The first day of my first professional job I was both excited and terrified. I chose my outfit carefully – a pale green pencil skirt, and silk floral blouse. I am almost certain I wore pantyhose and black pumps. I was exhilarated as I walked through the front doors at one of Canada’s top independent television stations. I did not know it then, but I would be at home there. I would find a family there. I would learn to flex my creativity, and take chances there. That first day led to five years there. It set the tone for my career. Because of that job, I continue to thrive to this day, but it wasn’t always easy.

Things are often not what they seem. At that time I faced challenges no one knew about.  As professionals, we are expected to show up and do our job, because it is just that – our job. We rarely reveal our underlying struggles, or trying circumstances, especially at the beginning of our career. There is too much to lose. I

That first day, at that career job, in that iconic building, I showed up in a car I could no longer afford to fill with gas. The outfit was purchased with a credit card that was at its $500 limit, because I had no money in the bank. Within weeks I would not have been able to pay my rent. I did not have money for food. Looking back on it, I am sure I would have found a way, but that first paycheck at that job saved me from a dire situation that was looming. I never let anyone I worked with know. I did not show it. The year prior was the most difficult year of my life. Getting back on my feet was a hard.

I was afraid if people knew I was struggling, I would not have been hired. I was afraid if I was honest about what I had been through, I might have been judged. That was 30 years ago, so I want to give that scared, resilient 21-year-old credit for her courage, and her determination to make things better for herself. I want her to know she overcame those difficult times with her hard work. I want her to know her efforts, and fortitude have given me the life I have today. I want to thank her. She was so strong, and so amazing.

This past year bought back some of the vulnerable feelings that were tucked away. I am sure a lot of us have faced uncertainty, doubt, and maybe even fear. I have felt all of those things. I have also felt helpless, because just like when I was younger, I didn’t do anything to cause it, but it is still a part of life to face hard times.

I suppose the difference between the me of then, and the me of now, is the benefit of experience, and the knowledge that tough times can be overcome. No matter how dire life seems, better times are often ahead. I feel like I put my head down to get through the hard times back then, but I keep my head up now. I face things head on. I guess I want to see what’s coming.

These, days, when I am struggling, I can dare to show it. I can say it. I can do that without fear of judgment, or negative consequences. Maybe the times have changed a bit, or maybe I have earned that. Maybe I just don’t care. I think this past year we have all earned the right to feel however we feel. It has been hard, and for many it will continue to be.

I have had some amazing encouragement lately from many of my friends, and my peers. Like so many people I know, I am working hard to get through the current situation. I am using the skills I learned so long ago. I am allowing the creative flex, and chance taking to drive me. It is not easy, but I am doing my best, and that is enough.

I am writing this because struggling is not a weakness, it is a strength. Amazing, resilient, hard fought struggle is strength. Thank you young Ilan…because of you, I did not fail, I triumphed. Because of you, I am me.