Giving Thanks

natalie dee
Image from natalie dee archives

It’s that time of year again, when the turkeys flee for their lives, the cranberries get all nice and saucy, and the people breathe a sigh of gluttonous relief as the collective belt is grudgingly but inevitably loosened by at least one, possibly two holes, depending on the size of that piece of pumpkin pie. Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us here in Canada (we like to leave more than a month between Turkeys), and with it comes the requisite period of appreciative reflection from which the holiday derives its name.

This year, as with last, I will be making a vehicular pilgrimage across the great Rocky Mountains for family and feast in the fertile plains and near geographical centered-ness of Edmonton, Alberta. In my preparations for the voyage, I am reminded of some of the reasons that I have to be thankful for the opportunities that I have been given in recent years.

I’m thankful for the fact that I had the support necessary to make it through not only 1, but (almost) 2 degrees of post-secondary education. The myth of equal access to higher education in Canada is just that – a myth – to mask the reality of a system that ultimately confers significant advantage to families with privilege, earned or unearned. If you don’t believe me, imagine the difference between graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt vs. graduating with no debt at all. Or the difference between going through school while balancing part to full time work, because your student loan only barely covers skyrocketing tuition costs, and you like to do things like pay rent, vs. going through school without having to work at all. That I had as much financial, emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual support from my family, friends, girlfriend, and even a few faculty members was invaluable and I wouldn’t be writing this now without it.

While my education was largely something that I planned, I’m also thankful for the unplanned events that led me to the situation I am currently in. If it weren’t for a consultant that suggested I check out practicum opportunities at SFU Career Services during grad school, I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people here at the centre who would, a couple of years later, become my colleagues. On a related note, I’m also thankful that I was open-minded enough to take her up on her suggestion, which ultimately led me to the work I’m now doing. Had I more rigidly stuck to my plan (haha… okay, there was no plan, but you get the idea) and turned down the opportunity, who knows where I might have ended up.

I’m thankful for all of the many mistakes that I have made in the last few years, because without them I would know a lot less than I do (or worse, I would think that I know more than I actually do). Is there any better teacher than “failure?” I hate to get all cliché, but mistakes are really better classified as learning opportunities (opportunities because you can still choose not to learn from them). Bad judgment calls, missed deadlines, questionable decision making, missed deadlines, use of redundant examples… there’s always a way to view ‘mistakes’ negatively, as in judging yourself, calling yourself stupid, basically hitting you while you’re down; or positively, as in ‘what did I learn, and how will this experience influence my actions the next time something like this happens?’ (Reminder to self – deadlines are important).

I find the following helpful. Mistake = miss + take. Actors learn from dozens of ‘missed’ takes in order to produce the picture perfect cinematic moment that ends up on the big screen. ‘Success’ is a combination of action (having the courage to try something, even if it ends up being ‘wrong’) and ability (being able to learn from their own and others’ mistakes so they don’t repeat them).

Lastly, I’m thankful for all of the staff, volunteers, and students that I’ve been able to interact with since I’ve started working at Career Services. None of these interactions has been 100% give or take, so I have come away with something from each of them, whether or not I realize it right away. I can only hope that those on the other end of the bargain feel kinda sorta the same way.

Oh, and thanks for reading! Have a great long weekend.

Cross-posted at Career Services Informer.