why demand the obvious, child?

It’s funny the things you associate with your childhood.  Some are obvious, like a teddy bear or an old blanket, and some are not quite so obvious, like a piece of Tupperware or a meal.  Some you share with a good chunk of your generation, and some you share with just your friends.  And of course there are a great many things that you only share with your family.

I was on my way to work today when a song came onto my iPod and instantly I was thrown back into my childhood.  In the case of this song, the association is purely one that I share with my family.  My friends and the majority of my generation in all honesty wouldn’t point out this tune as particularly reminiscent of a child from the 90s.  But all the same, it holds a special place in my heart.

I should note, I owe a great deal of thanks to my parents for exposing me to such a large variety of music while I was growing up.  Everything from good ol’ country, to classic rock, to classical, to film soundtracks.  By the time my older brother was forming his own preferences for music genres, I was just old enough to remember it, and so his penchant for stereotypical 90s dance music (and in his defense, not that he needs it, the rest of his generation was also into it…), followed later by harder rock, also made their way into my musical sphere.  Yes, I was a child of many musical tastes.

I suppose that’s how such a song became associated with my childhood, despite that most of the people my age that I know have never heard it, and probably wouldn’t peg me as a fan of it.  Disney soundtracks, 90s pop music, and the seemingly endless list of one-hit wonders from the 90s, yes.  But a song from a pop rock/worldbeat record by an artist largely catering to older generations?  Definitely not.

And yet from the opening drums, this song always grabs my attention and transports me back to my childhood.  And so when that opening drumming sounds, I always crack a smile and remember my younger days fondly.  Today’s occurrence during my commute was no exception.  I smiled widely and remembered dancing to the song while it played loudly, the drum beats bouncing off the walls.  It’s one of those songs that I just feel like I’ve always known the words to.  And so just as I can sing along with the best (worst) the 90s had to offer, so too can I recite the lyrics to this one.

But what struck me as I listened to it and thought about what sorts of things people associate with their childhood, is that it’s those private associations that are interesting.  It’s nice to connect with others through these shared associations, but it’s learning about those seemingly strange associations that really speaks to a deeper relationship.  Sure, your colleagues, friends and acquaintances know that hearing “smelly cat, smelly cat” will prompt a “what are they feeding you?” to follow in your mind.  But they don’t know that a particular song, or a smell, or a painting, or a food will send you back to those moments spent as a child.

I think that some of the most interesting and fun parts of a growing friendship (or relationship, take your pick) is that length of time where you’re learning the little things about the other person.  What they like, what drives them bonkers, their mannerisms, their quirks.  Everything is new and intriguing, and you’re constantly drawing comparisons to your own dislikes, likes, etc..  And it’s one thing to learn about the person as they are now, but I think it’s quite another to see the snapshots of them as they became the person you’re learning about.

We all are where and what we’ve been.  There’s no escaping that.  Does that mean we’re doomed and damned to our previous mistakes?  Definitely not.  We can learn, we can adapt – it’s what our species does.  But we can’t run from it, it’s a part of us, whether we like deny it or embrace it.

I like being with people who have those secret little smiles when they hear a particular song, or read a particular phrase, or taste a familiar flavour.  And even more, I like having them explain why those things bring out that secret little smile.  I think it speaks to a deeper relationship/friendship when you delve into those things.  Yes, the deep and heavy discussions and offerings of long held secrets can speak to intimacy, platonic or otherwise, but it’s the smaller things that are big in my book.

I want my friends to know that this song makes me ridiculously happy when I hear it.  I want them to know that when I hear “Why deny the obvious, child?” I can’t help but smile.  I want them to understand when I feel the need to close my eyes and sail back through the years upon hearing this song.  I want them to appreciate the joy it brings me.  I want them to be able to grin and laugh along with me when it comes on – not because they necessarily enjoy it themselves, but because they know what it does to and for me.  I want them to care enough to delve into my secret smile.  And likewise, I want to be able to do all of that with their associations.

So friends and strangers alike, I invite you to embrace a warm and happy memory brought on by a trigger of sorts.  Let that association be a point of growth for your friendships, because really, joy and laughter are things to be shared.

for your musical taste:
artist: paul simon
song title: the obvious child

of careers, education, and your life’s purpose

Okay.  Stick with me on this one, ’cause it’s gonna (attempt to) weave together a few big topics.  Namely, your life’s purpose, your career, and your education.  Here’s hoping it comes together as nicely as it’s floating around in my head.

