Week 4: 70 per cent done

Convocation week. This is why we do it. This is why we all work so hard for this university, so all these students can have their day and celebrate their accomplishments.

I’m a sentimental fool: I cry at movies, weddings, graduations, even if I don’t know anyone involved. I’ve been to two convocations in the last year and a half: first my partner Ken received his Master of Arts in Learning Technologies from Royal Roads University, then a year later my son Aidan received his Bachelor of Arts from University of Victoria. That’s a lot of happy tears.

This past week was the first time I’ve been part of the convocation stage party: a distinguished varietal of brilliantly-regaled academics (and administrators like me) in all colours and designations. My gown is plain by comparison: black, with a black hood edged with white satin, representing my Master of Arts. I joked with our Provost that it’s almost worth getting my Ph.D. in order to wear a colourful gown, hood, and a funky doctoral hat on such occasions.

“Just like the marketing gal — to choose a field of study based on the regalia,” he joked back.

The convocation program – a product of our graphics team (along with the convocation committee) – arrived from the printer in time for the ceremonies and 99.9 per cent accurate – as good as you could ever hope for in a publication like that. This despite the tragic loss of our lead graphic designer at the end of December. As I flipped through its pages, I marveled at how the team has pulled together to support each other and get through a difficult time, and I felt a pang of loss again. And pride, if truth be told. More tears, this time bittersweet.

Life, and work, goes on.

I spoke with honourary degree recipient Patrick Lane at the convocation dinner Thursday night. “Do you remember me?” I asked with a wink, “I was a 16 or 17-year old poet who attended a writers’ retreat at Fort San, Saskatchewan, in about 1982, and you were one of the writers in residence.”

Of course he didn’t – he was in Saskatchewan at around that time because he had fallen in love with writer/poet Lorna Crozier (go buy her latest book, it’s fantastic). He told me the story of returning to the prairies to convince her to come away to Vancouver Island with him, which she did, to the delight of B.C writing community.

Katelin Albert, our Distinguished Alumni award winner, joined our conversation, and we got to talking about writing and following your passion. They both urged me to finish my book and submit it for publication somewhere. Why not keep following one’s passion, 33 years later?

So, on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I’m off to the coffee shop to start editing the first draft of the novel I wrote last summer. Taking Katelin’s advice, I’ll get it to what I feel is 70 per cent complete, because after all, “If it’s perfect, they won’t have any useful feedback to give you; you’ll be doing them a favour.”

Week 3: most satisfied

When have you been most satisfied?

Confidential human resource and issues management concerns dominated my days last week. Among many other tasks, we interviewed candidates for a strategic marketing manager position in my department.

One of the questions I put on the list was “When have you been most satisfied in your life?” I thought it would be one of those questions that would reach into the core motivations of the person being interviewed, and give an insight into their character. I was right; there were some interesting and inspiring answers. As we listened to the varied responses, I was reminded of something I read a year or so ago, and I thought of how I might answer that question if it were asked of me.

The gist of the article I remembered reading was: the past is behind you, the future is not yet here. They’re not really – real, are they? The only real moment is – right now. I can think of many moments when the world was so perfect and so wonderful, I wanted to capture it and hold it forever: watching my babies sleep, playing with my children and being amazed at how they processed everything as new, writing a kick-ass speech for my boss for a large audience of influential business people, crossing the finish line of my first marathon, the first time I kissed my life partner.

Then I remembered where I read the article – it was that very same, very wise, life partner Ken’s blog post called “The best present moment is right now” in which he admits he earnestly declares every class of students the best he’s ever taught, and his friend Danny earnestly declares every meal to be the best one he’s ever had. “Sitting at a dinner table with good friends, some wine, laughter, eating a meat pie, or a salad, or whatever it happens to be, is infinitely enjoyable. Without comparison to the past, we are able to enjoy the moment. Right then. The future hasn’t arrived, and the past is done. We only have the ‘eternal now’.”

Pretty zen, right? Of course I wasn’t expecting that answer from any of the candidates last week. However, if I am ever asked that question, I would like to be able to answer as follows: “This may seem odd, but the most satisfied I have ever been is right here, right now, having this conversation with you. I have had so many good and bad moments in my life; I realize they are here and gone so quickly, it’s useless to hold onto a moment in the past as better than the one I’m experiencing this very moment. I’ve been given a chance during this interview to have a conversation to see if my skills and experience are a fit for your organization, and if you folks are the kind of people I’d like to work with in the future. I’m grateful for the opportunity, because you thought highly enough of my work to spend some time getting to know me better. What could be more satisfying than that right now?”

Week 2: I’ve been here before

In less than three months it will be one year since the knee reconstruction surgery.

Some say writing down a goal and making it public will help achieve it. Other research says talking about a thing becomes (in one’s mind) a substitute for actually doing it, thus undermining motivation. But I’m determined —

On Saturday April 9, I’m going to run at least 5 kilometres.

My physiotherapist says absolutely I will be able to run 5K by April 9th, and then, possibly, pull off a sprint triathlon in the summer. He gave me my first two weeks of workouts, written on a piece of paper which I promptly left in the treatment room. But no matter, I have them committed to memory. It’s pretty simple: at least 2 track workouts per week jogging the straights and walking the curves, ramp up length/intensity as long as I’m relatively pain-free. Do my strength routine on off days (as well as swim and ride bike and get on the elliptical trainer).

I’ve come back from debilitating injury before; I KNOW how much work this is going to be. It’s going to involve change, and dragging myself to workouts I “don’t wanna!” do in order to be consistent. It involves elliptical machine, and the track, neither of which are my favourite places to work out, but if it gets me to my goal, I’m there. I’ve been there before. I can do this.

I’m not completely pain-free. When I overdo it, my knee hurts like a bugger – but the good news is I’m giving myself a chance to overdo it (with the oversight of my physiotherapist, and a clean bill of health from my surgeon, I hasten to add). I’m not sitting around working myself to death anymore – not since the Christmas holidays when I deliberately started increase my physical activity because I knew I had to get my stress levels in check. When I do overdo it, I back off, ice it, and hit the pool instead the next day. Working on a campus built on a hill helps. Stairs make me stronger, according to my physio guy.

I’m going to start by dragging that box full of running gear from the storage room. Wish me luck and cheer me on.