Decision Time

On the subject of the pusrsuit of the Masters, it’s decision time. I have done my research, learned what I can about what’s involved, what it will take, and the kind of commitment I must be prepared to offer to get it done. The only question remaining, is whether I have that kind of strength. 

Let’s not forget: there were 22 years between my first and second degrees. ‘It took me that long to recover’, he said with a sly wink. Seriously though, it took a huge life change and a hope for acceptance in a new career to get me to take the second degree. But this time the life change is not there, and my explorations of the working world have shown me the real  potential for career change – and it’s not particularly encouraging. The motives for doing a degree cannot be the net results. If I do a Masters, it has to be for its own sake, which – to my way of thinking – requires that I have a passion for academia in its own right. If I do a Masters now, it has to have the benefit of all I can give it, and I’m just not sure that I’m there.

The deadline to apply is January 15th, but the process requires a decision much earlier than that. My references are assured, as long as I can get a thesis idea in place, but that’s not as easy as it sounds, either. I thought I had something to move on with, but I’ve learned that what I think is a possibility is just not clear enough, or focussed enough to get through the application process. So, the grades are there, the references are available, the intelligence exists (so I insist on reassuring myself), but I’m not sure that I have the strength to do it now

I’ve set November 5th (Guy Fawkes’ Day) as the day I choose to either knuckle down, or back away. It feels symbolic, somehow: fireworks or nothing. 

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

START THE PRESSES!

Previously on Old Fart Back in School, our hero was seen graduating from his studies with a degree in communications. His flowing gown, colourful sash, and crisply-pressed coiffure were a statement of pride, of confidence and self-respect. His mood was good, his attitude strong. 

But there was doubt about what the future held. Would he be moving soon? Would he find gainful employment back in the race of rats? Or would he return to school, to battle shoulder-to-shoulder with the other kids, for another prize, another point of pride, another feather for his massively oversized cap?

In today’s episode, our hero is proud to announce that the process of the Masters pursuit has begun. Even as we speak, references are being sought and forms are being filled in. The gathering of documents is in full sway, and the gathering of administrative knowledge is under way. 

Of course, the Masters degree is a different animal to the Bachelor’s. It starts with some obligatory courses, proceeds to some elective courses, and finalizes with a year-long research project in support of a written thesis. There are written exams, and at the end an oral exam shows unequivocally whether or not you know your material. 

Our hero has chosen a thesis idea and is proposing it as part of the application process. In essence, his thesis explores the role of technology in the job-seeking process because – as anyone who has applied for a job recently knows – technology is a decidedly complicating factor. 

All too exciting. Stay tuned for further developments!

And now, a picture.

 

Broken Dreams, Broken Hearts

I never dreamed that I would be writing a post like this, just days after finishing my studies.

I never dreamed on Monday when I was driving through the university grounds and past the annual celebration of Bermuda Shorts Day that twelve hours later some of my fellow students would be gone.

I never dreamed when I drove from the university to a Brentwood drug store and looked into the grocery store beside it that in twelve short hours a young man would walk out of there and change the lives of hundreds of people forever.

I am still dumbfounded by yesterday’s events – the senseless murder of five young students who were only doing what I was doing – decompressing after a long semester. I was shocked when I heard about it, and I’m still shocked – at the loss as well as at the level of violence that was so unexpected.

There isn’t a lot I can say. I’ve been able to confirm that I did not personally know any of the students involved, but that doesn’t help much. The fact is, they were siblings in study, and they did not deserve for this to happen.

Senseless. Sad. Shocking.

Don’t ever doubt it. There is pressure in university life. Youngsters must live up to the standards of a lot of different people even as they try to establish who they are in the world. They work very hard to figure out what is needed, and the best way to get it done. At the same time they are working hard emotionally to finish their own personal foundations and launch themselves into a successful life. Pressures come from everywhere. There is nothing easy about the university experience. It is a purification by fire that no one can fully appreciate until they have gone through it.

I contacted the university as a mature student and offered to volunteer in any way needed. They thanked me, but they do of course have professionals handling it. “Reach out to your community,” they said, so I am.

Pray for the victims and their families, and for the perpetrator and his family. Then reach out to people you know who you feel might be dealing with stress. Make sure they know that you care, and that you can spare time to listen if they need it.

And you: if you need to talk, I’m here to listen. Contact me. I’ve felt and dealt with overwhelming stress in my time, and I can attest to the fact that simply talking about it – no matter what it is – exposes it to the air and makes it seem less important. Two heads are better than one. There’s strength in numbers.

Talk.

No one is completely alone.

You are welcome to re-blog this post if it strikes a chord with you.

* * * * *

Visit the University of Calgary website for further information.

Click here for a gallery of images honouring the victims of this tragedy.

The Last Paper

What can I say? It’s all done, now, but the crying. I always said I’d get it done, and I did. Here’s the final paper:

I actually had trouble whittling my way down to a thesis statement on this one. I had so much material on my desk and in my mind that I just couldn’t narrow it down sufficiently to the kind of paper it was supposed to be. So I spoke to Dr. L and in about fifteen minutes all my stuff was lined up in my mind and my ideas were focused. 

At least, I think they were. 

At that point it took shape quickly. Two solid days for extra reading, two for a rough first draft, then concerted hacking, slashing, groaning, picking, head-shaking, corner-rounding and tightening, until I thought it was fit for ink. 

I emailed the prof – huzzah! – and went in to the university to drop it off in the office – four days early – and ever since then I’ve been cleaning house.

Now I wait to find out my final grades, await my convocation details (June 10th, 930am) and go and do what I skipped out on the first time around – trip on my gown going up the stairs to the dais to accept my prize flat on my face.

