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Transitions: stepping outside your comfort zone while staying true to yourself

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

To say the least, for me, being a student athlete at Duke was amazing. My four years on Duke Women’s Rowing Team (DWR) were something special. DWR got a bid to NCAAs twice, I had the honour of being captain for 2 years, and DWR got its first ever gold medal at ACCs my senior year. Accolades aside, DWR has my heart; my team means the world to me, I’ve made friends for life, I have incredible mentors, and the lessons I’ve learned and the memories I have will always be with me and are invaluable. As well, I made the U23 Canadian National team for the last two summers. I made incredible friends, memories, and became a World Champion. I’ll never forget the excitement, adrenaline, and pure joy of the last 500m of the A final at worlds in 2018; that was the best feeling in the world.

However, coming down from the high of 8 incredible years of rowing was not easy. All of a sudden there was no path laid out for me.

I used to know exactly what I wanted in the future: I wanted to win ACCs, go to NCAAs, be a team captain, be in the varsity 8, make the National Team, get a certain GPA, get 9 hours of sleep, and get a DQ blizzard as often as possible. After retiring from rowing, I had no sense of what direction to go in, there was no longer a prescribed path to follow, and most of all, I had the intense fear that I would never love anything as much as I loved rowing, and I would never be as happy as I had been at Duke.

On top of this, it seems like everyone nowadays jumps right into jobs that they hate with the promise of a good salary and horrible work-life balance. People would ask how much money I make or would look down on me because I didn’t have some big corporate job right out of university.

That was not the path I wanted to take. I wanted to take the time I needed to learn about jobs that I could thrive in, try out a few things, and get a masters degree. I wanted to do these because I knew what happiness, respect, and fulfilment felt like, and I wasn’t willing to give up on the idea that I can have that in the future, but in a different capacity.

After another amazing summer of rowing in 2019, I felt at peace with saying goodbye to rowing for a bit, and was happy with how it ended. Fall 2019 I spent mostly informational interviewing and coffee chatting all sorts of different people - jobs spanning different levels, industries, and backgrounds. With these interviews and my own research, I narrowed down my list to a few jobs and industries that interested me. I got a job as an HR administrator at Impact Kitchen in January. I love the company, have learned a lot, and have really enjoyed the experience. I had an internship for the summer at the Four Seasons Residences where I would get experience and insight into the travel and tech industry, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to COVID-19. I worried that this would get in the way of my plans for growth and learning this year, but I decided to make the most of it.

I started a business, Izzy’s Island Courier, which is an island delivery service. I get to spend summer in my favourite place doing something helpful, creative, entrepreneurial, and engaging. I deliver groceries, alcohol, and other things to people’s islands to keep them out of town and busy stores to stop the spread of COVID-19. After 2 weeks, I can already say that business is booming and it is definitely a highly demanded and important service. Starting something like this has fuelled a passion for entrepreneurship and creativity that I hadn’t realized before, and it gives me insight into starting something from the ground up.

Everything considered, this year has been important for my mental health. I’ve tried a variety of different things, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, and I’ve even started a business. Taking this year to explore has been worthwhile to say the least, and it has allowed me to start things that I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t had the time for. I started volunteering at a YWCA Women’s Shelter. I’ve taken up running, swimming, and yoga. As well, I traveled to Germany to visit my best friend, and to Mexico City with my mum and sister, which spurred on my love of Duo Lingo Spanish lessons!

After this year, I feel excited and motivated about the future. I’m young, and I have taken the time to try out new things and learn about what is best for me. I’m going to business school to get my masters in September, and I have a solid idea of what I want to do in the future. Most importantly, I’ve solidified a great support system and I feel fulfilled and valued. If I were to give one piece of advice to anyone, it would be: don’t let anyone rush you on your life - you can’t compare your beginnings to other people’s middle or end.

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