If you’re new-ish to The Quarterlife Quest, I’d like to introduce you to my monthly series of featured quarterlife questers (see April’s , May’s, June’s, July’s and August’s). About a month ago, I got an comment from one of my male readers that said “It seems like (your blog) mostly attracts the quarter-life female crowd, so I have been hesitant to post a comment. It’s like admitting that I watch Sex and the City, or read Twilight.” Well! I don’t want to alienate the boys out there! So, this month, I’m featuring that commenter and his own unique quarterlife experience. Allow me to introduce the funny yet contemplative (and male!), Shawn Forde:
1.) Okay! So last time I saw you, I was probably partying somewhere at university – fill me in on what’s been happening since your early days at university. What degree did you graduate with? Where did you end up working post-grad?
I completed a degree in Human Kinetics and then a degree in education. After this I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to settle into a district in BC. I ended up taking a job as a PE teacher in China. I went to China in 2004 and stayed for four years working as a PE teacher as well as managing the PE department. I left China after the Olympics in Beijing, which I was very fortunate to attend. After returning to Canada I worked as a TOC (teacher-on-call) for a year before I started applying for positions overseas relating to the work I am doing now in sport-for-development.
2.) And now you’re in Africa – how did that happen?!? What are you doing there?
I’ve asked myself this question many times. I think it was mostly a combination of experiences gained through travel, work, and reading that have resulted in me being in Lesotho. I suppose that I have never been averse to travelling. I travelled and worked throughout Canada and the U.S. during university, but working in China, and travelling through Asia, was really my first inter-cultural experience. As a result I became more interested in politics, history, and international issues, which I had never given much thought to growing up.
Around the time I left Canada, organizations like Right to Play were starting to get more publicity and while I was overseas I tried to stay up to date on what was happening with sport-for-development. After returning to Canada I applied for some jobs and was hired to work with the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (LENEPWHA). Through LENEPWHA and a program called Coaching for Hope. I am working with local youth soccer coaches as they attempt to incorporate HIV/AIDS prevention messages into their soccer sessions. Lesotho is a small country in southern Africa; actually it is inside of South Africa. Around a quarter of the adult population is HIV positive and the average life expectancy is 40. When I first saw your blog title and connected it to the life expectancy here I realized that if I was an average Basotho person I would be experiencing a three-quarterlife quest (sorry for the morbid aside) **Editor’s note: not morbid, but eye-opening! thanks for the connection!
3.) I read a blog post recently that debated whether or not the quarterlife crisis existed for dudes. As a guy, what are your thoughts on the matter?
I think this is a good question and I am not quite sure of the answer, but I will attempt to speak for all men. I think to claim the non-existence of a social phenomenon is a little presumptuous. The author of the post frames his argument using a fairly narrow definition. I think that he tried to equate the process of a quarter life quest to some sort of emotional crisis and I don’t believe this is representative of everyone’s experience.
I don’t think that I would label my own experience as specifically a quarterlife quest, but I am sure there are other men who do and I don’t think the process has to necessarily be accompanied by any emotional upheaval. Personally, I think I would avoid the word quest because even at this point I am not sure what I am questing for.
Be warned, I’m about to go into a cheesy philosophical metaphor…I see life more along the lines of following a path, a road, or for some people maybe a highway. At different points in your life you are presented with opportunities to leave your current path and travel a different one. I believe that at the quarter point of life we are presented with an intersection, or maybe a roundabout. We have recently left school, maybe we have traveled, maybe we have started to work, but we have probably been exposed to a variety of experiences that have made us reconsider our current path. I think that this makes it difficult for some to choose which direction to go. Others might be happy with their path, they know where they are going and what they are doing; they have their map or GPS and they’re happy to just cruise along. I guess this metaphor still implies a quest or a journey, but I see it more as a lifelong process and not necessarily confined to a person’s quarter life or mid life.
4.) How did you know you need to make a change in your life?
Jack Johnson has a song called ‘Breakdown’ – I should just say that I don’t really listen to Jack Johnson, but one of the albums I own has a remix of it. (I am not sure why I need to say that I don’t listen to Jack Johnson. Maybe it’s because I assume his audience is mostly female and by being the first guy interviewed for your blog and then referencing Jack Johnson I might be doing a pretty good job of emasculating myself). Anyways, the song is about being on a train, passing everything by, and hoping that it breaks down so you can have a look around. I felt that way about teaching I suppose. It seemed like a profession that defines your path for you. Some teachers can do amazing things while they are on that path, but I thought I would miss a lot of things if I stayed on it.
5.) What was the hardest thing about making that change in your life? What was the easiest?
I think the hardest thing was leaving the security of the teaching profession and having that defined path that I was talking about. Also, it was difficult coming to terms with having to backtrack. When I decided that I might not want to teach anymore I had a feeling that I might have wasted the last five years of my life plus the years I took getting my degrees. The easiest thing was gathering information. I think that people were so willing to answer questions. I ended up emailing a lot of different people: professors doing research related to my interests, people working with organizations in different countries, as well as the people recruiting for those organizations. Most were incredibly helpful and willing to answer any questions I had.
6.) What resources did you use to help you start pursuing you dreams/goals? In other words, how did you get to where you are now?
While I was still in China I was researching the concept of sport-for-development and wasn’t really sure what to do. I decided to enroll in a Certificate in International Development through my university. The program worked out very well for me. I was able to meet a lot of people who were working in international development and the program provided a more structured way of looking at my possible options. Also, while I have been in Lesotho I have started writing a blog. I am not sure if this is a resource, but I think it has helped me a fair bit. For one it has caused me to start reading other people’s blogs which I have never done before. For another, it has been a good way to write down my thoughts and get feedback from people who have similar interests and experiences.
7.) Where do you see yourself in a year? 5 years?
I still haven’t decided where I will be. I think I still have a number of different paths I can choose from, but at least they are all going in somewhat the same direction. At this point I believe that I will continue to work in the same area –using sport for social change, but I am not sure in what capacity.
8.) If you had any advice to give to other quarterlife questers, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to backtrack. Some people say that you should try to live with no regrets and I disagree with that. I think regrets are unavoidable and are fine as long as you are willing to do something to address them.
You can follow Shawn’s life and experiences in Lesotho, Africa on his blog, Bapala. Thanks for being my first featured guy, Shawn!!