I read a blog tonight (which of course was the inspiration for this post and is well worth a read) that centred on the whole “how do you know what you’re doing has enough of an impact on society to justify you doing it” thing.  As a recent grad, I’m sure you can imagine how that kind of question has been intertwined with my job search.  It’s a constant battle between finding something that’ll pay the bills, and finding something that’ll lead you to finding that elusive career that you’ll enjoy and won’t have to work a day in your life as a result (I’m still thinking that’s a bit lofty…).  And given the current job climate, for a lot of people neither option is actually available.

I’m not saying I’m expecting a life-long career to be handed to me straight after graduation (although, if anyone’s got one of those handy, I’m down).  But when you’ve got people with Masters degrees working at the local chain restaurant, something’s wrong with the system.  I’ve got nothing against people who work there – someone has to, and I’m sure many people take pride in working there – but when you spend thousands of dollars investing in an education that guidance counsellors and parents and teachers promised would be your key to finding a job, you might expect something more meaningful than clearing dishes and delivering meals.

That is, if you assume university was meant to be the gateway to these illustrious careers.  If, for you, university is more about professional development than personal development, then you’re well within your rights to be angry that a Bachelor’s degree gets you a shot at a job that used to be for high school diplomas.  But if it’s more about personal development than professional development, then what do you care what your career is?  If, however, you’re leaning toward a happy medium between the two, then you’re in quite the quandary.

And that’s where the third element comes into play.  Your life’s purpose.  If you want to lead a life where your career defines you and your success, and your purpose – good on ya.  I’m not one of those people.  I used to be, but I’m not anymore.  I’m of the mind that if I happen to end up working at such an establishment the rest of my life, then I’d find a way to make it a means to my purpose rather than the be all and end all of my life.

My time as an undergrad (in particular my very last semester) showed me that education was more than just the classes.  Success, I think, is more than your salary and your standing within a company.  Life, I think, is more than your career.  And that brings me to the whole point of this post.

While browsing through quotes (if you don’t already do this, I recommend finding some time to do so – what you learn about yourself and your life through the words of others is nothing short of eye-opening) on the topic of time, I found one that came together nicely with the blog post I’d read just beforehand.

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. – Albert Schweitzer

It occurs to me that my current job – a soccer coach – that barely pays the bills, could be construed by many as a career that holds little significance in society.  It’s a small club, and I deal with a fraction of its population.  And yet, I can’t help but feel a bit proud of my contribution to society through it.  I coach mostly young kids, who are still impressionable.  I think back to my time as a youth soccer player and the people who impacted me via their coaching.  They had a big impact on who I became as a person.  Maybe I’ve already had that impact on one of my players.  Maybe I will have that impact on one of my players.  Coaching, not unlike teaching, I think can have a big impact on people.

Soccer both extinguished and rekindled my inner fire.  There have been people I met along the way that served as that human being that made my inner fire burst back into flame.  I am incredibly grateful for those human beings.  And I am somewhat humbled by the fact that I could be one of those human beings for someone else.

And that brings everything full circle for this post.  I went to school and grew as a person.  I graduated, and am still looking for work, but whatever my career might be, it won’t define my life’s success.  What I hope (and think) will define whether or not I’ve led a meaningful and successful life is whether or not I’ve had that impact on someone, whether or not I’ve made someone’s inner fire burst into flame again.  If, when I’m 100, I can look back and say that I had that impact on someone, then I think it’ll have been a success.

for your musical taste:
artist: rusted root
song title: send me on my way

on the decision to not boogie

 

For those who aren’t entirely familiar with me (and my dashboard has told me there are a few of you), you should know a few things.

  • I have a tendency to look to music for answers to life’s questions.
  • I have a tendency to think things to death (and then some).
  • I have a stronger passion than most for my alma-mater (do we Canadians use that phrase? Or is that just an American thing?).
  • Volunteering is where it’s at.
    • Orientation Week has been, for the last 4 years of my life, the standard by which I judge all other volunteering opportunities.

And that brings us to the topic of today’s post: O-Week 2013.  More specifically, my decision to not volunteer for it this year.

My friends have come to accept that my first week of September is not spent partying or preparing for school, but instead spent schlepping  fridges, suitcases, duffle bags and other various awkwardly shaped objects, and boogieing like there’s no tomorrow.  So my decision to not volunteer (in any capacity) for this year’s O-Week comes as a surprise to most of my friends.

Indeed, O-Week has been good to me these last 4 years.  It’s helped me make (hopefully) life-long friends, introduced me to some truly amazing individuals, taught me how to conquer (or at least temporarily bury) my fear of being the focus of attention, given me lessons in leadership and dealing with people, gave me an excuse to drive a pick-up truck with the windows down blaring Disney songs, and allowed me to impact in a small way, the lives of others.  And of course, it’s let me boogie hard.  There is no adequate explanation for the excitement and camaraderie you feel when performing a boogie.  It’s something else, really.

