I like to think of this as progress

When I need to explain to people about how bad I am at dating, I tell them about the job interviewer who kissed me goodnight. (I may have missed something about why we were meeting for dinner)

Last night the accidental guy took me out for dinner. (I had, using the checklist, established that this was a date and not just dinner). He brought me the most beautiful roses. It’s progress that I identified it as a date. Before the date happened even.

I had a lot of fun. He really is fantastic.

Wanting to see him again, I asked if he wanted to go to Costco tonight.

Umm.

That’s not quite right, is it?

(Also, could someone help me populate the checklist of what is supposed to come next?)

Posted in Adult Dating | 2 Comments

Actually, it’s the starting bit

They left out the starting bit and I am lost.

I have summarized the part at the end as having “happily ever after” in a heart. (I think there’s probably a bluebird in there too.) That’s what’s on the last page. Happily ever after isn’t actually the end of the story, but it serves as a relatively flexible yet still solid place marker. We know we got somewhere.

There is a whole book or play which comes before the happily ever after lines. That’s all the bits about where the girl falls in love and then out of love and there are diverse alarums and mistaken identities (Maybe that’s only in Shakespeare?) I know this part exists because a zillion dollar entertainment business exists to make the movies and publish the books.

You know what is absent? The starting bit. There are zero dollars given to detailing the starting bit. I am starting to think the starting bit is inherently problematic.

Consider. I am going on a date tonight. I know that it is a date because I am being picked up, he has a plan and he’s buying my dinner. (Please also consider that I am the sort of woman who uses yes/no elements to figure out what constitutes a date.)

This date was planned, well at least the location was chosen, on an earlier date. So, that’s actually two dates. There is also a date planned for next week. In a grammatical sense, I am dating this guy. We cover every tense of the verb date. Even I am confident that one does not use participles to define dating.

It’s all a bit fuzzy. I mean it’s me and dating, so there’s a level of fuzzy that exists (and this is why I have checklists), but also he was a friend and he’s still a friend, and now he’s a friend I go on dates with. I should tell you he’s working hard to make friends with my dog and he petted one of my cats.

So, we have the end bit (with the bluebird). We have the middle bit, with the falling in and out of love and mistaken identity (or maybe that’s just Shakespeare). But, before you get to the middle, long before there is any sort of end (which could just as easily involve sobbing into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream) there has to be a starting point.

There’s somewhere beyond the part where he unexpectedly kisses me in the middle of a TV show we were both watching; somewhere around the time he tries to make friends with my dog (I’m waiting to see how long it takes him to just buy dog bones) and before any of the bits about telling your friends or showing up to work functions together and making plans for three months from now. There’s a whole starting bit. And it’s missing.

And it’s confusing.

Really, I can’t think of why Shakespeare couldn’t work this in.

 

Posted in Adult Dating | 1 Comment

Words

I finally have words.
____

My mum used to say that your goals must slightly exceed your grasp, or what is a heaven for?

For 610 days I worked on my MBA. I wrote papers, I worked with teams, I read stacks of journal articles. It wasn’t life-changing like it was for many of my classmates.  It was a job. I’m good at jobs. You figure out what needs to be done and you grind it out.

I was so very melancholy.

I crept out during the final event; everyone was celebrating and I didn’t feel like I belonged. I caught the last ferry out of Victoria. I told them I just needed to go home; really, I needed to understand. I drove through the night, through a blizzard; searching for answers and trying to find words. I’ve held myself together for two weeks,  telling myself that I would find the words.

And I have.
____

I wanted my effort to slightly exceed my grasp. That’s what makes my life worth living. Not just doing the job but the moment when I make that really big stretch and grab hold. The moment when I stand a bit taller because of the stretch.

Those are the moments that change me, transform me.

For two years I put in time and effort, but there was never a stretch.

I won’t be standing taller.

Posted in Grad Student | 1 Comment

Wearing Birkenstocks with a Suit

At the University of Alberta, you could say that the Faculties of Business and Arts are connected by a hallway*. You might also say they are divided by a canyon. Next week I am going to cross the canyon.

I understand how I got to this point. My boss asked if someone would go talk to a group of business students about technology and business. I volunteered. I don’t mind public speaking. Well, to be honest, I like it. It’s a chance to organize and present my thoughts. Sometimes people even have other thoughts.

Back in 1997, when I started my undergrad degree, I almost crossed the canyon. In those days, you had to do your first year in some other faculty and then you could apply.  Midway through my first year, I realized that business students wore suits to class. I liked wearing band t-shirts and plaid shirts and my birks with wool socks.  I stuck to theories of social justice and economics and a love of Marxism. I have a degree in arts.

