Changing Careers

Katie Bartel shares her experience.

Five years ago a seedling was planted within me, one that would eventually change the direction of my life, but one I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined.

A running friend had asked me to meet with a friend of hers who, like me, has type-1 diabetes. She was training for her first half marathon and was looking for tips on how to manage running with diabetes. I was in the midst of training for my first marathon and had a handful of half marathons under my belt already; our mutual friend thought I’d be a good resource in how to run with diabetes. Turns out, this once stranger, and now good friend, was pivotal in transforming my life path.

Adventures in journalism (left to right): Police training simulation (I shot a guy in the knees!!!) at Pacific Region Training Centre; I nearly peed my pants flying passenger in Super Dave's stunt plane; learning how to make waffle cones at an ice cream cart (every summer I aimed for at least one ice cream story with the goal of free ice cream!); I saw the Fraser Valley through the eyes of a blimp – how many get to say that?!?!
Adventures in journalism (left to right): Police training simulation (I shot a guy in the knees!!!) at Pacific Region Training Centre; I nearly peed my pants flying passenger in Super Dave’s stunt plane; learning how to make waffle cones at an ice cream cart (every summer I aimed for at least one ice cream story with the goal of free ice cream!); I saw the Fraser Valley through the eyes of a blimp – how many get to say that?!?!

It was 2011, and I was eight years into my career as a newspaper journalist. It was a career I had dreamed of pretty much since I learned how to put letters to words; it was a career that came naturally to me; one that I excelled at; one that I loved. But the early signs of the downhill trajectory that would send this once proud, touted career into the dredges of worst jobs were becoming more and more apparent. That year, my newsroom lost two reporters to layoffs; we were bullied into taking a furlough day without pay for fear of more job losses, which were being doled out like candy canes at Christmas; it was a trend seen across the industry, worldwide. Both my husband and I were in the field, working for the same company. I worked more than an hour from home, with no sign of being able to transfer closer without losing seniority, vacation time, and pay. Something needed to change.

I never thought it would be the career I loved.

But as I sat across from this fellow type-1 diabetic runner, comparing insulin pumps, and war stories of dealing with diabetic medical teams, who for the most part have no idea how to work with those of us who are healthy and want to better our diseases, a nugget of change took hold within me. What if I could be the change?

That afternoon I went home and enrolled in two online upgrading courses for chemistry and biology 11. It was the first step towards me becoming a registered dietitian. For three years I secretly worked through lunches, pregnancy, and maternity leave filling up on pre-requisites. Two years ago, I took the leap. I left my full-time job – with benefits – in pursuit of another round of higher learning.

It hasn’t been easy.

I am 37 years old; I’m a wife; a mom to a go-go-go three-and-a-half year old; I have a mortgage; my husband lost his job when his paper was shut down seven months ago. I have an addiction to travel, and a once-loved relationship with the TV, both of which have been seriously muted. I am a visual, creative, wordsy thinker; anything involving numbers scares the bejebus out of me.

I graduated from high school in 1996. I graduated from journalism school in 1999. My Douglas College peers were barely out of diapers when I was venturing into my first career. I’ve never thought of myself as old, and I still don’t, but there’s been a few moments; in one class I brought up the O.J. Simpson trial in relation to something and got blank stares in response. They had no clue who he was. It was 1994 after all; most hadn’t even been born.

I've been known to go a little wonky studying for finals.
I’ve been known to go a little wonky studying for finals.

No longer the student who sits in the back of the class, too shy to speak, I now sit front and centre, ask questions galore, and have even challenged a couple of instructors when warranted. I don’t go on benders before tests, I don’t pull all-nighters, and I don’t wait until the last minute before an assignment is due to start. For me, this is my full-time job. When I’m not in class, I’m studying. When my boy goes to bed, I’m studying. On weekends, when he’s napping, or out on adventures with his daddy, I’m studying.

Mediocrity is not an option. Every grade is hard earned.

Yes, there are moments I miss the everyday unexpected that journalism gave me. But the industry hasn’t improved, if anything it’s worse with newspapers shuttering every day.

Yes, I sometimes question if I made the right decision. It would have been easier to stay with what I knew and not wonder every day if today is the day I blow up the chemistry lab. Every day is a challenge, but it’s also super rewarding to see how far I’ve come.

Yes, there are moments I fear I’m missing out on the growth of our child. But then I think, my child is watching this transformation, he’s seeing me work so hard towards a new career path, a new dream, a new love. That is something most children don’t get to witness. And that is pretty freaking special.

Katie Bartel

Katie is a former journalist and student, and is a type 1 insulin-dependent diabetic into running 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, and marathons. She blogs about her experiences at Princess of Pavement.

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