January 31 – she exemplifies “nice”

191/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I often wonder how I have become friends with people who are a decade or even two decades my junior. I guess it’s personalities that attract friends but I always thought age would be a barrier as I couldn’t see myself in my 30s being friends with someone who was 50. However, this says a lot about the people who I associate with in that they don’t let age define friendship. One of these people is Jennie J. I met her at the gym a couple of years ago during the 4pm classes I regularly attended and we hit it off right away and became part of a group we called the 4pm crew – we consider ourselves as part of the founding members 😉 Jennie is probably a good 15 or more years my junior – in fact I could have taught her in high school but that age difference has not gotten in the way of our friendship. We easily laugh at the same things at the gym – usually me wanting to cheat on a couple of sets. We have become social friends and have hung out with our gym crew several times. We have easy chemistry even if one or the other hasn’t been at the gym for ages, we easily pick up from where we left off. She has been very supportive of me and given me good advice on personal matters and health matters (it’s nice to have a nurse as a friend!!) plus anytime I’m down on Main Street at the brew pubs with buddies which happens to be Jennie’s hood, I always give her a shout and she will make an effort to come out and say hi. One of the nicest people you could ever get to know, I’m so happy for her and her recent engagement. Thanks Jennie for being a good friend and being there physically and in spirit whenever I need you! You are an awesome person!

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January 30 – the best time of my life

190/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I lived a very sheltered life. I did not see Star Wars in its first run nor Grease. I didn’t start drinking for the first time until my early 20s. I hadn’t ventured out traveling (without family) until I decided to go to Quebec for a French Language Bursary program that I had heard about in one of my courses at UBC. Basically the government paid for your tuition, food and lodging – you just had to get yourself there. I went to Ste Foy and the Univesite de Laval. First time on my own at 21. If you have read my gratitude posts, you will recall that I was placed in the wrong French level and that I was very homesick and about to leave and if not for a few new people I met, especially my comrade during that time JonArno, I would never had the experience of a lifetime. JonArno was a few years my junior but we hit it off right away. For the first time in life, I had a cool male friend and others wanted to hang with us (yes, that former bullied kid was now on the inside). I had the time of my life during those 6 weeks whereas others may have thought this was just an ordinary experience but for me a whole new world opened up and JorArno’s friendship was one of the primary reasons. We filmed a French film in the catacombs (okay, they were just underground tunnels connecting the campus), we went on required group tours of museums and cultural sights but escaped to go shopping or drink coffee, we saved up our weekly allowance and found Happy hours where they served 3 for 1 drinks (L’etranger being one of my favourite bars), we went to crazy dance clubs, we hitchhiked to Montreal city with a guy with no nose, we went to a jazz bar, we found a campus room but had to lie and say there was only one of us and well, there was a cherry incident that shall go unmentioned except for the fact that there was a cherry incident, we drank wine and ate bread on park benches until I was told that was illegal, we wandered around Chateau Frontenac – so many, many cool times 😉 I thank you JonArno for being an awesome friend to a guy who never, ever thought he was cool. You didn’t know me but just accepted me and gave me your friendship and made those 6 weeks amazing. I thank you for that and because I had such an amazing experience, I refuse to go back to Quebec city lest I tarnish those amazing memories.

January 29 – you knew me better than i knew myself

189/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Earlier in these posts, I mentioned one person of a trio back when I first started my first full time teaching job at a school in Richmond called Burnett – today it is about the other person in that triad, that holy trinity of the Business Department at Burnett. I was there for a few years and was the only one in my department but then we added senior grades which necessitated the addition of new staff members to the department. Two new female teachers were hired and since I lived only a few blocks from the school, I invited them to my house over the summer to get to know them. I met Chris(tine) for the very first time that year and we had instant chemistry – we were able to easily joke and had an easiness that usually takes years to establish. She shared her stories of teaching in the prison system – I sat back pretending it was no big deal whereas I was secretly bowing down to her knowing that I could never have done that. As the years of teaching progressed, we got into our niche courses but still took time to hang outside socially and I can still recall late night marking at school and then just hanging out laughing and creating silly online surveys for each other with even sillier – even risqué answers – oh the things teachers do to get through report card time!! LOL. However, the most important thing that Chris and I did was discuss life and I will never forget the advice/moral support she gave me in regards to being a father of a son. I had a daughter at the time and mentioned to her that I could never see myself be a father to a son as I am the opposite of masculine and that’s what a boy needs. She looked at me and said that I would be the perfect father for a son in that I would give him everything he needs to be a man and that I would learn about sports – not necessarily be an expert – but I would be there for him. I didn’t really believe her but a few years later, I found myself in that very position – father of a son who over the years is the most uber-masculine boy, the boy that I feared that I would fail but Chris’ words come back to me time and time again that I will be a great dad and here I am 16 years down the path and she was right. I am so glad I had a son and she had it all figured out even when I didn’t. Thank you for the great times at JNB but thank you more for believing in me and giving me the advice and support that I would make a great dad for a son!!

