July 24 – last post: me, myself & I

365/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This is it.  The end is finally here.  My year-long gratitude journey comes to a close with this final post and to quote that song – I did “Save the Best for Last”.  Yes, that may sound very narcissistic but that’s the entire point of this gratitude post.  It’s about me.  And why can’t one or rather why shouldn’t one recognize themselves.  Take pride in their own accomplishments.  Think highly of themselves.  If you don’t think well of yourself and put yourself first, why should anyone else think any better of you.  I have always done that and never let what was happening in my life change the way I see myself.  Maybe that’s why I’ve gotten through all that life has thrown me and I’ve shown life that I believe in me, and so should everyone else.  I’m far from perfect and I can admit my foibles but they don’t define me – I focus on the positives.  This year long journey has allowed me to become even more comfortable in my own skin – I mean, I got a belly from inactivity this year (through no fault of my own – injuries and sickness) and the Randy of a year ago would have been obsessing over it but today’s Randy is oh well, I’ll work on it.  I went through a relationship crisis that I am still working on but I’m not so consumed that I won’t allow myself to enjoy what life puts in my way at the moment.  I fully embraced aging – denying in my 40s but wearing it proudly in my 50s – I mean I accepted my grey hair finally purple shampoo withstanding 😉  I make fun of myself because I know that I am sometimes not the brightest bulb but I still shine bright (maybe not like a diamond though) : )  I am proud of my ethnicity and no longer denying it.  I admit and own up to my weaknesses and character flaws and am trying to learn to improve myself.  I’ve opened up over the past year.  I’ve shared more than most people share in a lifetime and only then to a few close people.  I’ve alienated people but I’ve also earned the respect of others.  I am strong.  I am weak.  I am bold.  I am nervous.  I want to be accepted.  I want to accept.  I want to be loved.  I want to love.  I want to be respected.  I want to be needed.  I want to be heard.  But with all that, I am so very happy with myself.  I am a good person.  I try hard.  I don’t always succeed but I have a good heart.  Yes, I hurt but that won’t get in the way of me still being me.  I know I’m too much for a lot of people but I’m not going to change for anyone as I love who I am and how I put myself out there.  And I love the people who have stood by me and who support me.  I am me.  I have a lot more to learn about myself and still open up about that 365 days didn’t allow but in the end, what I undertook and finished and who I am as a result is someone I am very proud of!  On this last day, I thank me, myself and I as I am a pretty awesome guy if I don’t say so myself ; )

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July 23 – my wife

364/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Here it is.  The penultimate post.  The one that I wanted to write so many times but wasn’t ready for.  This one is for my wife – Lak.  I have not prepped my wife for this.  Yes, it may be wrong of me but I have to go with my heart.  I know that she is the yin to my yang and thus, this post is not what she would want as she is a very private person but I have been honest and public throughout the year and I have to finish on the same path.  My wife and I had an introduced marriage – not arranged as both of us had a “choice” to say no.  I had met several girls but the moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Unfortunately for her, I was the first guy she met so she really didn’t get a chance to see others.  I know that we both felt pressured to get married – her more so than me and both of us being good children did what we were supposed to (this was the late 80s).  She was only 19 and I was 22 when we ended up getting married.  That first year – in fact the first couple of years – we were like a dating couple trying to get to know each other, figure each other out while being legally married at the same time.  I will say it straight up – I was not the best of husbands.  I was, I guess we both were, children thrown into this situationship but I acted like it; however, Lak was and is the one who could handle it and had/has maturity beyond her years.  I know I didn’t make the marriage easy on her but she sacrificed who she was to make it work and only in the past couple of years have I realized the things she has done to make sure that our home was a home and how she put her own needs after everyone else’s.  Yes, I took things for granted.  She is an amazing mother.  I fully recognize that.  Our daughter is a damn, wonderful young woman and it’s because of Lak and the tight bond that the two of them have and share.  My son, although he likes to pretend mom doesn’t matter, is her baby boy.  He adores her but won’t admit it.  She has been wonderful to them and has always put the kids first.  I know that is said of many mothers but Lak actually does it and I know my daughter realizes it and my son will also once he becomes a young adult and I definitely realize it though I should have acknowledged it more.  Not only is Lak physically stunning – yes, I’ve been told by several people (hundreds in fact) on how beautiful she is and what is she doing with me and yes, that’s a good question – but she is a very kind hearted, generous person to all those around her, a full time working mom (and has been since before the children were born and while they were young – never taking any time off) and a responsible daughter as well as good cousin, sister and friend.  As the years progressed and as does happen in many relationships, ours took a turn for the worse.  The boat that you thought was sailing along smoothly, capsized not as a result of some storm that you could have predicted and planned for but more due to the neglect of the maintenance required for the boat and then just getting used to it and the apathy towards the repairs that were necessary.  The boat tried to right side but would take on a lot of water and thus, we decided to take time apart from each other to reassess the boat itself as a vessel – I moved out.  New uncharted territory for both of us.  I decided to go public about the separation and with my feelings (freshly starting the gratitude posts into the first year of the separation); whereas, Lak wanted to deal with our relationship privately.  In retrospect, I totally understand her reasoning but in the moment, I wasn’t hearing it – something that has been my downfall throughout the almost 30 year relationship.  I definitely could have been a more understanding, more helpful, more there for her, more in tune with her needs type of husband.  Alas, I wasn’t and I apologize for my shortcoming but here we are back in the same space co-parenting our teenage son.  Where is this relationship between the two of us going to go?  I couldn’t even begin to guess.  Today’s post is not meant to be a public apology to undo the past but rather a public acknowledgement of gratitude for you, Lak being a great wife over the years to my not-so-perfect husband.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and wherever our roads lead us – either together on the same one, side by side intersecting here and there or in two opposite directions, I wanted to say I’ve loved sharing the journey and yes, I do love you!

