Thursday, April 29, 2010

Try and Try Again

I have a very special pair of pants. I was walking through the mall one day and I don’t normally walk into clothes stores (I am more of an electronics and book store guy), but on this day I was compelled to walk in and peruse the aisles. Most of the shoppers appeared to be attracted to the newest set of clothes at the front of the store so I decided to venture to the back and work my way toward the front.

I have watched enough television with the women in my life to understand that the clearance rack is like the graveyard for clothes. The next step after the clearance rack is some unknown box that will be sent to a secret destination to never be witnessed in public again.

I stuck my hand into the rack and parted the clothes like Moses parted the Red Sea and there right before my eyes was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen: Plaid Pajama Pants.

I was in love. I purchased these pants with no hesitation and continue to wear them today. I wear them around the house, to school, at the mall, the movies, when I get my haircut, everywhere. I have been told numerous times that I shouldn’t be wearing these pants out of the house. The looks I receive – when I do wear them - confirms that they are probably a little ridiculous.

Other people’s opinions don’t really bother me and I actually think it’s a compliment when I see wavering eyes on my legs – ladies ;). But, in all honesty these pants have taken a very special place in my heart and I consider them to be very lucky. In the words of T.I. these pants are, “Ready for whatever” – my pants of action.

Now, we’ve all heard of power suits, but I think what I am trying to get at here is that it isn’t the clothes that make the person – the person makes the person.

But, this topic needs to go beyond clothes. The other day I was alluding to the end of my school year on facebook as reaching the “finish line”. A friend of mine responded saying that there was an error in my post and that what I probably meant to say was that I was approaching the “starting line”. I couldn’t help but laugh because she was right. Life doesn’t end with education it actually begins.

Many of you probably finished with school awhile ago or are still working on finishing it, but what I implore you to do, no matter what you are wearing, is to get out there and try to do the things you always wanted to do.

If you can mix trying with a positive optimistic attitude anything is possible. How do I know this? Well, have you ever seen a pessimistic billionaire?

Friday, April 23, 2010

You Only Live Once

I can recall lying in bed awake the night before my Grade 8 graduation. I was thinking about how exciting my life was going to be and how I couldn’t wait to grow old and do all the things that older people were able to enjoy.

Fast-forward ten years and here I am sitting at my computer one week away from completing my graduate program in education wishing that I could go back in time and do everything over again.

Unfortunately, the ability to go back in time has not yet been discovered and I am on a collision course with my future. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t have a bad experience growing up, but like any big change in life it’s hard to give up the norm for the unknown.

If I had the opportunity to go back – I don’t think I would. I’ll leave puberty, silly haircuts, pimples and bad dates in the past and use all my extra energy to focus on the future. There is one thing I can do though and that is reflect on my past experiences to help aid in my future endeavors.

In education they ask us – as future educators – to reflect on everything we do because it will help us to improve our talent and aid in accommodating how we teach our students in the future. I think my teachers might be on to something here. While I agree reflection is excellent for changing how educators go about preparing instructions I also believe that we could all go one step further and practice the art of reflecting on our own lives.

So, now you thinking: why should I reflect? The only response I can give to that is: would it hurt to try? From my own personal experience I can tell you that writing and keeping notes on the past year has taught me a lot about myself. It’s helped me to accept growing older and is a constant reminder of where I am going and why I want to get there.

In Grade 7 my teacher asked the whole class to memorize The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. For those of you who have not read the poem before I’ll give you a quick summary: It’s a poem about someone (perhaps Frost himself) standing in a forest at a fork in a road. He talks about trying to choose between the two and he explains that one looks like a lot of people have taken it and the other looks like very few people have taken it at all. In the end Frost writes, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.”

I used to see life like that. I thought that I could take the road less traveled and experience a life that was different than any other. What I am slowly starting to realize is that all lives are unique. There is no popular road because we are all on a unique journey through life. While some of us may settle and conform to a life that others may view as “regular” it doesn’t mean that those people aren't living a life that is unique to them.

As I sit here one week away from the realities that await me in the “working world” I have come to the conclusion that life is not about reaching a specific destination, but enjoying the journey.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Playing to Win

Growing up my sister and I were lucky enough to have a room in our house that was a dedicated “play” room. It consisted of two desks, two old fashion typewriters, a whole wall of books, some toys, and plenty of board games.

When we were bored there was nothing better then grabbing a game from off the shelf and playing with one another. We started with games like Hungry, Hungry, Hippos and Guess Who. As we got older we moved onto Monopoly. Eventually my sister was old enough to choose her own board games and before I knew it I found myself playing Dream Phone.

