In case you didn’t already know, I am a fan of J.R. Tolkien’s literary work. (I’m also fond of Gabriel García Márquez, Roald Dahl and Jules Verne but more on that at another time). I find Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit are a delightful reference for inspiring quotes, that are relevant even outside of the fantasy realm. The title of this post comes from a song Bilbo Baggins sings as he leaves the Shire to visit Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Rings (Book I).
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
I think this song sums up exactly how I feel right now. There’s a feeling of hope and anticipation that follows leaving nearly a year of school. What’s fitting is how I started this program – it began on a dusty road somewhere in Saskatchewan.
When I first saw the ad for Mohawk College’s Accessible Media Production program, it was back in January 2017. I was thrilled to see that such a program existed with a clear focus on inclusive content creation. The flexible, online delivery was a bonus. But, life happens and I was swept up with other priorities. Organizational changes were happening at my workplace and I was dealing with health concerns at the same time. The program was shelved away in my mind.
Fast forward to late July 2017. Over half a year later, I was on the Trans Canada Highway with my husband, travelling over 4000km to British Columbia. We had longed for years to make the trek out West with our dogs in tow. Our honeymoon had been a memorable East Coast drive along the Cape Breton coastline. I remember distinctly looking out the window of our Ford Escape, at the open sky and endless prairie fields. As a storm was rolling in, I was thinking of my dissatisfaction with where I was in my career. While I had a rewarding job working in the public sector (think: benefits and a generous pension plan), I had stopped learning. I was tired of coming home thinking of all the hours lost on the things I wanted to do. I had attended countless continuing education courses and workshops, only to let the skills I gained slide. I had dabbled in accessibility though work, but hadn’t had a chance to push the envelope with it. I was yearning to learn more and challenge myself. A pit stop at the Opus Art Store in Vancouver pushed things forward. I had grabbed a few drawing markers and pens, figuring I could make the 12+ hour drive more fun. Sketching the Rockies made me realize – why shouldn’t I do what I do?
In August, we came home and within a week of our return, I had applied to the program at Mohawk. I knew I didn’t want to continue working while going to school. With the savings we had, I wanted to use the year to focus completely on learning something new. I was giddy from the act itself. Here I was, a working professional, about to potentially leave a secure, full-time gig for an unknown learning opportunity. (To add salt to the wound, barely a handful of my coworkers knew where Mohawk College was). Once I was accepted, I was committed. I turned in my resignation and haven’t looked back since.
I am incredibly thankful for the program. I never went in, thinking job, job, job. I am fortunate to have found a few clients to freelance for, within the first month. The freelance business has kept my design skills in check and offers a financial buffer. Instead of just a job change, I walk away from the program with a whole set of experiences:
- Being interviewed for a national television network
- Speaking at a conference and presenting my research to accessibility peers
- Getting industry experience with a field placement
- Exploring higher ed and graduate opportunities
- Making contacts and new friends along the way
There’s so much more that I’ve learned, but these have been the highlights of the past year.