Continuing Education + Job Training // Publishing since 1999
Love of Learning

Walter’s Long Road to Independence

By MINA WONG - July 15 2021

A short story by Mina Wong

Walter Davis definitely took many years to accept the importance of self-sufficiency. In February 2021, he finally stayed with a full-time, graveyard-shift job in data processing. Although he found the work monotonous, he managed to pass his probation earlier this month.

Walter told me just yesterday: “It feels respectable to be independent, to pay my own bills.”
Now, that’s a dramatically different Walter from the irritable and lethargic twenty-something I once knew. When we first met long ago, he was quarrelling with his wife, Diana while she lulled their infant to sleep.
That day, I had just helped my friend, Andy move into an apartment. After settling in, we ran into Walter and Diana next door. Although not in a good mood, they still introduced themselves and their month-old daughter, Riley.
Andy became good friends with Walter and Diana, but the couple argued non-stop over money problems. Since Walter still had no income three years after his army discharge, Diana reluctantly cut short her parental leave to work again.

The whole time Andy lived next door, Walter stayed home with Riley, but that meant Diana alone supported the family with her school secretary’s salary. Whenever she urged Walter to find work, he would make feeble excuses, including “I shouldn’t work weekends”. He would even suggest, “I’ll stay home if you go to work.”
When Andy moved elsewhere, Walter was attending government-funded computer classes after which, he started a data processing job at a bank. But it only lasted a week with Walter’s daily complaint, “Too boring, too long hours.”

Exasperated by Walter’s immature work ethic, Diana soon moved out with Riley. The end of their marriage also coincided with Walter’s eviction for not paying rent. When Andy looked for him, Diana directed him to city shelters for homeless men.

After their divorce, Walter continued to rely on shelters. Unemployed, he seemed preoccupied much of the time, even when Diana let him see Riley. One day, nine-year-old Riley said, “Dad, you should get a job, any job. I would be so proud of you.”

Walter was in tears over Riley’s plea, but he still didn’t seriously look for work. Then he met Sophie, a nurse who let him stay with her for a while if he could look after her house. But they were soon so romantically entwined that Walter thought Sophie might permanently provide for him.

After a year, Sophie had grown tired of Walter cherry-picking chores. She herself cooked and cleaned after work while Walter blissfully pottered around. When Sophie finally threw him out, Walter returned to city shelters where he met Samuel, a social worker who took him in, along with another man needing housing.
Samuel’s intentions were to improve marginalized people’s self-care, social responsibilities, and independence through respect and dignity. In his house, everyone shared chores, but soon, Walter only chose those he liked, leaving everything else to his housemates.

Samuel was a patient mentor, but after tolerating Walter’s childlike languor for two years, he asked him to leave. Still, remembering Walter’s family, he thought Diana and Riley might be able to help.
Without even blinking, thirteen-year-old Riley summed it up: if Walter didn’t shape up this time, she could no longer see him, and, “He can work like other dads. He’s just wasting his skills, always waiting for someone to look after him.”

Telling Walter what Riley had said, Samuel advised him that he might find him proper housing if he could manage to keep a job. But he added, “Otherwise, you will lose Riley’s respect, and even all contact with her.”
That Riley, the most important person in his life could disappear, suddenly pushed Walter to a perilous tipping point. The next day, he told Samuel he would give data processing another try, perhaps with a refresher course.
A job in banking came sooner than he had imagined. Three months ago, he passed a data processing skills test with high marks. Working the midnight shift from Tuesday to Saturday, he would record bank transactions and convert them into a database.

Like many years ago, his job was unvaried with long hours, but this time, Walter was learning to find new meaning in work. With regular wages, he will move into his own apartment next month. His conversations with Riley are also more mature now that they can invest in each other’s life and future.

Walter was teary-eyed when Riley said last week: “Dad, I am so proud of you. From now on, we will help each other through ups and downs.”

With Walter’s new commitment to self-reliance, he may even surpass his own career expectations. With Riley in his corner, he can certainly work toward a future blessed with happiness and success.

We value your opinion. Please let us know what you think about this column. Send comments to

Career Focus

Soft Skills or Resiliency Skills?

July 15 2021

For the past 10 years, I have worked with a career centre called Achēv. Our office is located at 595 Parliament Street and it is still there even though since March of 2020 all staff have been working remotely from home. Despite this, Achēv has found a way to keep everyone very connected by using Zoom, MS Teams and emails. I never feel alone and a day never passes that I do not have a conversation with one of my colleagues.


Career Focus

Time Savers and Shortcuts

July 15 2021

When I was in Grade 2, I discovered what a “shortcut” was. Instead of walking to school along the side of the road, my brother showed me a path through a farmer’s field that could save me five minutes of time.


Love of Learning

University in the Community

July 15 2021

From time to time, you may have seen an article about University in the Community (UitC) in Learning Curves and wondered what it was and whether it was something that you might like to join.


Student Resources

How the Macro Level of Decision Making Affects the Micro Level of Courses for Adults

July 15 2021

Often as adult learners we are focused on finding a course at a time we can make it, that meets a specific learning need, the micro level. But there are activities going on at a macro level which shape what we are offered at the micro level. Canada- A Learning Nation report describes the work of the Future Skills Advisory Council, an advisory council to the federal Ministry of Employment Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. This report came out in December 2020 but I just found it scanning the net for what I can’t remember now.