Happy Halloween, my darlings! Get your spooky on!
This past weekend I took Perry the Pontiac in for an oil change. Making small talk, my mechanic asked me about teaching at the College. He had spotted my faculty parking passes and he was curious (I get this a lot. I imagine the braces throw some people off) so I told him about teaching a course there once a week while continuing to work full time at Quinte Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
“So, I guess you’re just working the other job until something full time comes up at the school then?” He asked.
It was an innocent assumption. You often hear about teachers at the elementary and secondary level taking substitute positions to get their foot in the door for when a more permanent position becomes available. But it’s also an assumption that I’ve heard often when the subject of my career comes up. Just a couple of weeks ago I had to update my information at my bank because they had my instructing role listed as my full time employment (“What do you mean this payment is from your employer? It says here you work at Loyalist!” – I’ve been banking there my whole adult life, folks). There was no mention of the fact that I actually work full time as a director of communications, even though they definitely have been told so in the past.
I can literally see it on the faces of people I’m speaking with: They ask me what I do and I tell them. Then I watch as an uncertain look flickers across their eyes as they attempt to process the title “director of digital media and communications”. What the hell does that even mean?
And then they turn to a friend to introduce me and what comes out is, “This is Sara. She’s a professor at Loyalist”!
In truth, I get it. “Communications” is already a nebulous enough professional concept for a lot of people. It can mean a lot of different things. Compound that with the “digital media” component and I can absolutely see where the confusion is coming from. This is a career that didn’t exist a handful of years ago. It’s still kind of new and, for some, it’s really bizarre that a person can actually make money, let alone a career, by working with social media and the internet. I mean, I don’t think my own family completely gets what I do for a living (sorry, mom!)
I can see how it would be easier to latch on to the teaching position. Teachers are familiar, their work is straight forward and easy to understand.
Plus, if I’m being honest, it’s impressive to be able to say that you teach at a college. Why wouldn’t a person want to flaunt of a job like that?
But every time a person erases any trace of my full time career, a little piece of me dies on the inside.
Make no mistake: Teaching at the College is an amazing opportunity that I am forever grateful to be able to take part in.
I am proud of it and I never want to make it seem like I take it for granted, because I don’t. Teaching there means that I am constantly learning something new about my industry and about myself. I get to work on skills like public speaking and conflict management, among others that my other position wouldn’t necessarily afford me the chances to practice. Plus I get to meet and work with brilliant people – both students and faculty – all of the time. I am very lucky and I’m very proud.
But I am also very lucky to be a woman in my 20s who has been able to work in the field I studied for. I’ve spent the years since graduation diligently working on building my portfolio and honing my skill set. I’ve worked very hard to get to where I am and, at the risk of laying down some serious humblebrag here, I have been able to accomplish some fairly impressive things in my career. I am very proud of my work.
And when a person brushes all of that hard work and professional pride under the rug in favour of simply focusing on my teaching, well… It kind of stings.
I don’t expect everyone to completely understand my job or how it works. I get that there will always be people whose eyes glaze over when I start talking about reach and engagement and content marketing. It’s cool and I certainly don’t take it personally.
But I’d rather your eyes glaze over than have you dismiss it altogether.
What can I say? I’m just really passionate about what I do. So, the next time I correct you by pointing out that, yes I teach at a local college but I also happen to work full time as a director of digital media and communications at a pediatric practice, I hope you don’t take it personally either.
One year ago today, Candice and I arrived in Jasper, Alberta.
We were there to cover the Jasper Dark Sky Festival. The shuttle dropped us off at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and I did everything in my power not to lose my mind because I was finally back in a place I had loved and missed for years upon years. After what had been a difficult few months (that one in particular), I finally had a sense that things were about to change in a big and awesome way.
As we stood gaping at the beautiful, rustic lobby of the lodge waiting to check in, I happen to cast my eyes to the door just as a young man walked in. The moment I saw him I knew that he was going to be special.
Spoiler alert: It was Kyle.
Further spoilers: I was right.
It didn’t happen right away. It would take months of thinking that my feelings were unrequited and maybe just a little creepy (don’t patronize me – I know what I am. #2spooky4) before Kyle would work up the nerve to make a move. It would be another handful of months before he made another move, this time of the literal variety. But if I knew then what I know now… Well, I would have just remained patient because all the waiting has been beyond worth it.
Happy Met Ya Day, babe!
(I don’t normally make a big spectacle like this, especially on my blog, but Kyle’s back in Jasper right now for this year’s Dark Sky Festival. We don’t get celebrate together so WOOPS, BLOGGING MUSHINESS. #sorrynotsorry)
(Also, sorry I haven’t been blogging lately. I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately but I’m over it now. Back to more regularly scheduled drabble next week!)
