I've come to realize that each moment in my life has led me to the next. This might seem an obvious thought, but it's a hard one to keep in mind when you're in the thick of it. - Trevor Pearse
I originally began writing this article trying to establish a timeline of significant change. A period of months or years, perhaps book-ended by significant events. I found that for every significant transition in my life there was always one that came before. Even as I write this I think (and hope) that I will soon be facing more. This has helped me to realize that my life has been one continuous transition: each major event seems to pull me along in its wake to the next one.
As I experience transitions, I still find some major changes to be frightening; albeit in an exciting sort of way. They can bring with them pain, frustration, guilt and anger. I sometimes want to rail against the unfairness of it all. But I also realize that change brings happiness, relief, joy and perhaps a little bit of knowledge or wisdom to help guide my future. I also believe I needed the bad along with the good to give me perspective in developing, both as a person and as a professional.
A late bloomer?
I believe that, rightly or wrongly, our society has conditioned us to achieve specific milestones in order to consider ourselves successful. Chief among these milestones are: our mates (culminating in children and grandchildren) and a career (culminating in houses, cottages, gadgets, etc.). The problem I faced as a young man was feeling as though I needed to make these decisions quickly, at a time when I couldn't even figure out what I wanted to do on a weekend (let alone the rest of my life!).
So I did what a lot of young people do: I tried to figure out what I enjoyed doing in my spare time and how I could get a job doing that. In retrospect, this wasn't a great decision. If you ask most 19 year old young men what they like doing, you'll probably get a lot of similar answers, very few of which are appropriate for this article. For me, it was movies, science fiction, video games, and the usual mishmash of time vampires shared by teenagers across North America.
I figured that the best way to apply my interests was to become a high paid and well respected digital artist. I enrolled in McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, for their Multimedia program (with a dash of Philosophy on the side). I followed this up with half a year at Seneca College in their Art Fundamentals program. At the end of it all I realized that I still didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, and wasn't at all sure how I could make a living on it.
Ruts and epiphanies
So I became a graphic designer. For all the theoretical knowledge I gained from my undergrad, the only practical skill I walked away with was how to use Photoshop. At first the career was interesting. Mostly because I was one of the few among my peers who could actually say I was working in something at least slightly related to my education, even on a tertiary level. Yet, somewhere along the way, and rather quickly, I realized I was in a rut. I found my job creatively unfulfilling, stagnant, and (perhaps worst of all) boring.
My epiphany came one day, generated from a curiosity I had not yet explored. As my company's only graphic designer, every advertisement we created was produced by me. One of my projects was to make a magazine ad using representations of Canadian dollar bills. I spent the next few hours (with the help of Google) looking into federal and provincial laws and regulations on using Canadian money in print advertisement. Those few hours were the most interesting I'd spent on the job in the previous 5 years. Best of all, my research led to tangible and usable results.
5,595 km later...
Fast forward ten months, and I found myself in England going to law school. It was, at the time, the biggest leap I'd ever taken. I was on the path to becoming a lawyer. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and it wasn't. I had significant hurdles to overcome. Under ideal circumstances, a Canadian student studying locally can be a long and difficult journey. As an international student, I had the additional burdens of accrediting upon my return to Canada, as well as overcoming the stigma associated with going to a non-Canadian law school.
I reminded myself that these were fleeting concerns: once licensed and established no one would care how I got to where I was. I just needed to get there. Unlike my graphic design career, I went into law with eyes fully open, expecting and understanding that I would face many difficult hurdles, and that many of my peers and fellow law students would falter or fail. I believe now that it was this transition, from graphic designer to law student, that galvanized me and helped me face my challenges with determination and persistence. The process of becoming a lawyer wouldn't defeat me, simply because I would not let it.
The past 36 months
I was twenty eight when I began my career transition. Now I'm thirty three and I'm still transitioning. But I've realized that life is one continuous transition highlighted by milestones of change along the way. The last three years have seen many such milestones touch my life.
On the career front, I began working immediately in a law-related field (procurement) after graduating in 2012. This position became available to me through a network contact established when walking my dogs in the same neighborhood as my eventual employer. During this phase I focused on bolstering my resume, while studying for and writing my legal accreditation exams on weekends. I was accredited in spring 2013 and began licensing with the Law Society of Upper Canada. I began articling with a small family law firm, and in June of 2014 I wrote and passed the bar.
I was called as a lawyer in January 2015 and can now proudly call myself 'Barrister and Solicitor.' I even transitioned within my new found career, switching from family law to general practice, with a focus on real estate law, corporate commercial and civil litigation.
On a personal front, in summer of 2013 my son was born. Shortly after that, my marriage ended. For the first time in over 10 years I found myself single. I had felt as though I was finally on the career path I wanted to be on, just as my personal life went off the rails.
What my transitions teach me
I've come to realize that each moment in my life has led me to the next. This might seem an obvious thought, but it's a hard one to keep in mind when you're in the thick of it. My undergraduate degree and career as a graphic designer felt like such a waste of time and potential while I was going through it. Now, as I look back, I realize that they were invaluable to me.
The philosophy courses I took at McMaster inform the way I think, and I use that way of thinking as a lawyer every day. My time as a graphic designer educated me on how to work as part of a team, how to manage deadlines, and what to expect of myself in order to continuously improve.
This ongoing process of transition teaches me to appreciate the good moments and learn from the bad. By doing so I'm able to steer my life more in the direction I want it to go. I recently entered into a new relationship with a woman who excites me, teaches me, and motivates me to succeed. And I find myself again on the cusp of transition. I can see avenues of opportunity, both professional and personal, slowly but surely opening up ahead of me. For the first time in my adult life I can confidently say I'm excited to see where they lead.
It only took me 33 years to get here.
Trevor Pearse transitioned from corporate commercial and real estate law to providing legal advice in house to a privately owned software development firm in 2015. He still makes time for his interest in science fiction and movies.