New Year’s GratitudeSunday, January 13, 2013 by: David Root
Well, it took a bit longer than I intended, but I have put together a list of the things for which I am grateful.
As I mentioned in my last column — and have done so on a number of occasions previously — I don’t put a lot of stock in the “new year” actually being the start of the year, nor for being a time to take stock of the previous twelve months and look forward to the coming year.
The calendar has changed too many times over the centuries (millennia, even) to pick an arbitrary date in the early part of winter to be such a significant point in our lives. We could just as well pick any date we like — our birthdays, an equinox or solstice, the first of any of the twelve months… whatever!
But, since it is what it is, it’s as good a time as any for me to look back and evaluate how things have gone for me.
Also, I prefer a retrospective approach to the more popular “looking ahead.” Making predictions — or “resolutions” — as never appealed to me, nor have I really been able to stick to any. Usually.
I have found some success in losing weight — a popular resolution for many — although it was not a stated resolution, for me. I don’t even recall at what point I decided to get serious about shedding some weight, but I suspect it was during the winter which, for me, is a somewhat slothful period.
My health is less than perfect: I have hypertension and Type II Diabetes, both reasonably controlled by medication. My weight has fluctuated over the past 30 years, but for the most part it has steadily increased despite what I thought was a reasonable effort at control.
In high school and for a few years after I weighed 160 lbs (72 kg). But, having a job and a vehicle, I spent more time eating out than at home, and my weight steadily increased. By the mid 80s I weighed 240 lbs (110 kg).
My first summer away working at an Easter Seal camp saw me shed 50 lbw — it’s a physically demanding job, especially when batteries in electric wheel chairs run flat and campers must be pushed around the site.
For the next decade my weight fluctuated, but since about 2000 it has just steadily increased.
Last year, I decided that enough was enough, I was tired of buying 2XL shirts and 46-inch waist pants.
Without actually turning to a “diet,” nor any real plan in mind, I began to cut back on portion sizes and helpings. This was not easy, as (as you can probably guess) I am quite fond of eating.
Not only that, I am a rather good cook, and resisting a second helping of something that — if I may say so myself — tasted really great was not easy.
I also drastically reduced my snacking, all but eliminating sweets (yes, with occasional indulgences) and not keeping snack foods (chips, etc) on hand.
Over the course of a year I managed to lose 40 pounds (18 kg), and now weigh-in at 220 lbw (100 kg).
I still working at losing some more, and hope to get back to 190 lbs (86 kg), which I feel is a suitable weight for a 50-something male of average height.
My health is still not the best, but neither am I worried that I might just drop dead climbing a flight of stairs.
I won’t lie. I do sometimes indulge in some desserts — cake and pie being a particular favourite. Overall, though, I manage to limit my sweets, and stick to one helping. In fact, at Christmas dinner I really, really wanted a second helping, but found I just did not have room.
I am grateful that I have found — I don’t know whether to call it “strength” or “willpower”, or “won’t-power” — the determination to be able to stick to this loosely-defined plan, and lose the weight I have.
Employment and Experience
Many of you will be aware that I am a teacher. At this point I am a “Occasional Teacher,” languishing on the Supply List, working only when called-in.
To help make ends meet — or, at least, bring them closer together — I also teach driving.
I love both jobs,.
As I write this, Jian Ghomeshi is interviewing Kenny Rogers, and the topic of Kenny’s work history is being discussed. Kenny just offered his mother’s advice: “Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Last week I subbed in a Careers class, and I played a couple of YouTube videos on job searches and choosing a career, and that advice was a common theme.
The fact is, there is more to finding a career than just loving what you do. I love teaching, but that alone doesn’t get me a full-time contract position.
I really feel for today’s young people. It is said that many of them will find work in fields that don’t even exist today. How can they plan for their future.
I was a victim of circumstance, in many ways. I moved to Southern Ontario to try to find a “career,” and worked through a succession of interesting jobs.
My last job, there, was as a Water Treatment Operator; I really enjoyed it, and I was good at it. I can’t say, though, that I found it particularly fulfilling.
Looking back with a further twenty years’ maturity, I think that I could have stayed there until retirement. At the time, however, living in Hamilton and commuting to Mississauga was quite taxing both emotionally and financially.
Then, when my parents passed away, the opportunity to move back home and start over seemed to be the right thing to do.
I will admit that I have often paused to wonder if I made the right decision.
On the other hand, everything that has happened to me, every decision I have made, and every decision that was made for me, has shaped who I am.
I have taken jobs because (as mentioned previously) I have become quite fond of eating. I have taken a job “just to get me through” until I found something better — and been at that job for four years.
I have taken jobs I thought would be a career that did not work out, but still gave me great experience.
Would I be the same person I am if I hadn’t left the water plant job? If I hadn’t got married, or divorced? If I hadn’t left this job, or been fired from that job?
I have subbed in Career classes and Co-op classes, and have taken the opportunity to discuss with the students their expectations and hopes for a career, as well as giving them the benefit of my experiences at a variety of jobs.
While many students do have part-time jobs, they have expectations about the working world that are, in some ways, unrealistic.
They accept that a “McJob” will not put a great deal of money in their pockets, nor perhaps be all that personally rewarding. While I encourage them — as goes the popular advice — to pursue something that is a passion for them, I also let them know that on the way to their “ideal” career, they may well find themselves immersed in tedium.
One video we watched this week was one of those 40s-era training films, that depicted just that: a high school student working in a shoe store, growing frustrated by trying to stuff size 9 feet into size 6 shoes.
The moral of the story was that a job is what you make it, to have a positive attitude. I’m not sure how many of the students accepted that advice. It is difficult for them to watch a black-and-white video of Leave-It-To-Beaver type characters and take it seriously.
But I hope the message comes back to them when they do find themselves doing something that might not meet their dreams and expectations.
I have to remind myself of that, as well. As I said, I love what I do, I just don’t get to do it full time. And that’s frustrating.
It’s frustrating enough that I am looking around to see what else I might do with my education and experience — paid and volunteer.
Still, I am grateful that I have the jobs that I do, I enjoy every minute I am working. Although being with teens can accentuate the fact that I am “middle aged” (well, if I live to be 104, that is), it also puts me on the fringe on the youth culture, and help me maintain a more youthful outlook.
I won’t say I completely understand young people — who does? — but neither am I surprised (or shocked) by things I see and hear.
I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in the past, and those that currently allow me to pursue my passion.
Life is what we make of it. It’s easy to get down about missed opportunities or, some would say worse, wasted opportunities.
I don’t believe an opportunity is ever wasted. Even when something doesn’t work out, that experience stays with you, and there is always some learning, some benefit that comes from an opportunity taken.
Sometimes we don’t recognize the benefit for what it was until we look back.
But… that’s just my opinion.