In April 2014, was hired on as the Executive Director of an environmental non-profit with annual budget of about $275,000 at the age of 24. At the time of my hiring, I was still a full-time graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Wetland Ecology. I applied for the position looking for interview experience, and wound up with my dream job focused on my favourite river. How could a girl say no?
The original plan was to finish the Master’s part time, move to Moncton (New Brunswick, Canada), and change the world. I quickly found out that running a charitable organization with little background knowledge was extremely hard. The learning curve was steep: accounting, marketing, HR management, public relations, website updates, budgeting, project planning, evaluations, etc. Within the first six months, I had completely lost myself in my work which resulted in many negative personal repercussions: forgetting to eat, being distant and unavailable to friends and family, regular panic attacks, and more. The organization was thriving and the organization became a household name in the community, but I was drowning.
By the end of my first year working, I realized I had to quit the Master’s. This was a painfully obvious decision- it was dragging me down and I no longer needed the credential. I took the day off work to write the email to my supervisor through tear filled eyes. Luckily, he was understanding and supportive. I have never regretted this decision. With the support of my roommate, I was able to make a list of my many commitments and narrow them down to the bare essentials that allowed me some free time. I’m so thankful for the patience and understanding of those around me who realized that I was not at my best, even though my professional veneer had others thinking otherwise.