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.

 

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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.

Fascination

Alright, it’s a beautiful day, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get a coffee, pull the patio table out, haul my books outside with me and park my ass under the sun. I’m going to get some of my reading done. 

I’m bright and alert, vibrant and keen, so why not? I’m focused – sharp and adept. I’m thinking diligently only of my schoolwork and future successes, of the grades I need to be able to go to an ice cream store and buy one of those sweet, delicious peanut treats with all that wonderful caramel sauce and – 

I’m focused and keen, deliberate and firm of purpose. I think only of my books and my processes, never of those really weird-looking clouds floating by, or of the people talking really quite noisily (rudely so!) while walking along the sidewalk in front of the house. What business is it of mine if the neighbourhood crows want to fight with the magpies? Why should I care if the ants on the ground are making their way closer to me with every passing minute, or if that really attentive bee wants for some reason to settle on my head? Why should it upset me that that stupid helicopter keeps flying overhead – over and over and over again!

I’m keen and determined. The words on my page are clear and concise – the grammar perfect and beautiful. There are no distractions, like wondering what on earth I’m going to be cooking for supper later today. There is nothing whatsoever to prevent me from enjoying perfect, productive, scholarly, retentive, laser-like focus in my reading.

Yes, I’m determined and alert. I’m not in the least tired. Not at all dozy or droopy. No, I’m really not right on the point of falling asleep at all. Not at all. Not in the least. Nope. No way.

Fading

 

One of my favourite photo blogs: click here.

Who we are

So, why am I doing this anyway? Not the blog thing (that makes perfect sense) but the school thing. Why am I putting myself through all this education turmoil – at my age, in my shape (and I use this term advisedly).

I frequently reflect on the state of the working world, the inherent politics of the workplace, the make-work projects, the endemic mantras of self-preservation and job perpetuation, and I wonder: is this what I’m going to school for?

My late round of job searches taught me too that every industry has its guild, or association, or club, or other organization in which membership seems to be more highly prized than actual experience. And this was reinforced at school last year where it seemed that all I ever heard about was the power of networking, the need to rub elbows. “It’s not what you know, but who you know” we were told with stultifying regularity, begging, simply begging the question – “why am I spending all this money on a second degree if all I have to do is join the club and get tiddly?”

Television News the other day detailed how a) there are too many students in college or university right now, b) many of them shouldn’t be there – based on grades and desire, and c) for many of them prospects on graduation are less than stellar anyway. People are often graduating with a degree that is so far removed from the work that they ultimately do that it’s almost laughable. Remembering that nothing can be achieved without ‘the piece of paper’ that says you know stuff, the whole process seems to be contradictory and self-serving. I heard last year – from one group – that networking is the most important thing. From another group it was marks and grades. From yet another, (“Study Abroad!”) – experience. So which is it? Surely it’s time for industry in general to prioritize brightness, potential, personality and eagerness over that silly piece of paper. Surely people are who they are, not what they know!

Finally today, because my rant appears to be self-replicating now, I believe it’s time for the onus in the job search world to be placed on those who are trying to fill positions. It’s a mutual need, the job search, but the onus to act like human beings must fall on those for whom there is no pressure. They are looking for human help, so let them afford their applicants the basic human dignity of personal contact with every applicant. Hired or not, desired or not, humans deserve this dignity, and in the present hiring environment they do not receive it.

Classes start Monday. I think I’m still chasing a Communications spot, but after this, perhaps not. Perhaps I’ll be a restaurant critic – perhaps I’ll start my own business and be CEO, CFO, and CCO.

The future is a strange animal.