Taking Flight: The Turning Point Series

This is the Turning Point Series where I recall events in my life that changed the course of my journey in some significant, impactful way. I almost entitled it the TP Series but then thought better of it. Given the state of our world with covid and everything, I didn’t want people to wrongly assume this was the central spot to find the best toilet paper sales in the north (it’s not, btw).

“I can’t possibly do this!” I tearfully cried to my sister on the phone. I was in a frenzy; my thoughts were scattered, and I was beginning to spiral out of control. Typically, in these instances I would start talking myself off that invisible ledge: everything will be okay, it’ll be okay. But in my mind, I was screaming. How? How will this be okay?

I was about to start my first year of university. I had already completed a 2-year college diploma program and was now pursuing a condensed 4-year program in 3 years). Because I had racked up approximately $12,000 worth of student loans from college, I decided to opt out of applying for more student loans. My plan was to work part-time while in university to pay for tuition instead of increasing my debt load. I naively thought, how hard could this be?

My whole life, I’ve always worked. I had some previous management experience at a small local business the summer I graduated high school so when I saw a retail management position advertised at a mall nearby school, I decided to apply. My initial thought was this would be the perfect convenient side job while in school. I also applied thinking the likelihood of me getting it with my itty-bitty management experience was close to nil. So, there I went with guns blazing and confidence brewing. What have I got to lose? Well, luck was on my side that day and the manager hired me on the spot. His parting words, after giving me the good news, were, “Send me your availability and I’ll forward you a copy of your schedule.” I had envisioned working part-time hours (maybe 20 hours a week, maximum) while I was still in school and gradually increase my hours during the summer months to make more money. So, to my surprise when I got my new work schedule, I panicked. My manager had scheduled me for full-time shifts (37 hours per week).

I had mistakenly filled out my availability based on all the days and times I wouldn’t be at school thinking I was giving him flexibility (I didn’t want to seem too rigid), but what I didn’t realize was he was asking me for all the times and days I could/was willing to work. I froze. I had no foreseeable days off in my future. 

“Is this even possible?” I asked my sister. “I will have no time. I am either working or at school every day, if not both! I literally don’t see any free time in my schedule! When would I do schoolwork?”

My fear of failing at both was weighing on me tremendously. I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit bad. Truthfully, if I hadn’t officially called the student loan office to withdraw my application the week prior and if I could have still received loan assistance for that semester, I may have quit right then and there. But the reality was I had bit off more than I could chew: I had passed the point of getting out of my university courses for that semester, I didn’t have any other way to pay for school and I had already made a commitment to my new job.

After that panicked call to my sister, I shed a few more tears and then I sniffed the hardest sniffle I could muster. I gathered my wits and prepared for take-off, as one might do when fixing to jump off a cliff hoping the end result is flight rather than complete obliteration. Oh, you better harness your inner-whatever and get out there and do your frigin’ best. Fly, damnit!

I did indeed take flight. Actually, I never stopped flying. For three years I rarely had a day where I didn’t work or go to classes, and more than likely, I juggled both daily. I’m not exaggerating here. If I wasn’t at work, at school or commuting from one place to the other, I was sleeping (sometimes). I had to take time off just to study for exams and even that was done very sparingly. That first year of trying to figure out how to balance a 37-hour work week with a full semester course load was abysmal. I had no inkling of how I was going to make it through; I just breathed and took it one day at a time. I remember nights where I would get home at 10PM (after being in classes from 8AM to 4PM, then working from 5PM to 9PM) and scarf down whatever was edible in and around the fridge only to retreat to my bed to finish my assignments due the next day (often using a flashlight because my grandmother had a sleep schedule of 9PM to 5AM and there was nowhere else in the house to work).

I was a working zombie for the majority of those years. I remember finding empty cubicles at the library during my lucky spares just to fit in a desperate catnap. By the last year of this insane chaos, I had somehow managed to find my balance.

I recount all this not for empathy or praise but to illustrate how much something like this can change a person’s perspective, values, and life. I developed an impeccable work ethic; I finally understood the value of time (your own time and other people’s times) and I took note of what I falsely prioritized over what was truly important in my life.

For a while after I finished that 3-year stint, every time someone complained that there was not enough time in a day to do everything they wanted, I always secretly thought, “Yes there is.” To me, it’s all about making space (removing things that don’t serve purpose) and carving out appropriate time.

When was a time you worked the hardest you’ve ever worked? Did you ever think about quitting?