Why then, you might ask, would I ever want to leave all of that behind?!  The answer was not an easy one to come to, but as usual, my love of music helped me.

I will have to pull my heart away, ’cause if I never leave, I’ll ruin yesterday.

I am extremely grateful for all that O-Week has given me, but it’s time I move on, I think.  I have to step out of the Guelph bubble and stay out for a little while.  If I don’t, I’ll never sort out what I want or where I want to be, because I’ll be stuck thinking about yesterday.  If I don’t, I’ll forever stay in a state of yearning for what was.  And I need to get into a state of excitement about what’s going to be, and what could be.

I won’t say I’ll never go back, in fact the time may come where an opportunity to boogie may be just what I need, but for now I’m going to pull away and let my tomorrow be my focus, not my yesterday.

And so, to my friends who are disappointed and/or stunned by my decision to not volunteer, please know it wasn’t easy, but this is what I need, and I hope that you can understand that.

for your musical taste:
artist: jack peñate
song title: pull my heart away

we should always know that we can do anything

I’m one of those people whose pace of reading far exceeds their reading comprehension.  I guess you could say I skim, rather than read.  When I read the final Harry Potter book, I read so fast I missed major plot details and had to go back and re-read entire sections.  Reading philosophy texts has, for this reason, always been a royal pain in the behind for me.  To be able to comprehend and absorb the writings required a pace I associated with an injured snail.

There are some books, however, that beg to be read at an agonizingly slow pace.  They demand full attention and full comprehension.  This doesn’t mean they’re a particularly difficult read necessarily (although Kant and Hegel’s philosophy writings bring out a particularly angry side of me…); in fact, many of them are so called “easy-reads”.  Tuesdays with Morrie is one such book.  And I think that if you beg to differ, you haven’t really understood the book.

This book is one I cannot read quickly.  I savor every word, letting it sink in.  I pause often, letting my mind wander over the discussed topics.  And if it were not my sister’s copy of the book, I would most certainly make notes in the margins.

It tells the story of a professor and former student reunited for one final “class” before the professor’s death.  It is a class about, quite simply, life and living it.  The truths and lessons to be learned are profound, and yet simple.

Morrie is the kind of teacher that you either love, or hate.  There’s no in-between.  Talking and lecturing about things bigger than the classroom, bigger than the professor or the student, bigger than just ideas.  Encouraging thinking outside of normal paradigms, probing students’ academic comfort zones, shattering carefully built idealism and challenging everything you thought to be true.  He’s the kind of teacher that sticks with you for years, snippets of conversations or lectures echoing in your head.  He’s the kind of teacher you want to say you had.

I’m fortunate enough to say that I had a couple of teachers like that (although, the more I think about it, the more I realize philosophy lends itself particularly well to such an idea).

It is this book which has my mind’s wheels spinning frantically, trying to make sense of everyday things in a larger picture, and large concepts in small details.  It is this book which has me thinking of what advice I would give.

And after many hours (probably not enough) of sitting quietly, letting my mind mull the question over, I think I’ve finally found an answer.  (Although it seems highly likely I’ll change my mind…)

You’ve got to realize that learning should never be a switch you flip when you enter a classroom.  You should be learning every second of every moment.

What it boils down to for me, is that really, what good is living if you aren’t taking anything away from life?

It’s important to note that the things you learn don’t always correspond with what you’re being told you’re being taught.  Maybe it’s a class on the great Greek Tragedies where you learn more about yourself as a person than anything else.  Maybe it’s a Sport for Development class where the actual bulk of developmental knowledge learned is about yourself, not countries or cultures.  Maybe it’s being taught the advanced techniques of goalkeeping, but discovering a potential career in coaching.

Of course, sometimes you’re painfully aware of the learning and its ramifications.  And sometimes you’re beyond oblivious of what’s going on.  That’s a part of life.  What is paramount, at least the way I see it, is being open to learning.  Education doesn’t end after school.  Education is truly a life-long endeavour.

So, friends and strangers alike, I invite you to learn from every instance, no matter how small.  I invite you to allow yourself to consider the seemingly inconsequential, and think further on the obvious.  I invite you to take lessons and moments of clarity away from moments of disarray and discomfort.  I invite you to consider a continuing education of yourself as a human, and more importantly, as a person.