Somehow it worked out well. I work in technology, I do management consulting and you may have heard that I went back to school to get an MBA. I have the credentials to talk to them.

I’m still, well, I’m still kinda giggling about it. 20 years after I decided not to join the faculty of business, I’ll walk into the business building, into a classroom and I’ll lecture.

My topic? The virtues of being a polymath. In other words, I’m going to tell a bunch of business students to spend less time thinking about business.
___________

*Actually, it’s an atrium but that sounds less poetic.

Posted in Learning Life | 2 Comments

One Hundred Thousand Words

I did some summing up yesterday. To get my MBA I have written about 100,000 words.

I’m reasonably adept at this whole “using my words” thing. I’m not bad at the summing thing either.

Which is why it is such a surprise that I have started no less than 6 blog posts trying to sum up how I feel about finishing my MBA.

I got. . .

Nothing.

But, I’m done.

Thought I should tell you that.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Small Things

They let the MBA students play with lego yesterday. One of our assignments was to envision our lives post MBA and construct something to represent that.

So, that’s me. And no, I’m not working as a cashier at a yarn store (although, that is not the worst option in the world).

It was interesting to see what my teammates did. They created figures scaling mountains, very near the top. They jumped off cliffs, contemplated different decisions.

Me?

There is a big picture for me. Go get another degree. Spend less time counting beans and more time playing with ideas like slinkies. Care less about reccomendations and implementation and more about thinking deeply and reconciling contradictory ideas. Use my brain and not my grit.

I think I’m so very lucky – I have a job I love and that I find fulfilling. I get to nurture junior consultants, see and solve ineresting problems. I can point to things I’ve suggested and see how clients implement them. I’m useful to the world around me.

Me, post MBA?

Well, I’m not a cashier. That’s me at my stove. I’m cooking. Specifically, I’m making a roast chicken, with stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy. The table is set. I don’t know who I am feeding (having lost contact with most of my friends in the rush to the end of the degree).

I’m doing small things. Creating connection. Grounding myself in things I love. Meditating on the fact that cooking done with care is an act of love.

Posted in Grad Student, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Ecclesiastes 7:8

When I tell you I am tired, will you believe me?

I don’t mean the sort of tired that is solved by getting a good night’s sleep. I don’t mean the sort of weary that can be resolved by visiting a good friend or watching cooking videos on facebook. I don’t mean the sort of fatigue that you can sort out with a day spent watching bad TV, wrapped in a duvet, knitting and eating chocolate.

I mean the sort of tired that I don’t know how to fix. I mean the sort of tired that leaves you wondering about everything you ever did, characterized by fits and starts of what seem to be brilliant thoughts which fizzle into all the ways you hate yourself and every life choice you have made.

The sort of tired, weary and woebegone that you can’t fix. The sort that needs time and sunshine and good food and rest of a sort I have not had in the last two years.
I have one individual paper and one group paper. I am about 8,000 words and one final presentation away from being done my MBA.

I don’t hate learning, I don’t hate academia, but I am done with this particular degree. I am done with the frameworks, the models, the rush to solutions and the workman like drudgery and grind that is a business degree.

I am done.

Except for the fact I am not.

My boarding school chose a curious sort of motto. Most school mottos are Latin and they have some sort of sense of victory or duty or aspiration. Mine? Plain English.
“The end of the matter is better than its beginning.”

There’s not a lot aspiration in that. It actually seems like a pretty blunt and declarative sentence. I might even call it presumptuous. Is the end always better than the beginning? That implies a sort of teleological narrative. It requires me to believe that the whole of humanity strives toward a beautiful and complete finish. Or at least that I strive to that.

8,000 words. The end is after that.

And I am weary. Exhausted. Also woebegone.

I have no idea how I will find the reserves to get it done. It’s not hard, it’s not even a bit past my grasp.

I do not care about the last of it while simultaneously knowing I must care.

I can be any sort of  tired in 9 days.

Not now.

It’s not the end.

Posted in Grad Student | 3 Comments

Turn Right for Hope

I have made the drive from Edmonton to Victoria more than once. Never on my own. Indeed, the drive was a feature of my married life and Owen drove most of it. On Sunday morning, as I left Aunt Peanuts, when the sign said to turn right for Hope? That was further than I had ever driven alone through BC.

Past Kelowna, into Merrit is one of the highest passes in BC. That Sunday morning there was fog, snow, sleet, a bit of ice and the plows hadn’t been through. I have driven through the Rockies before, I have driven through snow, through fog, on uncleared roads.

I’ve just never done it on a pass that high, with all those factors, at the same time.

