The Transition into Adulthood

We go through changes in our lives constantly from the day we’re born. Just when we think we’re done changing, we’re hit with something that forces us to re-evaluate ourselves as people.

I have undergone so many changes in the past three years that sometimes I can’t even recall what kind of person I was at 17. When I was 17, I used to think that the person that I was, was the person I would be for the rest of my life. I’d just gotten accepted to my first choice of university for a very prestigious program. My life was completely planned out and was going smoothly. I would graduate in 5 years, find a really nice paying job in one of the Big 4 accounting firms, pay off my student loans, and be able to finally travel the world as I have dreamed of doing all my life.

Now I don’t even know what it is that I want to do for the rest of my life, but even though that is the case, I have no regrets and I would say that I am a lot more content with my life now than I was back then. Even though I don’t quite know what kind of job title or profession I’m looking for, at least now I know that it’ll be in a field that I enjoy.

Transitioning into adulthood is an extremely scary thing. Some refer to it as a “quarter-life crisis.” My quarter-life crisis took place in 2 major stepping stones, all of which I experienced failure and had to push myself to get past them.

The first big transition that I went through was moving out and going to university for the first time. During that year, I learned how to live on my own, got a taste of the real world, and discovered what true friendship really is.

Growing up, I never had any best friends. I spent most of my time with my family and never really got to experience all those things that children and teenagers usually get to experience, like having a birthday party with friends, hanging out after school, and going out together. That’s why all the friends I made at my first year of university had such a huge impact on my life. They were my first “real” friends whom I got to do everything with and experience new things with. Even to this day, I still consider them my best friends even though we’re all in different cities now.

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May 2016 (top), September 2013 (bottom)

Transferring to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology was the second major transition that I went through in my life. That was the year that I made the terrifying decision to drop out of university. During that time off, I found myself a full-time office job where I started to save up money to transfer to a different school. That school ended up being Humber College.

The change didn’t stop there. Before my first year at Humber, I spontaneously chopped off 15 inches of my hair and donated it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, an organization that takes donated hair and makes them into wigs for women fighting cancer. I have had long hair for almost all of my life so doing this was a huge change for me. Since I was starting a new school and taking a step towards following my dreams, I wanted to do something to celebrate a “new me.” It took some getting used to, but I ended up loving my new short hair. Not only did I feel more light physically, I also felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders mentally. I went through a lot of tough times in the past 2 years, but I was able to overcome them and move on with my life. Now I can look back proudly and say that I made it and remind myself that there is no obstacle that I can’t overcome.

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Life in a cubicle (written in a cubicle)

LIFE IN A CUBICLE
(written in a cubicle by Emily Chhin) / Aug. 2015

Trapped under fluorescent lights
not a window in sight.
Some days I don’t even know
whether outside is rain or shine.

For seven months, this cubicle has occupied my life.
I kept it to myself, all my frustration and strife.
Always criticized for what I did wrong,
despite all the things that I did right.

By the time I get home, I just feel like collapsing on the floor.
My head throbbing. My tired eyes, sore.
There’s so much I want to do: exercise, take photos, learn something new,
but all my body feels like doing is watching TV, nothing more.

I hate this job, it’s made me miserable,
but it’s opened my eyes to something previously hidden, invisible:
This is my life, and I want to live it doing something I love.
Any other way would be unthinkable, unbearable, unforgivable.

And so, finally, I am leaving this place with a new goal in mind.
I am going back to school for what I really love: photography, videography, and web design.
It took me a long 20 years to realize
but now I’m finally leaving this life of false dreams and lies, behind.


I was cleaning my room and found this poem that I had written last year. It was sitting under a pile of books that I had on my desk.

Since I’ve written this in August of last year, I have gone to my new school, met new people, and finished my first year of post-secondary school in the top percentile of my program.

Grades have always been a nerve-wracking, anxious thing for me, especially after the last 2 years of failing classes and getting terrible marks at my previous universities. That’s why the past year at my new college has been an eye-opener for me.

