Archive | Empty Nest RSS feed for this section

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World

8 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World.

IMG_4114

Absent Fathers: On the advent of Father’s Day next week, I have been thinking about this topic of fathers. It has often been my observation throughout my lifetime, and again, more recently, that many of the men in my life (not all), have had what they have described as fatherless experiences. This is not to suggest that they were all orphaned (although this was sometimes the case); rather, they expressed knowingly being forgotten or overlooked in their fathers’ lives and feeling something that I would describe as an “absent father syndrome”. From the time that I started dating through to sharing significant relationships with men; and, as well, my ongoing male collegial, teacher-student or friendships have given me reason to pause and reflect on the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of sons. I am also intimately aware of the impact of the father-son relationship on my own son’s life and his subsequent relationships with other people.

Distractions of the Father: Over the last few generations, and perhaps very prominently in my own generation, the roles of men have been in flux. They have had to really consider the competitive, fast-paced and demanding world around them, and to discover how to be successful within it. The ego-driven distractions that tempt them in their professional and personal lives, in my opinion, have posed as obstacles, pulling them away from having healthy intimate and responsible relationships with the people around them. Where the world has become obsessed by money, materialism, pop culture, technology and, in some cases, addictions, young boys have grown into adult males that have not had time to really adapt to the world that is constantly changing its expectations of them.

Because the men of the past hundred years have been busy being pioneers, going to war, building new lives, providing for their families, rising out of poverty, carrying on family businesses, making a name for themselves, dying young in their struggles, or other, they have not always been available to mentor the younger generation of men beneath them. As a result, each generation of men have not always had significant male role models on which to form their own strong and healthy identities, nor have they had substantial rites of passages that have helped them to establish where they are at in their journey into maturity. Therefore, many men have not truly been taught by other men how to have responsible and successful relationships. With the changing roles of men and women in society, marital relationships have also changed, and again, children are sometimes disconnected from having full-time relationships with their fathers.

My Son’s Mentorship: Since the time my son was very little, he has always watched men carefully, perhaps because he is trying to figure out who he is; what it means to be a man in the world, and who he should best emulate as he tries on different male identities in his coming of age. It has always been fascinating to me to watch him watch men, and assess them for their various strengths and weaknesses. He has had a quick eye, and is quick to point out any flaws of my dates. Fortunately, through his family, education, sports and music, he was put in contact with some very strong and generous men who took him under their wing and made the time to mentor him in some very important ways.

One of his most significant male relationships that he was able to count on throughout his lifetime and into the present is the one with my father. His “Poppa” (grandfather) was the one who was always there for him, regularly and reliably, and would take the time to show him how to “be” in the world. From a young age, my father took the time to teach Andrew things, attend his special events, and to be emotionally and physically available where Andrew would call him for virtually everything. Their time together had a profound impact on how Andrew operated in the world with strong morals and principles. It is now of particular joy to me when I know they are playing chess or pool together and enjoying the privilege of being men together now that my son is almost twenty-two years of age.

Interestingly, my father was fostered out, along with all of his siblings (who were adopted out across Canada) due to family difficulties and extreme poverty as a new Irish immigrant family on the bald headed prairies. He was raised by a hard-working (and busy) foster father who took time to show him how to work on cars and take care of the family. His biological father returned into his life in his later teenaged years, and then he was also reacquainted with all of his siblings. By this point, he had met his wife (my mother), and had determined that the most important thing for him to do in light of his difficult upbringing, was not to replicate any of the mistakes of his family of origin, but rather, to become a dedicated father himself. I imagine that he was a bit disappointed that he did not have a son, but he never let both of his daughters know this. Instead, he made a point of connecting with us regularly and always being their for us when we needed him. He made the choice to be the man that he knew we would need as a father. However, later in life, he clearly made his grandson the apple of his eye.

Father’s Day: I suppose that my conclusion in all of these observations about men and mentorship is that being a good father is a choice. Despite some of the gaps of mentorship that men may have experienced in their own lives, they have the opportunity to turn around and raise their sons differently. They can be the fathers that they may not have had, or wished that they had experienced in their own lives. They can model other ways of being and break the cycles of the fatherless world. For many of us, good fathers have made a difference in our lives, and we have been fortunate enough to know them. We have benefitted from their time and attention. For my son, I know that he always makes a point of remembering his grandfather on Father’s Day (along with his own father) because he knows that fatherhood is about mentorship, love and the dedicated time that is spent helping him to be a better man.

