12 02 2012

I love mind maps. My spiral-bound notebooks are filled with them, illustrating ideas, problems, solutions, or in this case my self. This mind map was created for my Identity and Perspective class as a self-portrait. I chose to present it as a video rather than the mind map itself because I think the video better represents my life as a process, a journey. Enjoy! (Sorry for the shaky camera skills…next time, I’ll go for tripod and whiteboard.)


Little boxes

20 04 2011

In the absence of time to properly reflect, here is a video that encapsulates my current mental and emotional state. Caroline, a friend, member of the first ever-graduating class and one of the first people I met at Quest, performed this a week or so ago on campus. Maybe it was just my overactive perceptions filter at play, but I found it very relevant. So here it is. And expect a backlog of reflections coming in over the summer, when I have time to properly synthesize my thoughts and ideas. As of late, my learning curve has been steeper than what I can keep up with. Another week or so and I’ll be able to relax, unwind, slow down and be the confused, spontaneous 19-year old that I really am. Until then, I’ll just listen to Pete Seeger and embrace the chaos of planning Dancing Bear Music Festival, finishing my Question plan, and above all, taking care of myself and the people who I love most. Talk about perspective! I wish I had this much clarity and rationality all the time!

The spirit of an aspiring volunteer

16 04 2011

This past week, I was given a opportunity of a lifetime. I traveled to Toronto to receive the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers from the The Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Find the press release here.

Following the medal ceremony, there was a grand reception where I had the privilege of speaking about the experience, on behalf of all of the medal recipients. This speech was a response to a toast from the Advisory Council for the award.

Your Honor, Members of Provincial Parliament, ladies and gentlemen and fellow medal recipients, I thank you for this unexpected recognition. Even the most careful planning and preparation could not have prepared us for such an occasion. As passionate volunteers, we quickly learn the value of thinking on our feet and responding as well as we can in each opportunity that presents itself, but as my fellow recipients can surely relate, I have been utterly overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised by the experience of being a recipient of the Ontario Medal of Young Volunteers. Although we feel privileged and honoured to experience this special occassion, volunteering is not a unique opportunity. Instead it is an attitude, a lifestyle, a state of being that we have chosen to adopt. And I believe that this is the true beauty of volunteering. Like myself, this year’s selection of recipients come from humble beginnings, in most cases, small towns that seemingly offer limited volunteer opportunities for volunteering. We are not exceptions or outliers among today’s youth. We are simply the lucky ones who received the unconditional love and support from our family and friends that inspired us to engage in our communities. And the secret is that volunteering is in fact a hedonistic act. It is an addiction that makes one feel so good that once we start, we cannot stop. And I don’t think, any of us have such an intention. We thank our nominators who took the initiative to give us this incredible distinction, the advisory council for their dedicated efforts in making this year’s selection and above all, we thank our supportive communities that empowered us in such a way that we can stand here today. This honour is one that we will cherish for a very long time and one that motivates us to continue volunteering for just as long.

This experience was an incredible learning opportunity. I was able to put Melanie’s etiquette training to good use and network with elected and appointed officials as well as Ministry staff. I was also able to talk to many people about my studies at Quest and share my enthusiasm for volunteering, while resisting the urge to talk about partisan politics, for the most part (The upcoming election made this a bit difficult, but I tried to adopt the essence of Eric Gorham by using my words judiciously.) This experience also re-ignited my grade-8 passion for politics, something that has been stirring as of late as a result of my election to the Quest Students’ Representative Council as well as the development of my Question. Who knows what doors this honour will open? I can’t wait to find out!

On a more personal note, I was overwhelmed and surprised by my emotion during the ceremony. I was the only university student among the recipients (the others were in their final years of high school) and I was the only recipient to cry during the ceremony. In addition to preparing physically (i.e. trying to make my unruly, half-finished head of dreads look as neat and tidy as possible), I tried to prepare mentally and emotionally for the experience. However, when I was standing beside His Honour hearing my citation read by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, my lip started to quiver and my eyes began to well with tears. At first, I tried to hold back and smile politely. But then, two thoughts occurred to me (well, really a zillion thoughts were swirling around my head, but these two were especially significant): 1) In the words of Eve Ensler, “I am an emotional creature!” and; 2) “The only person I know how to be is myself.” And in acknowledgment of these two simple mantras, I recognized my emotions and allowed myself to express them. No, I didn’t burst into sobs of joy, but there were definitely a few tears. Besides, it is not everyday that someone cries in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite, or at least I hope not.

I am likely romanticizing the circumstances (as I tend to do) in saying that my emotional response was a conscious choice. In more honest terms, this is only a half-truth or a way of rationalizing my emotional behaviour. In reality, once started, emotions can’t be stopped, nor should they be, in cases such as this. We are told to “save face”, “not to let emotions get in the way”, think rationally rather than emotionally (I personally don’t agree with the affiliation between irrationality and emotion.) and to save face. Although I appreciate these sentiments and even act upon them regularly, they are not as universal as we may think and in all honestly, they are highly overrated. That said, I am slowly learning the importance of wearing different “hats” and I look forward to further developing this skill next year during my term as student body vice president!

Idea generator: “Learn to Love the Revolution”

14 03 2011

I’m proud to say that I came across my second “idea generator” without the use of the conventional Google search, or the internet at all. After a wet and snowy morning of skiing, I was ready for a warm bowl of soup. Also, about this time, I started to feel guilty about not starting my Question homework, so I stopped by the magazine racks on my way to the café. “How hard can it be to find an article that relates to my broad Question on collaboration?” As I suspected, it was pretty easy and after reading a handful of headlines, I found this one in TIME and it seemed to fit. This particular headline caught my eye because I have always had this obsession with the idea of revolution, from childhood tantrums to reading Animal Farm in grade 10 to listening to learning about the hippies of my parents’ generation to teenage rebellion to my present, slightly more sophistically political charge. And of course it relates to my Question. Isn’t revolution a form of collaboration? Although much different than Botsman’s exchange of goods and services, revolutions are another form of people coming together to address a common concern.

In this TIME article, the author identifies five persuasive reasons why the recent revolution in the Arab Middle East should not evoke international panic or concern. In summary:

  1. Inadequate provision is the common and justifiable motive for all revolutions.
  2. Despite this constant, the history of colonial rule, international relations and culture characterizes each revolution as unique, making generalizations very difficult to make.
  3. This complex interplay of factors takes time to study and understand, so patience becomes invaluable.
  4. A sense of “state power”, which often comes in the form of political institutions, is important because Twitter and Facebook cannot govern a country…yet.
  5. The West does not have the answers, nor should we impose our theoretical solutions. A revolution is a way for local people to respond to the eminent problems themselves.

TIME Magazine’s large colour photos and minimalist margins highly restricted my side notes while reading this article. Similar to Botsman’s talk, it uncovered a wide range of possible fields of study that I am deeply interested in, but I hadn’t previously been considered integrating into my Question plan, such as history and religious studies. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised to draw parallels between this article and previous courses I’ve taken, such as Communities and Conservation and the Great Bear Rainforest. International conflict demonstrates the significance of multi-stakeholder collaboration as well as the ability to work across different levels and scales, from local to global.

Above all, I am naturally intrigued by the complexity of the situation and the opportunity to understand the political situation entices me. This level of complexity provokes an endless stream of questions, but to name a few:

a) Can we apply lessons across different scales and contexts? To what extent can we do so while being judicious about generalizations?

b) How can we practically and efficiently facilitate collaboration on this scale? What are the limits of informal mediums of collaboration, such as Twitter and Facebook? Do they offer more promise of peace and stability than nation states?