July 21 – friends in all places

362/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Do you have those friends that you can pick up where you left off be it a couple of months or even a couple of years? I’m lucky enough to say that I have several friends that I can do this with. I don’t have to be in constant contact with someone just so to maintain the friendship. Maybe that’s the case for all people and if it is, then I think that’s a good thing! One of the friends that fit into this category is Scott. We have been friends for almost a decade now. Yes, there are times when I can get on his nerves and vice versa and we take a subconscious break from each other.   But when we do connect again, it is relatively easy. The cool thing about our friendship is that we introduce each other to different elements. I have learned of the funky, off the beaten path East Van pubs and venues – in fact, a lot more about East Van as a neighbourhood than had we not been friends. As well, our friendship has taught me a little bit more about patience and adaptability as I don’t necessarily agree or see things the same way but those are important things in a friendship in order for growth to take place.  Thanks Scott for giving me a different perspective on things in life that are definitely outside my realm of knowledge and I hope I have done the same for you.

July 19 – remedy

360/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most of you probably don’t know that I have a medical condition (sarcoidosis) which has resulted in a compromised immune system – I get sicker faster and stay sicker longer than most people (I’ve had a cough/chest cold for 11 weeks running as of this moment!).  I am at St Paul’s Hospital two to three times a year (and have been for the last decade) undergoing heart monitoring, breathing tests, CT scans and xrays, in addition to weekly blood work, and daily/weekly ingestion of prednisone or methotrexate coupled with two inhalers.  My respirologist, who I have thanked earlier, is amazing but today’s gratitude post is for the entire provincial healthcare system.  Yes, many of us complain about our medical system but I am not one of those as I am constantly in and out of doctor’s and specialist’s offices, constantly in labs and constantly hooked up to various machines just so some sort of understanding can take place about the condition I have.  Have I gotten better – unfortunately, no – just a bit worse each year but I’m not upset or jaded and one of the those reasons is that my experiences in the medical system have been easy and the people have always been friendly.  The people who do the breathing tests know me by face and joke with me that I am an expert – hence, when I’m scheduled, I get the students working with the veteran on me (happened today).  The secretaries at the various doctor’s ensure that my four appointments at the hospital are all coordinated and are at least in a four hour time period in one day rather than all over the calendar.  Yes, I may have to wait a few extra weeks on occasion, but I can’t and won’t complain.  The techs in the blood lab – already queasy just typing it – know that I hate the sight of blood so they get it done as quick and as fast – or as fast as 8 vials of blood can be removed.  I am still healthy, I can still do all that I want to do but when I do have to spend my time related to my medical conditions in the “system”, I am glad that the system takes care of me well in all aspects!

