July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

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July 15 – school’s out forever

356/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This gratitude post is for every former student who has stayed in touch with me/kept in contact with me.  For those who are on my Facebook feed and will give an occasional comment or a like on some ridiculous life event that I have posted, I appreciate you.  For those who spot me in a restaurant or pub and come up and shake hands/give me a hug, I am honoured.  For those who are going about their life be it at an event or working in the community and I happen to be there unknowingly and you go out of your way to say hi, I am moved.  For those of you who throw out a text and ask to connect over beers/movie/dinner, I feel privileged.  For those of you who take it upon yourselves (years later) to send me a shout out telling me how I affected you positively, I am beyond words.  I feel I have been very fortunate to have become a teacher but it’s all because of the amazing former students that I got to work with.  The majority were from Burnett – 16 years’ worth!! I have only been at McNair for four years so the legacy is just being created as of yet but there are the rare few that fit into this category and I was only in Vancouver for two years at different schools and thus, made minimal connections.  Although this gratitude post might be short in length, it’s huge in how I feel about the students I have worked with – just because you didn’t get a personal shout out during this past year doesn’t mean you didn’t impact me in some form as we all have different ways of connecting but thank you to all of you who have passed through my doors but more importantly to all of you that I still “connect” with.

May 19 – the lady at the gym

299/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Do you ever have moments when something clairvoyant-like takes place and you are trying to get an understanding of the logic behind it?  The other day I was thinking of a woman that I would run into back in my 20s and 30s when I used to work out at Fitness World.  I was wondering whatever happened to her.  She was a Punjabi woman who was well over my mom’s age (probably by a decade or more).  I was fascinated by her because first she was working out lifting weights.  Second, she had short cropped hair – growing up Indo-Canadian, all females sported long hair and older women had auntie-buns – but not her.  Third, she was made up to the nines (yes, she was working out but damn, she did it in style).  Fourth, her English, although accented, was impeccable.  I recall her sitting on a bike next to me striking up a conversation with me and of course, small world – she knew my mom and my extended family.  She started giving me hugs when I would be at the gym and I met her once at the temple where she just grabbed me and told my mom that I was her other son and we had only talked casually.  I admired her and how she really got me to see older Indian woman in a different light than what I was used to growing up.  The evening after she had popped into my head earlier this week, my mom phoned and asked me if I remember a woman who used to work out at the gym.  I was floored as I told her that I was just thinking about her.  My mom got all quiet and then told me that she had just gone to her husband’s funeral that day and that she (this lady) was asking about her “son” (me)!  To say I was weirded out would be an understatement.  I guess I also affected her on some level.  I made a promise to my mom that in the upcoming weeks I would make a trip to her place to give my condolences but also to connect with her.  I am very fortunate that a lot of good people have come into my life over the years to get me to think about life and this lady is one of those people.  Thank you for allowing me to see (Indo-Canadian) women of my mom’s generation and older as productive, vital, independent and lively rather than what I was shaped to see them as through my interactions in a patriarchal cultural.  I look forward to our reunion where I can tell you this in person.

March 31 – this is how you do 50

250/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As I’ve mentioned several times before, as a young person, I had difficulty making friends and having friendships.  I was not comfortable with myself I suppose and this was easily read by others (let’s leave all the bullying to the side and focus on my personality rather than my looks way back then).  I didn’t have opportunities to make friendships until I was able to shed all the weight, gain some confidence and grow into my looks.  Over the years, I have made good friendships but the thing about most of them is that my friends are my junior by a few years to a couple of decades.  Initially, I wondered about myself and also about them as to why they wanted to be my friend but to quote Aaliyah “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” and I am so okay with it now.  However, making friends, lasting friends later on in one’s life (remember I am 50!!) is a tough thing to do.  Even harder is making friends who are your age-mates.  Hockey dadding has helped but I have also made friends outside of teaching and parenting.  Dean is one of those friends.  We met a few years ago and we had an instant chemistry and friendship.  A couple of months older than me, he was working at UBC while I had just finished my stint there.  Initially, I just thought this was just like many people you meet and might friend on Facebook but rarely talk to afterwards but we have maintained our friendship.  We are yin and yang as friends:  me, the wild man-bun sporting, loud, out there guy and him, the reserved, GQish, intellect.  However, despite our differences, we are friends and in two years, we have created a great friendship and he becomes another shoulder to lean on.  He also inspires me – running his first marathon to celebrate his 50th while I ran a marathon as well – partying for 7 days straight with various friends.  As well, I want to have a refined fashion sense for a 50 year old man.  I don’t!  He does!  Yes, Dean is probably how 50 should be done!  I do question the gin martinis and have yet to convince him of the merits of craft beer but I can forgive that one difference in our tastes.  So glad we met and yes, I raise a gin martini (reluctantly) in your honour!  You rock!

