The Employment Officer

Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandi

It was late August 2001. Fresh off getting married, I had decided to go back to college. Fearing that I was entering a lifetime of job turnover with no real career satisfaction, I had decided to take the plunge and upgrade my skills. At the time I was only 22 and as a newlywed couple, we did not have many financial responsibilities so with the support of my new wife, off I went.

I was at the employment insurance office looking for financial help with my upcoming studies when I came across this gnarly man who was given the title of “Employment Officer”. I simply asked him if I could get help to pay for my college ambitions. He quickly snapped back with the question of “were you laid off from your place of employment?” to which I responded, “no, I just want to upgrade my skills”. He promptly snapped back “Well there is nothing I can do for you here. You need to be without a job in order to qualify for any assistance”. I realized that was the case, but I had heard of stories where some people were able to get financial assistance to upgrade their skill sets. On this day, I was not one of those people. I was shot down!

Angered that my province (New Brunswick, Canada) wouldn’t help me, I had expected them to come through for me and they failed. What good were they to me? I had held my hand out and it was promptly slapped! I was of the mindset that the world owed me in order for me to be successful. I had believed that improving myself was a product of my environment, not a product of my ambition. After that meeting with the employment officer, I almost gave up my dream. If it wasn’t for the support of my newlywed wife, I wouldn’t have taken the chance to go back to college. Thankfully, we got through that year on ourselves (of course with help from our families).

I live in a province where a majority of its population expects the government to do everything for them; I was one of those people. Poverty, obesity and unemployment reign supreme as everyone sits around waiting for someone else to fix the problem. A common belief is that it’s the government’s fault that we are in the shape we are. We drink because there is nothing else to do. We smoke because it saves us from the stress! We eat unhealthy, processed foods because we can’t afford healthier options. We live in a land of abundant excuse and zero ambition.

After my experience with that employment officer I had learned a very valuable life lesson: nobody owes me anything. That lesson planted a seed in me, I realize that government cannot solve our issues, we can only solve them ourselves. In order for me to survive, I need to work on changing my fixed mindset to that of growth. In a growth mindset, you must be willing to accept that you are in control of your world. That no problem is the fault of someone else and the solution to every problem lies within you. Acceptance that you can change the world through your own actions is key to your real happiness.

I believe that in order to change the world around me, I must be that change! It meant that I had to quit smoking, eat healthy, get active, remain positive (even during negative times), listen to others, respect others and never say never. It meant that I must continually push my limits, and accept that I will live comfortably uncomfortable. It is not easy to live this way, far from it. When a lot of the people around you are living contrary to your lifestyle, it can be very challenging. To some it could feel like torture, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no excuses anymore.

My hope is that by being the change I want to see in the world, my world will change right along with me. I hope that we will aim to be progressive and move our beautiful province a step forward instead of two steps back. That reliance upon government to solve problems that they have no business solving will be eradicated. Finally, I hope that our next generation will have no reason to talk to that grumpy old employment officer!

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