CHRISTINA GON­ZA­LES Writer

Elle (Canada) - - Guest List - Christina Gon­za­les

THE GIG Toron­to­nian Gon­za­les shares how ses­sions with a life coach helped fire her pas­sions and get her on track. SELF-CEN­TRED “Get to know your­self. Learn what moves you, and do it of­ten with­out any pres­sure to suc­ceed.”

late sum­mer 2012. It’s the Sun­day morn­ing af­ter my go­ing-away party, and my friend Rob­bie and I are sit­ting on the bal­cony of the two-bed­room, twobath­room down­town Toronto condo I’m rent­ing. We chain-smoke Bel­monts for most of the day and revel in the fact that we don’t have to buy booze for the week—my fridge is kindly stocked with left­overs from par­ty­go­ers who’d come and gone the night be­fore. That night we gid­dily make our way to the bar, which is packed with other twen­tysome­things who, like us, don’t seem to be ac­knowl­edg­ing the work­day ahead. We dance un­til 2 a.m. I bring home a guy who told me that he played pro­fes­sional hockey in Europe. He slips out while I’m still groggy—some­time be­fore 9 a.m. I didn’t catch his num­ber, and I don’t even know his name.

The week­end was a se­ries of cel­e­bra­tory in­dul­gences. I’d just quit a high-salaried job in ad­ver­tis­ing sales, and I was bask­ing in my new-found free­dom. Over the past year or so, I’d be­come bored and unin­spired. I de­sired more from my 25-year-old ex­is­tence; I yearned to write and travel. Go­ing to Eng­land to get a mas­ter’s de­gree in jour­nal­ism had be­come the only choice that felt right. I would do any­thing to get there, even if it meant tak­ing on debt. In truth, sign­ing off on a $40,000 stu­dent loan had been an af­ter­thought. Plus, I was only in my mid-20s— I had plenty of time to pay that money off.

Fast-for­ward three years and I’m slumped over my bed in my par­ents’ home. I’m now 28 and raw from a split with my boyfriend of two and a half years, apart­ment-less and lack­ing the drive to pursue any real ca­reer. A mes­sage ap­pears on What­sApp from my friend Meaghan: “You may hate me for send­ing this to you, but worth a watch,” ac­com­pa­nied by a link to a TED Talk: Why 30 Is Not the New 20, given by Dr. Meg Jay, a psy­chother­a­pist who spe­cial­izes in twen­tysome­thing adult de­vel­op­ment.

I watch the video and I’m in­stantly over­whelmed. Claim your adult­hood. Get some iden­tity cap­i­tal. Use your weak ties. Pick your fam­ily. The phrases from Jay’s talk are hit­ting me up­side the head. “That video has made me feel like com­plete shit,” I fire back at Meaghan.

“Iden­tity cap­i­tal” is what Jay calls ex­pe­ri­ences that add value to who you are as a per­son. They’re ex­pe­ri­ences you can put on a re­sumé—ex­pe­ri­ences that en­hance your pre­pared­ness for fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties. “At least I have that,” I thought. Dur­ing my year of graduate school abroad, I had built a net­work of friends from Va­len­cia to Jakarta, trav­elled to seven dif­fer­ent coun­tries and com­pleted a sum­mer place­ment at Bri­tain’s largest news agency.

But in the year that I’d been home, I had spent the re­main­der of my $40K loan and racked up an­other $10,000 in credit-card debt try­ing to keep up the friv­o­lous life­style I’d led be­fore grad school. I’d moved in with a man whose val­ues were clearly not aligned with mine, hop­ing that one day we’d stop scream­ing at each other and just get along. But we never did. And I had no choice but to leave him. In ca­reer, money and love, I was in the neg­a­tives.

When I left for Eng­land at 25, my late 20s felt like they were far off; my 30s were com­pletely out of sight. I had

It was clear that I was on the self-loathing end of the spec­trum. And I had to free my­self from those in­tense feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy if I wanted to make any real progress in my life.

no clear path to the house, hus­band or ca­reer that I de­sired by 32 (the ar­bi­trary age that I’d de­ter­mined I should have all th­ese things by). I’d never even thought about how I’d ac­tu­ally get to that point. My fore­sight sim­ply wasn’t there. In her book, The Defin­ing Decade: Why Your Twen­ties Mat­ter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now, Jay says, “Self-def­i­ni­tion needs to be af­fir­ma­tive— do rather than not do.” If I wanted to have what I’d en­vi­sioned for my­self in the next two to five years, I needed to act—now.