Now some of you may be laughing. I know it seems silly that a boy would be playing Dream Phone. The game where you use clues and dial into an imaginary phone to find your secret crush, but I wanted to be involved in my sister’s life and sometimes that meant playing her games.

What I soon realized was that even though this game wasn’t designed to interest me I still wanted to play to win. It seems silly at first, but over time I found the best strategy to win the game and upon dialing in my secret phone number I would hear the words, “I really do like you!”

Now lets fast-forward some ten plus years. I am much older now and I haven’t played a board game with my sister in close to 15 years or so. But, I have been fortunate enough to meet some great friends along the way and play games with them.

More importantly, the conversation has shifted from being about an actual board game to being about, what I have dubbed, life as a game.

The basic idea being that some people live their lives in fear that they will make a mistake or not achieve the things they want to do with their lives and because of this fear they don’t take risks or try to accomplish their dreams. Life as a game asks us to look at life as if it was one big game where you are the hero of the story. The whole world is designed for you to explore and live out your life.

This theory has been years in the making and the more I think about it the more I believe we might be on the right track. I may be only able to use my life and the life of my friends as an example, but I have come to the conclusion that if you try to go after the things you want in the world eventually, in one form or another, your plans start to come to fruition.

Looking back to my Dream Phone experiences I realize that all games are not designed for me to play, but if I approach them with the right mindset success can be achieved. Like Dream Phone, life isn’t always designed to be a pleasure, but if you can look at it like a game that is ultimately designed for you – you just might find yourself calling your secret crush to win the game.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Living with FMD

I went to the Doctor’s Office the other day. It was a regular routine check up. I don’t normally get nervous about these things, but when I saw the doctor enter the room I knew something was up. As it turns out I have FMD. It’s fairly common among humans. Most of you might know it as Foot in Mouth Disease.

The truth is I really didn’t go to the Doctor. I have known for some time that I suffer from FMD. There is no real way to know for sure, but if you ask around most people will probably tell you that some times I like to talk before I actually think about what I am going to say.

This often puts me in some real hot water and in the past it has forced me to do some serious reflection. People with FMD don’t always mean to say what comes out of their mouths, but the words fly out before they can stop them.

Being a pre-service teacher I began to worry that my FMD would start to turn up in my classroom. Just when I thought all hope was lost I found the solution to my problems. The Pros call it: Non-Verbal Cues, but I like to call it using your body to convey messages.

As it turns out research says that 60 to 70 per cent of meaning in conversation is derived from body language. Body language consists of posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals subconsciously.

The word subconsciously rings true to me. Being a person with FMD I can relate to this idea of doing something without actually realizing your doing it. But, with body language you are always “on the stage.” We are always sending out messages to people with a quick look or a shift in body position.

The way I see it - if I can limit my verbal responses I may be able to get by with using body language to get all my meaning across.

That’s how Mimes do it. We all love them right?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

So it Goes

I think New Years resolutions are funny. Think about it. At the beginning of each New Year we try to think of something that we would really like to do or learn to do. For example, Last year I wanted make a documentary and the year before I wanted learn how to speak Portuguese. I can’t even tell you what the year before that was because none of my resolutions ever really come to fruition. I would rush to think about something and by the second week of January I had already forgotten all about it.

I think I was setting unrealistic goals. I mean. Creating a documentary film or learning a new language is possible, but I think resolutions should be seamless additions to your life. It helps when it come to keeping the resolution going throughout the upcoming months.

This year, for example, I decided I wanted to write more. I figured that writing would be a good practice to take up, but I didn’t really know what to write. I thought about keeping a journal, but that seemed a little too Doug for me. I hummed and hawed on the matter until one day I saw a sign.

Not like a sign from the Heavens or anything, but an actual sign. I noticed it because it had a picture of my friend Kwadwo on it. The poster was all about the Nipissing Blog Contest and at that moment I knew that I had found my writing outlet.

While this will not be my last blog post it will be my last opportunity to say thank you before the contest ends. After April 15th the four-month journey comes to an end and without the support of the people who followed along I don’t think I would have made it past the first week.

I have said this before in private conversation - and I’ll say it again here – nothing is more motivating then returning to your blog to see that people have commented on postings. The ideas shared, links posted, and stories told all help to create a grand conversation. The feedback is ten times more rewarding than the actual practice of writing.

So, thank you. Plain and simple. This has been and will continue to be a life changing experience.

