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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Ah, books!

It’s the middle of August and after a long summer of drudgery, of sleeping in, of chores and odd jobs and photographic odysseys to the countryside, I find my mind stretching schoolward once again. 

The courses I picked back in July – so that’s all done and good. Now, dear professors, I’d like to get my books. 

Going into my sixth semester, there are a couple of things I wonder about. Perhaps you can help:

Why, if I can (nay, must) book my courses in late June or early July, can I not pick up my books at the same time? Why are book lists never out until one week before term starts? I have to believe that I am not the only keener who would do summer pre-reading were the list available. Is it a matter of professorial organization that the lists are not complete? I could see that if it were a first time putting the course together, but since so many of these courses are offered time and again, I find this a little puzzling.

Also, why does the book store insist on allowing a mere two-weeks return policy on books – and then only if unopened? This, to me, discriminates against those who are enthusiastic enough to dedicate some R & R time to future studies. I mean, picture the poor student who books a course, then gradually reviews the text book, only to learn that the material isn’t exactly what he thought, and then finds out that because he opened the book and took 15 days to do it  he’s – what’s the phrase? – out of luck. He can drop the course I believe up to three weeks into the semester, so why does he get stuck with the books? To me, this just doesn’t make a lot of sense. 

The Book Repository


Anyway, I’m watching for the book lists for my courses, and in my mind I’m starting to get fired up for the new school year. I have an advantageous schedule this year – in the fall all my classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and in the winter semester they’re all on Mondays. This will be very good for designating study time, and will reduce the amount of bus travel significantly.

I have to admit, I’m looking forward to getting this final year going. 
 

Inventory

Two assignments down, eight more to go.

As crunch times go I can’t complain too much. I have eight more assignments – three large, five small – and I have to admit they are fairly well-spaced compared to previous semesters. Also, I have no exams this time which is a shock and a joy. This means that on April 15th when I hand in that final missive I’m actually done.

Then, on April 16th I’m getting up early and taking my camera into the mountains again for sunrise. This time I’m thinking Lake Minnewanka. It’s beautiful in there and I’m going to be hungering for some real quiet time after getting all my assignments done.

I’m looking forward to that.

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Social Sciences Corridor

My kind o’ class

Today is something new to me. Up until now classes have been in the class room, or the lecture hall, but today my Communications and Food Culture class is headed out into the field, to check in at a fancy Calgary restaurant for some primary research.

We’re going to River Cafe, which is on Prince’s Island here in town. I gather we’ll be talking to kitchen staff, to the maitre d’ and we’ll be sampling some of the fare. It should be very nice. I mean, I have a clue about front-of-house and back-of-house anyway – having a theatre background, but it will be interesting to see the restaurant perspective.There will be customers there, too, so we’ll have to be very quiet (yeah, right).

To me this is like a day off – in fact, I almost feel guilty writing this blog today, in celebration of an actually invigorating education experience! Of course, there is an assignment attached to it – a reflective essay of about 1000 words due next Tuesday. That should be easy enough for me, though: I’ll just write a blog for you, print that, and hand it in to my teachers.

Works for me!

James

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