Pursuing Passion in Perilous Times: The Economic Struggle of Canadian Therapist Kelsey Arsenault

Musician Kelsey Arsenault thought bridging music and health care in music therapy was the perfect occupation. Until she couldn't pay her bills. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

The tale of Kelsey Arsenault, a 28-year-old therapist and music enthusiast, epitomizes the harsh economic reality confronting many Canadians. Despite her qualifications and passion, Arsenault had to forsake her dream job for financial stability, a narrative becoming increasingly common in today’s economy.

From Music to Multiple Jobs

Decorated with guitars, a cello, and a piano, Arsenault’s living room in St. John’s is a testament to her love for music, a love that is now relegated to her free time. Holding a master’s degree in music therapy, she returned to Newfoundland with aspirations to start her practice. However, the rising cost of living forced her to juggle multiple jobs, including two part-time therapy positions and serving in a downtown bar, to make ends meet.

A National Trend

According to a StatsCan report, Arsenault is among the one million Canadians working multiple jobs. CBC News highlights that one-third of these individuals, like Arsenault, are driven by necessity rather than choice. This trend is particularly pronounced in the St. John’s metro area, where soaring rents and increasing consumer goods prices have pushed many to take on additional work.

The Economic Squeeze

Arsenault’s story is marked by the struggle against rising expenses. “I was getting by… but then I needed to pick up a third job, really to supplement my income because I just couldn’t make my rent,” she explained. Her situation is not isolated. As CBC News reports, many Canadians are grappling with similar economic pressures, finding their incomes insufficient against the backdrop of escalating costs.

Arsenault, who released her first album this year, says the silver lining in giving up her dream job was being able to work on her music. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The Shift to a Stable Career

Eventually, Arsenault abandoned her therapy career and bar job last fall, opting for a more stable but emotionally unstimulating nine-to-five office job that pays about $60,000 a year. She describes this move as a compromise, necessary to manage her living expenses and over $35,000 in student debt.

Expert Insights

Experts echo Arsenault’s experience. Walid Hejazi from the Rotman School of Management notes the rapid increase in the price of essentials, leading to reduced purchasing power for many Canadians. Julia Smith from the University of Manitoba and Karen Foster of Dalhousie University highlight a growing trend of workers unable to utilize their education in jobs they are passionate about due to economic constraints. Foster points out the issue of multiple job holdings, especially when they lead to burnout or are not a matter of choice.

Music as a Secondary Pursuit

Despite the economic challenges, Arsenault continues to dedicate her spare time to music, refusing to let her instruments gather dust. Her experience underscores a broader narrative of individuals struggling to balance their passions with economic realities.