Go do, you’ll know how to
Just let yourself

for your musical taste:
artist: jónsi
song title: go do

of education and boogies

Ever get that feeling that you know exactly what you’re going to do with your life?  Yeah?  Awesome.  Could you explain to me how I can make that happen to me?  Because I haven’t the foggiest clue, and it’s frustrating beyond all belief.

“Don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out.  When you find it, you’ll know.”

Mmhmm.  People told me that when I started high school.  And university.  9 years later, I’m still waiting for that moment of clarity.

Sites and papers these days are littered with articles denoting how crappy it is to be a kid looking for a job (#firstworldproblem), and how the older generation is making it difficult and passing judgment on today’s youth as they search for gainful employment.

Yeah, because the older generation is clearly conspiring against us.  They all got together and decided, “Aw yeah, I’m not giving up my job for a young person.  No way, no how.  Go work at McDonald’s instead!”  I find it difficult to wrap my head around that some permutation of that is indeed the case.

“But you majored in psychology!  That’s your problem.  You should’ve gone into a trade, or another area that the country needs workers in.”

Gee, thanks.  Could you have please told me that in grade 12 when guidance counsellors, my family, my friends, and society were all telling me “GO TO UNIVERSITY IT’S HOW YOU GET A JOB!” and that it didn’t particularly matter what I majored in, so long as I got a university education.  And there are also those articles saying that the trades aren’t really in that desperate need of people…

I’m not one of those people who deals with things head-on (I wish I was, but sadly all efforts to become such a person have failed), but instead I skillfully avoid dealing with it until the very last possible moment.  And so this whole not being employed and not really having an excuse for it thing is a bit unnerving to me, but of course I’m doing everything possible to ignore it.

I’m not saying I’ve taken to avoiding job searching, in fact I’ve hit the online pavement to try to find a job.  What I’m saying is that I’m choosing to really focus, and I mean really focus on what I do have.  I don’t mean in a “I’m so thankful to have a roof over my head, and food to eat” kind of way (although I am!), but in a reflective of my education kind of way.

“There are obviously two educations.  One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.”
- James Truslow Adams

University gave me 2 educations.  The first was centred around building my ability to write papers, teaching me to be able to (somewhat) analyze statistics, and really honing my reading comprehension.  The second, however, began to teach me what I find important in life.  A small chunk of this learning took place in a classroom in my final semester, but the overwhelming majority took place on-campus through my volunteering with the Centre for New Students.

I’ve written previously about being an OV, but as I look back over my 5 years in university I’m struck by how much it impacted me.  I didn’t realize that through that experience, building a community became important to me.  I didn’t realize that my desire to want to leave a positive impact on a person really came about through being an OV.  It brought me out of my shell, and allowed me to speak in front of others with some confidence.  It taught me the importance of playing a small part in order to achieve big things.  It helped me realize what I can contribute – that I can contribute.

I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life, career-wise – hell, I don’t even know what I want to do with the rest of my life in any capacity – but what I do know is that whatever it ends up being, it needs to reflect the things that I’ve learned are important to me.  Building and being a part of a community, having a positive impact on others, working toward positive change, being a part of something bigger than myself.  All of these might seem common-sense to some, and way off-base to others.  But to me, these represent my university education.  The textbook facts, quasi-thesis length papers, midterm and exam grades, passes or fails don’t really mean much of anything to me in terms of education.  My education is how I’ve learned how to grow and how much I have grown as a person.  It’s everything I learned outside the classroom about myself and what I value.  It’s how I discovered that I have something to contribute to the world, and how I learned that others value what I can contribute.

I received my education from a few professors who believed in teaching beyond the textbook facts, mentors and supervisors of the places I volunteered at, student leaders I had the pleasure of working alongside, and fellow students that were trudging along their own paths trying to figure out their education.  These are the people I am grateful to have met and been able to learn from, and I owe them a ton of thanks.  A few of them will read this, and to them I say a heartfelt thank you.

So no, I don’t know what I’m going to do the rest of my life.  And yes, I’m still waiting for that moment of clarity.  I could be bitter that I have student loans from an education that didn’t really give me a chance at a job post-university, but instead I’m choosing to look at it in terms of having paid for an experience.  I wouldn’t have met those people, or been an OV if I hadn’t gone to university.  And those things are what were important to me during university.  So no, it wasn’t all a waste.

 

 

I give you the symbol of my education: the OV Boogie.  And yes, you can indeed spot me a few times in the video.  And no, I will not tell you when.

your dreams are lost up on a shelf

Some people (a lot of people, in fact) spend their lives wishing to be a kid again.  They spend their days yearning to be innocent and naive, or to have worries no more serious than catching cooties or scraping your knees at the playground.  They want nothing more than to be infinitely amused by funny noises, games of peek-a-boo, and shiny objects.  They crave that lack of serious responsibility and accountability.

