Make It Your Own

  What a month!

I’m SO sorry for going all MIA the last few weeks.  It’s been CRAZY!

Deciding to go back to school wasn’t a decision that was made lightly.  It was just a product of the current situation and circumstances.  I was so unhappy with my job.  Well that’s not entirely true.  See I was never one for retail.  The structure, rules – it all felt a little too ‘Stepford Wife’ for me.  I’ve seen my mother deal with the retail roller coaster ride for the majority of my 30 years and I’ve always known it wasn’t what I wanted for myself.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking those who have chosen a career in retail or insinuating that I’m too good for it – nothing of the sort.  I just knew it wasn’t for me.  I wanted to make my own rules.  To be in complete control of my life, career and income.  I wanted to be able enjoy my family.  I HATED wondering if I was going to work through the holidays; would I be able to make the Christening?  What about a school play?  Dance recital?  Birthdays?  Let’s not forget about fighting for vacation time so my sanity wouldn’t completely vanish.

I’ve been through it all.

So in April of 2008, in pure Tonya fashion, I was sat at Vic’s computer browsing schools, programs and the like.  I had been playing with the idea for a few weeks and this particular day I simply decided to stop ‘playing’.  I applied to two schools and received two phone calls.  One informing me there was a 2 year wait list for my program of choice and another to set up a meeting to discuss things.  Within two weeks I was heading to school.  It wasn’t easy.  To be completely honest, it was brutal.  Financially, emotionally – just brutal.  But like always, we made it work.  I worked for awhile, but I was drained.  I spent every available moment studying.  Determined to graduate with honors (that’s a post for another time).  This worked – barely – for a year.  Then for financial reasons I seen no other choice but to head back to work.  Six months before graduating I started working for a retail store in which I ended up managing just four months later.  Yes, before I was finished school.  Yes, I was back in retail.  I know, I know – WHY?

That answer is simple.  I was tired of being broke.  I was tired of living the poor student lifestyle.  I was SO sick of living on a very thin shoestring budget.  So although I may have hated being back in an industry that ate my soul for breakfast, I decided to make the best of it.  I decided to learn as much as I possibly could.  To grow both personally and professionally.  And I can proudly say I did that.  For the better part of four years I did just that.  I learned SO much about myself.  About who I was, who I wanted to be, what I was capable of and where I wanted to be.  I also got to meet some great people along the way, so while at times I’ll look back and get frustrated at myself for wasting four years of my life on something that ended up making me absolutely miserable, I remind myself of the things I was able to take from the whole experience.

Then, thanks to a background in business, I knew how to make the best of a really shitty situation.  I was, at the time, under a contract that went terribly amiss due to things completely out of my hands (a story for another time perhaps).  So I decided that I was going to finally take some time for me.  So in February 2013 I hit the unemployment office.  Against the dismay of some I decided to use my current situation to my own benefit.

I’m not sure if you have ever heard of NLOWE?  It’s Newfoundland and Labrador Organization for Women Entrepreneurs.  They offer an array of different resources to women who want to go into business for themselves and support for those who already are.  They had a program for those who were currently unemployed or have been recently.  BINGO!  It was like the light at the end of a very long tunnel.  Finally something that I got up excited about every morning.  So while I awaited my EI to get straightened out I worked to fill in a short term sick leave – yes I knew how that would affect my claim.

During this time frame I was still able to meet with NLOWE.  Which I totally did.  I had to submit a business plan outlining what it was I was looking for funding/help with.  The program I was applying for would allow me to collect my EI for one year while working solely on my business.  Anyone who has any knowledge of business at all knows what a gold mine this would be for a budding entrepreneur.  An entire year to grow my business without the worry of putting food on the table.

While I was working on this business plan we received a call that my Mom’s brother was terminally ill and had been admitted to the hospital.  I spent each and every day thereafter at the hospital and trying to put together the proposal.  Although it was emotionally draining watching a man literally deteriorate in front of my eyes, it was a source of fuel to my already roaring fire.  Here was a man of 50 who up until now never knew he was sick let alone dying.  I didn’t want to wait any longer to start living my dream.  I was so incredibly nervous for the scheduled meeting in which I would submit my business plan and proposal.  5am on the day of I received a call that my uncle had passed.  What a blow to an already emotionally charged day.  I still attended my meeting, with a constant wave of nausea and incredibly shaky hands.

I was turned down a few days later due to the saturated industry in which I was looking to enter.  I was praised for my business plan though and told I could make a business building resumes as mine was impressive.