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24 thoughts on “Taking Flight: The Turning Point Series

  1. “I’m not exaggerating here. If I wasn’t at work, at school or commuting from one place to the other, I was sleeping (sometimes)”

    That rings true with me. I lived the same sort of experience at one point in my life when I was working 3 small part-time jobs, going to grad school part-time, and was married. It was total stress and constant movement and never a day off, just a few hours once in a while. I shudder looking back on it. I thought about quitting but was committed to getting my degree, just because I was in so deep that not doing so seemed implausible. I did, however, NOT go on to get a PhD. Enough.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is a LOT on one’s plate! It’s amazing you were able to manage as long as you did and that’s something I hope you’re proud of! Sounds like you did what was best for you at the time- nothing wrong with that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a powerful story! And what a wonderful example of perseverance and hard work for your daughter!

    The hardest I ever worked was when my husband I were dating, and I moved to the Chicago area from the east coast for three months so we could spend more time in person before getting engaged. I was worked 9-10 hour days as a nanny 5 days a week, and also studying for my associates degree. My now husband and I would spend most evenings together until late, then get up early to both go to work, study, see each other, repeat. It was an exhausting season but also one of the best times of my life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Lieren! One of the reasons why I am keeping at this writing/blogging thing is because I want my daughter to read my words one day and know a different part of me- a part that I hope she can be proud of. It’s great that you were able to balance out that crazy time with some quality time with your husband. I am happy you are able to look back at it fondly as one of the best times of your life- that’s awesome! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, that shows a lot of integrity! Go you!! Great job!! I’m impressed!

    I was busy in college with classes, work-study (and if you read my recent blog post about that, I want to clarify that we did actually WORK at the print shop. It wasn’t all about playing paperball), an hour of daily piano practice for my then-major, and studying. But I could only handle one class under the average course load, so I graduated in five years. So I’m super-impressed that you worked that much and did it in three years! Wow! That’s a great accomplishment to be proud of!! YAY!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Meg! My sister also did part-time school while she worked. It took her a bit longer to finish and graduate but I was just as proud of her! You should also be very proud of your accomplishments! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your post thank you! I think I’m lazier than I realized ha! This is giving me something to think about, thank u! I’m
    Always concerned about my body and how it can handle things. And I think my body would’ve shut down with that schedule. But I love the themes of commitment and dedication to something. And I do think I’m only just now exploring that with my blog and podcast. Thank u again for sharing, you’re so impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Libby! Thank you for your kind words! I think we all do what we can and I don’t think you’re lazy at all (far from it)! You have so much going on, it sounds like, and you’re just taking it one day at a time- that’s amazing! I also love that you listen to your body and are in tune with what you can and can’t handle! I’ll be the first to tell you that the older I get, the less I feel I can tolerate certain levels of work, etc. LOL…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I kept similar hours in my final year of high school… half day there, several hours at college, several hours at work, commuting (by bus), homework, and a few hours of sleep per night. After 6 wks, I had a nervous breakdown and had to quit the job.

    The following year, I had “just” college and work. Work eventually won and I dropped out of college – but continued to take gen ed courses at community college then, and for most of the rest of my life. Now, at 58, I’m 5 classes away from a BS degree… but also planning to stop working.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, such an inspiring story. Truly.
    I’ve been complaining about how much work i’ve been doing lately because i’m running everything by myself. But I still make it a point to shut off my laptop at a certain point and stop thinking about work. Your post reinforces what i’ve been thinking – that I need to use my time better. Thank you for that. And you truly inspire me!! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moksha, you are contributing wonderfully to the world!! I honestly don’t think I could handle everything you’re doing right now so I see you as an inspiration, that’s for sure! To be able to have an idea, a dream and then see it come to realization after so much blood, sweat and tears- that’s what you did (and that’s nothing short of amazing and something you should be sooo proud of)!!!


  7. It’s amazing what we can do when there seems to be no other option. Determination and perseverance can carry a person for a long time. I come from a family of workers, and I think that has served me well. When the important people in your life exhibit those traits, I think that often gets passed on through the generations. People always like to talk about physical similarities (i.e., You’ve got your dad’s eyes or your grandma’s nose), but what I often found more interesting in teaching was that personality traits were often passed on. There is no better example for your little girl to see than watching her hard-working parents. These parents who give everything to their kids aren’t doing them any favors in the long run. Teaching children survival skills and independence are where it’s at.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete, that is absolutely true (the things we find out we can do when there seems to be no other option). I think that’s what adversity really is, the lack of opportunity/options. And learning how to overcome it teaches us so many lessons in the process. My hope is that Charlotte sees the work myself and my husband put into our passions and our work- hopefully that models to her what it means to have great work ethic. We also strive to show her what things we value in life (time, effort, family, connections, experiences, etc) rather than material things and harmful social media practices. Just trying to do our best, that’s for sure! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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