Not only did I start getting great marks back in all of my classes, I made the Dean’s list for both semesters and my work has even been recommended by my professors. I’ve had one professor make an honourable mention of my website to my program coordinator, and I was specially asked by her to represent our program at the March open house.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt more surprised and more proud of myself in my life. After 2 years of continual failure, you don’t know how much it means to me to finally have my hard work pay off and be recognized.

I’ve deduced that maybe my success was the result of going into a program that I’m actually interested in and have a passion for. That passion will shine through your work and translate into success.

Ironically though, I’m back at my old cubicle job for the summer. I can’t escape the reality of having to work in order to help pay for school and not placing the entire burden on my father. At first, the familiar anxiety and depression that I had working there last year started coming back to me, but then I realized that, unlike last year, I now had a clear path laid out for me for my future. I no longer had to worry about having to work there for the rest of my life; it was only temporary. I remind myself that everyday that I go into work. I’ve been nagged by my boss, scolded, and overheard my co-workers talking about me behind my back, but I just have to keep reminding myself not to take things so seriously and to just keep looking at the positives in my life right now and to keep looking forward.

Even if I’m working at the same old job that I tried to get away from last summer, this summer is different. I’m a lot happier and the positive vibe has given me a lot more energy to work on things that I love, like painting, photography, and getting out and enjoying nature.

Next summer, I vow to make a change. I’ll try to look for a job that will help me transition into the field that I want to work in, and take one step further towards building the life I want to live. Time doesn’t stop and I don’t want to waste anymore of it wallowing in the past.

Appreciate what other people willingly do for you

I am trying to keep this blog as light and positive as possible, but I think it’s important for me to share some realistic life experiences of mine as well. I hope that you’ll think that, even if this post isn’t as uplifting and inspirational as what I usually try to post, that you’ll be able to learn something else from it as well.

So, as you may, or may not, know, I am now moved into my new apartment shared with 4 other girls. You might think, “oh, it’s an all girls suite, it must be super clean.” Well… that’s where you’re wrong. Girls can be just as messy as boys, and I’ve learned that from the past 2 years of living with others. So let’s stop this gender discrimination and look at the truth, shall we?

I have actually been to an all boys suite before, and it was much, MUCH cleaner than ours. They cleaned up the stove after cooking, did the dishes together, cleared the table, put everything back where it belonged. To be honest, I was a little surprised, but also proud of them. And that’s when I realized that gender really has nothing to do with cleanliness.

It’s the effort that someone is willing to put in to keep their living space clean.

After 3 weeks of trying to put up with the mess and dirt in my apartment, thinking things like, “oh, I’m not living here permanently, only for a year, so I shouldn’t stress too much over these things and focus on my studies,” but for a neat-freak like me, I can’t seem to focus when the place is filthy.

So I got down one day and scrubbed down the bathroom, and kitchen. Of course, when I clean, it’s because I want to, and I actually find cleaning very satisfying after I finish, and it helps to clear my mind when I’m stressed about schoolwork, but sometimes I just feel really unappreciated and I feel like I’m the only one who ever cares about taking care of the space I’m living in.

I spent half an hour cleaning the kitchen, and it looks great now, but it saddens me that after a couple weeks, it’ll probably return to dirty state it was originally in, and no one will clean it except me… again.

No one ever thanked me for cleaning anything… it’s like they expected someone else to clean up their mess. Even when they saw me cleaning, they didn’t say a word, or offer to help. They just went back to their rooms and shut the door.

Someone even went as far as to stick a note to the fridge saying, “please take turns keeping the kitchen clean!” without even bothering to clean the kitchen. If you want someone else to help keep the place clean, at least do something yourself before you stick a note up telling others what to do! Remember that phrase, “practice what you preach?”

I don’t do things for other people because I expect a thank you, but at the same time, I am not another person’s own personal maid. If you don’t want to thank me in words, that’s completely fine with me. I just want you to show your gratitude by at least trying to put in a little effort to keep the area I just cleaned, clean.

I am cleaning this place for myself, not for others, and so that is why I will continue to clean, even if it is unfair, and even if I’m the only one who’s bothering to do it.

Sometimes it just sucks when you do something nice for others, and they don’t even notice or care…

Please everyone, take the time to appreciate the things people silently and willingly do for you, because not everyone is willing to do that, and one day, they might not be there for you anymore.

