Picture it: the year was 2013. Your friends are finally graduating from high school. They’re all heading off to university, or college, or that new job or apprenticeship.
Everyone around you is so excited, full of hope and potential.
Everyone except you.
Well, that’s exactly where I was.
My high school graduation was an empty and chaotic day. While everyone else knew what their path was and which direction to go, I felt like I didn’t even have a place in the world. I was young, angsty, disabled, and totally, totally lost. My childhood was spent in the tiny town of Menville, Manitoba, with my later teen years in the only slightly bigger town of Red Lake, Ontario.
In both these places I called home, I was the only person in a wheelchair.
Opportunity definitely did not knock on my door much. Often times just getting through the regular day-to-day routines were a struggle for me. Teachers and guidance counsellors and other mentoring adults didn’t know what to do with me and wouldn’t pay me much attention.
Red Lake is a very labour-oriented area. The job market here is made up of things like mining, truck driving and construction. Things I definitely could not do. I even worked with our employment services office for the better part of two years to help me find work, to no avail.
“And there I was, the girl with no ambition.”
Flash forward to 2015 when I finally found something to do with myself. I was working casually at the elementary school, and part time at the local grocery store. One job I loved, one job I hated. However, I had also found a freelance writing job for the local newspaper and was getting out into the community more. Now I was 19, married and a new mom; so, the money I brought in was very small potatoes. But writing was always the one thing I enjoyed doing, my one strength. Working for the newspaper built me up into a person again. I got to meet people and be part of all of the events in the area. I loved that job.
However, by the end of 2016 I had lost my first two jobs. I been fired from the grocery store largely due to management, and the elementary school didn’t get the funding to keep my position. It was the beginning of 2018 when I lost the newspaper too. The company was bought out by another town, and I was not transferred over.
That girl with no ambition was back; and 2019 had even worse things for her to come.
That was the year my whole world fell apart. My husband, who I’d been with for 8 years, left me and our son for an online girlfriend he’d been hiding. I had no job, became a single parent, and suffered severe emotional abuse from my ex.
I went from being a little lost girl, to a broken woman trying to pick up the shattered pieces of myself. That whole year I was a mess, I felt like if it weren’t for my sweet little 4-year-old, I could just crawl into my bed and melt away.
But the truly amazing part about that broken woman? She got up and kept going. I had a phenomenal support system in my family and close friends. I continue to have my sweet and wild son who brings light to every day. Despite never really knowing who I was or what I was doing in life, I had a will to succeed that never died.
In 2020 I begun to find my footing. I started a paralegal college program, finally got onto Ontario Disability Support Program, bought my own house off of my ex, and I got my little boy through his first year of kindergarten.
I healed that broken woman that I used to be and made her strong.
As I write this post, I am not the girl with no ambition anymore.
I am a newly licensed paralegal. I am writing again, for Northwest Ontario News. And I am working on the pre-production of a hosted television show highlighting interactive Canadian experiences from my perspective as a disabled woman. I have come so far from that small, scared, high school graduate I was in 2013. I have faced hurdle after hurdle; heartbreak and despair. But I have learned to love every part of my journey. I have come to know each hardship as an important part of my story, and a pillar of strength that I have built myself on.
So, picture this, you are you. You may be lost; you may be broken. You may not know who you are yet or where you are going next. You may be graduating high school, pondering post-secondary education, looking for work or even getting dumped.
You may be starting from the ground up like I was; but your journey is ongoing.
Your story is being written. Take every struggle as a secret blessing. Take every failure and loss and turn them into the newfound strengths that you tell people about†. Opportunity is everywhere, even when you don’t see it.
One day you look back at that lost person you once were, and you will be so proud of them. You will be so proud of yourself.
I can personally promise you that.
-The Lost Girl
This blog post was written by Sarah Desforges of the First Work Youth Council.