I would like to say how much I admire all of the men out there who are taking the time to be incredible fathers (you know who you are) and are doing their very best to raise their sons to be good men themselves.

Happy Father’s Day!

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”

William Shakespeare

Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen:

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.” The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance: It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check). With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business. Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being. Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting. I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully. The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines: “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over: As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”. The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved. It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors. We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access. By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life. “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence: I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”. If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success. Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement). Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water. The drinking part is entirely up to them. However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning. For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way. Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower: In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults. Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter. As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life. We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated. Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same. And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good? The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower. I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers. Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower. Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas. It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention. Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!” Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them? Yes, there is grief for our intervention. It is never appreciated. However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now:  Week Thirteen: 

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.”  The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance:  It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check).  With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business.  Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being.  Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting.  I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully.  The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines:  “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over:  As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”.  The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved.  It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors.  We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access.  By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life.  “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence:  I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”.  If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success.  Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement).  Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water.  The drinking part is entirely up to them.  However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning.  For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way.  Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower:  In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults.  Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter.  As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life.  We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated.  Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same.  And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good?  The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower.  I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers.  Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower.  Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas.  It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention.  Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!”  Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them?  Yes, there is grief for our intervention.  It is never appreciated.  However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Six: What is My Ground Bass?

3 Sep

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Six: What is My Ground Bass?

52 Weeks Being Now:  Week Six:  What is My Ground Bass?

Background:  The Passacaglia Within:   I find when things get complicated; I often revert to musical analogy to make sense of my thinking.  Perhaps this is because music was part of my upbringing, and I believe that its style and composition resemble the way that we operate in real life which is why we are so kindred to music in everything that we do.  A passacaglia, for example, is a type of music that is built over a ground bass.  This ostinated bass line of approximately 10 to 20 notes repeats over and over throughout the duration of the composition.  A good example is Pachelbel’s Canon  (You Tube version) that we all know so very well.  Slowly as the piece unfolds, there are multiple soprano, alto and tenor voices and variations that unfold over the bass line.  The bass line is important because it sets the key and establishes the bass note of the chord progressions that can go over top of it. This particular example is a peaceful version of the idea that I hope to explain further.

What is My Ground Bass Line?  As I talk to people, both new and familiar, I realize lately that we are all playing a theme and variations over our own bass lines.  Our bass-lines get more pronounced with age, if we have not actively changed them.  Pachelbel’s Canon works very well as it is in a major key, and allows for many chord progressions that are uplifting and thought-provoking.  It does not grow tiring (unless, of course, you listen to it too often).  I would refer to its ground bass as one of “hope” and “optimism”.  This might explain why so many people (including myself, 21 years ago) have used this particular canon for our wedding processionals.

Although we all have the ability to have multiple themes and variations in our lives, we do have the tendency to have one dominant bass line that grounds us to our life path.  It is like our key message, or essential essence.  It stays with us unconsciously until we consciously decide to change the track.  Again, it sets the key and determines the harmonic progressions over which we operate our lives.  Sometimes, I learn very clearly what people have as their core ostinato, as I listen to our conversations.  Sometimes they are positive and say uplifting things, and this is why we like to be around these people as their music warms our heart:  

  • I think that good things are happening
  • I want to help people
  • I like who I am
  • I am at peace with whatever comes my way
  • I care about my family
  • I want to make good things happen in the world
  • The world is a good place to be

Sometimes, the repeated bass lines in our lives are not as positive, and it is more difficult to understand.  The melody falls flat.  It is boring and repetitive and grates on the listener’s ears:

  • I am running out of time (biological clock)
  • I do not like my role in life (parent, wife, husband, career, single person, married person, other)
  • I do not like myself
  • I need to make money to prove my worth
  • I am afraid of what is happening in the world
  • I do not think I am worth being around
  • I have failed at things, and am unlikely to be successful
  • I wish I were somewhere else

The music unravels quickly and the minor and dissonant message loses its musicality.  A fine musician can pick out the message of each composer’s bass lines pretty quickly.  Intuitively, we all can if we put on our metaphorical headphones around each other, and really listen.