Study what you love

This particular experience that I’m posting to my blog is the one that inspired the creation of this blog in the first place. It’s what changed me as a person and opened my eyes to the real world; I’d say that it was my first, real big mistake in life, with seriously big consequences… It’s a little long, so please bear with me. Here goes.

As a first-year university student almost done her first year, I’ve been through so many ups and downs and new experiences that came with university. After moving away from a sheltered home to a whole new environment with unlimited freedom, I unfortunately made the wrong choices.

It all started before university, actually, with my university application. When trying to choose my future career, the only thing I had in mind was a path that would be the quickest way to graduating and earning lots of money. The only jobs I even considered were ones that earned at least 100k or more, and had less than 5 years of post-secondary education. That’s how I ended up applying to Accounting.

I know this sounds really shallow and despicable, and I agree, but I was naive at the time and thought that I could do anything. Growing up, I always had high marks, without putting in 100%  of the effort, and so I somehow got the idea in my head that life would be just as easy. I figured that I would study those 5 years, get good grades, get an awesome co-op job, and graduate to become a Chartered Accountant at one of the Big Four. I would make lots of money, pay off my university debt, and be able to do all the things I wanted to do in life, like travel the world, buy luxurious items, and live in a beautiful house in the city. Money would never be an obstacle to being able to pursue my dreams and do the things I wanted.

Boy, was I wrong.

I got accepted to all 5 universities that I applied to, all of them quite prestigious and well known programs for accounting, and accepted my offer to the most competitive and prestigious one of them all. Thus begins the experience that changed my outlook on life.

All throughout first-year, I noticed that I no longer stood out. There were others as smart as me, and many others even smarter. As a student who was always substantially above the class average in high school, I found myself substantially below the program average in university. I was doing terrible and actually failed some midterms–and by fail, I don’t mean 60%–I mean below 50%. I became depressed about school and was beginning to think that I was actually dumb and that I didn’t belong here in university, but the truth of the matter was: I didn’t put in enough effort.

It wasn’t just one thing that caused this. There were a lot of factors that contributed to this actually.

First, during the first term of university, I met A LOT of new people; one boy in particular, who I started to kind of like. I thought he was different: smart, helpful, funny. Sometimes when we talked about things that he liked, I could see the passion in his eyes and excitement in his voice. I saw a different side of him that he had when he wasn’t with his bros. I spent a lot of time with him and his friends, and put my schoolwork second. Being able to spend time with him was my first priority. I stayed up hours past my bedtime (let’s just say 4am was considered early) just to be with him, but eventually we started to drift apart. I don’t want to get too into detail since that’s not the point of this post, but when 2nd term came, he was no longer a big part of my life. I’d wasted all that time that I could have used to study, but in a way, it was a good experience and life lesson learned. I don’t regret the time spent with him, as it made me really happy, but at the same time, I know now not to devote your life to someone else, especially if it’s going to harm your education. I learned to be less dependent.

Second, and most importantly, by 2nd term, I’d finally realized that I’d chosen the wrong program. After receiving my marks from first term, my heart sank. I’d gotten two marks above 70%, but everything else was mid-60s or lower; I’d even gotten a 58%. I figured it was because I didn’t spend enough time studying, and was being too social, so I promised to fix it for 2nd term. Unfortunately, I did work harder at the beginning, but as the term went on, I put things off again and fell behind. I procrastinated because I didn’t want to do the work. I found it boring, uninteresting, and hard. Everyone around me was so ambitious and really passionate about the program, and I felt like I didn’t fit in at all. My marks weren’t as high as them, I never wanted to go to any of the networking sessions that the program held, and I generally just viewed myself as a failure. I failed 2 midterms, passed one by 2%, and didn’t know what I was doing when it came to the assignments because I hadn’t kept up with the classes.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring my average up to stay in the program, but I know now that I no longer want to. I’m not blaming my first-year failure on solely the fact that I wasn’t interested in what I was studying, but also because of my mistake regarding time management and lack of effort spent on schoolwork. Coming to university was a BIG change, and unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to adjust to that change quick enough. But I tend to look at this grave mistake as a very important life lesson. It was just what I needed to wake me up to the real world and discover who I was as a person. All of this contributed to my final realization that I had made a HUGE, irreversible mistake… and I wanted to fix it.

