Reflections on the journey – What this moment in time means for me.

Have you ever had that feeling, your heading home, and you zone out, you are just a passive passenger along for the ride in your own body? 

Suddenly, you’re at your destination, and you don’t quite remember all the details on how you got there. Some specifics sure; you stopped at that red light, the music playing in the background; when it was catchy. But for the most part the journey was a haze as you thought about your day gone by, the day coming tomorrow, the weekend coming up, or, nothing much at all.

When this happens to me I often think of a quote, that, while I have never actually read any of Ursula K Le Guin’s work (something I mean to rectify), has always stuck with me:

“It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it’s the journey that matters in the end.” (Ursula K Le Guin, 1969 The Left Hand of Darkness)

When the daily rush of normal life came crashing to a halt in mid-March, I had this exact same feeling. Don’t get me wrong, the place where I find myself is an absolute paradise; married to the man of my dreams, beautiful home, adorable puppy, the most amazing circle of family and friends a person could ask for and a great job. I know how fortunate I am, there are no complaints here, only an attempt at growth.

As I adapted to this new normal, I felt a shift, an awakening within me of imaginings and interests that I had forgotten. Curiosities, that have been left in a pile at the edge of the desk and then, slowly, over the years, scooped into boxes and placed in the dusty corners of my mind. 

I am a dreamy kind of wanderer, I always have been. Happy to float from place to place with no real goal other than to see where it leads. At least, I used to be.

I never really had a clear answer for that age old chestnut; “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I clearly remember being confused about this question at one particular family gathering. How was I, at the age of ten, supposed to know what I was going to do with my life? I was ten, what did I know of the world? I pointed that out and received an uncomfortable silence from my adult audience and a pat on the head, followed by, “You really need to give it some thought.” So, I settled on Vet. It was easy, I love animals and it appeared that Vet was a lofty enough goal that it would elicit sounds of approval from the gathered adults.

 My true, secret goals were vague; to travel, to go on adventures, to fall madly in love. But society loves clarity, loves direct and clear goals, an end in sight, in a straight line. At least, that is what I was taught:

  • Graduate high school
  • Go on to Post-Secondary studies
  • Meet Significant other
  • Graduate Post-Secondary studies
  • Land the job of your dreams in your chosen field, immediately
  • Get married
  • Buy house
  • Have kids

There is nothing wrong with any of these goals. In fact, I ticked a fair number off that list, but I did them the windy way, the way that worked for me. Much to the chagrin of my straight edged and very direct Mother.

I enjoyed pulling on threads of interest and seeing what was at the end of them. Something that I used to constantly apply to my life. I’d see something of interest, wander over, experience it and either wander back or see where it took me. Some would call that aimless drifting, I was taught that society would call that lost, but, in the wise words of Tolkien “Not all those who wander are lost…” (Tolkien,1977, p. 202) I may not have a clear end goal and I may be taking a winding and roaming route, but for me at least, that was fulfilling. 

Somewhere though, I took a wrong turn. I pulled on a thread of curiosity and found myself stuck in the mud. Which is the danger inherent in any decision. 

Other people’s truths became my own, the imagined yard-stick by which society measures life’s milestones somehow found its way into my inner sanctum. I had checked off some of the markers, yes, but it wasn’t enough. There were more to check off and time was short, the yard-stick only goes to thirty and I was well beyond that. My curiosity became a hindrance, my desire to walk to the next corner and see what was there became a weakness. I lost sight of the journey and tried to force myself into a mindset that has never truly been my own. To see the goal with clarity and walk straight at it pursuing it at all costs. Never mind the emotional toll of not being true to myself. Never mind the destructive effects of obsessing over the future and trying to see what was coming, while all the time standing still. Because no matter how much you hammer at it, a square peg is never going to fit into a round hole. 

Would I go back and change that decision? No. I believe that every choice has value, whether it leads to success or failure. It is what we do with the lessons we have learned that are important. Even if it takes a while for the lesson to really sink in.

And so, it was in this constant state of frustration, that I ran head first into the huge stop sign that this global pandemic has placed in the way. 

Out of something truly scary, truly terrible and wrought with uncertainty and fear for the future, I have found my breath, and I know that I am absolutely lucky to be in this position. This forced pause from the daily routine has allowed me to take stock of the destination I find myself at. After years of hazy travelling, it has allowed me to recognize that I have, actually, achieved all the goals that I held close to my heart growing up. I have traveled, I have been on so many adventures and I have fallen madly, ecstatically in love. I am right where I want to be.

Sure, I succumbed to the perceived pressures of everyday society, that yard-stick has poked holes in my unwavering belief that everything will in fact be OK; that I am enough, that it is the journey and not just the goal that matters.

I feel my curiosity returning, new goals have arisen from the dusty corners of my mind; can I learn to write effectively and do it well? Can I learn to draw well, sew the clothes that I daydream about, can I learn to write music? In the simplest terms, can I be creative? Something that didn’t fit the narrative given to me by the rigid hallways of the education system I grew up in, or the narrow focus of my mother’s self-hating view of me. 