February 20 – defy aging

211/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s very strange to me that almost all of my friends and acquaintances are younger than me and not by just a coupe of years. I could probably count on one hand those that are older than me. If I dared analyze why this is the way it is – which I’m about to do – it’s probably because of my late personal development. I didn’t really come into who I was much later than most people. I often get asked what I think of 70s music? When did I start drinking? Partying? Dating? Which movies I watched back in the day? I didn’t experience any of it. Because of a combinations of things – bullying based on my appearance and my dad institutionalized for most of my late childhood and early to mid teens, I wasn’t asked/invited/introduced to such things and we wouldn’t have had the money to afford some of these extravagances. I was expected to be a good boy and be home after school, study to get into university and to get a part time job. I worked every summer. I finally experienced my own freedom around 17/18 years of age. This was my entrance into my teen years – almost ¾ of a decade later. I have been often told that I don’t look or act like 50 or 40 or whatever age I was at the time – initially, I’m revelling in the compliment but then I get a bit out of sorts as the people I’m with are late 20s, mid 30s, late 30s, early 40s and I start to consciously think about why they are hanging with me and why I am hanging with them. I know that I offer something to them as they do to me to validate and continue our friendships but I’m the first to go to the age defense mechanism to protect myself but not once has that ever been a hindrance on their part and I guess what this reveals to me is that perhaps I’m the one who has a bit of an ageist bent; whereas, all these “young” people don’t judge me on a number but on who I am and what I bring to our friendships. To all of you who have been, are and will be in my life through friendships, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for accepting me for me even when I am constantly challenged by my own age. You keep this 50 year old young in mind, body and spirit – cheers to each and every one of you!

January 14 – listen to your elders

174/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. When you’re in your 20s, you think you know it all and don’t have the need for anyone’s advice, especially unsolicited advice. This was the way I was but I was respectful about it – I’d heed the advice but as soon as it was given, it would as easily leave my cognition. However, I do remember one moment in time where I did not only pay attention but followed the person’s suggestion and here I am freshly turned 50 and I have him to thank for it. I was about 25, perhaps 26, and was sitting at a lunch table with a few new, younger fellow teachers and telling them that I had received a letter from Social Services (Welfare) and was told that I had about a $2000 pension amount with them as a result of my previous 18 month stint with them. I was telling this table group that I had the option to take it out or roll it over into the teacher’s pension but why would I do the latter when I could spend it and go to Vega$$$. As we are laughing, Ken W, the Humanities teacher sitting with his buddies playing crib at another table – who I hadn’t formally met yet since this was only my first or second year of teaching – told me that even though I didn’t know him, to take his advice and roll the money over as I would retire earlier. He went on to mention that yes, he was some 40ish year old teacher giving the newbie advice about money but when I reached his age, I would thank him. Exactly what I was thinking – I’m only starting to teach, retirement?! Yet, his message resonated on some level and since I really didn’t need the $2000 at the moment, I let the money roll over. Fast forward to today at 50 and I am so glad that I listened to Ken. Although, the government and teacher’s association are looking at pension and retirements, I am very fortunate in that the decision I made on Ken’s advice will allow me to retire with a full pension at 57 (only 7 years away) rather than 60/61 had I taken it out and spent it foolishly. Also, I still have lots more that I can possibly do at 57 so it’s a win/win for me. Yes, Ken, you are right. Here I am a little older than when you gave me the advice but you were so right – best decision I made for myself. Thank you so much for approaching me and just telling me what you thought was right. In your honour, I keep my finances all in check!

January 11 – the atypical Bowie post

171/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I am not jumping on the David Bowie bandwagon as I can not say that I was influenced by his music. I got into his songs in the 80s with Let’s Dance and China Girl and only discovered classics such as Golden Years well after the fact. However, I was inspired by David Bowie’s sense of style and versatility – Women have their style icons but guys like me really don’t – especially guys like me who change their look so often and that was one thing David Bowie did. If you know me in person – especially after my awkward teen years – you know that I change my look so frequently that most people can’t keep track of it – I’ve had red hair and blonde hair (for 15 years!!) and blue hair, I’ve rocked all sorts of facial hair, experimented with contacts and glasses, played around with asynchronous, man-bunned, crazy curled, short cropped, shaved down hair. My clothes – don’t even begin to get me started. But each and every phase, it was David Bowie who made me feel “normal” – here was a guy who just kept on reinventing himself. A very cool guy who was fashionable before it was fashionable to be so. A guy who just epitomized coolness to me. A guy who was older by two decades but didn’t let his age at any given time define him Yes, I may not have been into your musical artistry but you inspired me with your visual artistry. In your honour, I’m gonna keep on reinventing and rocking my look well into my Golden Years!