January 28 – escape back in time

188/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I love music of all sorts but if I had to choose – I am definitely an 80s boy. Maybe I’m biased but that decade had the best music. Like most things in life, I discovered music much later and unlike those of my age group who have been heavily influenced by prog rock, soul and disco of the 70s, for me it’s all about the big hair, wild fashions and great tunes of the 1980s. If you were to walk by my classroom, I am the one who is playing tunes full blast. Yes, I cater to my teen audience during the day and play Big Sean to One Direction to Adele and when I marking some mindless dance tunes in the background but inevitably, I wind my way back to that era where most artists had an entire album of amazing singles not just one hit with filler – the 80s. You may say that I am nostalgic and yearning for the past – I’d argue as I wasn’t the coolest person back then but music did help me get through that time and my hard earned money would be spent on albums as music was where I could run to and escape from my daily existence and imagine a whole new life. As you are well aware if you read this blog, I like to take on challenges (day 188!!) and I have embarked on another one – listing my favourite songs for an entire year on my Facebook account. I am on day 28 and well over half the tracks come from – well yes, you guessed it – the 80s. Great memories of the songs and thanks to Youtube a revisit of the video (some of which I’m seeing for the first time) – I can and do easily fall into an 80s music wormhole wasting my time away! Thank you to the amazing singers and bands (too many to name) and the awesome producers with your signature sounds – you made my crazy teen life bearable and provided me with refuge when I needed it most and in your honour, another eclectic playlist is created!

January 27 – i hide it well today

187/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. For as long as I can remember, I have been overweight/fighting a weight problem. In elementary school, my mom could not find belts to fit me and I had to resort to wearing suspenders to hold my pants up 😦 In high school, I was 250 pounds and all of it fat which definitely contributed to being bullied. I didn’t learn how to eat well and thus ate anything that tasted good but wasn’t definitely good for me – I mean, I recall eating spoons of salted butter or the fatty rinds of pork chops and my favourite part of KFC was the skin and potato salad. I guess I really didn’t help my own cause. I also remember my mom making me workout (squats for half an hour or running around the yard for half an hour) before she’d let me eat – many times I just gave up and didn’t get dinner. Although cruel, I understand that she was trying to help me out in her own way – not great parenting but hey, it is what it is. With a crazy late start to puberty (yup, Grade 11 – oh how the Gods must have been having a heyday with me!!), I ended up shedding the observable excess weight just before entering university; however, I still had chunk and could and did easily put on the pounds because I still knew nothing about nutrition and healthy eating. Because of the pre-Internet era, I would only catch information through television and the one show that I did watch was “20/20”. I happened to catch and episode on meat-processing which started my vegetarian ways 23 years ago. In the last decade or so, I have given over to watching the occasional documentaries and reading about food online which has helped me to maintain my weight – I’ve been able to curb refined sugar significantly, jump into veganism but quickly jump back out, give up wheat for a while (William Davis), try the 25 mile eating plan, think about McDs and what it did to my body (Morgan Spurlock) and even get into juicing (Joe Cross). As I sit and write this, I am on day 4 of a juice cleanse (but let’s be real, it’s a liquid diet) – I’m doing it to reset my body as I have been making poor choices and have gained weight especially since my injury and not being able to work out. I am very grateful that these documentarians have shared their journeys and influenced mine as without knowing about their experiences, I would not be changing mine. To all the healthy eaters that I have read about via blogs and books and that I have seen on through documentaries and testimonials, I raise my ginger, beet, tangerine and kale juice in your honour – here’s to getting back to my summer weight!

