GK Nicholl’s Story: Finding Purpose Through Art, Nature, and Community
After joining Open Door Group’s mental wellness program, Thrive, GK Nicholl gained confidence as an artist, writer, blogger, and outdoorsperson through a variety of courses. Using those skills, he wrote a personal story about his transformative experience with the Thrive program.
Why My Time At Open Door Group Has Been Successful
I started coming to Open Door Group (ODG) years ago when I was looking for employment. It was not a good time for me, as I was casting about without any real plans or job prospects. I came to ODG to see what else life had to offer, in a time when I wasn’t certain about myself or my future.
“I came to ODG to see what else life had to offer, in a time when I wasn’t certain about myself or my future.”
I’ve taken advantage of many experiences and opportunities during my time at ODG. At first, I was only doing things like using the resource centre’s computers and printers to access information online, print guitar chord sheets, and do email. Occasionally, I would come out for a meal or BBQ, where I met people from the community who also attended the Thrive program at ODG. We would talk about life, politics, mental health, and (of course) enjoy the food.
As my time at ODG continued, it evolved into something much more. I started attending some of the classes that they offer, and found them to be very inspiring. After a digital photography course, for example, I ended up with a framed photograph of some wildflowers’ seed heads after we found photo-ready images from around the neighbourhood. I took a creative arts course, where we explored drawing, painting, and photo-transfer. Here, I brushed up on my existing skills and learned new ones, too: the class collectively drew a picture of Halle Berry; I photo-transferred a picture of Skrillex from Time magazine onto a canvas; and I painted a surrealist landscape, a kitchen-sink realist portrait, and an impressionist tree and moonscape. There was also a writing course, where we practised reading and writing poetry and fiction. This was so much fun, as I love reading poetry aloud, and the class format was very motivating for writing. I even entered a piece that I wrote for the course into a short-fiction story-writing contest.
Now, I write regularly at ODG’s resource centre, as I have taken up blogging. I find that this is an excellent way to express myself—particularly in the realms of art and music, as I recount the music shows I attend, and describe the music, songs, and performances. I have entered the world of WordPress and find that it is very appropriate for the scribe’s mind, as there is no pressure to produce, no real guidelines, and no expectations. It’s just a blank canvas to throw some paint across (if you’ll excuse the metaphor).
More recently, ODG helped me out with a bursary program that they offer to members every two months. I applied for help to buy a tracksuit, as I found it hard to attend soccer games, particularly in the winter, when it was too cold just to wear shorts and a t-shirt. I was very lucky, as the bursary was awarded me through a lottery system. Now, I wear the tracksuit regularly, and have found that it is one of my favourite pieces of clothing.
At the end of the summer, a wonderful opportunity arose through ODG. An Outdoor Adventure Recovery Program was set up with the goal of bringing certain clients out to nature again. We meet every Friday to plan our big trip, which will consist of a canoe voyage up a lake to a campsite by a river. Everyone is very excited about the prospects of paddling our way there, cooking in the wilderness, and enjoying the fresh air.
“My time at ODG has been full of life, and I am so grateful.”
To top it all off, I have also recently found work: something I was searching for actively at ODG for years. WorkBC also helped with this. One job is working as a cook for White Spot’s On The Go Food Truck. This job is demanding yet rewarding, and I’m working much harder than I thought I could. My other job is editing a manuscript for a professor whom I worked for in the past. This is a wonderful experience, as I love to read and write—the opportunity to look through a book is exciting because of the knowledge contained therein and the potential interactions with the text.
The more time that I spend at ODG, the more I realize the endless opportunities, from their constantly rotating course options to the people I meet and have a chance to talk to. There is always something going on. Though I’ve pursued opportunities with things I had prior experience in, I feel far more experienced now. My time at ODG has been full of life, and I am so grateful.