Friday, February 22, 2013

Travel Memoirs, to be continued

I started this blog on May 20th, 2010. I distinctly remember the moment, sitting in the tiny Bellingham airport with my mother as we embarked on our trip to San Diego that was my 16th birthday present.

That moment reminds me of right now. I sit here in the slightly larger Halifax airport, anticipating the departure of my aircraft to meet my father in New York. 

I remember feeling so unbelievably excited to spend the weekend just me and my mommy. Today, I feel just as incredibly delighted to be spending the weekend just me and my daddy.

"Today's a gift, that's why it's called the present"... that's the name I came up with in the Bellingham airport as I prepared to document my travels. I wasn't completely new to the blogging world. During the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games I kept a blog of my Olympic endeavours, but it took the inspiration of travel before I convinced myself to start a personal blog. 

Today as I sit in a similar situation to May 20th, 2010, on the opposite side of the continent, I hope to continue my collection of travel memoirs. Let us see what New York brings.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Growing Up and Being Grateful

I have not much to write about. And so much to write. My thoughts are such a jumble of odds and ends that I struggle to arrange them into anything structural. I wish my thoughts were more articulate.

Yesterday, Canada seemed like a giant place. Living on the opposite coast of the second largest country in the world is a long way from home. Yesterday I felt the distance. The 6,159 kilometres that lie in between me and my home felt like 6,159 kilometres.

Constantly I ponder my rationale for being at a post-secondary institution. I got up this morning, knowing that the better part of my day would be spent in solitude with my textbooks. I couldn't help but imagine all the other possibilities of how to occupy my time. But instead, I sit in the Killam. From a productivity standpoint, the architecture of this library works to my disadvantage. I have a strong interest in people watching, and this building, almost entirely windowed and central-facing into the atrium is not my most productive workspace. I watch as people mount their knapsacks onto their backs, heading back out into reality. I watch people work independently with their headphones draped over their ears, and I watch people work in collaboration. I see people frustrated by their studies, I see people stressed. I watch as people have that "ah-ha" moment and as people redundantly solve equations. I have found a sense of contentment, I am at peace with my decision once again.

It's that time of year again, where we register for the upcoming softball season. For the last 4 or 5 years my mother would go online, at this time of year, and register me for the North Shore Avalanche or the '94 Stars. This year, as I receive emails about registration deadlines, I can't help but feel a little bit sad. Gone are the days where my Dad would drive me to McCartney park while I shoved my dinner down my throat and rushed to put on my socks and slider. Then as we ran out onto the field, glove and bat in hand for our pre-game preparations, all my worries were suspended. I remember laughing and laughing and chanting and cheering and smiling to no end at the diamond. And even when I failed to catch the pop-fly that was directed precisely at my glove, and even if I was upset with myself, I could still smile.

One of my hockey teammates from last season just tweeted, "Last hockey game I'll ever play at home.. #woah #timeflys". I remember so vividly, as if it were yesterday, my final game in a minor hockey association. This is what I  wrote after it...
"Then, last night, after 9 years of wearing an Avalanche sweater, I played my last ever minor hockey game. I was kind of anticipating it, nit it was quite an emotional night. We lost. ... In hind sight, I appreciate the fact that I lost my final game as an Avalanche. Although the outcome might not have been what I was hoping for, it was a memorable game to say the least. I found myself savouring every moment on the ice."
Today also marks the 3rd Anniversary of the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. I also miss everything about the Winter Games more than I will ever be able to articulate. If I could go back and sit on a seabus full of maple leaf wearing citizens, if I could sit in a press conference for Jennifer Heil and Alexandre Bilodeau, or if I could sing O'Canada with the crowd underneath the skytrain line as we waited to be admitted into "Canada Hockey Place". I would give anything to relive those unforgettable moments. What I've realized, however, is that instead of wishing for what I am unable to change, instead of dreaming of unrealistic time-manipulation, I need to show gratitude for those precious memories I've made. I need to use those as reminders of the countless precious memories I have yet to make. I need to live in the moment.

My good friend, Emily, wrote a beautiful piece on growing up, on the illusion of time, and on living in the present. Her talent for taking words and composing the most eloquent sentences amazes me. She inspires me to keep blogging.

Yesterday was difficult; today is a new day. I learned in the last 24 hours that no matter what happened the previous; each day is a new day. A fresh start. A clean slate. Today I slept in, attended class, sat in on an event where Jennifer Gillivan, president and CEO of the IWK (Izaak Walton Killam Hospital for Children), gave the most inspirational talk, and finally, let the sweat pour out at hot yoga.

