Four Is Not the Magic Number: A Story by Christian Josef Ortiz

Author: Christian Josef Ortiz

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re sitting in a classroom surrounded by other students, but you can’t understand what the professor is discussing? It feels like your world is on fire because you know that the material being covered will be included in the upcoming midterm exam, which counts for 30% of your grade. But rest assured, you’re not alone in this experience.

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Christian Josef Ortiz, and I’m currently a first-year student pursuing an advanced diploma in cybersecurity. Interestingly, I am not attending my originally planned school and degree, but I am much more happier for it. I will discuss more about that later.

If you knew me in high school, you’d know that getting into a bachelors degree program was my dream after graduating. I still remember the day I received my acceptance letter. I was speechless. All those endless summer school terms to upgrade my classes for the admission requirements had finally paid off.

As my high school journey came to an end, I couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions. On one hand, I was excited for what the future held for me and my friends. Many of them moved to far cities for their educational journey. As for me, I also moved out of the city to a somewhat new city, Oakville. I say “somewhat new” because my older sister used to live in Oakville, so I would visit her when she was in school. But there was one significant challenge that was different from when I was in school compared to my older sibling. It was the year of the pandemic when most social gatherings were closed for public safety. Since many establishments were closed during lockdown, it was very difficult to make friends as nobody wanted to get sick during this time. Oh, what a great era we were able to live in has passed.

The lack of freedom felt like a slow-forming avalanche that I was bound to hit. As I started my first year, it was a bit of a change since I had completed the last two years of high school completely remote. I had developed some habits that benefited me in that environment. However, the same couldn’t be said for in-person classes. I was so used to rewinding lecture videos at home that it was hard for me to understand the professor in real-time. Not having the ability to skip and rewind their presentations made it difficult for me to properly comprehend the content. Therefore, I really struggled with my first year in college. While I was really trying to persevere in that initial first year of school, it was really taking a toll on my mental health. If you are reading this you might be in your room studying for the difficult test you are so anxious for, and I am here to tell you that the stress you are feeling now is temporary. The only thing you can do is try your best, once you have done that the rest is out of your control, and you should never stress about things you cannot control.

Let’s fast forward to my second year. I recently got a part-time job at a bank, which I had been interested in for the last couple of years. I felt I was on top of the world, since I was unhappy in school, I was beginning to think of a career change. This was the first time I had the opportunity to explore a different industry than the one I was focused on for the past year and a half. After working at the bank for a couple of months it made me re-think my career options. Since my interest in cybersecurity had declined for the past couple of months. I wanted to take a break from my school. I want to emphasize this; it is okay to be doing something unrelated to your degree you obtained or are currently pursuing. I would even recommend this for people who do not know what kind of career they want to pursue. This gives you the opportunity to build experience, grow your network and have a more diverse understanding of your options in life.

Being able to take that break from school was probably the best decision I had made in a while. This gave me more of an opportunity to bounce ideas off them regarding my career path and learn from their experiences. I really recommend for students to talk with co-workers and mentors and bounce-off your thoughts with someone who has some professional experience. It is great because you are able to see their views and experiences, which most of the time are not simple cookie-cutter journies.

Overall, I ended up taking a one-year break from school to re-evaluate what I truly wanted in life. Taking that break was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I realized how important education is and re-ignited my interest in the field of cybersecurity. This led me to join a new college program and I am finally where I belong. I am no longer stressed and anxious 24/7 and I’m doing much better in my school and personal life.

Getting an education is not a sprint; it’s a marathon with its ups and downs. I believe that taking a break away from your plans doesn’t mean you won’t achieve your dreams. Understanding the situation you’re in and overcoming the obstacles are more important than achieving those goals as soon as possible. If you take the time to care for yourself and are not afraid to re-evaluate your choices, you will be able to achieve anything you set your mind to.

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