starting over


Archive for May, 2010

The Last Lecture

If you haven’t seen it, there’s this talk that’s been uploaded onto the internet for a while now that I highly recommend. It’s called The Last Lecture and it’s by Prof Randy Pausch. He talked at Carnegie Mellon University for a series called Journeys (previously called The Last Lecture series) and it basically provided professors to speak about personal experiences and lessons learned that they can impart on the students and brains of the future.

Randy was scheduled to present his talk in September of 2007. But that August, he was diagonised a second time with pancreatic cancer and that he should expect to only have three to six months of good health left. Despite this news, Randy prepared and presented his Last Lecture during his scheduled slot. His main reason for doing so was simply to have a recorded memory of his best advice so that his kids (at that point his oldest child was aged 6) could see their dad in his best element.

His amazing story comes with many lessons that we can take away into our every day lives. He tells this story about how he wanted to take this job outside of the university that was quite difficult for him to obtain. And the lesson was that there are always brick walls in life. Brick walls are there to show yourself how truly bad you want something; it’s to filter out those who aren’t as passionate. How amazing! How many times have I looked at a daunting task and turned the other way because I felt my efforts would get me nowhere? How fantastic it is to have this lesson retaught to us – I know I forget this sort of thing in every day life.

Randy also wrote a book before he passed away in July of 2008. The book is also entitled The Last Lecture, and I’m only half-way through reading it but I love it. The day the doctor told him that his time left was less than a year, he and his wife cried in the doctor’s office. After all the discussions, they left together and Randy thought about what he had told his wife just before going into the appointment:

“Even if the scan results are bad tomorrow, I just want you to know that it feels great to be alive, and to be here today, alive with you. Whatever news we get about the scans, I’m not going to die when we hear it. I won’t die the next day, or the day after that, or the day after that. So today, right now, well this is a wonderful day. And I want you to know how much I’m enjoying it.”

I want this to be how I live my life, every day. And while I work towards this, I will also look to finding a brick wall I feel is worth it for me to climb over.

Please watch the lecture if you haven’t already.

Polkaroo Wedding

Two things which I remember and love from Elaine’s wedding:

“It’s coming all over the place!!”
- Elaine, referring to her veil not staying in place and the fact that it was windy outside.

“I’m so happy my daughter has finally found the white man”
- Elaine’s dad, whose Chinese accent had us all cracking up at the head table as he described Nathan to be the right man for his daughter.

All in all it was a great wedding. It was probably one of the few times I actually got to see her new husband three days in a row (usually I’d see him… never), and it’s been years since I’ve seen Ivano. I also got to see the newlywed couple the next day and boy were they hungover. And it’s really amusing to see a bunch of peppy old Chinese people, and a bunch of young hungover adults trying to eat lunch together at a busy dim sum restaurant. Congratulations to the new Mr. & Mrs.!

Look Sideways

I love the Old Spice commercial “The Man Your Man Can Smell Like“. It’s awesome because by the time the commercial ends you think “what on earth just happened?!”. I reference this commercial now because I think this is how my life is. I’m focused on something and even though I’m extremely focused on it, there is something happening in the background that I don’t quite understand or don’t realize or don’t pay attention to, and then suddenly I’m stunned that whatever was happening in the background is now front-and-center and has my undivided attention, but I don’t know how it got there!

When I fly out on Wednesday, I will have spent a total of 2 weeks in Toronto, with almost all of it being vacation. During my time here, I got to not only help Elaine out during her wedding, but I’ve also had the opportunity meet with a few friends who I hardly get to see and spend time talking to my parents. Usually when I book a trip back home, I complain that it’s not really a vacation because I usually work out of Toronto to save my vacation days, and I don’t have a lot of time to see other people, but with two weeks here and me actually making an effort to meet up with people, I feel that this trip has been truly a great experience. Every now and then people need to take that step away from their regular path and look sideways and see what’s passing by.

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to meet one on one with Ken and Derek, both friends whom I’ve known since high school and elementary school respectively. They’ve both moved out of their North York homes and into downtown (and fairly close to each other – I walked from one persons place to the other!) and I both are getting married within the year. These are two people that I grew old and grew up with and having this time to sit and talk with them about what they’re doing and how they’re doing was like opening half-closed doors again.