I started looking into programs at other universities in a field that I was actually passionate about: graphic design. My whole life, I’d loved the arts; especially digital arts. I’d first gotten exposed to digital media in grade 6 and made pixels using Microsoft Paint. In grade 7 I was introduced to Photoshop, and that’s what I still use to this day to edit my photography and create graphics.

As I grew up, I remember constantly getting compliments on my creations, from family, friends, teachers, and even strangers online. I should have paid attention to these comments as they showed what I was actually good at in life, and my real, true talent, but I was too worried about money and being successful.

But I know that now, after re-evaluating myself a person, and I want to do something I love. I want to be able to love what I study, because then I truly will be happy in life. I want to be able to be proud to tell people what my job is, and actually be able to tell them why I’d chosen the program I’m studying. I’d heard it a million times: “Do what you love,” but I’d never really fully understood it until now. Study what you love, and hard work will naturally follow. If you love what you’re studying, you’ll be more interested in it and find it easier to study for. You’ll learn what it is that you actually want to learn, and be able to apply that to what you love later.

Ask yourself, “why did I choose this program?” If you can answer that true-heartedly, you’re already on the right path. I remember when people asked me why I chose accounting, I could never give them a full answer. I always gave them a half-hearted lie: “Oh… I really like math” was all I could muster. I was always complaining about accounting, and people would always ask me why I was even in accounting then, and that’s when I realized… Why was I in accounting? It was for the money, but it definitely wasn’t something I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. I’m really glad that I realized this before putting myself through another 4 years learning solely about accounting, and devoting my life to long hours in the office doing auditing.

If you’re still with me at this point, I just want to thank you for taking the time to listen to the words of a regretful student. If there’s one thing I really want you to take away from this post, it’s to first, choose to study something that you love, not for the money. If you’re really passionate about what you’re studying, you’ll want to work extra hard at it, and money will naturally follow. And second, set your priorities straight. School is more important, as it’s the key to your future. Don’t make my mistake and slack off and fall behind. The consequences are extremely tough, tougher than you could ever think, and it will be the biggest regret of your life. I’m still here hoping that I haven’t messed up my life and praying that someone will give me second chance to prove myself.

Just remember that this is your life. Do what makes you happy. As cliche as it sounds, you will be a lot more satisfied with your life if you do what you want. If accounting is what makes you happy, DO IT. But it just wasn’t the right path for me. Don’t make the same mistake as me and choose something just for the money, because it will most likely be the most brutal year of your life.

So thank you so much for listening, and I wish you all the best of luck.

Stay true to yourself,
Emily

Sweet 16

So for The Daily Post’s post-a-day, they asked us about the person we were when we were 16. 16 wasn’t that long for me actually; only 2 – almost 3 – years ago, but I’ve changed drastically in those 2 years.

When I was 16, as much as I liked to deny it at the time, I was still a kid. I was a kid getting her license for the first time. I didn’t even have a part-time job yet at that time because I was too busy enjoying life, playing video games, going on vacation; I was sheltered growing up, and I was living off of my parents’ money. Why did I need a job, I wondered.

What I didn’t know at the time, was that getting a part-time job was not just for the money; it was for the much-needed life experience that came with it. With my first part-time job working at a restaurant at the age of 17, I learned just how hard people worked to earn money. For some people I worked with, it was for their living. I learned how to be independent, to communicate, and even gained some confidence from working my part-time job. Not to mention I no longer had to ask my parents for money whenever I wanted to buy something. I had my own source of income. For the very first time, I could buy my mom a birthday present with my own money.

The only question I ask now is: why didn’t I get a part-time job sooner?

So at 16, I guess you could say I was a naive, dependent, spoiled kid with big dreams about travelling the world, but I must say, those were one of the happiest days of my life. Relaxing at home with hardly any schoolwork, playing online video games, going to the park, getting 9 hours of sleep everyday… I had all the free time in the world. You never really realize how much you miss being a kid until you start moving towards the real world.

So now, I ask you this question: who were you at the age of 16?

Still a kid at heart,
Emily