January 7th 2020,
by Jasmine Mascarenhas

In early 2018, I visited an acupuncturist due to ongoing physical pain and walked out with some new wisdom; that my lifestyle up until that moment, wasn’t serving me as it should. As a student, I spent a lot of time partying. I was known as the lovable “party girl”, had a solid group of friends that I would go out and drink with, like many young adults do. 

For the longest time I didn’t think my drinking was a problem because I thought it was normal behavioral and that I’d just deal with the hangovers, get back on the horse with school and work, and then do it all over again on the weekend.

My acupuncturist explained to me that my alcohol consumption was actually making my physical pain worse – and for the first time I actually opened up to a professional about how I was really feeling. 

Speaking to her made me realize that I was and had been physically in pain for a long time. I was also emotionally stressed and not doing well financiallyThis was an issue I had been trying to ignore and escape.

In addition, I had just graduated university and was in the process of finding a new job. I had been to multiple interviews to only be met with continuous rejection.

I had good grades, the amount of experience a new-graduate ought to have (such as a lot of volunteering and customer service part-time jobs), and good references. So what was the problem?

I began thinking that I was the problem. That I wasn’t doing enough. That I wasn’t working hard enough. That the assumptions many people had made about me were true.

This added more pressure onto me and I felt because I wasn’t working full-time, that I had to pedal harder to stay afloat. 

My pain also became so bad that I had to stop doing something I truly loved — playing sports.

Throughout my entire life, I always identified with being an athlete, so stopping not only made me sad, it really challenged my sense of self and my self-esteem. I started to feel confused about my identity.

The culmination of all of these things led to a burnout that worsened my health issues, which had become full-blown at that point. 

I decided to take some time for myself at that moment, to slow down, re-evaluate, and start caring for myself.

I made the decision to go sober.

Just two weeks after choosing to stop drinking, I began writing out the basis of GROW’s 4-step program. Over the next six months, between traveling and handling a lot of conflict and changes in my life, I kept reflecting on my purpose and the path I should take. 

I thought back to my last year in my undergrad where I started to understand that many other people around my age were in similar or even worse situations than me.

I started to see that this specific population (emerging adults) was completely underserved by society. 

They were missing guidance, resources and often a community that our institutions were failing to provide.

They were scared about the future; navigating heavy circumstances and feeling all of the pressure that comes with transitioning into adulthood while knowing that this was when their choices counted the most.

The pressure to perform, please, and get ahead is real in today’s society and has severe impacts on our everyday choices, our health and our well-being.

However, if we really know ourselves and our potential, we can go on to serve our communities in amazing ways.

I thought:

What if there was a resource that could fill this gap and soften the harsh realities emerging adults face in this transition? 

What if we could empower people to be proactive while creating balance in their lives? 

What if we could address systemic issues like stress, mental health, growing suicide rates and the lack of care towards people in the margins?

What if we could take this beyond Montreal?

I was also done with trying to convince other people and employers of my worthiness and it prompted me to take things into my own hands.

At first, I didn’t really know how my initial idea of Grow Still (which was just Grow, at the time) would take shape but I soon heard about Jeunes Volontaires – a government grant program in Quebec, that provides young people, a chance to run a pilot project. 

I originally planned for it to be an app but quickly realized that a face-to-face program was better given we spend so much time online already. I created and distributed a Needs Assessments (a survey for non-Human Relations students) which started getting the word out, and I slowly began finding the key people to help me start putting things in motion to launch the project.

The minute I decided to do this, it felt like the universe was aligning to make things happen for this project and we even managed to get some funding from a kind donor to keep us going until we obtained the government funding.

In fall of 2019, we got the grant and were able to expand our team of young and caring professionals to the group who now make up the organization.

I felt called to start Grow Still and had no real idea whether it could become sustainable, but I followed through with my intuition and ideas.

To this day, it has led me to so many incredible connections, opportunities, and widened my network of support personally and professionally. 

I’d never really known what community truly felt like till launching this project (not consciously anyway). To me, it means that you are never really alone even if you are experiencing things that can make you feel alone. 

A supportive community will be there to hold you, no matter what.

We’ve seen the impact we’ve had on the individuals we’ve had the pleasure to work with and support – people who have come from all kinds of backgrounds, circumstances, situations and experiences.

Finally, within all of this, my own health started to improve as I was able to gain the right awareness and access to the resources I was in need of.

I just want every emerging adult out there to know: you are not alone, you are enough and you deserve to be happy and healthy.

Check out our services if you need support now, or hop into the Chronicles of Growth journey if you’d like to discover more about our collective story.

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