I am no stranger to ambiguity, to confusion. Your child’s death, a thing which plunges you unasked into an utterly foreign world, it teaches you to make your peace with ambiguity and confusion. The alternative is losing your mind. Some how, in Gabriel’s death I learned to marshal the skills I had, to beg, borrow and steal new skills. I learned to build on what I had and invent the new at the same time.

When it started to get dicey on the pass, I thought about all the things I’ve learned.  How not to brake on the long inclines, to move slowly and deliberately while changing lanes or speed. I know to leave enough space, to watch the car in front of me when I can’t see the lane markers.

I also know this – once you start up the highway, you actually cannot turn around. You can’t stop. The only way through is, well, through.

So I know what to do in those situations. Marshal what you know. Learn the rest very quickly.

On the fourth of January last year, I asked Owen for a divorce. My choice came at the cost of hurting someone I once loved a great deal. It marked the final breaking of a promise that I thought would really be until death do us part.

I am eternally glad that people don’t ask if I am happier alone. I don’t know what to say. I don’t even know if happy is the right word. I don’t know if it will ever be the right word.

It’s been a year of managing things on my own. Putting skills together in new ways. Learning new ones. Finding my feet. Finding me.

Happy seems a small and silly word. I’m neither happy nor unhappy. I’m mostly content. More peaceful. More resilient.

It amused me to see the sign telling me to turn right for hope. It fascinated me that getting to Hope was harder than I thought it would be.

I thought I should tell you that.

Posted in Divorce | 1 Comment

Everyone needs a nag

I’m sitting at the Nook this morning. It’s owned by a good friend and it’s a handy place to run away to when I need some time and space to focus on something.  I’m a bit invested – I spent most of the July long weekend painting everything in the place. (True story: if I find the person who scraped the table I painted, I will hurt them.) I’ve shown up with a hammer and WD40 to fix the bathroom door.

There are all sorts of things I love about this place, not least of which is watching how damn good my friend is at running a cafe. I also love that they make a fantastic americano. And they know that if I come in after 1pm, the order will change to a decaf. I can wander in, decide I  don’t like the grilled cheese special and they will invent the Cheryl special. Which always has brie. Usually other good stuff.

When Linds chose the location, she wanted to create a meeting place. It’s across from a Federal Government Office. Down the way from EPS headquarters. In the middle of the inner city. Underneath artist’s studios. On any given day there is an excellent mix of people. Suits and small children and uniforms and jeans and beards.

I was settling in. Pulling out my computer, waiting for my toast when I noticed the very young man in front of me. In a clearly very new suit (still had the tag on the arm) with the vents sewn closed. Normally I don’t say anything.

But in this place? A meeting place?

I walked to the counter, grabbed some scissors. Walked over. Smiled at him, told him to stand up. I explained that men’s suits are sewn closed, but you need to remove the stitch and take off the wool tag. I fixed his tie bar and told him that I wished him luck in his interview.

The Nook. Where you go for a coffee before your big interview and where a nagging woman fixes your suit while she waits for her toast.

Posted in Etiquette, Feats of Wonder | 6 Comments

A funny thing happened on the way to my thesis

On about December 15th, I got my first round of thesis feedback from my advisor. It was good feedback and I set about taking the probably forty hours to combine the feedback, do a bit more research, fix a few tables and make some updates. I’m not going to lie, it was a grind. Not because it was hard work, but mostly because I was so tired of working on this bloody thing. I was so close to being done that I really didn’t want to spend any more time.

I gritted my teeth and I did all of that and then sent a note to my advisor telling him I needed to run a few things by him. I did tell him I had uploaded the final draft, pending our discussion, it was probably good to go.

My advisor had this almost throw away remark in the feedback about wanting me to include two or three pages of research and narrative on barriers to technology adoption. There was a minor problem, in that I was more or less at the word limit and adding two or three pages was going to require another 1,100 words.

I needed a phone call to figure out how to do this. So I sent an email and we went back and forth about a time. We were still doing that about twenty minutes before I got the paper back.

I guess I should have realized that when you upload the final draft, they mark it. Like, actually mark it. (I know, it astonishes me that people pay me money to advise them!)

Now, it’s a good grade. A nice solid A.

I really don’t have much to complain about (other than I wanted an A+, but that’s just me. I’m like that. I can admit it.)

I’m pleased. No, really, I am. I texted everyone who would remotely care (and probably a few people who didn’t, but at least feigned enthusiasm for me). I left work a bit early, went and bought myself a very large pumpkin spice latte and several books.

It just feels a bit . . . strange. I had expected some period of time where I nervously awaited my fate. I had expected to sweat a bit, worry.

If you have something you need worried about, it seems I have a bit of time and capacity. Send me a note or a comment. I’ll get right on it for you.

Posted in Grad Student | 5 Comments