Jennifer's advice to a room full of post-secondary students at various stages of their degrees came in the form of a list of 10 things we must try to never forget. None of these things were particularly profound. They were all those things that we know, but those things that we need constant little reminders of. Things that we need to reinforce within ourselves. These are the four that resonated the most with me:
- challenge the status quo
- be curious
- give graciously of your time
- never forget to keep a sense of humour
The greatest part about what the President of the IWK had to say, was that each of her 10 pieces of advice were things that everybody can do. And think, if everybody did just those four... what a different world we'd live in.

I read an article in the Globe and Mail today. "Lessons from my smart, sad, homeless sister". A beautiful testimony to the value of human life. The heart-wrenching story of someone who needed help.  A harsh reminder of the legitimacy of mental health.

It came at perfect timing, today is #BellLetsTalk Day. For every tweet with that hashtag, Bell will donate $0.05 to mental health initiatives. A recent tweet by @Bell_LetsTalk reads, "Canada, it's not even lunch time yet and we just passed 20,000 tweets. Let's keep it going. #BellLetsTalk". The support this campaign has seen is an affirmation of the incredible power of social media and the unbelievable compassion of humanity. I've seen Canucks Hockey, Prime Minister Harper, the Canadian Cancer Society, Justin Trudeau and the Canadian Olympic Team all encouraging support for this campaign.  Let's be there for a friend in need. Let's destigmatize mental illness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


My nasals are congested, my eyes are droopy, here I sit, 5 rows back on the far right side of the Potter Auditorium.

Roughly 50 people sit in this class of who knows how many more than that. My professor is lecturing on "Early Leadership Theories" and the managerial grid while I sip away at my barely-warm chai tea.

Yesterday I played in the snow, something that, at my age, we don't do nearly enough of. Wholesome fun at it's finest. Wholesome fun, much like the snow parkour we did, performing summersaults, headstands and round-offs over a pile of ploughed snow. And, wholesome fun, like the snowball fight  I participated in a few weekends ago on a sunny Sunday morning on the top of a snow-blanketed meadow overlooking the rural Nova Scotian community of New Germany. 

On the walk back from the meadow to our retreat home, we found the greatest in natural skin exfoliators, the lush forest-green moss covering the bark of one of the 32 native tree species of the Acadian Forest. 

The Acadian Forest is one of six endangered forests in North America, and what a shame that is because as the snow trickled down across New Germany, I walked unaccompanied amongst the trees. With a questionable trail map, and I wandered in no definitive direction, in awe of the natural beauty. I have no recollection of time that day. It could have passed twice as fast, or it could have stopped all together, and I wouldn't have known. It didn't matter. I was in tune, at peace, with the woods.

The power of nature amazes me. Fungi has brought my mother and Zoe to Facebook friendship. They now share, with each other, their photos of eukaryotic organisms.

Photo courtesy of Abigail Claeys Odland.
This weekend was spectacular. As well as playing in the snow, I played my fair share of Boggle creating more words than I ever thought possible with a 4 by 4 grid of letters. I spent one night watching the Canucks game with a great bunch of BC folks; and here I thought that by  moving across the country, I would be consequently watching Canucks games all by my lonesome.   

On Friday I danced to the good old Celtic music of Jimmy Sweeney & Kevin Roach. The Old Triangle, I can tell you, is a hot spot for anyone over the age of 60 who has a good pair of dancing shoes. A true Nova Scotian I can now call myself, having finally danced to a fiddle and guitar. 

Then, on Saturday, I was so fortunate as to see the The Tragically Hip, touring with the Arkells. What a show! The band may have formed 11 years before I even existed, but they certainly have not lost any of their flair. Even though much of their setlist were songs from their 2012 album that I was mostly unfamiliar with, the influence of live music is ineffable. The presence of a Canadian rock band from Kingston, Ontario, even more transcendent.

Now, it's Tuesday evening. I've just returned from a sweaty and rejuvenating class of Moksha. I have returned to my day of statistical equations and economic policies. As my inspiration for the night, here is the transcript of a beautiful statement made by Vancouver high school student, Sam Harrison, to a Northern Gateway Pipeline review panel. It brought shivers down my spine when the passionate 16 year old, whom I biked to legislature with, finished off with:
This is why I’ve spent my high school career not partying and hanging out with friends, but advocating for political change because I know, even if we don’t stop this project, some day when I have kids and they look me in the eyes and ask, “What the hell were you thinking, why didn’t you do anything about this?” I know I’ll be able to look them back in the eyes with absolute confidence and say, “I’m sorry. I tried my very hardest.”
Biking 70 kilometers alongside this kid, seeing the burning passion in his eyes as he protested the pipeline on the steps of Provincial Legislature and hearing the desperation in his voice, chanting, as we approached Victoria's city centre, I know how badly this guy cares.

Now, off to bed for a sleep that will hopefully leave me with something worthy of documenting in my dream book.