For some people, in sum, childhood is that oh-so-fond collection of memories you hold for your entire life, a part of you seeming to always have a desire to revisit and relive.

But being a kid is serious business.  Not only are you growing up, you’re building the foundation of your entire life.  Countless studies have identified critical periods during this time for people to learn skills, and even intro psych classes always dedicate some time to touch on the importance of attachment and interaction with kids.  Some people even say that everything you become as an adult you owe to your formative years.

TV shows and movies are full of dramatized stories of traumatic and terrible childhoods.   News reports cover instances of kids who were clearly driven to their fates by their formative years. The childhood years are significant in literature, in the news, in entertainment, and according to the general public.

Why then, are people so obsessed with going back to such a time in their life?  Why is returning to a time where the very person you are is being defined held so dear to us?  Why, in an effort to escape the responsibilities and confusing nature of our adult lives, do we want to go back to a time where every moment seems to be so significant in what and who we turn out to be?

Maybe it’s just the over-thinker in me, but it seems that maybe childhood is just like any other phase of your life – full of actions with consequences, responsibilities and stresses, whether you know it or not.

Adulthood might be rough, but the moments when you begin doubting everything you know, and wondering where all the happy endings went are perhaps the worst of all. You can’t quite believe those fairy tales aren’t true, or that in fact you will have to grow up to be an adult. For those moments, you lose your dreams somewhere, and begin to frantically search for something, anything that’s true. As Disney so eloquently told us, it’s the age of not believing.

Adulthood is but your transition to realizing that yes, not all is as it was, and no, your dreams probably aren’t the same, but realizing you have something to contribute regardless.

Where did all the happy endings go?
Where can all the good times be?
You must face the age of not believing,
Doubting everything you ever knew,
Until at last you start believing,
There’s something wonderful in you

So maybe our adult lives don’t hold that same magical quality that our childhood ones did, but it’s a natural progression. We’re all, in some way, still the young kids we were because they’re our very foundation. It’s foolish to spend time wishing to be a kid again – we’re all still kids after all, just ones who have gone through the age of not believing and come out the other side.

So friends, fret not over your supposed lost childhood. For one, it wasn’t quite as happy go lucky as you might think. And we’re all still kids in some way, shape, or form anyway.

for your musical taste:
artist: angela lansbury (disney’s bedknobs and broomsticks)
song: the age of not believing

change is forever turning by

I came across a bumper sticker the other day while driving about, completing some errands.  No doubt fueled by the numerous instances of change and transition that have permeated my life as of late, the words struck me as significant in a way that perhaps most wouldn’t see.

who moved the finish line?

I’m aware it’s amusing, and likely conjures images of a runner stepping forward to finish a race, only to find the finish line inches forward just out of reach every time.  There are probably cartoons dedicated to such a premise, and if there aren’t, there definitely should be.

But it seems to me that life is all about that sneaky finish line, always creeping forward.  It’s about those continued strides forward and the sprint to the finish, only to find another 100 metres have appeared.  And if you take a moment to look around, it seems that everyone else has already finished, or is a heck of a lot closer than you.

So the question that has been plaguing me is that if life is a race, be it a marathon or a sprint, who moved the finish line?

When you’re a little kid being a “big girl” or “big boy” is the ultimate goal.  When you get that status and all the perks that accompany it, you feel pretty awesome. That is until you realize that you didn’t actually reach the finish line, and now you’re yearning to grow older still.  In elementary school you’re racing to be in high school, in high school you’re heading toward graduation and entry into university/college, in university/college you’re sprinting toward finding a job.  Then it’s sorting out that trip across the globe that you’ve always wanted.  Maybe then it’s that whole “family” dynamic.  Maybe then it’s retirement.

So it seems the finish line keeps creeping forward, always just out of reach as life continues to race along.

Life never seems to move slowly.  Even those moments that seem to inch by slowly are gone as quickly as they came.  Maybe that moving finish line is just a guide by which we live our lives.  We’re supposed to keep striving to be better and do better.  Is this forever moving finish line a blessing in disguise then?  Perhaps it’s the motivation to keep going, or that lofty goal that everyone sets but not everyone acknowledges.

So I ask this then: is that a bad thing?  Is it so terribly awful if that finish line keeps creeping forward?

for your musical taste:
artist: kankouran
song title: it’s alright, follow