As I’ve mentioned on this blog on a few different occasions, one of my all-time favourite books is Garth Stein’s The Art of Racing in the Rain. I’ve read it and re-read it and will most likely continue to do so for the rest of my life. It’s a book that means so much to me.
So, with that said, it should come as little surprise that, when I first learned that Stein would finally be releasing his latest novel (his first since Racing, which was published back in 2008) this fall, I was extremely excited to get my hands on it. I was so excited, in fact, that I wasn’t willing to wait until its release this past Tuesday. Instead, I reached out to Stein himself on Twitter…
Obstacles overcome and my worth proven, an advanced reader’s copy of A Sudden Light arrived at my home last week and I don’t really remember much else about my life between then an now. I dove into the book with gusto and only really came up for air when I finished it last night. And so, not wanting to waste any time in upholding my end of the bargain, here’s my review…
Before starting the book, there was a part of me that worried that I may be too attached to Enzo, the beloved canine narrator of Racing, that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate another work by Stein without him. I’ll be honest: I think of Enzo often. I think about his observations of the world and his sense of wonder to a point that I actually miss him. But I guess that’s one of the best things about books: when you miss a character you can always go back and re-read their story. In that sense, Enzo has never been very far away.
Thankfully I was quickly relieved to discover that I was perfectly capable of enjoying A Sudden Light. Or, perhaps it’s more apt to say that I had no choice in the matter. From the very start, the story pulled me in and took no time in completely engrossing me in its mysteries and enchanting narrative. Even when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about Trevor, the story’s 14-year old narrator. I was mulling over Riddell House and its secrets. I was hooked.
No, there is no Enzo in A Sudden Light; not even a hint of him. What we’re presented with instead is a rich tapestry of one family’s complicated history and an overlap of stories from a variety of perspectives across generations. The story begins with one big hole of a mystery, which quickly turns into a series of smaller, albeit equally pressing, mysteries. The reader is left scratching her brain, trying to piece together the big picture with the clues and evidence dutifully collected by Trevor who is as much as our partner in this as he is our narrator. The answers we’re looking for always feel so close and yet just out of reach until everything comes together almost peacefully in what I felt was a fairly satisfying, although in some ways surprising, conclusion.
A Sudden Light is also, much to my delight, a ghost story. I’ve been aching to read a good ghost story for quite some time. Not the kind set on a backdrop of grizzly murder and terrifying hauntings and leave you too afraid to sleep with the lights off. I wanted a more subtle fear and craved a ghost whose haunting came with a sense of purpose that was more than just old fashioned revenge. I wanted a ghost story with creepy bits that would frighten me just enough to keep me glancing over my shoulder yet still leave me feeling brave enough to keep hunting for more. This is the kind of ghost story I feel Stein has given us.
Without going into any details that might spoil the story, there were a few developments that I feel were left unresolved. Perhaps I missed something along the way and need to re-read the book with a closer eye on the details (which I probably would have done regardless. It’s the type of book you lament finishing because, as desperate as you were for a conclusion, you still did’t want it to be over). Still, what I realized as I read was that, as much as I still love Enzo, Stein’s real gift to us is his masterful storytelling. His narrative is often much like poetry but without being pompous; it is thought provoking and yet not so heavy that it slows the story down.
A Sudden Light is a captivating story that will lure you along with its words as well as its mysteries. While ghosts and deception aren’t new themes, some of the story’s plot points may surprise you and, if you mind isn’t already open, this book just might be able to help you out with that too.
Thank you, Garth, for rising to challenge of writing this wonderful story. I don’t doubt that The Art of Racing in the Rain left you with some high expectations to meet, but as a passionate fan of Enzo’s I can happily say that you succeeded. I’d also like to extend my thanks to the good people at Terra Communications for not forcing me to wait to experience this book. You’ve all given me a real gift.
I’ve now seen Chris Hadfield three times: once for a book signing, once very unexpectedly, and now at a speaking engagement. In case you’re wondering, he’s a passionate and eloquent speaker. He’s also hilarious.
As a blogger I occasionally find myself on the receiving end of various PR pitches. I have never exactly sworn off the idea of writing something in response to a pitch. Still, the majority of them are way off base (as in, you’ve never actually read my blog, have you?) or simply just don’t feel right. I’ve generally been a pretty good sport though. After all, as a fellow PR pro, I understand that the struggle is real.
Then along came the folks with Mattel and their fun little “Game Time is Anytime” contest. How did they know I love games? Did someone tell them about the card game debacle of last Thanksgiving? HOW DID THEY KNOW?
It doesn’t matter. The point is, I really enjoy games.
So, when they asked if I’d be interested in helping them promote their Facebook contest in exchange for some new games to add to my collection I couldn’t even play hard to get.
Game on, indeed.
The challenge was this: They would provide me with my own Game On kit and I in turn I would drop a surprise game night (or anytime, really. Because that’s the point. Game time? IT’S ANYTIME) on the good people in my life.
I thought about it for a long while. When and where was I going to drop a surprise game time on Kyle? Dinner? (But… But, food!) While we were watching TV? (Too obvious…)
Then it dawned on me that there was at least one regular routine in our lives that could definitely use an injection of random, spontaneous fun: Laundry day.
Not that doing ones laundry is ever fun but we are among the unlucky masses that need to visit a laundromat, which just makes the chore a million times worse. You have to lug your clothes out into public, spend way too much money doing something you hate, and you end up wasting valuable time literally watching something dry.
It was the prefect time to bust out the “game time” button!
The beauty of card games like “Uno” and “Apples to Apples” is that they’re portable, which means that it was easy to toss the card decks in with our haul of dirty gym clothes and detergent. And BAM! Just like that, laundry time = game time.
You don’t need to be a kid (or have them, for that matter) to appreciate playing a game with friends. Seriously, I’ll bet you’re reading this and remembering that fateful game night back in university and thinking to yourself, “That’s the stuff that dreams are made of, right there!”
Want to recreate the magic? Skip on over to Mattel’s Game On Facebook page and enter their weekly contests (which also happen to be games! EVERYTHING IS SO MUCH FUN!) for a chance to bring home a new game for you to surprise your friends and family with too! And/or shake up laundry day! Or any other time because, if it isn’t abundantly clear by now, game time is anytime!
Let me first preface this post by stating that I am a Habs fan. My hometown Winnipeg Jets come in a close second. To be honest, here isn’t a profesional hockey team out there that I hate, it’s just that if they aren’t from Montreal or Winnipeg I’m rather indifferent.
My boyfriend, however, happens to be a pretty big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If you know anything about the NHL then you can probably imagine that this coupling gets pretty interesting during hockey season.
But I love that man, dear reader. So much so that I was more than happy to join him at Toronto Maple Leafs Fan Fest with him last weekend. I may not bleed blue but I do enjoy hockey and thought it would be pretty cool to tour around behind the scenes at the Air Canada Centre.
I mean, for all I knew this could finally be my chance to bump into someone like Ron McLean! CAN YOU IMAGINE? Oh, man…
Plus I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to witness Kyle in his version of Disneyland.
— Sara Hamil (@SaraHamil) September 7, 2014
In general, it was a pretty awesome thing for any hockey fan to be a part of and it was clear that the Leafs fans were loving every minute of it. Personally, I was loving the Gardens pricing on concession items. $3 pizza? $5 beer?? Now that’s what I call an incentive!
I kid – I was having fun too.
I got into the spirit of things…
My overall expectation going into the day was to tag along and let Kyle soak in the glory of his team, but what neither of us realized was that we were both in for one hell of a surprise that would absolutely epitomize what it means to be in the right place at the right time.
After seeing some sights and participating in some photo ops we roamed the concourse looking for something to do next.
“Want to get our picture taken at the Hockey Central desk?” I asked, having spotted people waiting for their turn to pose behind the media desk. Kyle was game.
We were finally two spots away from the desk when Kyle gasped,
“Ooooh my God! Look who it is!”
My initial thought was, If it’s a Leaf then it doesn’t matter because I’m not going to recognize a single one of them without their uniform…
But I looked anyway. Because you never know, it could have been Rob McLean.
What I saw instead was a grey-haired, mustachioed face making its way up from behind the desk.
OMG that looks like Chris Hadfield.
Spoiler: It was totally Chris Hadfield.
*Insert hyperventilation and a couple of barely concealed curse words of surprise here*
His handler came up beside me and seemed very entertained by my inability to contain myself.
“Can we talk to him??” I all but shrieked.
“You can! You can even have a picture taken if you want!” She was like a genie. A magical, wish-granting genie.
I almost passed out. (If you know me at all then you know what a big deal this was)
And talk to him we did; Col. Chris Hadfield with his awesome customized jersey.
“We had no idea you were going to be here!” I squeaked.
“That’s the fun part!” He laughed.
We chatted about travel (he was leaving for Calgary as soon as he was done at Fan Fest, followed by a bunch of other places in very short order. I got jet lag just imagining it), he signed Kyle’s jersey (and was flattered to be in the fine company of Pat Quinn’s autograph), and he even got in on our Don Cherry-inspired thumbs-up pose.
It was awesome.
Not only was he not scheduled to be at the event but we seem to have caught him during a very brief window where he was meeting fans. Ten minutes after we had met him, he was gone again.
So, did I just write an entire post about my incredibly dumb luck?
Ed. Note: A version of this post originally appeared on my other blog The Let’s Go Ladies as part of our September “Study Abroad Month” but it was just such a fun personal story that I thought it deserved to live here too.
Have you been considering a study abroad term but aren’t quite sure whether or not you’re ready to take the leap? Well then settle in, dear reader, for I am going to tell you why doing a semester overseas was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Which is to say, maybe I can help you decide. (Spoiler: I’m in the “you should do it!” camp.)
I was 16 when I did my study abroad semester. Destination: The People’s Republic of China.
In all honesty, I had never thought about anything less when I made my decision to apply for the program. My familiarity with the country was extraordinarily limited, my knowledge of the language nonexistent, and I had actually never even been out of the country. I mean, my mom likes to remind me that we went on a family trip that took us through Chicago when I was an infant but I think we all know that’s not really the same thing.
All I knew at 16 was that I was afraid of my future and had to get away from my present for a while. China was, for all intents and purposes, as far away as I was going to be able to get. In other words: It was perfect.
Weeks of language lessons and the step-by-step visa application process that was handled by our school board ensured that I was fundamentally ready for China, but I was still as unprepared mentally as I had ever been by the time I left for my big adventure. In fact, it was only as we were flying in over Hong Kong that it hit me just how crazy the whole plan may have been.
“I’ve made a terrible mistake,” I remember muttering to myself as our plane descended, the pilot jovially playing tour guide as we passengers crushed our faces to the porthole windows. The city was gorgeous, I was on the other side of the planet, and all I could think of was getting on the first plane back to Canada.
Don’t worry, I didn’t.
And, as it turns out, I also hadn’t made a terrible mistake by going in the first place.
Sure, I was unprepared. My Canadian classmates and I wrestled with a mighty combination of homesickness and culture shock for our first couple of weeks (more on that in a future post). We had learned the wrong language (we had been taught Mandarin, but our new home was a city called Jiangmen in the southern province of Guangdong where people speak Cantonese. As we quickly discovered, the two are not interchangeable). But what I couldn’t possibly have known as I quietly panicked away in that airplane was that my life was never going to be the same again.
And that was a very good thing.
Here’s the thing about studying abroad: It is so much more than just getting to go to school in a cool new place.
When you study abroad, you’re learning both in the classroom and out of it. Unless you’re incredibly stubborn and refuse to open yourself up to new experiences (which I highly discourage) living and learning in a new country will force you out of your comfort zone and will expand your mind in ways that books (and, yes, even the internet) just can’t.
You’ll try new food and get to experience local customs. You’ll have to live in ways that seem strange and sometimes backwards (nothing builds character like having to squat over a pit toilet) and you’ll come out better for it. You’ll make new friends who will show you things about their culture that will make you feel like you’ve stumbled across a secret door to treasures unbeknownst to the average tourist because, really, you kind of have.
And that’s awesome. It’s all worth it.
You’ll make memories, you’ll feel braver, and when you’re done and you’ve returned home you will undoubtedly have a new perspective on life. The world will all at once feel both bigger and smaller. You’ll question your place in it and, if you ignore your fear and listen to that little voice in your head that tells you, “there’s got to be more than this” you’ll have set the wheels in motion for a life open to other exciting new experiences and who knows what else.
Or at least that’s what happened to me.
I was a real play-it-safe kind of girl before China. I liked feeling as though I completely understood the world around me and I liked knowing what I had to do to get to where I wanted to go in life. I studied hard and threw myself into whichever pursuit I thought was going to get me to the next stage of life, regardless of whether or not said pursuit made me happy. My worldview was painfully limited.
Studying and living in China opened my eyes to possibilities I had never considered before. It didn’t seem to make sense to waste my energies on things that didn’t make me happy or feel fulfilled anymore. There were too many awesome things to see and do to spend my life being bored! I had more respect for the things I didn’t understand and a thirst to make the unfamiliar into the familiar. I found in myself a courage I hadn’t known before and that courage urged me to keep trying new things, to keep learning, and to keep experiencing the world.
I came back from my study abroad term a very different person and I can say without a shred of doubt it was all for the best. I can thank the courage and perspective I gained from that experience for the things I’ve gone on to do and accomplish in life . I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
So, are you still thinking about studying abroad?
Because I think you should do it.
I’ve got nothin’ for you today, folks. So, here: Have a picture of Jasper looking like the incredibly cool dude that he is.