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.

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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.

DP: Movement

And so it continues. My assignments for this semester are now 42% done, and I’m about 55% through the class schedule. 

I have to admit I never did make a point of going in to school to work extra days because I remembered (oh yah!) that I have a perfectly usable and quiet office space here at home, plus I didn’t want to spend extra money on bus tickets  – me being an unemployed bum and all. Staying home for my studies has also saved me the bother of budgeting for campus munchies which, though unquestionably hearty and healthy and not made with any MSGs or sugar whatsoever, are nevertheless money out of my pocket when I indulge.

Right now I’m working on my part of two group projects, and preparing for an exam, all due Monday. It has started to occur to me, now, that I’m actually working on the final projects of my educational career. Because of this, last week when I was readying a short report for submission I decided to go all out, presentationwise. It suddenly occurred to me that once I’m back in the working world (whatever that ends up looking like) I may not get the same opportunities to fiddle with the Word software, so I added a cover page, prepped a contents list, and inserted a subtle watermark – all because I could and because I wanted to, and because it made at least a part of the assignment feel like fun.

I’ve received confirmation that my graduation plans are on track, provided of course that I successfully complete these last two courses. I’m assuming they’ll be fine because I have a habit of just getting things done. 

I’ve also received and completed a survey from the university about my experience there – I barred no holds, believe you me. They know all the niggling little complaints that it is my duty and obligation as an over-confident senior student to divulge.

This afternoon I’m going to send out a resume – what the hey – I’ve got nothing to lose by submitting it. I’m certainly qualified. Anyway, stay tuned for whatever happens next.

 

Giggles

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasures of Academia

Here are the true treasures of academia (no, not the nut) – the kernels of knowledge and wisdom and understanding. 

Books. 

 

Simple Treasure

 

The Experiment

Alright, the experiment is over.

I’m a disciplined, self-starting kind of guy, but this is ridiculous. So here’s what I’m going to do. 

Starting next week I’m going in to the campus a couple of days a week to work in the library. I’m doing my best at home, and I’m getting stuff done, but there are just too many distractions – a TV, a radio, a dog to walk, a meal to cook, and I feel really lazy and house-bound staying at home all the time. The temptation to wallow is just too great.  

To enable discipline I need structure. Discipline builds more easily in a focused environment where everyone has the same goal – one like the school library. I know the traveling is a pain in the apple, but there’s simply nothing else for it.

I’m just glad it has taken me only two weeks to figure this out.

 

Now, here’s a topical shout

Grammar is one of my buttons.

Cluing In

Who doesn’t like a tummy rub?

It has only taken me (mumble-mumble) years, but I think I’m finally getting it. 

My dog had a talkative spell last week – sidling up to a lot of other dog buddies on Twitter. He made lots of friends, followed lots of folks, clicked, read, commented, liked, favourited and retweeted to his little heart’s content. He put photos up, lauded others on their photos, commiserated, loved, licked and well – you get the picture. He was a very popular little guy for about two shiny days. He got responses to his responses – he had dialogue with doggies from all over the world – lots of mutual (virtual) nose-rubs and butt sniffs, and hours spent comparing the vaguaries of the ‘hoomans’ and their many well-meaning if mis-guided attempts at parenting. 

Then he quit. Well, let’s face it, I quit. Schoolwork called, snow-shovelling beckoned, the actual world trumped the virtual,  and the pixels just had to wait. For two days he was nowhere in sight, and do you know how many contacts he got from all his new Twitter friends? Not one. 

Anyway, it’s not really important whether Poopsie hears from his friends or not – frankly, he’s far too busy here eating chicken and licking the floor. But what this made me realize is that in our modern, technological world people only bother to look elsewhere when they think there’s something in it for them. As I sadly learned in the Co-op program at university – the answer to the job search conundrum isn’t talent or grades or experience or effort or intent. The answer is networking, rubbing elbows, socializing and social networking. So what we’re seeing in fish-eye sociological terms is that the name of the game, today, is reciprocity – that talent and ability aren’t as important as audience-building and marketing – that presence means more than ability; appearance trumps integrity. Who you know is more important than what you know.   

I’d better stop before you see sour grapes where there aren’t any. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to carve success out of nothing – I rather hope to do that myself. I just hope that success (mine or anyone’s) is ultimately a product of skill and talent, not just the construction of appearances, because a world – and a society – founded on the appearance of stability is a world that’s due for a tumble.

 

Ps: I’m handing in the next two papers today.

Priorities

Priorities, always priorities. This is what happens at this time of year. 

Random: Law Library

It’s the end of October. The snow came down this weekend so for the next six months that’s what the world looks like. The cold air is here, so that’s how it feels. The sky was clear today, but that’s just a lie.

What isn’t a lie is midterms and the first round of deadlines. As of right now I have 38% of my assignments done, and the next few projects promise to be quite intense – so I don’t see a lot of downtime in my immediate future. Tomorrow I have another exam, and then I’ll be working on the next three papers for two weeks.

And even as this is going on I’m still helping out with Halloween and preparing our community’s newsletter for publication.

So as you can see, it’s all about priorities. It’s good and grand and well to write about school, but even as I write about it I have to live it. And try to get a few A’s.

Thanks for your patience in between entries, but mostly thanks for stopping by.