July 17 – save the last dance

358/365 -people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I am the type of guy who thinks that everything in life will always work out.  The philosophy that I employ in my teaching life is that I, as teacher, am not there to mold students but to rather unfold them as they bring to my class (and to me) a sense of who they are.  Education is not to indoctrinate but to introduce.   I feel that I and my colleagues are there to get students to enjoy something about school and to try and reach a potential – not necessarily their full potential but to start on it.  That has been mindset when it comes to my students and perhaps that is naïve on my part but that’s what I believe and I have met many of them as adults and see how they are living their lives and I’m really happy for them as they are on that path.  Earlier this year, and don’t judge me here, I, with a buddy, ended up at an, ahem, a gentlemen’s club.  We just walked in on a lark and ended up at the stage – let me repeat, don’t judge 😉  We are having beers and talking to each other and sadly, which is normally the case, not paying much attention to the entertainment.  As I’m engaged, I hear “Mr Sangha?  Is that you?”  8/ I was in shock.  I looked up and I immediately recognized A!!  I had taught her more than a decade ago in grade 12 and well, here she was – uhm, in all her glory – on stage.  I could not look at her and she sensed my unease and comfort.  My buddy was in shock – no doubt as I was stunned beyond belief.  I sat there, consciously avoiding any inadvertent gaze at the stage because to me, my former students are perpetually 17 and 18.  A finished her set and robed up and came right up to me.  All eyes in the establishment were on us as it was a weird bonding but no one knew she was my former student.  She gave me a hug and as I do with my former students, I gave her one – I would not have rejected her as this the exact moment where I realized that I had no right to judge.  Before this moment in time, this type of entertainer didn’t really elicit any emotion from me (be it positive or negative) as I didn’t think there would be anything ever linking us but here was super smart, keener A in that same role.  We sat, had drinks and talked about how she got to where she was.  It was a great heart to heart and I understood a lot more about her life circumstances that brought her to this moment. She could tell I was dejected and she told me that I was still one of the teachers that she remembered and that she hoped I wasn’t disappointed in her.  That did it – damn, tears welled up – here is this stunning biracial beauty who was an athlete and academic achiever in front of me again and everything else I had just seen (actually avoided) and heard was out the window.  I gave her another hug.  Wished her well.  That moment stays with me and now I realize that yes, I can have expectations for my students but they have their realities and just because I have defined potentialities doesn’t mean that they aren’t reaching them – just a different set of them given their life circumstances.  Thank you A for schooling me!

July 16 – let my personality talk

357/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll be the first to admit it, most of the Professional Development opportunities that are provided at the school level don’t usually meet most teachers’ needs.  We are in a session listening (being talked at) and I am often left wondering how the subject matter benefits my teaching practice.  Because I had this sentiment, I took upon the role of our school’s Pro D chair so that there would be opportunities that would appeal to more of the teachers as a whole.  One of the best sessions, in my opinion, was one of the earliest ones around personality types and how certain types of people interact and are either energized or drained by other personality types.  Rosa, a fellow teacher and Pro D committee member, said that she would conduct the 90 minute session.  I will be honest – I was nervous as I didn’t know how the session would play out as the staff might not take a fellow staff member as seriously as a speaker brought in for a specific topic.  I also felt that “I know this stuff” since I taught Psychology and yes, I knew the stuff but Rosa brought a whole different twist to personality types and really changed my understanding.  I listened intently to her as did the rest of the staff and we participated in the activities to eventually find our personalities and people similar to us on staff.  As I walked over to my “extrovert, loud, energized by others, jump to big ideas, small details come later” personality, there was the female drama teacher.  Of course we would be alike!! : ) However, that was not what surprised me – I looked around at the other groups, especially the groups that were directly opposite of my personality type and I found myself nodding.  But I was nodding at what was explained by Rosa during the session and how my big personality could be too much for their personality type and I was nodding as it all made sense to me.  Although I understood the different types, I did not fully understand the interactions that take place between personality types and how, for example, someone like me could easily be frustrated with the personality type who is meticulous over facts or vice versa.  This session also helped me better understand my students and how I could actually be way too intense for some – something I really wasn’t cognizant of and just assumed they would have to get used to me.  No, I won’t be changing up my personality to please others but because of Rosa, I do understand that I can tweak my interactions and/or have a better understanding of why I may rub people a certain way and why they do the same to me.  Thanks Rosa for giving me a great perspective on something I thought I knew which not only is useful in my professional life, but also in my personal life.  Good thing too that we have similar personality types ; )

