When you’re raised in a toxic home, one of the first few steps in healing is to relearn everything. But as a rent-paying adult, there’s hardly any room in my life that gives me the space to relearn how to make mistakes and grow. I thought I would have that space in my school or in the various group homes I stayed in, but I never expected to have that at my work.
Going into the workforce, I thought that I would have to power through a system that was made for people who haven’t gone through trauma.
I expected the usual work environment where you met with the manager once a month (at most) to discuss any issues or policy changes. I prepared myself to work twice as hard and put in more hours to keep up with colleagues unaware of the struggle it takes me takes to do the same work. But after a few failed attempts at retail jobs I started to fear that I might actually be unfit to work and that I wouldn't be able to provide for myself.
On the brink of giving up, I applied to Kind Karma thinking it would be no more than a source of income. I didn’t know what it meant to be employed at a trauma-informed workspace and I definitely didn’t expect to carry the skills I learned at work into my personal life.
Working at Kind Karma for the past two years, I’ve grown tremendously. I remember feeling defeated when I couldn’t wire-wrap jewelry on my second or third attempt but here I am now, not only wire-wrapping flawlessly but working on more advanced pieces some of which I even helped design.
At Kind Karma, I've learned to see the value of my voice and now have the confidence to speak up when I have something to contribute. I've learned to take initiative and challenge myself so I can continue to develop and grow. I learned how to take constructive criticism without feeling like I’ll never be able to do anything right. I learned to be kind to myself when I make mistakes. I learned to respect work guidelines and expectations and I learned to communicate when I need time off or any accommodations.
I gained a plethora of professional skills but I’ve gained life skills too. As a youth still figuring out how to navigate the labour market, I’m grateful that I work in a nurturing environment that continues to meet me where I am. Most workplaces don’t consider the challenges faced by youth in the workplace, they expect them to perform just as well as someone that has years of employment experience under their belt.
What’s worse is that most workplaces don’t accommodate youth who have been through trauma. But working at a young age and working while living with trauma should not be a disadvantage.
I shouldn’t be “lucky” to be working at a place that gives me the skills to operate at my capacity. To be able to get accommodated without judgement and to be given room to learn should not be rare. Yet my peers always tell me that it’s crazy I’m working somewhere that allows me to be me and that empowers me when I think I can’t do something. That’s the lesson that I carry with me the most, knowing that being a youth living and working with trauma doesn’t inherently mean that there are some things I can't do.