I was 15 when I decided I wanted to be a fashion journalist. I remember declaring my career path in the 10th grade in my Civics and Careers class, and none of my classmates doubted it would happen. I was known to have good style, I was a great writer, and the conviction I had in my voice when I told everyone what my future would look like was undeniable.
As soon as I decided fashion journalism was what I wanted to do, I pursued the goal relentlessly. I only applied to two universities — Ryerson and Carleton, as they were the best for journalism — and once at Ryerson, continued to do whatever I could to get "in" to the fashion world including, but not limited to, blogging, volunteering at Toronto Fashion Week (then known as Toronto LG Fashion Week) and interning at Fashion Television. After completing my senior year internship at Chatelaine, I was able to secure a job at Rogers Digital Media immediately after graduating, which then led me to a job as lifestyle editor at MSN.ca, editor at StyleList.ca, style editor at HuffPost Canada and finally, digital editor at FASHION.
In other words, I achieved my goal, and have been living my teenage dream for the past seven years. Kind of.
After my layoff from HuffPost Canada in 2016, I was forced to reevaluate what I wanted in life. I knew I didn't want to be full-time in media anymore, but I wasn't sure what was next for me. I was lucky enough to land a contract at FASHION a couple of months later, and spent 2017 there working on the digital side, and also producing my first-ever big print features. I'm so, so thankful for the experience I had there, especially considering a goal of mine while in university was to one day work for that very magazine.
But in a way, I felt like I had peaked. There weren't very many other publications I wanted to work for (at least in Canada) and I just wasn't feeling fulfilled anymore. I didn't want to sit at a desk all day, and I didn't want to continue doing the same thing every day for even another year, let alone another five, 10, or 15 years.
There were several months were I just felt completely lost. I didn't know what I could do instead, and I wasn't sure how to put my skills to good use for a new role. I felt discouraged, defeated and a little bit hopeless. I prayed and asked the universe every day to guide me to the path that I was meant for, at least the path that I was meant for next.
And then, everything started to click.
I remember a few years ago, while I was beginning to feel like I wouldn't be in media full-time for the rest of my life, my mom mentioned music therapy to me, as she thought it would work well for me given my musical background (I received my ARCT Piano Performer's from the Royal Conservatory of Music in 2007) and my love for working with people and helping others. I semi-listened, but was so focused on the work I was doing then, that I didn't look much into it. I did, however, have a colleague whose wife was a music therapist, and I remember mentioning to him that I would love to pick her brain one day just to see what it was all about.
Well, in August 2017, that day finally came. My former colleague and his wife were visiting Toronto from their home in Vancouver, and wanted to meet up so I could meet their son. I asked her a bunch of questions about music therapy, and she graciously connected me to some colleagues and resources so I could learn more and really see if it was a career path I would seriously pursue.
Flash forward to October, and she gave me a head's up that the University of Toronto would be holding a presentation on breakthroughs in music as therapy. I, of course, attended.
During the presentation, professor Corene Hurt-Thaut from U of T's faculty of music spoke of a client of hers who had been affected by a stroke six years prior. He had aphasia and didn't speak for five years following his stroke. He, however, was a famous Canadian opera singer prior to that.
Hurt-Thaut then went on to tell us how she decided to see if she could introduce speech to him again via singing. She asked him if he knew Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" and from there, they slowly began learning the song together.
Her client ended up being at the presentation, and together, they did a live performance of that very song. It brought me to tears. I remember going home, crying my eyes out and calling my mom saying, "THIS IS WHAT I NEED TO BE DOING, MOM."
Obviously, I did a bunch more research into the field before making my final decision in December 2017: I would aim to head back to school in September 2018, and pursue a Master's in Music Therapy at Wilfrid Laurier University.
This year has been dedicated to, again, relentlessly pursuing that goal. I volunteered in the music therapy programs at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (one of the best experiences of my life), took singing lessons and sang live (!!!), completed (and aced) two prerequisite psychology courses I needed for the Laurier program (and damn, that was a LOT of work, so I'm really freaking proud I did it), revisited my old ARCT pieces from 2007 for my Laurier audition, and, of course, continued writing, only this time on a freelance basis.
All of it paid off, because I was accepted into the program and my first day is tomorrow.
Looking back, it's crazy to see how I got here. It's almost surreal that it's actually happening. But the whole experience made me realize something about myself: once I have a goal in mind, I won't stop until I get there. Sure, it may take me a while to figure that goal out, but there's no stopping me from reaching it once I've decided what it is, whether it's getting my ARCT in piano (which I boldly told my mom and piano teacher I would get after my third or fourth lesson with her), becoming a fashion journalist or pursuing a career in music therapy.
So, that's the big life change that's happening right now. It's funny, someone asked me, "Doesn't it feel sad that fashion was your dream, but it's not anymore?", but it doesn't at all. Because I lived that dream. I achieved that goal. And now it's time for a new dream, a new goal, a new chapter. Plus, I'm not planning on leaving media, entirely. I'll still be freelance writing, and I truly feel that my background as a journalist is going to play an integral part during my career as a music therapist. But all in all, I'm so excited for this new journey and I'm so thankful for every single experience that has led me here.
P.S. The jacket in the main photo is by Rock 'N' Karma and was graciously gifted to me by the lovely ladies at NordstromMatte. It couldn't be more perfect.