Being in Tune:  I don’t know why this idea of comparing our lives to Passacaglias came up for me today.   All I know is that lately, I am reading pretty clearly what people’s dominant bass lines are that come through what they are saying, their body language or what they are not saying at all.  In my efforts to have a fresh start, I am sensitive to what people are telling me.  As well, I am listening to myself and trying to understand what my own ground bass is, and what it is telling people about me in return.  I think I am finding it is best to stay in “The Key of Shelley” (to borrow a title by CBC).  (I have always thought I worked best in the key of E flat major, but who can really say.)   Most importantly, I am accepting that it is okay to not want to continually listen to everyone’s music where it is not musical to me.  We are entitled to our preferences, and where I am an eclectic listener and appreciate all music, I tend to return to the music that inspires me.

Pachelbel’s Canon:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOA-2hl1Vbc

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Six: What is My Ground Bass?

3 Sep

52 Weeks Being Now:  Week Six:  What is My Ground Bass?

Background:  The Passacaglia Within:   I find when things get complicated; I often revert to musical analogy to make sense of my thinking.  Perhaps this is because music was part of my upbringing, and I believe that its style and composition resemble the way that we operate in real life which is why we are so kindred to music in everything that we do.  A passacaglia, for example, is a type of music that is built over a ground bass.  This ostinated bass line of approximately 10 to 20 notes repeats over and over throughout the duration of the composition.  A good example is Pachelbel’s Canon  (You Tube version) that we all know so very well.  Slowly as the piece unfolds, there are multiple soprano, alto and tenor voices and variations that unfold over the bass line.  The bass line is important because it sets the key and establishes the bass note of the chord progressions that can go over top of it. This particular example is a peaceful version of the idea that I hope to explain further.

What is My Ground Bass Line?  As I talk to people, both new and familiar, I realize lately that we are all playing a theme and variations over our own bass lines.  Our bass-lines get more pronounced with age, if we have not actively changed them.  Pachelbel’s Canon works very well as it is in a major key, and allows for many chord progressions that are uplifting and thought-provoking.  It does not grow tiring (unless, of course, you listen to it too often).  I would refer to its ground bass as one of “hope” and “optimism”.  This might explain why so many people (including myself, 21 years ago) have used this particular canon for our wedding processionals.

Although we all have the ability to have multiple themes and variations in our lives, we do have the tendency to have one dominant bass line that grounds us to our life path.  It is like our key message, or essential essence.  It stays with us unconsciously until we consciously decide to change the track.  Again, it sets the key and determines the harmonic progressions over which we operate our lives.  Sometimes, I learn very clearly what people have as their core ostinato, as I listen to our conversations.  Sometimes they are positive and say uplifting things, and this is why we like to be around these people as their music warms our heart:  

  • I think that good things are happening
  • I want to help people
  • I like who I am
  • I am at peace with whatever comes my way
  • I care about my family
  • I want to make good things happen in the world
  • The world is a good place to be

Sometimes, the repeated bass lines in our lives are not as positive, and it is more difficult to understand.  The melody falls flat.  It is boring and repetitive and grates on the listener’s ears:

  • I am running out of time (biological clock)
  • I do not like my role in life (parent, wife, husband, career, single person, married person, other)
  • I do not like myself
  • I need to make money to prove my worth
  • I am afraid of what is happening in the world
  • I do not think I am worth being around
  • I have failed at things, and am unlikely to be successful
  • I wish I were somewhere else

The music unravels quickly and the minor and dissonant message loses its musicality.  A fine musician can pick out the message of each composer’s bass lines pretty quickly.  Intuitively, we all can if we put on our metaphorical headphones around each other, and really listen.

Being in Tune:  I don’t know why this idea of comparing our lives to Passacaglias came up for me today.   All I know is that lately, I am reading pretty clearly what people’s dominant bass lines are that come through what they are saying, their body language or what they are not saying at all.  In my efforts to have a fresh start, I am sensitive to what people are telling me.  As well, I am listening to myself and trying to understand what my own ground bass is, and what it is telling people about me in return.  I think I am finding it is best to stay in “The Key of Shelley” (to borrow a title by CBC).  (I have always thought I worked best in the key of E flat major, but who can really say.)   Most importantly, I am accepting that it is okay to not want to continually listen to everyone’s music where it is not musical to me.  We are entitled to our preferences, and where I am an eclectic listener and appreciate all music, I tend to return to the music that inspires me.

Pachelbel’s Canon:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOA-2hl1Vbc

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture

26 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture.