My friends were all on dif­fer­ent paths, which didn’t help. On one end of the spec­trum, some had it all to­gether—houses, stim­u­lat­ing jobs and fruit­ful re­la­tion­ships with well-matched part­ners—while oth­ers were lost and un­able to pin­point what made them want to get up ev­ery morn­ing. But we were uni­fied by one char­ac­ter­is­tic: We all wanted great things for our­selves, and that de­sire ei­ther man­i­fested in ac­tion or self-loathing. It was clear that I was on the self-loathing end of the spec­trum. And I had to free my­self from those in­tense feel­ings of in­ad­e­quacy if I wanted to make any real progress in my life.

En­ter the life coach. I had read about Caird Urquhart of New-road Coach­ing in an on­line ar­ti­cle; the writer had been a client of Urquhart’s at a time when she was strug­gling to find full-time em­ploy­ment and liv­ing in her in­laws’ base­ment apart­ment while her hus­band trained with the mil­i­tary in a dif­fer­ent city. She felt worth­less, and her con­fi­dence was erod­ing by the day. I could definitely re­late.

I called Urquhart. In fact, I called a num­ber of life coaches. “What do I have to lose?” I thought. Dur­ing our first con­ver­sa­tion, which was 30 min­utes, free and over the phone (most life coaches let you scope them out for “chem­istry” be­fore you com­mit), I felt at ease. Best of all, Urquhart viewed my life with a light­ness that only a third-party per­spec­tive could have. At the first men­tion of my strug­gle with writ­ing, she ex­claimed, “It’s not like you’ve been do­ing this for the last five years!”— a.k.a., go easy on your­self, girl. I was sold.

Our first ses­sion would be the long­est—an hour and a half. Each of our meet­ings there­after would be a 30-minute call. Dur­ing our first chat, Urquhart asked me to list 30 of my val­ues and three words as­so­ci­ated with them: “If you’re run­ning blank, think about a time in your life when you felt really good—a time when you were really happy and suc­ceed­ing. Your val­ues usu­ally pop up then,” she said. By our sec­ond phone meet­ing, we’d honed in on my top five: bal­ance, ad­ven­ture, cre­ativ­ity, learn­ing, chal­lenge.

Af­ter 28 years, how had I not known this about my­self? My need to have enough free time for well­ness and play, my need for spon­tane­ity, my need to ful­fill artis­tic ten­den­cies and my need to con­stantly be dis­cov­er­ing new things about the world are all com­po­nents of who I am.

Urquhart guided me to­ward liv­ing a life cen­tred around my val­ues—I was to con­sider them with ev­ery de­ci­sion I made. (She even made me carry the list around in my wal­let.) At first, it was dif­fi­cult. Like when I sent a round of net­work­ing let­ters to peo­ple I knew—old friends and ac­quain­tances—and no one re­sponded. I was tempted to re­treat, stop dis­cov­er­ing the real me and ap­ply for jobs that weren’t nec­es­sar­ily a good fit. “Stop apol­o­giz­ing,” said Urquhart. “Peo­ple want to talk to peo­ple who know their own value.” I stayed on track and sent a sec­ond round. This time, I pumped up the let­ters with feigned con­fi­dence and sent them again (in­clud­ing some to peo­ple I didn’t know). I landed my first big as­sign­ment. I fi­nally felt like I was on my way.

There are still lots of ques­tions that re­main: Where do I want to live? What kind of man do I want to be with for the rest of my life? And how ex­actly will I see my goals through? But hav­ing learned what I truly value, I am now bet­ter equipped to an­swer them. As over­whelm­ing as self­dis­cov­ery can be at times, it’s definitely worth the ef­fort. I found not only true in­spi­ra­tion but also di­rec­tion. I found a jour­ney. And sud­denly, Jay’s ad­vice didn’t seem so harsh.

“For what it’s worth... it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be who­ever you want to be.” – F. Scott Fitzger­ald

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.