photo of street light with Earls restaurant sign in the background.

Image via Matt Wang on Unsplash

Late on a Monday night three years ago, I was behind a $10k bar, getting yelled at by a balding, overly sweaty 40-year-old man. 

I stood there with my feet swelling twice their size from the heels I was wearing; my dress pants and uncomfortably tight shirt made me feel foreign in my own body; and to top it off, a drunk man was threatening to take my job. 

I was stoic behind that bar, not giving into the blabberings of a man 10 margaritas deep, waving around his big boy business card. I turned to the bartender working beside me.

“Please handle this.” 

I walked through the bustling kitchen and into the back room, which contained the stuffiest, tiniest office I’ve ever been in. 

I took off my $200 heels and cried.


After spending most of my life as a granola-eating, hippie-dressing Vancouver Islander, I ran away to Surrey to become an Earls girl. 

Was it a good decision? Well, it was certainly a decision.

It was a turbulent time living with my blended family, and my mental health was taking a nosedive. 

My step-dad and I always had a complicated relationship growing up, but it had hit a breaking point. We spent most of our time together yelling or ignoring each other—we were on completely different playing fields, and my mom was stuck in the middle. 

He told me to “get the fuck out,” so I did. 

I was always headstrong growing up. Even at 15 years old, I thought I was an adult. I dated a guy two years older than me, believing this gave me the authority to make all my own decisions. I wish I’d dumped this kid sooner—he drove a low riding BMW and looked at himself in the mirror too much. 

Like most teenagers, my parents hated me. Okay, not hate, but I was like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, just with more drinking in the bush and throwing up all over my bedroom floor.

And although I stopped puking on my floor, I didn’t stop making impulsive decisions. 

I’ve moved out of my parents’ house before, into an overpriced bachelor apartment two minutes from my family home. I was back home within five months, severely anaemic and in desperate need of a hug. 

What’s that saying? You learn by failing? 

Yeah, well I didn’t. 

In August of 2020, I decided to move to Surrey—the least expensive, most people-infested place I could have gone to during COVID. 

I moved in with a family friend who gave me a cheap place to live. I’m a capricorn, meaning I plan everything, so obviously I had a job lined up for when I got there. It was exciting, and the dark cloud that hovered over me was finally clearing up. 

A bit more background before we dive in: I’m a certified yoga instructor and definitely inhabited the stereotypical lifestyle of one. I was a 6 am riser, don’t interrupt me or I’ll kill you meditator, and overly obsessed with bettering myself. 

Now, I could have taken a job that played to my strengths—something more wellness oriented. I even had an interview with Lululemon, but guess what I chose instead? 


Nanaimo folks don’t exactly understand the culture of Earls since we haven’t had one here in over seven years (it’s a restaurant similar to Cactus Club). 

Let’s just say Earls captured everything I inherently wasn’t. But it was everything I wanted.

I craved something out of my usual routine. I needed it. So I stepped into a version of myself that wanted to stay up till 2 am, drink too much, and wear high heels that gave me achy leg syndrome (it’s a thing—look it up). 

The culture of Earls as I lived it was like one of the soap operas my grandma used to watch on late afternoons. Emotions were always high, and the drama was next level. 

I felt like I was playing a character. I stopped talking to my friends from the Island because I was seemingly so busy with Earls. I drank my body weight in tequila and would spend 20 minutes drawing on my eyebrows. I surrounded myself with only other Earls workers, and while these individuals weren’t bad people, they did ensure I stayed in character. 

I remember wanting to go home one night after work for a much needed eight hours of sleep, but the Earls girls wanted to party. I so desperately wanted to fit in that I sacrificed my well-being for shots and gossip on a new hire. 

I didn’t really notice myself changing at first. I was having a hoot and thriving off a new chaotic lifestyle. I’d put my mind to something and was stepping into the role of ‘adult.’ I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. 

It was easy to forget I was still a student. 

I started with four courses in the fall, which quickly went down to three, then two, then one… I was also working 30 hours a week; Earls became my sole priority.

I wanted to be a Human Resource Management major at the time, so when Earls presented me with a management opportunity, I dropped out of school halfway through the fall semester. 

That’s how the Earls cult works: they get you in, tell you how special and wonderful you are, and move you through the hierarchy real freaking fast. I’d been a server, a shift leader, and then a salary/dinner manager all within the span of three months. 

Of course, this last promotion made me feel on top of the world.

Until it didn’t. 

But before I dive into that catastrophe, let’s set the scene. 

After four months of living with my family friend—who gave me a lot of independence but also made sure I ate and didn’t die—I made the impulsive decision (my speciality) to move into a basement suite with another Earls girl. 

Since I was now a salary manager and doing the darn adult thing, I thought, why not? 

I moved into an extra small basement suite in January 2021. It had one window that looked out at a concrete wall, but the floors were nice and my dresser fit in my closet. So yay! 

Being a manager at Earls was a whole different afternoon television show. I was in the inner circle, some would say, learning the behind-the-scenes of the business. There were some perks, like free meals and getting to wear cute clothes. Earls also invested in leadership training and mentorships, which made me believe I belonged in their huge corporation. 

I stepped into my new role fairly easily—I even planned a whole New Year’s Eve event (COVID-friendly) within my first month. I was the nice manager people went to with issues or if they had to cry in the back shed because a 40-year-old man yelled at them, too. It was going great. 

But the hustle and bustle can get old. 

The Earls I worked at was in a rich neighbourhood, with tables devouring $2k in one sitting (I’m not joking). This definitely gave some customers the entitlement to do whatever they wanted, and I was too soft to handle any of it. 

The late nights, triple margaritas, and having my whole life revolve around burgers and beers was exhausting. I didn’t want to check my emails on my days off, but I’d be two weeks behind if I didn’t. 