Things have felt different since I handed the paper in. At first I thought that was the old “oh my gosh, I’m on holiday now” thing, but that’s not it. I’ve been pondering, and I think I know what it is now. 

Once I graduate, I won’t be young anymore. 

The kids I worked with were overwhelmingly good and patient and welcoming, and appreciative of the old fart back in school – they made me feel like I belonged. Sharing in the pressures of the work, it seldom occurred to me that I was nearly thirty years older than them. I was always just one of the kids. 

But now, with the completion of this paper, with this passage, I have to return to my own time of life. Sure, there’s hope in my outlook, and excitement, and ambition, but let’s face it: the world is not my oyster. The decisions I make are not setting the course for an entire life, only for what I have left. The stakes are lower for me, and yet because retirement looms they might actually be higher.

One thing is for sure: with graduation and convocation this little journey is winding down, and so is this blog. It’s never been the busiest of blogs, but I think it said what needed to be said – when it needed to be said. 

So what’s next? We’re moving. The idea was born about a year ago and has been growing ever since, and frankly I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a graduation than with a truly fresh start. The process and the result will be the subject of my next blog.

I do hope you’ll tag along. 

And we’re back

A particularly furry little animal

This is week two of the new semester – my final semester – the final steps on the road to the educational grail. 

I’ve waited a couple of weeks before making an entry this time because I wanted to become familiar with my schedule first – you know, rooms, times and so on. It’s a very complicated schedule. First are my Monday classes, from noon to 245pm, and 4pm to 645pm. Then I go home.

I almost feel guilty with this schedule – underscore ‘almost‘. I’m finishing up a second degree but my schedule makes it feel like night school. I mean, I don’t have to get up early, I get a solid hour for lunch in between classes, and I get a six-day weekend every week.

This pseudo-guilt is quickly overcome, however, by memories of my first two semesters in this place when I had to go to campus early, six days a week for eight months. Oh, I know, compared to a five-day week in a full time job it sounds easy, but while work passes quickly because it’s constant, the school process is very irregular, and in my opinion harder because of it. The semester starts with a certain calmness, but then deadlines hit, reading, research, writing, presenting, citing, and all the while the quality must be high enough to make the professor happy. This is a herky-jerky process of compilation and rendition which can be quite taxing at times. The deadlines come in waves. The pressure can be likened to that of a thumb screw – it hurts, but you get used to it, it hurts more, then you get used to it again. 

Anyway, this one-day-a-week thing is easy in one respect, but it calls for more discipline than I’ve ever had to show before. I’ll get it done, I’ll pull my weight – with a lifetime of team play in the workplace behind me I know how to get and keep people moving. But the temptation to coast is definitely there because the pressure won’t ramp up quite as often as in the past and every week I’ll get the chance to decompress. Honestly? I am already guarding against relaxing too much.

Did you see that? I’m trying hard not to be relaxed

Oh, what an odd and furry little animal is post-secondary education.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

WPC: G’mornin

As my schoolhardy response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, here’s one of the University of Calgary concrete mountains taken  last March on my way to an 8am class. I don’t have any of those early starts this term, and I won’t next term either, so for me this view is a thing of the past – unless I decide to go in for a research marathon.

There has been a lot of work involved with getting this degree, and now that I’m getting down to the ‘short strokes’ I’m feeling very much like I want to get it over with. But this is where I must be at my most disciplined. The work must still be done. The assignments this term, and next, deserve the same level of attention and focus as I gave the last ones, even if there are fewer of them. In fact, because there are fewer assignments there really should be no reason for me to not give this term’s work extra attention. Thg first round of deadlines is boiling up now. Fingers crossed.

I will say one thing (what, only one?): I’m much more up to date with my reading this term. 

Good morning

 

 

Click here for a good read.  

Daily Prompt: Turning Point

Checklist for the start of a new semester
  • Stuff
I’ve got my pens and pencils, my books, erasers, bag and such. I picked up a new phone (got to have one of those for a new school year) and my camera is fully charged. What could I possibly be missing? Oh wait – I’ve got to put the Aspirin back in the backpack, and I must remember to throw in some coffee money.
  • Attitude
I’ve been away from the books and the studies for so long now I almost feel as though I’ve forgotten what to do. Tomorrow will be another in a long line of firsts, though – and I’m sure I’ll pick right up from where I left off. Discipline is a sub-category of the Attitude main – without discipline none of this gets done.  
  • Creativity
At some point I’m going to need this so I’ll just go ahead and tuck it into my backpack right now. Creativity is a vital part of a solid education – without it the process, and so the result, of an education is academic at best. Creativity allows the research process to unfold more easily – search terms, terms of reference, all become more straightforward when approached with a creative mindset. Don’t ask me how this works, but it does.
  • Concentration
A healthy dose of concentration never hurt anyone, but it gets more difficult with age. I’m told that fish oil helps aid concentration and intelligence – but what on earth am I going to do?
  • Patience
Let’s face it – some patience is required when an old fart goes back to school. Is it me being patient with the young’uns, though, or are they being patient with me? I suppose it’s a kind of symbiosis, which – if properly managed – can be mutually beneficial. I bring maturity (hahahahaha) and calm (read, apathy or indolence), and the youth bring energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to accept delegation, no matter how reasonable.
  • Determination
This is it. This is the final push – for me, the final five courses which will hopefully propel me to greater things. Let’s face it – after this there’s nothing but the job search and the working world, and paycheques. And if that’s not an incentive to stay determined then I don’t know what is. 
 
In the spirit of the aforementioned creativity, here is a gothic view some of the old university buildings. Take a good look. These dark and dingy halls are the birthing place of a world of new discoveries. 
 
Here’s to education. 

Gothika