January 26 – from babysitter to teacher

186/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Up until these gratitude posts, I thought my first few jobs were at McD’s, Bootlegger and A&A Records but I realized that I also had a babysitting job in the neighbourhood. I actually don’t recall how I got the job – probably through word of mouth (and now that I think about it, why wasn’t it my sister who was doing it – not being sexist but I don’t recall a single guy in high school babysitting LOL). The A—–r’s were an Indian family also living on the same street but were of a different background than that of my Sikh parents – I believe their last name was of Sanskrit origin and they were Hindu. The father and mother were both professors at UBC – I was dumbfounded as up until that moment, I had never met anyone who was Indian in a position of academia and here were a married couple living in my neighbourhood. I somehow think that meeting them led me to believe I could become something other than what I was used to seeing in my immediate and extended family – a labourer/blue collar worker. The children were well behaved – the daughter R (whom I was never told outright) was a high functioning Down’s Syndrome child and the son M (whom also I was never told outright) was on the other spectrum, a genius. Both kids wanted me to read to them at night and these were not everyday Disney classics – the books the parents had selected were intellectually challenging and yes, not what I expected I would be reading. There was also no cable – just basic channels and thus, I spent a lot of time doing my homework while the kids were sleeping. The thing that I most remember is both parents talking to me before heading out (which was often as they had many university dinners) and telling me that I could definitely become something of myself specifically Dr. A taking me aside and motivating me to do well in school. He had said to me that being Indian, I had to work twice as hard to get half as much and that has always stuck in my head – not necessarily because I feel that it is so but I feel that perhaps on a subconscious level I felt it so and that’s why I may have the drive, stamina, work ethic and perfectionism that permeates my very being. As is with most of the gratitude honorees, I have lost touch with them but because of tonight’s blog entry, I did Google search them and was pleasantly surprised to see entries, videos, pictures of them in their respective careers/endeavours. Thank you to the A——-r’s for giving me that gentle subconscious push to be all that I could possibly be.

January 25 – Mulder & Scully

185/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. The Truth Is Out There and it’s back. I started watching the XFiles the year I received my first full time teaching job in Richmond and the same September that my daughter was born. Up until the XFiles, everything that I watched was a far cry from intelligent and also never from the science fiction genre. Yes, I jumped on the bandwagon as everyone was mentioning that it was filmed in Vancouver and I wanted to be engaged in the water cooler conversation that was bound to take place. I instantly fell in love with the show and its mythology – although I was more a fan of the stand-alone episodes as the main storyline got convoluted. I stuck with the show through all seasons – even with new main characters introduced in the final years (even watching the movies) when most fans had abandoned the series. My tv viewing over the years has been heavily influenced by both the XFiles science fiction – Walking Dead fits the mould perfectly as well as a strong female character lead – Orphan Black fits the mould perfectly! Thank you Chris Carter for creating an intelligent show that got me thinking about conspiracy theories, aliens, government cover-ups and the fact that science doesn’t explain everything. I can’t say that I always make intelligent television viewing choices but the Xfiles influence definitely colours my choices and for that I am thankful.

January 24 – thank u to the thank u students

184/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. This post is for every student that I have taught who has told me that my teaching has had an effect on them – whether telling me orally or putting it on a note, card or email or just thinking about it – I greatly appreciate you and the passion you ignite in me for teaching. From the day I started, it’s all been because of the students in my classes that has kept me going. From my first day of practicum at Charles Tupper teaching Marketing and Accounting and Data Processing, I still remember the kids from my Marketing class who at the end of my 13 week practicum, got together and presented me with a gold pen and pencil set. I was in shock and didn’t know how to react but my practicum teacher said that this was the mark of a teacher who had made a connection. I knew from that moment on that putting my heart and soul into what I love was being recognized by the ones that were directly affected by what I did for a living. Early in my career, my wife created a keepsake binder to accumulate the various thank you cards and notes students had given me usually at the end of a semester. Initially, I didn’t see what the point of it was as I thought I wasn’t going to reread them but the binder has been one of the best gifts that I have received. I know my students must have thought long and hard to write the cards and notes and I greatly appreciate it – I mean, teenagers have so much more to do with their time but to sit down and write a letter of gratitude, that definitely moves me. In fact, whenever I get a little down about teaching (which is rare), I just randomly grab a card out of the binder and re-read why I do what I do. It’s really not about the subject matter but much more about the students who are in my classes that makes teaching such a wonderful job. For every student who to do this day still respects my teaching and what I taught them and who felt I made a difference, I thank you as that’s all I need to reach my goal of Self-Actualization. You have done just as much for me as I have done for you. In your honour, I take out that binder and reminisce once more.