I see new possibilities and new winding paths to charge headlong down. I will gather the tools that will help me focus, learn and grow. Over the next few posts, I’ll explore what it means to me, to awaken and reassert my weird and quirky self. How I am teaching myself to ignore the ingrained negative self-perceptions and silence those voices that tell me to conform. 

I didn’t graduate high-school on time with my peers, choosing instead to change all my subjects halfway through my final years; I picked my post-secondary studies out of a coffee cup filled many choices and I’ve never had a clear goal of what my career should look like, other than it should have many twists and turns, filled with interesting experiences.

 I am in my mid-late thirties and according to those external perceived pressures, I should be done and set on my path. And yet, I’ve achieved everything I have ever set my mind to by taking the road less traveled and enjoying each winding route. I’d like to reclaim that mindset.

So, now the blinkers are off, the fog has been blown away and I am awake again. We get one shot at this amazing journey called life and I’m not going to allow myself to fall back on old habits. I’ll gather tools to my side, I’ll inflict my terrible writing and rambling thoughts on anyone who will willingly (or coerced) read it, I’m looking at you fellow classmates! And I’ll see where this new path leads!

Care to join me on my wanderings? Maybe we’ll find something magical!

Moss covered cave opening, with rain pouring over entrance.
Taken by me in 2005 during one of my many wanderings. Nagorno-Karabakh.

Sources:

Calla Wahlquist (2018, January 24th.) A Life in Quotes: Ursula K Le Guin. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jan/24/a-life-in-quotes-ursula-k-le-guin

Tolkien, J. R. R (1977) The Fellowship of the Ring. The Folio Society. (p. 202). (Original work published in 1954 by George Allen & Unwin).

An exercise in self-reflection – What this moment means to me. #personal growth #self-reflection https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6

For Facebook – I wrote a blog post on what this moment in time means to me and how I am working towards personal growth. Freeing myself from perceived social pressures about life and how we measure our value and success on this journey. An exercise in self-reflection-what this moment means to me. https://bit.ly/2ys2Vg6

You can learn how to draw like a rockstar in 5 days

fishArt has always been important to me. It’s important to you whether you know it or not. I’ve never met a child who does not like to pick up a box of crayons and create worlds of their own. Something happens around the age of 10 or so. Most of us stop. As an artist, I often hear about my “gift”, how I’m naturally talented. You know what? Bunk. Nobody is born with an ability to draw in their DNA. I’d even venture that talent doesn’t exist. How we are raised, a particular moment in our childhood, a great many things can lead to an interest in creating art. If the interest is strong enough, we persevere and spend a lifetime learning the craft. Why do we lose interest then? According to the Journal of early childhood news at around age 10 we want to draw realism. This makes sense, we are trying to represent the world around us. Here’s the problem. Teaching drawing skills is not a priority in many schools. We tell our children to express themselves, but don’t provide the tools to do that. If a child draws a car, it’s a bit squished, the wheels aren’t quite round – it doesn’t look right. There is a good chance that the teacher will still praise the creativity and hang the drawing on the wall for all to see. This would never happen to a math sheet where 2+2=5 or a writing assignment where evreything was spelt rong. The child knows the car doesn’t look right but has no idea how to fix the situation. Since there is so little incentive to draw, we pack it in.

Durer hands

Albrecht Dürer [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

The secret though is if you know how to write your name, you have all the find motor-skills required to draw. The rest is all learning. According to Drawing Academy, there are 12 essential skills to learning to draw, none of them has anything to do with physical skills or ability. The engineer Hessam Moussavi wrote a [great article] on the benefits of drawing on linkedIn. Notably, improvements in communication, problem-solving, stress release and concentration. Skills that are useful in almost any profession. Jennifer Landin, PhD writes in Scientific America how teaching her university biology students to draw has given them a richer understanding of the subjects they are studying. It’s also a great way to get involved in a community of interest. Whether you are an absolute beginner or make Albrecht Dürer look like a hack, there is a community for you to join.

Social media provides some great benefits for learning to draw while engaging the artistic community. The Facebook Drawing Club provides plenty of information on learning to draw. You can look up #drawing or #learntodraw on Twitter. The Ottawa artists Facebook Group is a place where you can show your work, learn from others and find out about art related events in Ottawa. I would encourage you to learn from these groups and contribute back. If you are feeling ambitious, blog about your artistic journey on Medium or WordPress. Join Deviant art for sources of inspiration, you can also have your work critiqued here if you ask. I would encourage you to pick any of the tutorials available on social media. Do the exercises for 5 days and you will be able to draw like a rockstar. Will you be great? Probably not, but who says rockstars know how to draw?

I’m curious, what skills do you think learning to draw would bring to your profession?

Twitter
You can draw like a rockstar in 5 days. Learn how! https://s.crow.ws/drawing

Facebook
Would you like to learn how to draw? Good news! You can! If you can write your name, you can draw. Here’s how you can learn to draw like a rockstar in 5 days.
https://s.crow.ws/drawing

COM0014 Blog #5: Life is About the Journey, Not the Destination!

