Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Road Less Travelled

It's Throwback Thursday or #TBT and as I was looking for a photo I came across a keynote address I gave to a graduating class in 2010. I thought it would be fun to share that speech with you today as it still rings true. 

"Good evening graduates, faculty, family and friends. I’m truly honoured and humbled to be speaking to you this evening. A graduation ceremony is such a moment in a person’s life. Thank you for making me part of your’s. I really hope you grads take a quiet minute tonight to reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Getting here today wasn’t easy, and you deserve to be proud of yourselves.

As I choose my route through life, I am learning that the path less taken is often the most rewarding. It can be tough to not follow the crowd and try something different, but that is where you will find success. By graduating today you are showing the world that you value yourself and your future by investing in education. My education also came through the road less travelled.

My high school teachers convinced me that success was only to be found with a university degree. But, pretty much as soon as I started my first year in university, I knew it wasn’t the right choice for me. I kept thinking, ‘where is this course going to get me?’ I could not connect a practical career to the classes I was taking. At least not a career I was interested in. I wanted to get out into the working world with true skills and experience to prepare me.

I finished out the year, which was super tough, but a lesson learned. I find it’s best to follow through on something once I start, to give everything my all, just in case I am surprised by the outcome.

I decided to take some time off from school to really learn what I wanted to pursue. Turns out this was a good move, because in that September my dad passed away suddenly. I was just 19 and home at the time of his death. This shook me to my core and left me stunned with no direction. Before his death, my dad was the person I turned to for professional advice. Now, I felt no one knew what was best for me and no one could give me the advice I needed. I rebelled, shut off and did not deal well with his sudden death.

Isn’t it interesting how sometimes life lessons are just as important as what you can learn in the classroom? Slowly, I turned around and decided to honor his legacy rather than be a victim to the hand I was dealt. Education has always been a priority to me. I love to write and also love the theatre. But, when I read somewhere that the average actor makes eight grand a year, I decided I probably wasn’t going to be the next Julia Roberts. Growing up my family always watched the six o’clock news together and my dad had often mentioned how broadcasting would be a good fit for me. So I decided to try to combine my love of writing and performing.

I was accepted into the Broadcast Journalism program at BCIT and started exactly one year after my dad’s death. At 21 I was the second youngest person in my class. Like Sprott Shaw, BCIT has small classes and the professors have industry experience. This was the place for me. I loved how, just like here, I was given relevant skills for the industry I wanted to be a part of.

Initially my goal was to successfully make it through the program and take it one step at a time. With a heavy course load and intense classes, my social life was non-existent but I loved it. Quickly, I was ready to apply my education in the field.

For the summer between first and second year, I volunteered full-time at a radio station in Kelowna in their newsroom. It was a huge sacrifice to not get paid and to travel every day from Summerland to Kelowna, but well worth it. A lot of the broadcast industry, like other lines of work, is based on who you know. The bosses at the Kelowna station were super impressed that I would commute and work for free, just to get radio experience. Although it made for a very tight situation financially, the sacrifice was well worth it. I ended up co-oping out of my program a semester early after securing my first job at a station in Prince George. The News Director there knew the one in Kelowna, who gave me a great review. My dedication paid off.

Like I was saying before, sometimes the road less travelled is the one worth driving. In this case, I travelled down a very long road, up north to Prince George in the middle of a minus 35 blizzard.

I can literally remember walking outside my hotel room on my first morning, feeling my nostrils freeze instantly, my damp hair go hard and my poor car resist starting because I didn’t know to plug it in. What had I done? I was 800 kilometers from anyone I knew. I’m not going to lie; I had a little cry over some hash browns at A&W before work that morning. I know some of you are new to this country, and I felt a little like I had woken up somewhere else.

That move ended up being the best thing I could have done for my career. It was great to learn, make mistakes and learn again. I started at the bottom of the totem pole in the newsroom and slowly worked my way up. I got to cover amazing events like a strike with hundreds of truckers, elections and even a Hells Angels funeral. Just surviving on my own felt like an accomplishment. Prince George is also where I met my husband.

A couple years after moving back to Penticton and working in the newsroom at SunFM and AM800 EZRock, I was approached to try the morning show. I had zero experience being myself on-air or talking off-the-cuff because I’d only ever done news. But, I kind of like to do things that scare me. Like addressing you all today! So again, I jumped in on the show and have never looked back. The Sunrise Show on 97.1 SunFM has been the most listened to show on the number one station ever since I started. It’s brought out a confidence and strength of character in me that I always knew was there, just didn’t know how to coax it out. I also didn’t know it was possible to have this much fun and get paid for it.

I hope my story can be an example to you of how important it is to listen to yourself and take the path most suited for you and only you. My favorite quote is ‘to thine own self be true’ from William Shakespeare. It’s so important to do what you want, on your own terms. Empowering yourself with education and graduating today is the first step on that journey. Who knows where it will take you? Only you do.


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