What no-one told you about coops

I wrote this to my friend James while I was waiting at the airport to San Francisco:

”It’s 6AM, I just said goodbye to I. and I’m ugly crying at Toronto Pearson airport. Airport is the perfect place to publicly cry. A mom asked me if I was okay and I haven’t felt this not-okay in a long time. I wonder how much of what we want is at odds with what the world tells us to want. Because on my way to leave for a job I’ve wanted since I was 16, I want to do nothing but stay. How do we measure intangible things like love, and closeness, against things that our institutions value, a six-figure salary, a tech office with a Willy Wonka factory supply of snacks?”

I’d be amiss to not admit the immense privilege of having tried half a dozen jobs before I graduate in a handful of different cities. In so many ways, this is exactly where high-school-Grace planned to be but there is, however, a few things I wish I knew then.

1. You’re never not recruiting ( Job hunting teaches you a lot about yourself)

The job that you want for your first coop is either unrealistic or boring. You either get the brand name or do interesting things, so you went on years long journey where everything in the tech world looks like a potential opportunity. It can be exhausting. I spent hours honing multiple versions of my resume to make sure it passed the automation. There was no powering down for a long time until I Cali’d (got a job in big tech) and felt like I made it.

When job offers gives you frequent feedback, it’s hard not to base your identity off of your hourly wage, plus, being so young, it can feel like there is so little to differentiate yourself from your peers. This is not to mention the very awkward system that is Waterlooworks, where you are directly pitted against your friends on interview lists. To be brutally honest, I wasn’t able to feel truly happy for my friends until I felt secured in my job prospects. This is silly, of course, because we’re on different journeys and are surrounded by an abundance of opportunities. I just wasn’t aware of how much of my life it had become. All we can do is show up for each other, that took me a while to learn.

2. Moving is exhausting

I’ve lived in 5 cities over the past few years and I am a better person for it. I know what I like and dislike in cities and I can now begin to draw the life I want to live. Moving though will never become easier and I don’t mean the physical act of dragging your suitcases across the continent, although that too, is hard.

Every 4 months I pack up everything I own to move to a new place that took me months to find, to live in a new city with new people. People that I will love until I have to leave. The feeling of impermanence has permeated my veins for a long time, an acute awareness that nothing will last. Not the quiet evenings on the shore of Kitsilano beach or the post-dinner living room dancing in the Mission. I made peace with the fact that I will never see this version of my self again; the end-of-an-era is always lurking around the corner; home is a luxury.

3. Relationships

The coffee shop in Kitsilano had only begun to know me as the soup girl when I had to move back to Waterloo. Friendships always came easily to me growing up. However, building a community now takes more effort when your friends are in multiple different timezones and hangouts come in the form of Zoom invites. It’s easier to refrain from love, or getting to know your neighbours, because you’re only in Seattle or Madrid or New York for a few months. You’ll soon realize that no one has it in them alone to drag their bags to a new city every 4 months and be completely, humanly okay. Maintaining a relationship, to not just friends, but also family, will become a worthy endeavour. As I found out, the most glorious bits of our existence is just people's patience, company and kindness.

I realize now that a lot of this sounds pessimistic but given the choice, I wouldn’t have chosen anything else. Having the job that you care about, with coworkers that root for you while being paid competitively is an earned privilege. It’s the product of a rigorous selection criteria that you discovered speed-running through jobs and cities. This is adulthood on steroids, it creates conviction and build self-trust, you experience more heartbreaks than your peers and you become wiser for it. To end on a more soothing note, here’s a quote from Katie’s blog post that I think about a lot:

”Your preferences will be revealed to you over time. The more you explore and lean into your hunches, the easier it will be to make choices without regret.”


Sending my warmest gratitude to early readers of this draft - Mylene, Joss, Gabby and James. They each make me want to be a better, kinder version of myself <3


Writing this was difficult because it forces me to recognize the shallow, career-hungry version of myself that I deny existed for years. The truth is, for me, it’s not easy to run down rabbit holes like self-exploration and art until I feel like I have a handle on the world. I was talking to my friend about this too. Maybe this is the wicked Waterloo student’s Maslow hierarchy of needs. We thought we were just bad at balancing things, turns out they were impossible to balance. In the wise words of my favourite author, Min Jin Lee, when asked about her book opening "Competence can be a curse":

" I think this happens to a lot of high-functioning people. We think that we can do everything, and in our process of doing everything we don't do the thing that matters the most. We don't do the things that take the greatest risk, because we are so competent. And often we're overtaxed by our competence, and we don't know that."

Thanks for stopping by. I'll see you next time :)