January 23 – soul mate

183/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Everyone needs an ego boost – especially if you feel that you never mattered growing up. I know that I didn’t have it happening at all when I was younger and that shaped me subconsciously as an adult and any attention I received, I wrote off to people just being nice. I can honestly admit to this day that I have no clue when someone is paying genuine attention to me and elaborating on that, I would never know if someone would be hitting on me. I have no idea what that is about as I don’t believe I am hittable if that makes sense – yes, years of not mattering have an influence on one’s ego. During my year in the Education program at UBC, I made acquaintances with quite a few people inside and outside of my Business Education option. I vividly remember sitting in the library just when we had found out our practicum placements. Two other people whom I didn’t know were sitting at the table – a guy named Sergio and a stunning, absolutely beautiful girl named Julie. They were in the Elementary option whereas I was in the Secondary one. Julie asked me where I was placed and I told her East Van. Then I went on a tirade about East Van schools and played on the stereotypes of gangs, shootings and drugs etc just to break the ice and joke about schools. I didn’t mean any offense but that is not how Sergio took it. He looked up at us and said that there are people from East Van who do actually graduate high school, go on to university and create something of themselves and then told us what school he went to in East Van just as he hastily got up to leave. I looked up at Julie and she looked at me – we were ashamed at the same time but we burst out laughing  I felt an immediate connection with her and had a quick conversation but I also had to get up and gather my books as class was about to start. A couple of weeks later, a few friends invited me to a social at a Kitsilano pub and I got there a bit early. No one I knew was there but a few Elementary teachers and who was in that crew but Julie. She invited me over and we hung out easily over some food and beers until my friends eventually arrived and us Secondary folk started talking education – most of them noticing my companion and making innuendos that I wasn’t cognizant of. A few weeks later, there was a beer festival on campus for Education students and my Business Education cohorts convinced me into attending and who was there? Yup, Julie. By this time, the guys in the program were all about bugging me about her and I was still oblivious. She came over, made conversation and everyone told me that I had an admirer. I was confused. I can admit that after that conversation, I knew Julie liked me and we had awesome chemistry that couldn’t be denied and an easy flow but the fat kid in me couldn’t understand why – yes soul mates that kept being drawn to each other but the timing wasn’t right and it just wasn’t meant to be. Years later, I was walking downtown minding my own business just looking at the sidewalk and then something made me look up and, yes just like in a movie, there was Julie walking in the opposite direction. She looked up at the same time. Hearts skipping a beat, we chatted. We were in different parts of our lives but the chemistry and connection was undeniable. Once again, we went on our ways but I often think of Julie who saw in me something I never did and made me feel that I was worthy. Yes, we were not meant to be in this lifetime but I do think I met my soul mate and I know that we are destined to meet again in another lifetime!   However, this does not mean that one should not live their life just in the hopes of waiting for a soul mate as most people won’t find that person and could lose out on a lot living. If you happen to meet your soul mate and they fit at a time that works for both of you, awesome. If it isn’t meant to be at that moment, one still has a lot of life to live and should do just that. Thank you Julie for meeting me in this lifetime – until the next one, let’s see what takes place!

January 22 – trans??

182/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the last day of semester one at my school. I have finished with the current crop of students and will now prepare for my next 5 months with a new group. As I am reflecting on my last semester, I think back to any substantial differences that I made for my students and this year, I can truly say that I did but it’s because I learned a lot in the process. I taught Psychology 12 and have a unit on adolescent development. This has been my defining course as I developed it and proposed it to the Richmond School District about a decade or more ago and have been the fortunate one to be able to teach what I created. I created a unit on adolescence and put in topics regarding alternate gender identifications other than the binaries of male and female that we have been accustomed to in our heterornormative existence – and no offense to anyone because that’s what we have been taught subconsciously. This year, unbeknownst to me, I had a transgender student in class. He made a comment on an assignment and I didn’t think twice as I thought he was male but because he drew attention to his gender, I was alerted. I asked the secretaries and was informed that the student I was inquiring about was “female”. I was confused. But he was not. It took me the year to have a discussion with him and he told me that I was the only teacher in his entire schooling who addressed this and that I was the only teacher who incorporated gender identity in subject matter. I did not react at the time that he told me this but I am very moved as I write this. I was bullied for my appearance (ethnic, fat, effeminate etc) but never about my gender identity as I knew I was male and my biology matched that. I made sure that I did extra research about gender identity, gender dysphoria and transgendered individuals to ensure that my lectures were correct. Thank you “student” for bringing me back to teacher and learning a lot more because I want to ensure all my students feel that my classroom is their classroom.