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  • Hridya Chaudhary

#HumansofCapeBretonUniversity: Meet Tal Parsons!

We at Caper Times love everything that has to do with interconnectivity and a sense of belongingness; which is why we started a monthly segment called Humans of Cape Breton University where we try to bring the community together, one person at a time. We hope to share individual and unique stories and experiences each month, to build a stronger consciousness of empathy and collectiveness.

Our February's #HumansofCapeBretonUniversity is Tal Parsons, Chairperson of the CBU Students’ Union 20/21 and the Jennifer Keeping Centre student representative on the SRC.

Here's our interview with her:

Q. A little bit about yourself!

I’m a 28 year old, cis gendered female, lover of nature, dogs, dark humor and the moon. I’m originally from Balls Creek, Cape Breton, but currently living in Antigonish, Nova Scotia with my partner. I was raised primarily by my grandparents, the two sweetest and most generous people you could ever meet. I was very fortunate to grow up in a home full of love and unconditional support modeled through the importance of hard work, compassion and care for others - something I deeply value and have carried into my adult life. I’m currently in my 3rd year at CBU in a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Gender and Women’s studies, with the hopes of completing a Bachelor of Social Work after CBU. I’m also the executive Chairperson of the CBU Students’ Union 20/21 in addition to being the Jennifer Keeping Centre student representative on the SRC. My best friend has four legs, big pointy ears, a long snoot and a double coat of thick Husky/German Shepard fur, his name is Koda and he has saved my sanity - and in turn my life, time and time again. I am a huge advocate for mental health and wellness, I believe in the power of storytelling and speaking my truth to create better connection with the people close to me, my community and myself and to do my part in ending the stigma around mental illness.

Q. What’s your story, how did you get here today?

A lot of bouncing, stretching and moving around. After high school I moved to Halifax to attend the Hair Design Centre where I studied hairdressing. I worked as a hair stylist for the better part of 3 years in Halifax and moved back to Sydney and continued working in a salon there for about a year. I was in the process of making a career change after moving to Sydney in which I obtained my CanFitPro Personal Training certification but roughly 10 days after completing my certification I was in a pretty bad car accident resulting in severe whiplash ultimately rendering me unable to return to work as a stylist or start a new career as a personal trainer. Although I suffered with mental illness prior to the accident, my struggle really took a turn for the worst after. I was in pain, unemployed and severely depressed for the better part of a year following the accident, in which I used this time to reflect on what my next steps would be. Knowing I wanted to be in (what I considered at the time) the health industry, I moved back to Halifax to study holistic nutrition at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN). Although I was studying something I was passionate about, and for the most part I wasn’t experiencing physical pain, my mental health was still suffering immensely and I wasn’t getting the support I needed from the mental health care system. After completing my program at CSNN I managed to land a job as a personal trainer at a gym in Halifax where I worked for a year. This business was extremely lucrative and had supports in place for mental health through their Employee Assistance Program. Although I was receiving the best mental health support I had ever had through this company, the conditions in which I worked under (demanding schedule, pressure and torment over my body and weight, sales at a high price point) were directly contributing to worsening my mental health. It was in this time that I really evaluated the cost of my wellbeing for the hefty paycheque I was receiving. After spending a couple months with a therapist focused on holistic wellbeing, I was so inspired by this way of making people feel good but recognized that I no longer wanted to help people look good, I wanted people to feel good and the biggest obstacle I encountered was the mental health aspect of both my careers. From break-up haircuts to body image issues, the constant was the mental health piece. I wanted to contribute to my community in a way that was more than skin deep. I applied to CBU, got accepted and once again, moved back to Sydney. Since starting my studies in psychology, I have recognized my need for flexibility with my future career and have decided that working in the field of mental health as a social worker is my dream.

Q. What has been your biggest struggle in life?

Accepting that if people don’t value me, it doesn’t mean I’m not valuable. In the past I have often let others define my worth, which led me down a number of unfavorable paths, one of which being alcoholism. Although I was a very high function alcoholic with a huge friend circle, I really wasn’t happy with who I was despite the gratification from my peers. When I finally decided to get sober, I had to acknowledge that my wants and needs were more important than what other people thought of me. Getting sober was the easy part. Learning to love and appreciate myself? That’s still a work in progress, but it gets easier every day.

Q. What’s your most cherished memory?

My grandparents used to have a motorhome, in which they would take my cousins and I to Rainbow Valley in PEI as a grading celebration. The year after Rainbow Valley had closed, we went to Upper Clements Park in the Valley instead. On the way there, one of our tires blew up and we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. When the tow truck showed up, myself, my three cousins and my grandparents had to squish into this little tow truck to travel to the nearby garage. By the time a tow truck showed up and the tire was fixed it was almost dark, so my grandparents decided to park somewhere for the night and resume the drive in the morning. They found a church parking lot, with an extremely creepy graveyard and that’s where we stayed for the night. We eventually made it to the amusement park, but honestly, I don’t remember much about Upper Clements Park. For me, the journey really was the best part.

Q. What’s one thing you love about CBU?

That I have the freedom to be myself, wholeheartedly. CBU is the place where I can explore all the things I told myself I couldn’t do. I have been very fortunate to have professors that have been understanding, inspiring and supportive people that recognize the importance of personal growth and development in ways that cater to the individual rather than the organization, this has been crucial in finding my voice and place at CBU.

Q. Is there anything you’d like to say to Caper Times’ Readers?

Don’t sell yourself short, don’t wait for someone else to tell you “you can do it”, do it now. And if you don’t meet your expectations of success, find the lessons and reconfigure. You are the only person you have to spend every day of your life with, be gentle with yourself and make it count.

Reach out to ct_editorinchief if you would like to be featured in #HumansofCapeBretonUniversity or if you would like to nominate someone for it.

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