Resiliency in action

Cathy McDonald
For SAIT grad Cathy McDonald, a bad situation helped reveal what we take for granted and the power of gratitude. 

Finding the positive in a global pandemic isn’t easy — especially if you’ve lost your job and postponed your wedding. But for Cathy McDonald, a bad situation revealed what we take for granted and the power of gratitude and resiliency.

“We can choose to focus on the dark or focus on the light."

“I try my best to focus on the light because there is still so much to be grateful for, even if there are days it doesn’t feel like it.”

McDonald graduated from SAIT’s Radio, Television and Broadcast News program in 2009 and enjoyed a colourful career in broadcasting working at a number of local radio and news stations in Calgary including 660 News, X929, CJAY 92, 98-5 Virgin Radio and she flew the friendly skies as a helicopter traffic reporter for Global News and Newstalk 770. She fell in love with the promotions, events and communications work she did at the stations and decided to return to school for a degree in communications.

After she completed her degree, she spent some time in communications, marketing, events and public relations through working in a nonprofit and at a pub group in Calgary (Jamesons Pubs). McDonald then transitioned to Good Earth Coffeehouse as a national marketing specialist at their corporate headquarters.

“I led a very busy life and was very go-go-go,” McDonald explains. “Both personally and professionally.” She was in the midst of planning her wedding for this August. And then, she was temporarily laid off from her position in March.

A difficult decision

“I was in shock. I feel that this pandemic happened very quickly,” she reflects.

The day before her layoff McDonald had to cancel her bachelorette party and soon after, she and her fiancé were forced to make a difficult decision — have a small wedding with social distancing measures in place or postpone for another year.

In the end, the couple decided to postpone to next summer as McDonald’s special needs sister is immunocompromised and they were concerned for older members of both families. “It was an emotional decision, but the safest one,” she says.

“When it rains, it sure can pour."

"To say I felt like everything was crumbling around me is an understatement. I felt defeated, frustrated and scared. I lost my job, my wedding got postponed and I was ripped from seeing my loved ones in person.”

A resilient mindset

Through the setbacks and disappointments, where everything seemed out of her control, McDonald decided to take a step back and focus on what she could control — her mindset.

“Mindset is everything. I’ve been practicing saying ‘I get to’ instead of ‘I have to’,” she explains. “Instead of being upset about being laid off, I decided to celebrate the extra time I had and use it to focus on me. I get to slow down, relax, and practice self-care.”

With her focus on mindset, McDonald found that despite her situation she still had much to be grateful for. “I took a step back and remembered that gratitude is a powerful thing…in the grand scheme of things if we have to wait another year to get married that is completely okay. We have our entire lives to spend together. Things could be way worse,” she says.

Not alone

She also took some comfort knowing she was not alone in her struggle.

“At that time, millions of layoffs were occurring across Canada. In an odd way, I didn’t feel so alone in the situation I was in.”

Even with her renewed outlook on the situation, McDonald still struggles with the anxiety and uncertainty of her situation.

“I have days where I do feel anxious, sad and overwhelmed. I've learned to sit with those feelings and overwhelming emotions."

“Before the pandemic, I was seeing a counsellor, and I continue to do so via Zoom, the mental effects of the loss of control around this pandemic is for real, and it’s okay to talk about it. Focusing on the positive is great, but it’s okay to express your emotions — especially the uncomfortable ones.”

Despite the anxiety and stress, McDonald remains as positive as she can for what the future holds.

“For now I will choose to appreciate the storm because even the prettiest clouds are made out of rain. I’ll taste the raindrops, admire the thunder, jump in the puddles. My rainbow will come.”

Update: Several weeks after the interview for this story was conducted, McDonald was hired as a social media specialist for Boardwalk Real Estate Investment Trust at their Head Office in Calgary.