January 4 -kindness epitomized

164/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Heart of Gold. We’ve heard that being used to describe a person but have you met someone who genuinely fits that descriptor? I believe I have only ever met one person who wholeheartedly epitomized the phrase. George L was the kindest man. He was the vice principal at the first school that I had a long-term job at. Of course, I was nervous and thought all the administrators had way more power and influence over me than they really had – yes, I was naïve 😉 George was one of three admin team members and I worked with him while he was at the tail end of his career and I was just starting out. I could go to George and just chat about things and he was like a father figure – always giving me good advice without ever judging what I was doing negatively. I can’t recall one instance where we ever disagreed on any matter. However, the best thing I remember about George was his kindness – always bringing in food to feed the masses: chicken wings, home-made sushi, and other such treats. I would make a point of going to the office just to see (and sample) what might be waiting for me and get two or more in before the others 😉 George also opened up his home to the staff for frequent parties and social events and what a home it was!!! He was on top of technology when technology was in its infancy. The biggest screen tv/movie theatre that nothing current can rival. Amazing sound system. So much food cooked for us – bellies full whenever we went over. And the bar!! To die for!! And it was an open bar!! Yeah, to die for! He never expected any compensation in return except for us to be happy and having a good time. George and his wife did it all because of who they were – amazing, wonderful people. I have since lost touch with George but I wanted to extend my warmest thanks for making my beginning years in teaching a thing I look back upon with fondness. I steal an extra futo-maki in your honour! Awesome man you are George!

December 13 – a helping hand

142/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. My father passed away two and a half years leaving my mom behind. Unlike most Indo-Canadian families, I, as the only son, do not have my mom living with my own family. It is the case in my culture that this extended family cohabitation is common practice but being born and raised in Canada, I didn’t really want to be a part of it and surprisingly and very progressive of my mother, she wanted to have her own independence and never wanted to live with her adult children or vice versa. I am very thankful for my mom’s friends – especially Gurdev and Charanjit. These ladies always have events such as lunches or concerts or trips planned that include my mom. Charanjit lives in the neighbourhood and is either at my mom’s house or my mom is at her home engaged in sewing crafts, trying out different recipes or just hanging out. Gurdev, also a widow like my mom, lives in Vancouver and the two of them engage in activities from shopping for new Indian garments or helping at the temple or driving to meet other friends for lunch. I am very grateful to these two ladies in that they not only keep my mom occupied but they keep her vital. She could be a 70 year old shut-in feeling sorry for herself but instead she is an active, independent woman who does her own thing. She does not rely on me, her son, for anything and the selfish boy in me can admit and appreciate that. Thank you Charanjit and Gurdev for not only befriending my mom and keeping her engaged in life but also for allowing me to live my adult life without feeling obligated, dare I say encumbered, with constant mom patrol for which I am forever grateful.

December 3 – 75 is the new 50

132/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. During my recent stay in the hospital, due to a shortage of beds, I ended up on a ward where at 50 years old, I definitely skewed the mean age downwards to about 70 years. Initially, I was too drugged up to notice anybody but as I slowly came out of the medically induced haze, I regarded my fellow roommates. Two men in their mid 80s and a woman in her late 70s – most of them not able to take care of their basic needs. Perhaps because of some deeply rooted yet untapped ageism issues but probably more so the fact of my impending foray into becoming a Slipper wearing Silver myself, the presence of my neighbours in this room added to my overall general distress. As the initial shock of my surroundings abated and I started gaining some mobility, I started to pay more attention to the others. I watched as their grown adult children came in for visits. I watched the love that was shown by these adults to their parents. I watched as the parents looked with pride at their offspring. I listened to the banal conversations but I observed what it did to the faces and hearts of my roommates. I then reflected on the lack of significant golden year-ers in my life not because there aren’t any but because I kept my distance (even with my own father) and realized that this was because of my obsession with looking and acting youthful which was to hide my fear of growing old and having to face the inevitable. Who would have thought that a physical injury would reveal a much more deeply rooted mental truth that I didn’t want to admit. I am 50, I am getting old, my body isn’t what it once was, my healing takes longer, life is different but I am living life!! I thank the seniors in my hospital room and all seniors that have been in my life in the past and present. In your honour, I will continue to redefine 50 on my own terms BUT now within realistic parameters.