I came across my personal brand through thinking about what I didn’t want it to be. Which was another blog that takes my diagnosis Asperger’s Syndrome and make it all about being a cause or how it’s challenged me. I wanted to focus more on what has helped me cope better; and use my experiences as a way to share what I’ve learned from them to help others.

Transitioning to this place from my original blog which was general and used a pseudo-name has been a big step and leap of faith but one I’m glad to take.  Doing so helped bring a greater focus to my writing and specify my niche, that has allowed me to bring forth my own personal awareness and how I’ve gained insights from those experiences that have added to what my blog may have been lacking before. It also has given me the courage to share and be more open with what I share.

kylie_header2

 

I strive for it to be as authentic and honest as possible, writing from a place of compassion towards myself and others, understanding and learning with perhaps a little educating. If it doesn’t feel right then I don’t write on it and work to change it because this is the only way I know how to write and be- authentically and honestly- me. Sharing what “Life on the Spectrum” is like for me has been a wonderful learning experience  and journey into embracing what makes me unique, how that’s growing into my personal brand and allowed me to share that with others, that’s just begun but I’m eager to see where everything goes from here.

Learning, sharing and growing as Kylie, blogger of  Life on the Spectrum- embracing Aspergers!

COM0015 – Event Participation

edcamp

The Event

The professional development event I have chosen to participate in is called EDCAMP. I have chosen this event because my girlfriend is currently studying in Ottawa to become a teacher and I happened to be visiting that weekend. She signed up to go to this event and I decided to tag along so I can do my assignment on this as well. At first I thought to myself why I would do my assignment on an event that is directed towards teachers but after attending such an event I realised the bigger picture. Yes, a lot of current students studying to become teachers and those who were already a teacher attended but the main purpose of this event was focused towards professional development. The fact that it was a teacher event did not matter, it was how individuals in this field can improve, adapt and learn new methods to better themselves as educators. Therefore, the journey does not end after obtaining a position in your desired field. You must continue to learn and educate yourself to acquire the skills and knowledge for both personal development and career advancement. This is a link to their word press: http://edcampottawa2013.wordpress.com/

What I Learned and Contributed

I had interacted with several people during this event because it was not a typical event where you sit down and have someone lecture you throughout the entire day. Conversations were built on ideas that were submitted at the beginning of the event by everyone who attended. Meaning the attendees controlled the discussions based on what they wanted to share or know about a particular subject. Whoever wanted to provide input on the topic did so. This was almost one giant brain storming event to help or educate one another. I did meet one of the organizers of the event who did participate as well. Her name was Erin Painter and she is a teacher in Ottawa. One of the topics she brought up during the event was how effective social media is when integrated with learning. There was moments throughout the day during the breaks where you could continue your conversations with people you have met, so I briefly spoke to her about this topic. I could not agree more with her. I then began giving her my opinion on how introducing social media for purposes other than leisure, at such an early age compared to myself learning about it now, gives these students a one up. It gives them insight on how such tools can be used professionally and possibly help develop their future. She then said that, ultimately that is what they are trying to establish. With the way that our society is moving with technology, our future will soon depend on the usage of these applications and tools. They must take necessary actions to adapt to the given situation. This allows teachers to use them where applicable as an aid to help the students learn. Figuring out different strategies to teach and deliver messages to students increases their learning.

Ideas Gained From Event

Regardless of the profession you choose, there is always room for improvement. The use of technology and social media will be our future. We must all learn to adapt to change and embrace new arising resources. Learning to use such tools for our advantage makes opportunities endless. It is our decision on how far we extend ourselves for career advancement. That being said, is it really enough to only use social media for the ways you already know or have been told? Or is it our responsibility to continue to explore these options further to improve? Exploring these options is what I walked away with from this event. The teachers do this not only to benefit themselves but they do it to incorporate these tools as much as possible in learning as a strategy for students to retain information. This is also done to familiarize the students with these applications and prepare them for their future. Social media applications are given to society for free for the most part, and it requires nothing from us in return. It is an aid that can be used for an endless amount of tasks. Why not continue to explore all different kinds in order to figure out which ones benefit you the most and determine how you can incorporate it with your field to improve your professional development.

Collect a Quote

“Teachers Matter” is a quote that I decided to use from the event that seems the most important and the one message that had the most emphasis. The body language, teaching methods and the way teachers choose to speak plays a vital role in teaching. Therefore, the development of teachers is not just for them. They advance themselves in order to become better educators for the students. The things students learn from teachers is what will ultimately help them in the future with their development. Teaching at an optimal level  puts the students in a better position for their future.

Will I Attend a Similar Event in the Future

EDCAMP is an unconference meaning that events like this are loosely structured. This kind of conference focuses on the participants exchanging information and ideas in an informal manner, rather than following a structured program. I will attend another event like this in the future because this was one of the best experiences I had at an event. I hate being lectured and having a set plan that needs to be followed especially if the information being delivered isn’t interesting. I feel that I am able to retain more information at events like this due to the constant interactions.