It’s a Done Deal

Alright then, the decision is made. After a great deal of contemplation, thought, kvetching, and many a night’s sleep lost to turning and tossing, and staring at the darkened ceiling in mute despair, I have made up my mind at last. 

The question, as you may recall, was whether or not to pursue a Masters degree, now that the Bachelor’s is done. 

The answer is ‘not’. At this time.

I’m at a place on my continuum where I just don’t have the strength to commit to the rigours of a Masters degree. Its demands are many and varied – strenuous and harsh. It requires a dedication to academia which I simply cannot muster just now. Let’s not forget that I’m the Old Fart here – I’m not yet in my final resting place, but I also don’t have all the youthful energy or the quick recovery of the whippersnappers of the world.

So what’s next? And what’s next for this blog, which was itself started as a record of my didactic exploits? Well, another graduation, to be sure, for even though I am not formally enrolled in an academic institution, I’m still learning something new every day. I’m dedicating myself to the University of life now. I’m re-energizing to head off in new internal directions, even as my family and I contemplate an external move to another part of this great nation.

Learning is the most important thing we can do to enrich our lives, and in my opinion, a day in which nothing is learned is a day wasted. So I dedicate this blog anew to those who love to learn, and who do so deliberately and with passion, with a determination that cannot be swayed. The learners of the world represent courage, humility, and determination, all at the same time.

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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. 

Convocation

Lo, but the big day fast approacheth. 

Convocation. 

Of course, I applied for graduation in December as required, and got myself into the system. Since then I’ve been getting little reminders on this and that and I’ve been quietly paying attention. But schoolwork first, and my primary focus has certainly been there. 

But today, even as I was starting to finalize my last ever paper, my mind started to bend toward graduation. 

I’ve finally made up my mind to take part in the ceremony. This is big. After my first degree in 1990 I was so tired, so utterly, wretchedly, tired in so many different areas of my life that I did not take part – I just picked up my silly piece of paper, handed my silly photos to my Mom with an injunction never to show them to me again, and rode off into the sunset. 

This time though, I think I owe it to myself to attend, and I’m going for it. 

So I’ve ordered and paid for my cap and gown, I’ve gone over the checklist, and on Monday before class I’ll stop by the Faculty office to make sure I’m still on target.

I don’t know who’s going to join me since for my family attendance does involve some sacrifices, but let’s face it I’m not some dewey-eyed 23 year old just setting out in the world. Still, I’m going to invest in it for my own sake at least.

It’s been a tough slog for many different reasons, but now the end is most definitely in sight. 

I can’t deny it, it’s exciting.

Studies

Now that there are only two and a half weeks left I would say that it’s time to start reflecting on the nature of this experience – to assess what it was all about, what it was worth, and what it might be worth in the future. 

I’m in the library now. I just finished rehearsing for a presentation with some very focused young students. They’re so indulgent of the old man – they put up with my foibles without kicking up too much of a fuss.

Anyway, it occurs to me that I’m now coming to the end of an experience which began in May 2011 as an effort to re-rail and  re-establish purpose after being laid off from my job of 23 years. 

September of that year saw a large number of firsts – the first class, the first test, the first essay and so on – and now I’m experiencing some Newtonian, equal-and-opposite lasts. 

This morning, for example, I came here on the train for the last time. I waited in Mac Hall for the library to open – for the last time – and right now I’m sitting in a library workroom which I booked in my name for the last time. Frankly, I’m probably in this library for the last time right now, because the rest of my studies can be done at home and other than a final, romantic walkabout there would be no reason for me to come back here.

It makes you think: about the passage of time, the meaning of events. It makes you wonder what the point is of using all our personal forces to develop when we’d probably be a lot more comfortable if we just stagnated. I hope against hope that I have the energy to keep learning right up until my last day – there is no emotional profit in being satisfied. There’s no joy in quiesence. Learn and grow, that’s my motto. Learn something new every day, or waste your life on the passive entertainments.

Anyway, here’s my last view of the library. It’s Saturday, so it’s not too busy – but that’s not how I’ll remember it. 

There’s a thing about lasts. The optimism of beginning is gone, but it’s replaced now by the nervous anticipation of satisfaction and success. 

And I have to say, I like the sound of that.