Paperwork:  I find it interesting that a new province, city, school, and community do not find new residents real until we have completed a cord’s worth (note the Comox metaphor as everything here is measured in wood) of paperwork.  Who we are is measured very much by what we do; what we make; our evaluations; our financial ratings; our legal records, etc.  There has been no greater testament to this reality than now when I am finding that I have to “prove” who I am to this new culture in Comox.  Comox is not any different than any other bureaucracy.  However, even where I am off the beaten track from the cultural mainstream of British Columbia, I need to provide evidence that I have been and will continue to be a good person coming into the Comox Valley. 

The paperwork has been endless, and this part of the journey has been a bit daunting, but made me only more determined to get through it.  I feel as though I am in the backwoods, hacking my way through the forest, and the path leading to the view is just a few kilometers ahead.  I know it is there, and people keep talking about it, but for some reason, this lone person from Calgary has to jump over a few puddles, and climb over some fallen timber to get there.  I just have to slog through this unchartered part of my journey until I get to the place where I need to be. 

Helpful People:  At every turn there have been people voluntarily helping me to find my way.  Their efforts to get me the right technology “log-ins”, or to feed me when they know that I haven’t made time to get to the grocery store (Union Bay is a bit off the beaten track), and to fix my car (with some perks) are so appreciated.  When totally new to something, it is possible to see it and everyone within it through fresh eyes.  I am very vulnerable to the help or the lack of it at this point as it is all so entirely different.  I had one fellow say to me, “You have the opportunity to totally reinvent yourself.  Who do you want to be?  No one here will know the difference.”  But, I will know the difference.  I have been thinking about his words as I make myself “real” in this new town. 

Reinvention:  What if I have already been changing, and I want to be exactly who I have been turning into which is now culminating in this very move?  I don’t have any aspirations to “be” a certain way, or to change my essential nature.  The paperwork reminds me at every turn that I am very much a culmination of my past.  My credit rating reminds me that I have paid my bills on time (thank goodness).  My driver’s licence proves that I am societally legitimate, and my social insurance number (which is in a box somewhere) is desperately needed to say that I have been and will continue to earn money for myself and the government.  I find that I do not have time or energy to reinvent myself until I am accountable to this new environment for everything that I have been and intend to be. 

What I do want to have the opportunity to do is be more present in everything that I do, and that is being clouded by the daily reminders that I need to attend to this operational minutia first.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just look my new authorities in the eye, shake their hands, and have them accept that now I am part of their groups? Instead, the transactions are formal as I need new keys, passwords, and special permissions to do all of the things that I have always done in my previous existence, here in this new world. 

Pausing to Reconsider:   Therefore, reinventing myself will have to wait, as I continue to have to bring forward all of my personal evidence to prove my merit so that I will be accepted here.  At times, I am reminded of my value and securities (and insecurities) in this process, and am proud of who I have been and who I have become.  For example, I was introduced at the first administrative meeting by my supervisor, and he highlighted my professional history.  I was embarrassed, and yet surprised that this is how someone else would see my professional value and introduce me to others without my input.  He was eloquent, touching upon things that I have accomplished; however, I came away from the meeting, after everyone came forward to welcome me, feeling more puzzled than ever about who I am and will be here.  Like my packing that I mentioned in a previous entry, “What will I take forward as a person, and what will I choose to leave behind?”  

Language:  The biggest reality in all of this is the matter of new technological and professional language that I will have to learn.  Even though I have been in the same industry for 26 years, I am now within it in a very new way.  British Columbia Education has many similarities to Alberta Education, but they use different professional jargon and acronyms for everything.  It is truly mind boggling.  As well, these provinces are very different in how they operate in my field, especially in the various initiatives, and technologies.  I need to translate everything I know.  It reminds me of struggling through my French classes all of those years ago.  It makes each new step, three steps for me.  It causes me to pause and really think about what I thought I knew, and reconceptualize it into new frameworks, using new words, and considering different priorities. 

