Just when you think you can’t keep your head above water, a life raft comes.

Not that life is going to slow down, or that I’ll get to have a weekend with the husband any time soon, but I feel encouraged. I feel like the future is coming a lot quicker than I expected.

My volunteer internship has evolved into more than just me being an office assistant and into a full-blown educational experience (with lot’s of office assisting combined). AND IT’S PAID!!!!

I went into the office a few weeks ago to meet with the boss and it turned into an interview with the boss, a designer and the owner.

I sat down in the board room and people just kept coming in. A question was asked, there was silence, three sets of eyes on me, and I was let out the gate running. I was intimidated for the first while, but the words just began to tumble out of my mouth. I saw their eyebrows go up as they exchanged glances followed by slight nods of the head. Because this is a career change for me, I think I bring a whole different outlook to the job. I know what I want and I am passionate about it. If that passion isn’t shared, then that’s not the place for me. But the interview turned a corner when I discussed how I have always loved to create and that design has always been a passion for me, but I have always wanted to help people and, when I was younger, I didn’t see how the two could be combined.

When I walked into the group home (that I would eventually come to pour everything I had in me into that place until there was nothing left of me) for the first time, my heart sank. It was dirty, dingy and soooo depressing. In no time I was bringing stuff in from home. It started with some dishes, and magazines and it escalated into nicer leather couches than I’ll probably ever own.

I started tearing wallpaper off the walls. I painted. And when Christmas came around, I cut my decorations in half and put them up there.

The girls changed too. They spent less time on the streets, and more time hanging around the house. Staff morale went up. We all took ownership and pride in the house. And as more people got wind of what were were doing, the more things we got donated (hence the amazing leather couches).

Our homes got upgraded too.

When I came, the belief was that girls who had lived on the streets, been in and out of jail, and struggling with addictions would trash whatever we had, so things were kept to a bare minimum. They were already in poor shape so if anything was destroyed, it wouldn’t feel like a loss.

Working in that industry is so hard. There is so little that you can control. I think I started bringing stuff in to spruce the place up out of an unconscious need to gain some sort of control- it was a bit of a coping mechanism for me.

As girls came and went (28 girls lived with me over the 3 years I worked there), word began to travel: our house was the place to go and rumour had it that some girls were trying to get kicked out of their permanent placements to get back into our home (it was an emergency/transitional house).

Landlords came out of the woodwork, and started to offer up much nicer living living arrangements. The icing on the cake was a brand new home in a very wealthy neighbourhood. Now, I found that returning to my personal home meant a serious step down in luxury.

Having that experience showed me that design can, without a doubt, change people. There’s a place for me in this industry. I could go on and on about doors that have flung open, strangers that are so eager to help me.  I know nothing is coincidence.

This internship is no different.

I could tell that I hit something that resonated with the designer, boss and owner. After I talked about my journey from being a group home manager to a design student, the interview turned into a discussion. One that lasted over an hour.

I am just finishing up my first year of design school. I don’t even have AUTOCAD skills to offer, yet they’re not only willing to take me on as an intern, but they’re also creating a position so that I get the opportunity to learn all the stuff they don’t teach you in school. And they’re putting me on payroll!

Just when I thought I was going to drown, a life raft came. Relaxing is not in my future- but this has given me new motivation, vigor and energy.

Sometimes we don’t know what we need. (This is so much better than any weekend off!)

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