When I look at both of them as they tell me their new life, I can’t help but remember the fourteen year old boy who I hung out with at the park back in the day, or the boy in grade two I used to be really mean to. Ken has since met this wonderful person while I was in Vancouver, and now he’s going to marry her! And while I live my mundane life on the other side of the country, I feel like so many things are happening everywhere, and I want to be a part of it! But I have blinders on, and I just look forward at this line that’s leading me to some hazy destination I can’t figure out yet, and all these things are passing me by. All these people are growing up, and I’m not around to see it and to be a part of it. I’m not there to celebrate in the joys, and to cry in the disappointments. How lonely a life can be when you live for yourself!

This isn’t to say that my life with lonely with A. I am very much in love and happy with my relationship. But I feel as though I haven’t moved anywhere in my life – Derek says I’ve been driving on a highway without knowing the destination for the last four years. And now that I look back I see all the things I’ve missed and all the relationships I’ve let slide, and the worst part is I don’t know what for because I don’t know what my end goal is. Today I have pulled over to the side of the road and looked back at all the exits I could’ve taken as a detour and asked myself why. What am I moving towards? What am I passionate about so much that I’ve given up all these other opportunities. While this answer hasn’t come to me yet, I’ve become aware of the fact that I truly do need to know this in order to feel okay about moving forward again.

So, how does one find their passion?

I feel small

when I’m riding in the back of my parents car and I look out of the window and I see flat land for miles and miles and big looming fluffy clouds overhead. If you think about it, we’re all so tiny on such a big plot of land. One of my favourite things to do is to stand under a tree on a beautiful sunny blue-skied day and look up at the green leaves to see the sparkles of sun peeking through. I’m constantly mesmorized by the fact that the tree has been around for longer than I’ve been alive and still continues to grow so big and so tall that I can stand under one, reach up, and still not touch it’s lowest branch. I love being under a giant tree because it reminds me of how amazing nature is, and I don’t even have to go far to give myself a reality check – even on the streets downtown I can easily find a tree to look up at on any street there. Sometimes I get carried away with amazement that I end up causing people being me to grumble as they suddenly have to dodge a crazy person staring at a tree during rush hour shuffle.

I think I’ve hit a quarter life crisis. And my anxiety and stress is a giant flashing neon sign that both my brain and my body are signalling. I feel small. I feel tiny. I feel scared. I hear about earthquakes and floods all over the world. I read about bombings and riots and suicides. I’m home and in the comfort of my family, but if I look close enough I can see the wrinkles and the slower walking pace and the greater resting frequency and it makes me so terribly sad inside. My mom came and sat with me two nights ago and we talked about when she first moved to Canada and her stories were amazing, and when I thought about all the time that had passed in her life and how she’s one day not going to be here to tell me these stories, I almost burst into tears.

My brain has been telling me that the world is a scary place. Everywhere I stand, I’m constantly checking my body, assessing the danger factors around me, and worrying. In a world where everything is supposedly easier, I’m bombarded by a sudden urgency to make decisions about the rest of my life – where to have children, when to have children, living arrangements, timelines, caretaking. I moved to Vancouver and lived in a bubble of teenage bliss – the kind where you are young and carefree and don’t need to worry about anything because you just want to experience life and not have to make adult decisions. But the time to be an adult is slowly creeping up on me and I don’t feel ready. I come home hoping for the comforts of being a child and I see my beautiful family aging before me. I come home and I don’t recognize streets anymore, I see massive developments where small houses used to be, I see new restaurants where old ones once stood, and I feel like I’ve been sitting in an anchored boat that’s lost in a sea of change. I have a lot of grown up decisions to make, and I need to start sailing forward. It scares me.

I’m waiting for the terrible weather here to turn into weather that’s suitable for the clothes I brought home. I’m waiting for the sun to start peeking out again and the skies to clear up so I can stand beneath the chestnut tree in my front yard and stare up into the sky and think about how the tree looks just like it did when I first moved into the house twenty years ago. Saying that makes me feel old already…

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