Sunday, January 03, 2010

Reflections on an Old Decade and Looking Forward to A New Decade

It's a new year, a new decade. It's been quite a decade.

10 years ago, I was just finishing up my first degree in Microbiology. Turns out I fell during my first week back at school and I ended up in the hospital for 5 weeks. The university gave me my degree 'as is' - instead of the Honours degree I was working on, they gave me the Major. This was not part of my plan. But then, does life ever happen according to our own plan? Without some of the events following this fall, I don't think I'd be where I am today. I'm sure I would have gone on to get a Masters or PhD in medical research and follow that career path. Or maybe not. Who knows?

I had a tough time getting a job, so I used my networking skills to find an opportunity to go to Australia. Well, the networking skills was more about going somewhere internationally. The Australia thing was more of a miracle - literally within 3 minutes of me sending my emails out generating interest in me coming to various labs to work, I got a response and the ball got rolling. I spent just over 6 months in Australia and it was life changing.

Australia was where I first really became independent. I didn't know anyone. I learned to enjoy spending time by myself. I developed a love for exploring - even within my own neighbourhood. I developed a passion for connecting with people from different countries and learning about their cultures and customs. I grew in my love for photography, even though I had a cheap camera. This was also a huge time of growth in my faith journey. My time in Australia is also a time where I developed a passion for social justice and working with individuals living in poverty. I also learned a lot about advocacy (through life experiences) and the process of hiring an assistant to help out with day-to-day things. A part of me was left in Australia and I'd love to return - if only to visit and to complete another goal in life - scuba diving (or snorkeling if scuba diving is not possible) in the Great Barrier Reef. Oh, and I got to experience other adventures in Australia - surfing and visiting a volcano, and of course, going to the beaches. :) I met so many wonderful people there too. Hmm ... notice I didn't even talk about the reason I actually went there - to work? For me, I quickly learned lab work was not for me. The Australia experience was more about life - learning skills, experiencing new things, meeting many wonderful people, opening my mind to things I've never considered, and growing spiritually.

Back in Canada, I worked in a lab because that's what I was trained for. I knew I didn't want to be someone's "gopher" all my life. I knew I'd have to continue in my education at some point. With a Bachelor's degree, I'd only ever be someone's research technician. I wouldn't be able to plan, to be a leader, to work with people as opposed to lab mice. I started researching opportunities. Meanwhile, the work environment was not a happy place. I learned to advocate for myself in a respectful manner. I learned a lot of work and life skills that still are useful. I'm glad, though, that I was able to come out respected. I also believe my boss learned some things about people with disabilities - that we don't have to be pushed around. That we have skills. That we can stand up for ourselves in a respectful way and not be treated like little peons. Hopefully, he also learned that people with disabilities do, in fact, deserve to be paid as much as anyone else with the same qualifications.

In my exploring of career options, I considered Social Work, Chaplaincy, Music Therapy, Speech Pathology, and Occupational Therapy. Speech Path was eliminated pretty quick - it wasn't a passion and I'd have to go the US to study. Music Therapy - I'd need to learn how to play guitar well before I could get into the school I wanted to. I'd also need to really upgrade my piano and I didn't have a piano to practice. It seemed like too many years to get into. Chaplaincy was an interest because of the counselling component and because of a few experiences in hospital where I had the opportunity to counsel some people as a fellow patient, both spiritually and personally. I felt God had gifted me in this area. At the time of choosing Occupational Therapy as a career path, I chose it because it seemed to combine components of Chaplaincy, Social Work and my background in physiology (my lab work was in the department of physiology). I'm so glad I made this choice because I've truly been able to incorporate the components of all 3 fields in this profession. I've even been able to incorporate music, which is really cool.

2003-2005 took me back to school where I got a Masters in Occupational Therapy. I enjoyed being in school again, the academic environment, and my jobs I had while in school. Of course, there were some really tough challenges during that time, but overall, this was a really good experience. It felt good to be respected for my knowledge and experience and as my schooling progressed, I was increasingly convinced I made the right choice. The class was small and overall, we were quite close. This was also a time of opening my eyes to others' views, which I enjoy. After I graduated, I was hired on to continue to do research as I searched for a clinical position. I also was hired on a Sessional Instructor - I had a strong background in physiology and neuroanatomy / physiology from previous work, and I was one of the instructors (from a distance) for this course for the year. I must say, I do miss the academic environment. Hopefully, one day I will be a professor, but first, I need to gain some more experience because good teachers draw on experiences for examples.

My journey to Calgary was also huge spiritually. Although I was unemployed (sort of), I was comfortable where I was at. I loved my apartment. I felt I had a good set of friends, and my family wasn't too far away. The right distance. I had come out of a not-so-good church situation and had just found a church I liked. It did feel 'temporary' to me - maybe that's because God was preparing me to go to Calgary. But, even while I was still a student, there was a posting for the Seed. The job itself was calling me. But, I resolutely was NOT going to Calgary. I bargained with God. I told him no way. But, I kept on seeing the posting, so one day, I said, "Ok, God, I'll apply ... but that doesn't mean I will go". I applied, got an interview, was even flown to Calgary with all expenses paid. I was offered the job, and I still hummed and hawed. I had some definite concerns about the position based on some of the responses I got during the interview. I won't go into that here. Nevertheless, I prayed a lot about it. I think, deep down, I knew I was to go. I knew for sure, though, one day while playing piano. I was feeling quite overwhelmed. I chose not to go to church and rather stay at my parents playing piano, praying, and connecting with God in that way. I played and sang the hymn 'It is well with my soul' and literally cried the whole way through. I had such peace about going. It was an amazing experience. From there, things moved quickly.

And, now, after 3 1/2 years in Calgary, I do think this is where God called me. It certainly wasn't by my choosing. Who knows how long I'll be here, or what God has in store for me. My experience at the Seed definitely had its ups and downs, and believe me, my first year, I was so ready to move back. But I promised myself and God I'd give it 18 months. And it's about that time when things started to get better. Now, however, I'm not working there. I've decided to start a business, and I may need to work part-time to make ends meet while that's growing. I've found some wonderful, amazing friends. The journey has not always been easy. But I've learned that God always provides. In my life, it does seem like it happens last minute quite often. I continue to believe he provides and will provide for me. It's also been a journey for me to come to the point of realizing this is where home is right now. Yes, mom and dad's will also always be home. But this is where I belong right now.

In these last 3 1/2 years, I've taken more plane trips than ever before in my life. I've visited the Yukon, BC, and of course, places in AB. I'm halfway to my goal of visiting every province / territory in Canada. I canoed the Yukon River. I've had my car broken into numerous times (not so different from when I lived in north end Winnipeg). I've gone white water rafting and quadding. And I've really gotten into photography. I've presented at a national conference. I've read some interesting books. I've found some new interests and I've met some wonderful people.

Going into 2010, I actually have a sense of hopeful anticipation. I think it will be exciting. I just signed on (if that's the right word) to be a youth leader and will go to the first event this friday. Hopefully that will be a good fit. This is something I've thought of for a long time. Maybe since I was in youth myself - that I'd like to do this some day. Experiences through the Seed and through being an aunt to soon-to-be-teenagers have also increased my desire to do this. I feel positive about starting a business and I do believe it will work. I also can't get much worse off as far as income goes, so I know that will improve. And, I'm happy with the relationships I have. I believe this year and decade will bring many wonderful experiences. Probably some pain and losses too. That's inevitable. But I'm happy that I can go into this year, this decade with a positive sense of anticipation - an excitement of what God has in store for me.

No comments: