What Brings You Home?

December 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

Flickr credit: Nicolas Raymond

Flickr credit: Nicolas Raymond

My countdown is on for one last trip this year. I’m two weeks out from a 5 week journey to Costa Rica. After nearly a year on the road living out of my backpack, I don’t think I’d be making this trek if it weren’t for the family involved.

Woe be me, I know, to be embarking on another trip this year. It’ll be my 14th country in 2014. I am incredibly excited (and grateful and fortunate) to take this voyage. It will be with my dad and step mother to visit my step sister and her family. They took a 6 month sabbatical to travel to Costa Rica with their 3 kids. I haven’t seen Costa Rica since I was 17 on a school trip.

It’s a family trip of a lifetime. An opportunity for memories I just won’t say no to. However, the yearning that sent me out the door around this time last year is now yearning for parts of the life I put on hold.

A lot can happen in a year. I look at the people I’ve met during my travels, the experiences and friendships I’ve forged, as well as the ways in which I will never be the same. When I left, I told people it was the perfect time to go. No house, no dog, no debt, no husband, no kids… nothing to answer to. And it was perfect. It was exactly what I needed.

But while I’ve been away, your lives have continued on too. You’ve met new loved ones, lost friends, made your way through your own happiness and sorrow. I’ve experienced your lives at a distance. While I wouldn’t trade this year for anything, I’m not looking to make the same exchange in the future.

A year is a long time.

It’s long enough to show me what kind of trade I’m making if I keep a completely nomadic lifestyle. Though there’s a balance to be struck somewhere I’m sure.

They say home is where your heart is. Mine lies in my connections. Although they are becoming scattered throughout the globe, they’re still concentrated most in one place.

There is nothing quite like the friendships and relationships I come back to in Alberta. It’s each of you who bring me home.

Doesn’t matter where I go
This place will always be my home
Yeah I’ve been Alberta Bound for all my life
And I’ll be Alberta Bound until I die

– Paul Brandt


You do it to yourself…

March 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

You do it to yourself, you do
and that’s what really hurts
You do it to yourself, just you
you and no-one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourself

Oh Radiohead.  How much truth is in this chorus, well, you probably know because you wrote them.  The song, however has just implanted itself into my brain after a morning of doubt and fumbling, and some resulting blog posts.

I really did it to myself.  I did, and that’s what really hurts, I did it to myself, just me.  Me and no-one else.  I did it to myself.

What did I do exactly?  Well I let doubt get the better of me. As much as I wish I were at the point that I could spot doubt as it was starting to plant its seed and pull it out then and there like a weed that has not yet rooted itself in the ground, I am not.  And as of today, I generally acknowledge doubt after it’s had it’s way with me a few times.  And when it’s done, all I can think is “I’ve done it to myself.”

However, what’s the use in beating myself up over it?  There isn’t any.  Doubting myself doesn’t have to really hurt.  Not if I don’t let it, and not if I choose to learn from it instead of letting it get the better of me.  Because if I did it to myself, I can undo it to myself.  I can move past it, or I can dwell on it.  I’ve never learnt anything from dwelling on an issue, but I’ve certainly learnt much from moving past it.

The choice seems an easy one now… and Radiohead’s lyrics… more a chance to blame than an opportunity to move beyond.

Connecting Opportunity With Reality

February 2, 2010 § 8 Comments

Young people have more opportunities than ever before.

Some people will suggest I’m certifiably nuts for that statement. What about the economy? What about the global uncertainty caused by terrorism? What about financial barriers to post-secondary education?

The fact is there have always been challenges to achieving success. There always will be.

In my own realm in the communications field, the possibilities have grown exponentially over the years.

I have moved from being a newspaper reporter with stops in St. Paul and Grande Prairie, Alberta and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to corporate writing and editing for a Crown corporation to operating my own communications firm to communications in the education sector to my current position as Manager of Marketing and Communications at the City of Grande Prairie.

Thanks to technology, someone in the communications field here in Grande Prairie could be producing copy for a company in Warsaw, Poland and never set foot in the country. For that matter, an entire website can be produced for a client in Walla Walla, Washington and no actual direct conversation needs to take place.

When I graduated from college, you could be a print, television or radio reporter. Now, you can have a job reporting completely online. There are companies specializing in advising companies and governments on how to maximize social media opportunities.

