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.

It’s selfish to be lonely alone.

emilychhinphotography_lonelyaloneLoneliness is a strange thing that comes and goes in my life, in which I have absolutely no control over, no matter how hard I try to subdue it. It hits me at the most unexpected times, which is why I created this typography poster: to remind me that one day, I will eventually find that other lonely person out there and we will be able to fill that empty void with each other’s company.

Even if I’m in a crowd of people, or with my own family, sometimes I can’t help but feel a little lonely — like I still don’t fit in. There are so many expectations of me that I’m afraid I won’t meet, and I constantly feel like I’m a dead weight, or a failure. I sometimes feel like my place in other people’s lives is slowly starting to fade away and I’ll eventually be forgotten.

How can I make an impact in the lives of others, for the better?

I’m trying to figure out the answer to that question, but keep coming up short.

I hope to share the beauty of the world through my photography and words, but it’s hard to get the audience that I’m trying to reach out towards. I feel like time is inevitably passing each and every day, and yet my words and art are still left unnoticed. If only I could stop time and figure things out before letting it run again.

I want to do something in this life that can help other people and touch their hearts, but I still don’t know what that thing is. I try to brighten the days of others with my kindness, but sometimes I’m very bad at expressing my feelings and end up being misunderstood.

I want to help others, but sometimes my fear of getting hurt holds me back. In this world, I’ve learned that being too nice and trustworthy means that people will take advantage of me and exploit that trust. I didn’t use to view my naivety and innocence as a negative thing; I used to think it allowed me to view the world differently — in a more positive light — and see the good in people that others may not see at first.

 

“When so many people are lonely, it’s selfish to be lonely alone.”

No matter how lonely I am, this quote reminds me that I am not alone. There are other people out there going through the same thing as me. There is nothing more therapeutic than knowing you’re not alone and being able to share the burden instead of carrying it all on your own shoulders.

Sometimes we just need someone there to listen.

Make a Decision and Stick With It

I’ve been conflicted the past couple days about whether I’m making the right choice about withdrawing from my computer science program and taking 2 terms off of university to work, save money, and build on my creative portfolio.

Everyone I’ve talked to has made it clear that they think my decision is a bad one, and that I should just continue with my program, and so the choice, that had once been very clear to me, started to waver. I started to immediately question my decision and question myself as a person. Should I just tough it out and continue studying courses that I find it hard to focus in? Should I just stick with it and see if it gets better in 4 years? What if it doesn’t? What if this program isn’t right for me again? I need the degree, or so everyone tells me, but what if I’m stuck doing a job later that I don’t really have the passion for? At least I’ll be making lots of money… right?

All of these thoughts were colliding in my head and I couldn’t think straight anymore. Not to mention everyone around me was telling me different things like, “you should do what you enjoy,” or “you should continue in computer science so you can get a good job and not have to worry about money,” or “just stay in your program. You just need to get your degree and you’re good.”

But is it really all about the degree only? I’ve always viewed university as a place to genuinely learn skills and techniques that you will later be able to apply to whatever career you choose. To me, university isn’t just a place where you force yourself to study a bunch of courses you hate, just so that you can get a paper saying you finished this program. Personally, I am always looking to improve and learn new things, but I feel that the only way I can become the best person I can possibly be, is through a little bit of guidance and criticism, and that’s where university comes in. I want to build on skills that I already have, and learn more about the things that interest me; not just drilling facts into my head for the sake of tests, and forgetting it all later.

I’ve always been a person who finds it hard to focus on something that I find uninteresting to me, and if the passion isn’t there, I can’t seem to find the motivation to do it. However, when it comes to the things I love and enjoy, such as graphic design, photography, video editing, and writing, I can spend hours and hours doing it, and I won’t even realize how much time has passed. When I’m learning about things I love, it’s easy for me to put in the hours required to learn it. In fact, sometimes I can’t even control myself.

It’s things like those that really make me feel that I should be pursuing a career that has something to do with my passions.

The program I’m in now does not give me a lot of time to improve my graphic design skills or photography, and so I became afraid that if I stayed in this program, the creative ability that I had worked so hard all my life to acquire, would slowly fade away and be sucked dry by the continuous cramming and studying for subjects, like Chemistry, in which I could never quite understand. I’m already starting to feel like I’m becoming more and more average in my photography and graphic design skills; skills that I had once been greatly complimented on when I was younger. I feel like I need to take a break, to really find myself again, and rebuild the confidence I had in my creative abilities.

So after a lot of time to myself, and thinking about all my past mistakes about make decisions based on the opinions of others and their expectations, I realized that my initial decision, no matter what other people thought, was my decision, and it was the right one. It seemed right before, and now it just seems even more right. Don’t let your decision be swayed by the biased and closed-minded opinions of others, and just stick with it. Remember that this is your life, and you decide what you want to do with it.

Don’t end up being that person with so much regret in their life because they chose the path that someone else laid out for them. Make your own path.

Emily