While I’d wanted a change of lifestyle, some aspects of myself didn’t change. I’d work until 2 am, but still want to get up at 7 am to do a workout. My management style was leading with compassion, but the other managers’ motivation was sales and money. 

I remember pitching an idea to the other salary managers about reaching out to nonprofits to gather donations for them, and every single one of them said: 

“How’s that going to make us money?” 

On top of all this, my general manager was sleeping with the servers, but he proceeded to lead workshops on sexual harassment in the workplace. This all left a bad taste in my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of. 

I was trying so hard to be that 15 year old headstrong version of myself that could do anything—that could live independently from her parents and make all the ends meet. But the exhaustion made it feel impossible. 

Mostly because all my shifts were 12 hours and I only got paid for eight. Servers were leaving each night with $500 in tips, and I was leaving each night with a tear-stained dress shirt. 

I felt inferior and inexperienced compared to all the other managers who grew up in the restaurant lifestyle. I was lagging behind and struggling to keep my composure, and the Earls peeps noticed. 

I was sneaking drinks on shift just to make it through, and any enthusiasm I had a few months prior had completely vanished. I was extra quiet during our salary meetings and avoided my general manager, fearing I’d break down right in front of him. 

I couldn’t get behind the no work/life balance, especially when everyone else was thriving on Earls being their reason to get up in the morning. 

I just kept thinking to myself, I can’t do this anymore. 

I started looking for a new job in March 2021. I’d only been in my management position for four months, but when I told my general manager I was quitting, he wasn’t surprised; he was actually super supportive of my decision. 

Even he saw I’d lost myself.

In April, I said goodbye to Earls and hello to a boring-ass receptionist job at a chiropractic clinic. It was a terrific break from the restaurant lifestyle, but it also made me feel even more stuck in this life I’d established. 

Post-Earls, I was floating. Not in a good way—more so in the way that I had absolutely no clue what to do. I’d put all my eggs in the Earls basket and felt like I had nothing left. No goals, no dreams, just a few extra pounds of hunan chicken weight (iykyk). 

Every lunch break, I’d call my mom crying. I had too much pride to move back home and cared too much to break my rental lease. 

So, I kept going through the motions of a nine-to-five reception job. I got really into running, even did a half-marathon. Yoga studios and gyms started opening back up, so I got a yoga gig. 

For anyone who’s struggled with their mental health, you’ll know: it’s this gradual pulling to another dimension. At first, I didn’t notice. But things started to get a bit dull. Waking up was hard, and the thought of existing in the world was an overwhelming burden that I couldn’t explain. 

I’ve gone through some dark periods before, but this time it was much different.

I felt lost in this crossroad of what to do next. I hated my reception job and deeply regretted dropping out of school. It felt like each day I would come up with this new idea of what I wanted my life to be, but then the darkness would swallow my inspiration whole and I’d be left sitting on the couch with my curtains closed at 3 pm.

One weekend in the summer of 2021, I was in Kelowna with some friends. Distraction and alcohol got me through. But as soon as I got home, something had drastically shifted. The high from the weekend was gone in a matter of moments and I was on my floor, in tears, trying to grasp onto any meaning I had left.

And then I got sick. 

Every inch of my mind, body, and soul could not leave the house after I came back from Kelowna. I couldn’t face my reality, so my body gave me strep throat and I stayed in bed for a week.

This was a defining moment for me.

In a matter of two days, I quit both my jobs, shoved clothes in my car, and texted my mom that I was on the ferry. There was an overwhelming voice in my head telling me to run, run fast. So I flew myself back into the comfort of my childhood bedroom.


My anxiety and depression is often triggered by my environment—in Vancouver and at Earls, I was in a constant state of fight or flight. I never felt safe. The only time I’d have a sense of grounding was sitting on my Dad’s couch (thank you Dad and Stepmom for living in Van). The tiny basement suite I lived in had all my demons trapped inside.

As soon as I arrived back home, I could finally take a full breath. 

I went back to teaching yoga, got a job at a cold-pressed juice shop (eyeroll), and meditated for legit two hours a day. 

I returned to my roots and heavily incorporated self-care routines like journaling, meditation, and therapy back into my life. The granola-eating hippie was resurfacing, and it felt so good on my skin. 

The version of myself had changed again. I felt like my innate self, and I swore off wearing heels ever again.  

It’s taken me a while to almost forgive myself for the person I became on the Mainland and within the Earls lifestyle. 

I moved away from my parents twice, and both times I ended up back home, defeated. I felt like I failed at being an adult. 

But I’ve dedicated the last two years solely to sending myself compassion and learning that each version of myself is worthy of love. I’ve grown, I’ve healed, and I finally act out the character of the most authentic Megan. 

Thank you Mom and Dad for always welcoming me back home. Trust me, I know I’m a privileged asshole to be able to do that. 

I’m back in school now, as explained in my previous Nav article. But from my failings I’ve learned:

The human experience—growth, healing, whatever you want to call it—isn’t linear. It’s coated with moments of fear, depression, and anxiety. The moments I spent in the mirror, staring at my tear-stained cheeks, were the ones in which I saw myself clearly. I am a human being experiencing a human thing. 

So, be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Keep going in whatever direction feels right. Even if that means moving home to Mom and Dad or hey, becoming an Earls girl. Just know that each decision, each moment, is teaching you something. 

This one definitely taught me one thing: 

Earl(s) had to die. 


Megan is a third-year Creative Writing and Business student. It’s her first year at The Nav and she’s looking to bring in some sugar and spice—okay, mostly spice—to her feature articles. When she’s not brainstorming with Sean, find her reading three books at once, snuggling with her kitty, and teaching a few yoga classes.

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