At the time I left college, Public Relations practitioners were not nearly as widespread as today. Back then, Marshall McLuhan stating, “The medium is the message” still resonated readily with people. Now, there are a myriad of mediums and there is a general recognition in the importance of communications – and the consequences of it being done poorly.

By merely mentioning Grande Prairie, Sault Ste. Marie and Walla Walla, Washington in this Blog, people who have these place names in their Google alerts will be notified about it.

As far as barriers go, I left college at a time when bumper stickers in Alberta read: “God, grant me another oil boom and I won’t piss it away this time.” This may be the first economic crunch of the generation, but it is nothing new for anyone who’s been in the workforce any length of time.

I grew up listening to news of every morning of political strife in Northern Ireland. I remember watching the American troops pull out of Viet Nam.

A similar explosion of career possibilities has occurred in other professions. A whole industry has sprung up around the green movement – my close friends, Cecilia Lu and Sofia Ribeiro, at Kiwano Marketing have found a niche in green marketing.

So, how does all this relate to young people in 2010?

There needs to be a far better connection to the opportunities and the realities.

Many parents and the education system, to a large degree, still have the mindset that little Johnny and Mary, starting out in Grade 1, will go to university because, after all, they need a high level of education to get a good job.

It really is much more complicated than that – and there are enough taxi drivers with degrees to debunk that notion.

In 2002, 58 per cent of Albertans aged 25-34 reported having completed post-secondary education. The rest? Well some would have started into college or university and dropped out while others went directly into the workforce from high school. A significantly high number of students still do not complete high school – in the 30 per cent range in some areas.

It is clear that the vision many of us as parents have when our children begin Kindergarten and the reality is not at all connected in many cases. Nor should it be.

How can we know what skills and aptitudes our children will have at age 5? In my own case, I didn’t even like school until I was in Grade 12.

My son graduated from high school and has attended college, but has decided to take a break until he determines what direction the schooling is taking him.

I support his decision. No education is lost, but when there is not an unlimited source of funds, there needs to be some focus.

Given there is no end of choices, I want my son to find something he is passionate about – unless, as parenting expert Barbara Coloroso would say, that choice is life-threatening, morally-threatening or illegal.

He might be best suited to travel for while and maybe work overseas. Unlike when I was his age, people backpacked in other countries and had to scrape up jobs to continue their travels, there are now actual programs that will help people line up opportunities and help them make arrangements for living abroad.

Far too many people are bored or stuck in a rut before age 30, despite the opportunities.

Sometimes that is because parents or the students themselves rushed a decision about a career choice. In other situations, people’s likes or circumstances change.

I believe a big improvement in the success rate would be made if co-operative education was mandatory for all high school students, even the ones who are adamant they know their career path. Maybe some time in the workforce in their chosen occupation would save thousands of dollars by students realizing a career path is not for them before it is too late.

There also needs to be more flexibility in the system. We can’t always pigeon-hole students and must allow for diverse interests.

A hands-on student may also have an academic side. In a world that emphasizes entrepreneurism, it would be handy if a young person who’s gifted in electronics could also take business courses. From first-hand experience, I know it is easier to operate a company if you have both practical experience and some courses to help you understand the ins and outs of business.

Although the education system has evolved in recent years, more needs to be done to ensure students are prepared for the realities of the real world, particularly given so many don’t actually attend post-secondary.

I am pleased there is more recognition that students acquire knowledge in a variety of ways and teachers are being instructed in how to address differentiated learning.

More parents need to realize they need to have a significant role in their children’s education. We shouldn’t criticize the education system if we’ve invested little in knowing how it works or supporting the people in it.

Our children’s teachers spend more waking hours with our kids than we do during the week, yet far too many educators get little support. In fact, a lot of people seem to think they could do a better job.

Society needs to do more, too. It was enough that schools were expected to teaching Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Then it was sex education and drug education. As families became more dysfunctional and social problems became more prevalent, they have had to become part-time psychologists and counsellors.

Now, in many schools, kids are being fed at the school before classes get under way in recognition that children learn better with a full stomach.

There is an old African proverb that it takes an entire village to educate a child.

If we expect little Johnny and Mary to capitalize on the opportunities, then all of us must do more to make it happen. We need to be willing to change our thinking about how reality and opportunities can better connect.
As author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins notes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

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