Back to School

My first day at school in New York did not feel great. As fifteen students sat around a rectangular table in a drafty classroom, my teacher Mary asked everyone to go around the room and say what they had been doing for the last few years prior to beginning the Masters program. One by one my sharply-dressed classmates (sadly not a toque in sight!) listed off their accomplishments: intern at Elle, editor of a Bozeman newspaper, fashion writer, freelance photojournalist. When it was my turn I explained that I had lived in a Canadian ski town teaching snowboarding in winters and took teenagers on canoe trips in Ontario in the summers. Blank stares all around. Although I am super happy with those experiences, at that moment, as one of a handful of people in the whole program with no journalism background, I didn’t feel that even one hair on my head belonged in that room. I went back to my apartment that day and wondered what on Earth I was doing.

Feeling undeserving or like an imposter during new experiences is an awful feeling. Everyone at some point has felt it, whether it be a new job, school or social setting. It can often be difficult to remind yourself that every person in the same situation you are in likely feels the same way, despite their apparent confidence. It took a month or two to stop feeling like I was the beginner in a program full of pros, but eventually I hit my stride. Even though I felt like the start of the school year would have been much less rocky if I had the kind of background that my classmates did, a diversity of experiences in the people you are around always makes for a richer environment.

Although Fernie is a small town, it is a perfect example of this diversity. In any group of friends there are people from different pockets of Canada and the world who have interesting backgrounds in different jobs, unique skills and a ton of collective knowledge. That is one of the nicest things about living here; you can find some common ground with just about anyone, but you can also learn something new from them too.

While it is always tough to leave Fernie, it can be a pretty good place to live in before embarking on a new chapter. Being constantly surrounded by courageous and adventurous people is inspiring and challenges you to try new things. Only living in town for a few months you will meet many people arriving for the first time or heading off on exciting travels and challenges. People are routinely stepping outside their comfort zones here, whether physically or contextually, and there is no better place to get you stoked as you plan for a new beginning.

This fall, as I head back to school, I am hoping that things will be a little less overwhelming, and I am grateful to have spent some more time in this special place where people are consistently pushing themselves.