But I didn’t get discouraged.  Well maybe a little, but it was short-lived.  I just decided to make a go of things on my own.  Yes the industry was highly competitive.  Yes it was even saturated.  But it was my dream.  And the stubbornness that has followed me from childhood reared it’s ugly head once again.  So I started shooting.  I had just bought a new camera, lenses and was SO excited to get going.

It was slow going at first, but I was ok with that.  I needed the break.  As my time filling in for the sick leave came to a close the second week of June, I had all summer to get my feet wet.  I had been approved for EI until New Years Eve.  Almost six months to get this baby off the ground.

Then life happened.  Again.  In August I was told I needed surgery on my neck.  A lump that my ENT had been watching for the last two years had grown to a point it was affecting my breathing.  I was no longer able to run or work out.  Due to the nature of what I was having done I couldn’t schedule sessions past mid September.  Recovery time was unknown at this point.  If you have been following me at all you know how the fall/winter of 2013/2014 unfolded (there’s a blog post!).

The whole experience was an amazing blow to my life.  I was alive, I was healing, but emotionally I wasn’t quite there yet.  They had taken away my life as I knew it.  I was active – I walked, ran, worked out almost every day.  They took that from me.  My only coping mechanisms were gone.  I worked through the tough times with my camera in hand or drowning in sweat.  Neither were an option for me.  So I sat and thought.  And thought and thought and thought some more.  I also wrote.  About my thoughts, experiences etc.  Trying desperately to find an outlet.  I was released from restrictions in February 2014, but was told I wouldn’t be able to resume my regular routine until they worked magic on my body.  Seriously.  They were using this tiny pill to try and get my metabolism back to some sense of normalcy.

Their then six month time frame turned into almost a year.

But through that year (almost year an a half now) I have been working overtime trying to experience as much as I humanly can rom my bucket list.  Which leads me back to school.  For the second time.  I’ve always loved school.  I LOVE to learn and always wanted to have a university degree.  Sadly a fine arts degree isn’t possible in St. John’s, but next to that my heart belongs to business.  So here I am back in school, living the semi poor student life simply because I refuse to be faced with regret should my health/life get threatened again.  People thought and still think I’m crazy getting a degree I may never use.  But that’s ok.  They don’t need to understand my choices.

I sometimes too think I’m crazy.  I have experienced a stress like no other, this past year and a half.  Terrified to make the leap and quit my part time job, although it doesn’t provide near the income to make it worth while, it’s still income you know?  I seemed to have been swallowed by a fear so big that it’s making me doubt everything.  And then I shoot a session and fall in love all over again.  So I know I’m making the right decision in wanting this, but I’m just trying my hardest not to let the fear swallow me whole.

Since childhood I have been very determined to break the mold.  To be able to write my own story so to speak.  I was firm in my beliefs; of what I wanted from a young age and nothing deterred me from having it.  I knew I was never getting married in a church from the time I was about 10.  I believed that it was wrong to criticize someone for their choices in life unless they hurt others.  I knew my family would always come before money.  I knew I was adaptable.  That I would always land on my feet.  Because that’s who I am.  A true survivor in any situation.  I’m also a dreamer.  An eternal dreamer.

And I’ve learned that all these things are OKAY!

I follow Jasmine Star.  To those of you who know anything about photography, you know what an incredible woman she is.  SO inspiring, so open, honest and has a heart the size of Texas.  She spoke once to loving your story.  To having two choices; you can let someone write your story for you or write your own.  Do yourself a favor and become an author in your story.  Don’t be afraid to want something for yourself.  To love yourself enough to dream and then enough to make them your reality.  If only for a short while you get to live that dream, I promise it’ll be worth it.  The sense of accomplishment, content and true happiness you’ll feel when you get there – it makes it all worth it.  Every tear drop, every ounce of sweat – it’ll all be worth it.

Two weeks ago I was getting ready to take over my in laws life for eight days.  The kids, the dogs and the house.  I went into it with a smile and determination to make it fun.  By the end of the second day I was in tears.  Honestly unsure if I would make it to the end of the week.  Not that I really had a choice; if I did the week may have unfolded a little differently.  But as it was, it showed us a lot.  It confirmed things we knew we on the fence about.  As we approach the wedding, house buying and kids talk; those eight days made a lot of those decisions quite clear for us.

Most of all it made me appreciate the life we had created.  It made me see that it was ok to make it our story.  One that not everyone would relate to, but we would love dearly.  It let us accept things we had doubted for what they were because they were all a part of this place we were at.

Remember when you look at others lives, it’s their life.  Their story.  And like every story, not everyone is going to understand or agree with the plot, characters, twists or developments.  Your job is to love YOUR story, not someone else’s.

Make it your own!


*These are a few snapshots of my month MIA.  There are more, but they deserve their own posts; stay tuned as I start working on our next chapter! *





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