My faith has been restored in the New Years resoltion

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Looks

Being a Canadian I have come to accept that Microsoft Word does not acknowledge the Canadian spelling of certain words: behaviour, humour, centre, cheque, colour, etc. I have come to terms with Words inability to represent Canadians. I no longer view the red wiggly lines as an error, but rather a homage to my Canadian heritage.

You can imagine my surprise when I was editing one of my assignments for class and noticed that my professor had singled out the same error on one of my Canadian words. I decided to ask one of my roommates to confirm the error and it turns out that for years I had been spelling the word author – as authour – what I perceived to be Canadian spelling.

How could I have gone so long thinking that the word author was spelt authour? I have completed a high school diploma, 4 years of undergraduate studies, and now in my final months at teachers college my language professor spots an error in the word author in my 30 plus page Litfolio.

Something about my teacher’s willingness to read all my work got me thinking.

Within the past five years or so there has been a big push on developing a green lifestyle or a green mentality. You may have heard about Earth Hour, re-useable grocery bags, energy saving light bulbs, and other green initiatives. I have been trying my best to do the re-useable grocery bag thing, but it can be really tough. I will often forget my bags at home and will struggle with the decision to go back and get my bags or just buy plastic ones. Needless to say I am starting to feel like my actions aren’t really helping our planet.

As far ask I know I think our Ozone Layer is disappearing, but I had learned my lesson earlier in the week with my new favourite (note the Canadian word usage) word author (note the normal spelling). I was under the impression that our Ozone was still around our planet, but it had massive holes in it. Living in a house of educators I was able to go to one of my roommates who dealt with the Ozone Layer in their Science classes and asked if our Ozone Layer still exists.

To my surprise she said that our Ozone Layer still existed as a shield with holes around the planet and that recently there has been talk about the holes in the Ozone repairing themselves. Maybe our actions are helping the planet after all.

I feel like our planet is so big and I wonder how my actions will ever create change. I thought back to earlier in the week when my professor sat looking at my 30 page document searching for errors to help me with my writing. What she had uncovered was a spelling error that I had been making for over 10 years. My teacher could have easily just skimmed my work and assigned a grade, but instead she gave me her full attention and helped me to correct an error I had been making for years.

My teacher gave me a "new look" on how to spell the word author. My misspelling may have gone on for another 10+ years if she hadn't spotted it. Her efforts have inspired me to develop a "new look" on how I see my role in helping our planet. I trust that my actions and the actions of others will help to correct our home for centuries to come.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Riding the Wave

When I was a young buckaroo I used to travel with my family to visit my grandparents in Kingston, Ontario. During our summer visits we would make a second trip to the Picton Sandbanks to spend a day at the beach. My family used to call me “the fish” because I would spend all day in the water. I received the second nickname “hollow leg” because I would only leave the water to eat and when I ate, I ate a lot.

I would make up games that kept me occupied for hours. For example, there was the Baywatch entrance, which involved me running into the water at break neck speed jumping over all the little waves until my final dive into the water. One of my favourite things to do was simply jump waves. On land I was four feet tall, but in the water I had a three-foot vertical and I was able to clear all the waves rather easily. When my parents would call me back to shore I remember letting my body go limp and the waves would bring me back to land.

Another year of school has come and gone and once again I find myself asking the question “where did all the time go?” I have spent 5 years trying to desperately jump waves and now I can hear the voice of responsibility calling to join the rest of the world at shore.

Looking back at it now I wonder if I could have done things differently. Instead of jumping over each wave that came my way maybe I should have found a way to use the wave to my advantage? Harness the wave. Use the wave. BOOM! Encouragement!

Big wave surfers are people who tow themselves out to big waves that are over 20 feet high and try to ride them. At first you might think these people are crazy. Allow me to second that thought. It is crazy. But, is there anything we can learn from these thrill seekers?

Imagine each wave as challenge you face in life. A new job, no job, starting school, finishing school, family, friends, and significant others are all waves that we will face in our life time.

It may be tough to do, but I am calling on you to be a big wave surfer. When the wave seems so big that it is going to come crashing down on you be ready grab your board and head right for it. A misquote from Alfred Lord Tennyson reads, “it is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all.” But, I would go one step further than our misquoted Tennyson and say that when you are approaching life’s waves without fear – with the heart of a big wave surfer – anything is possible.

Believe me I understand that life’s waves, like real 20 foot waves, are scary as hell. But, why not face life’s toughest challenges headfirst? Remember, with no risk comes no reward and we are the sole benefactors of each risk we take.