Whyles Rowan suffered a back injury and was forced to quit his job as a cook and manager of a Hope restaurant. As a result of his injury, Whyles was in chronic pain and started using pain medication and later illegal substances to self-medicate. Additionally, Whyles was a single parent with a learning disability. It wasn’t until a close friend intervened that Whyles made a concerted effort to deal with his problems.
I met Whyles at Free Rein where I was teaching life skills. Whyles admitted his challenges up front and was determined to get clean and make a better life for himself and his family. Whyles lived by the belief that if you don’t have a plan for yourself, you will likely end up being part of someone else’s. He explained his idea that we give away our power to parents, partners, employers, unions and government agencies and fall into their plans rather than determining a direction for ourselves. I remember asking participants in a goal setting workshop what they want to do for employment. Whyles sarcastically responded “I want your job.” This was not an unusual answer to this question. However, when pressed he answered that he would like to be a drug and alcohol counsellor. I was doubtful that he would achieve this goal but encouraged him to follow his dream.
Whyles cleaned up, attended meetings and became engaged in his own life. He returned to school and spent two years overcoming the challenges of his learning disability, finishing with a GED.
Despite several attempts to enter the drug and alcohol counselling program, Whyles settled for a social work diploma program. Eventually, Whyles completed his social work practicum with our organization, giving him real-life experience dealing with clients facing challenges similar to his own. However, as he approached the end of the program Whyles told us “I was right the first time. I do want your job.”
Changing to a new career path meant going back to school to complete another program in employment counselling. Whyles had uncovered a new passion and was excited. He worked his way through the career development practitioner certificate in a year, finishing with the highest marks in his class.
Whyles returned to our agency and volunteered until a position came up with an agency in a local community where he has worked ever since. He is an excellent case manager because he knows so much about programs, education, disability resources and following your passion.
Whyles didn’t become a drug and alcohol counsellor. He allowed himself to follow new passions as he discovered them.
So is it failure? Whyles didn’t get what he planned. It comes down to the old saying “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Passion can take you to new places. Along the journey you see sites you never knew existed, that develop new directions. Whyles could still become a drug and alcohol counsellor if he wants to. He has many more options now than he did when he started on his journey.
Peter Bailey is a certified employment counsellor and director at Free Rein Associates.