piece and that you can apply some of the topics and lessons I learned in your lives. I trust that you’ll all reach new heights this summer and in the months to come. Just remember, don’t overthink every situation. Live, learn, grow, and go with the flow. You’ll all do amazing!