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This ‘Selfish’ Millennial is Entitled to Happiness

With one foot in front of the other, I walk away from the academic institution where I have spent the last four years of my life. I walk away with an undergraduate degree under my belt and a huge smile on my face. The undergraduate degree is satisfying as it proves my effort and dedication to my studies for the past four years. I feel proud of myself as I think back through my university career and how I made it to this point. I think about the challenges I’ve overcome that helped to develop and shape me into the person I currently am. As I take my final steps on campus, I deserve to feel happy,  accomplished and proud of myself in this moment.

Because it wasn’t an easy journey. At 17, I moved 24 hours away from a small town in Northwestern Ontario to pursue higher education and experience life in the city. At 17, I was naive, young and bright-eyed. At 17, I entered my first class of my undergraduate degree and graduation couldn’t have felt so far away.

At 21, four years have passed in a blink of an eye and through it all, I have survived. I have survived the sleepless nights spent worrying about upcoming assignments and exams. The long days and even longer nights trying to keep up with my school workload, while maintaining a job, good mental health and a semi-social lifestyle. There have been multiple break downs and more stress than I thought I could bear. It may seem hard to understand these challenges, but when your grades dictate your financial situation and, sometimes, your personal assessment of your intelligence – it is a lot of pressure to put on the back of a 17-year-old.

Within the past four years, there have been days where I spent hours binge-watching movies in my comfiest crewneck sweater. The days where I let my mind have a break, and wander away from the stress that University provokes. These days allowed me to feel relaxed, free and happy. This does not make me lazy. I worked hard to make it to where I am now.

But today, these past four years are now a part of my past.

As I move forward, I continue to think about what I want out of life and in the future. The answer to this question has always been happiness. Wherever I may end up in the future, I want to feel genuinely happy. Today, the story of my pursuit of happiness begins.

But the path to happiness is not always straightforward. I know that my near future involves intense job-searching and taking any opportunity that I am offered in order to pay the bills. This could mean getting by on minimum wage. It could mean working every single day in order to get by. I’m not afraid to work hard to stay afloat.

However, I refuse to stop job searching until I am in a position that satisfies my career goals and fuels my passion. This may seem like a lack of job loyalty or a selfish act to you, but to me – it’s prioritizing my personal happiness. A lesson I’ve learned throughout these past four years of challenges and opportunities is that life is too short to be miserable.

For the most part, people don’t realize how short life is until something terrible happens. A loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The sudden death of a family member or close friend. After we experience the sorrow of loss, we get this spurt of motivation, that lasts a month or so, to make the most of life. But what if it didn’t take an unfortunate event to inspire people to live their life for happiness?

Imagine if you spent every day working towards improving your life.  My philosophy is that life is about this pursuit of happiness, and this journey to happiness varies for everyone. Each human being has a different idea on what defines their happiness and each definition is perfectly adequate. Maybe it’s spending $5 on your favourite coffee every morning to start the day off with a smile. Happiness could mean spending weekends with your family and friends exploring other cities and staying in AirBnBs. It could mean inviting your family members over for dinner every Sunday. Happiness could mean spending your Saturday night curled up in front of a fireplace with a newly released romantic comedy film and a warm mug of tea.

So take a second and think… What makes you happy?

I don’t want to just survive. I don’t want to spend the next forty years in a job that doesn’t inspire me. I want to feel passionate, motivated and full of energy to take on whatever life decides to throw my way. I want the ability to explore everything life has to offer without feeling guilty. Everyone should feel entitled to pursue their definition of genuine happiness.

So please forgive me if I offend you with the path I take to discover what makes me happy. My journey to happiness will continue until I get where I want to be. Do I know where I’ll end up? No… but that’s all part of the journey.

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My Daughter Could Be a Professional Hockey Player

If you asked me at ten years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said this: “I want to play hockey for Team Canada at the Olympics”. That was my dream.

I started skating when I was 3 years old. I would attempt to chase my older sister around the pond as I held on tightly to my tipped-over chair – the only thing keeping me from falling down every 3 seconds. As soon as I could manage to skate on my own, the chair was replaced with a hockey stick. In that moment, I began to fall in love with hockey.

Andrea & Hayley Wickenheiser September 2006 (2)When I was ten years old, I met Hayley Wickenheiser during a Team Canada training camp in my hometown. I looked up at her and I saw the Olympic gold medal hanging around her neck. It was then that I knew I wanted to be just like Hayley. It was then that my dream to play in the Olympics was more clear than ever before. It was then that I was truly in love with the game of hockey.

Six years later, I turned 16. The age that I realized I wasn’t nearly good enough to play in the Olympics. The age when I realized that I had no idea how to get to that point of being good enough. I didn’t know where to begin. All I had was my ice time 3x a week with my high school hockey team in my small town. How was I going to get noticed? These questions began to repeat inside my head until I realized the dismal truth. And that was when my dream began to die.

Fast forward to my first year in university. While trying to decide whether or not to try out for the hockey team, I was faced with a decision: to not play hockey and finish university in 4 years or to play hockey and have to stay for 5 years. While struggling with this decision, I finally realized that if I decided to play hockey, there would be nothing afterward. I would play my 5 years and be done with my hockey career. So I made the decision to focus on my future career and leave hockey to be my past time.

Don’t get me wrong – this was not an easy decision nor an easy realization to come to. I went from playing competitively all my life to playing once a week at the university intramurals. But I was being realistic about my future, and I had to put my focus on my education in order to get a good career. At this time, there were no outlets for women’s hockey unless you were the best of the best.

Today, I have hope for the future of women’s hockey. 2017 marks the tenth season of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), the first Canadian Professional Hockey League for female players. With a league of currently 5 teams that feature multiple gold medal winning Olympians, they continue to expand in terms of talent and publicity.

Hayley Wickenheiser. Marie-Philip Poulin. Caroline Ouellette. These Olympic and CWHL athletes are becoming household names within hockey families and fans. Their talent and athleticism are being recognized by major sports media outlets. Over the past year, the CWHL has received game broadcasts via Sportsnet. For a regular season game between the Toronto Furies and Les Canadiennes de Montreal, the Sportsnet broadcast brought in an average of 136,400 viewers. The All-Star game at the Air Canada Centre brought in over 8,o00 spectators.

These numbers show that there are fans of the CWHL. There are people willing to watch professional women’s hockey. So what does this mean for the next generation of female hockey players?

The CWHL is looking toward #TheNextTen, and in doing so, have introduced the 25 for 10 Campaign. With ten years of achievements and expansion (in terms of publicity and sponsors) under their belt, #TheNextTen includes looking forward to the possibilities for growth of the league in the next ten years. Let’s hope this includes the league’s athletes getting paid a sustainable amount to make a living from playing hockey.

I hope the next generation of young female hockey players won’t have to give up on their dream. I still believe that if I saw a future in hockey when I was 16, I would have pushed myself harder to get better. Instead, I let my dream go and went on to create new goals and have new dreams.

I may have given up on my dream at 16, but perhaps my future daughter will not have to give up on hers. I look forward to hearing her goals and ambitions with the realization that they are achievable. I look forward to a world where your gender does not determine your abilities or influence your dreams. A couple decades from now, my future daughter could be a professional hockey player.

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