Who Am I?  For now, I feel as though I am who I have always been and in an even bigger way than ever as my life story is factualized and recounted for the benefit of everyone who is getting to know me.  This re-telling of who I am to people over and over again so that they will know and trust me, has me wondering about my personal narrative.  “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”  (Laurence Peter).   I need to be careful, however, to remember what “quo” I truly wish to sustain in my own life, and what “status” I hope to achieve that might be new and more refreshing.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Five: Becoming Real in a New Culture

26 Aug

Becoming Real in a New Culture

Paperwork:  I find it interesting that a new province, city, school, and community do not find new residents real until we have completed a cord’s worth (note the Comox metaphor as everything here is measured in wood) of paperwork.  Who we are is measured very much by what we do; what we make; our evaluations; our financial ratings; our legal records, etc.  There has been no greater testament to this reality than now when I am finding that I have to “prove” who I am to this new culture in Comox.  Comox is not any different than any other bureaucracy.  However, even where I am off the beaten track from the cultural mainstream of British Columbia, I need to provide evidence that I have been and will continue to be a good person coming into the Comox Valley. 

The paperwork has been endless, and this part of the journey has been a bit daunting, but made me only more determined to get through it.  I feel as though I am in the backwoods, hacking my way through the forest, and the path leading to the view is just a few kilometers ahead.  I know it is there, and people keep talking about it, but for some reason, this lone person from Calgary has to jump over a few puddles, and climb over some fallen timber to get there.  I just have to slog through this unchartered part of my journey until I get to the place where I need to be. 

Helpful People:  At every turn there have been people voluntarily helping me to find my way.  Their efforts to get me the right technology “log-ins”, or to feed me when they know that I haven’t made time to get to the grocery store (Union Bay is a bit off the beaten track), and to fix my car (with some perks) are so appreciated.  When totally new to something, it is possible to see it and everyone within it through fresh eyes.  I am very vulnerable to the help or the lack of it at this point as it is all so entirely different.  I had one fellow say to me, “You have the opportunity to totally reinvent yourself.  Who do you want to be?  No one here will know the difference.”  But, I will know the difference.  I have been thinking about his words as I make myself “real” in this new town. 

Reinvention:  What if I have already been changing, and I want to be exactly who I have been turning into which is now culminating in this very move?  I don’t have any aspirations to “be” a certain way, or to change my essential nature.  The paperwork reminds me at every turn that I am very much a culmination of my past.  My credit rating reminds me that I have paid my bills on time (thank goodness).  My driver’s licence proves that I am societally legitimate, and my social insurance number (which is in a box somewhere) is desperately needed to say that I have been and will continue to earn money for myself and the government.  I find that I do not have time or energy to reinvent myself until I am accountable to this new environment for everything that I have been and intend to be. 

What I do want to have the opportunity to do is be more present in everything that I do, and that is being clouded by the daily reminders that I need to attend to this operational minutia first.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could just look my new authorities in the eye, shake their hands, and have them accept that now I am part of their groups? Instead, the transactions are formal as I need new keys, passwords, and special permissions to do all of the things that I have always done in my previous existence, here in this new world. 

Pausing to Reconsider:   Therefore, reinventing myself will have to wait, as I continue to have to bring forward all of my personal evidence to prove my merit so that I will be accepted here.  At times, I am reminded of my value and securities (and insecurities) in this process, and am proud of who I have been and who I have become.  For example, I was introduced at the first administrative meeting by my supervisor, and he highlighted my professional history.  I was embarrassed, and yet surprised that this is how someone else would see my professional value and introduce me to others without my input.  He was eloquent, touching upon things that I have accomplished; however, I came away from the meeting, after everyone came forward to welcome me, feeling more puzzled than ever about who I am and will be here.  Like my packing that I mentioned in a previous entry, “What will I take forward as a person, and what will I choose to leave behind?”  

Language:  The biggest reality in all of this is the matter of new technological and professional language that I will have to learn.  Even though I have been in the same industry for 26 years, I am now within it in a very new way.  British Columbia Education has many similarities to Alberta Education, but they use different professional jargon and acronyms for everything.  It is truly mind boggling.  As well, these provinces are very different in how they operate in my field, especially in the various initiatives, and technologies.  I need to translate everything I know.  It reminds me of struggling through my French classes all of those years ago.  It makes each new step, three steps for me.  It causes me to pause and really think about what I thought I knew, and reconceptualize it into new frameworks, using new words, and considering different priorities. 

Who Am I?  For now, I feel as though I am who I have always been and in an even bigger way than ever as my life story is factualized and recounted for the benefit of everyone who is getting to know me.  This re-telling of who I am to people over and over again so that they will know and trust me, has me wondering about my personal narrative.  “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status”  (Laurence Peter).   I need to be careful, however, to remember what “quo” I truly wish to sustain in my own life, and what “status” I hope to achieve that might be new and more refreshing.