July 14 -it’s how you say the words

355/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most of you are probably not aware of the following about me:  I have a speech impediment.  I stutter.  I grew up with it and it was much worse back when I was in elementary.  Oh yeah, if you have been reading these gratitude posts and know about my childhood – just add one more thing in the mix to be bullied about 😉  In my case, the thing that made my stuttering much worse was if someone noticed it and reacted to it and I noticed that reaction – well, my brain was thrown into flux and I would be stuck on a particular word and no matter what I did, I couldn’t get past it.  That was the thing – I wasn’t supposed to get past it, I was supposed to switch tactics for my form of stuttering.  My speech pathologist, who I totally don’t remember but had one of the biggest influences on my speech impediment, gave me two pieces of advice.  First, stop the moment I was getting stuck on a word and immediately think of a synonym or a couple of words having the same meaning.  Most of you who know me probably don’t realize I do that – at times, I try to feign looking contemplative but I probably come off as a bit slow but I’m okay with it as it is giving me that breathing room to continue on speaking.  It’s much harder to do in a classroom when I am teaching and that is where I notice my stuttering even moreso.  This is where my speech pathologist’s second piece of advice came in handy – tell people about my condition.  I haven’t really told friends.  Only immediate family know (like my sister and mother and a few cousins and aunts).  I guess you as reader now know.  However, I tell all of my classes/students about my stuttering because early on in my career, I kept it a secret and when it would happen, I would hear snickering and of course, that added to my embarrassment which in turn increased my stuttering and I would be stuck on a word for 30 seconds to a minute.  Now, I take the bull by the horns and let the students know what my inability is.  I tell them that it’s not if it will happen, it’s when and when it does, please don’t make me aware of it as I know what’s happening and will quickly try to correct myself with a synonym.  Most often, I’m pretty quick at it but other times, I have to consciously stop, refocus and start again and I honestly can say that I haven’t had a student in the last decade or so get me flustered because they have empathy for my speech impediment.  Thank you to my speech pathologist for the two greatest pieces of advice that have helped me so much in life and career!

July 13 – judgment day

354/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  You are reading a book or watching a movie and kind of enjoying it when all of a sudden someone comes up to you and tells you how much they don’t like it or the problem with the plot or how it could have been “done” differently to make it turn out so much better.  Ever happened to you?  Ever happened but in relation to a person?  This is the reality of the high school teacher.  Many teachers and administrators have an opinion about a kid that they have taught/had an experience with.  They feel that they must share that opinion with you – that they must warn you/let you know the perils you might face with that student in your class.  In all of my 25 years of teaching, I have never, ever let anyone’s opinions or thoughts dictate how I deal with students.  Back in the 90s at Burnett, I finally got to teach grade 12 students in my electives of Law, Psychology, Marketing and Tourism.  What I loved about that course load was that I had the whole gamut in my class – from the bright, keeners to the ones who were waiting for me to impress them to the ones who were just put in the class to the ones who wanted to learn but were to cool to admit it.  Tanya was one of these girls – probably in the latter category 😉  I liked Tanya.  Found her to be very intelligent and was always the most respectful to me.  However, other teachers and the administration did not see her this way.  They would harp on about her attendance – let’s just say that she usually showed up to one class – mine – and we will leave it at that.  They talked about how she was a bad influence.  They talked about how she was not a good community member.  I didn’t understand why they were telling me this.  Was I supposed to side with them?  Was I supposed to use that to judge her abilities in my class?  Tanya did well in my class and was always a positive force in the class – maybe it was an act but give that girl an Oscar then because I totally thought (and know) she was genuine with me.  However, towards the end of the year – her grade 12 year – she was a bit dejected and I sensed it.  I asked her what was up and she told me.  The administration, who had previously suspended her, now decided to punish her by not allowing her to walk across the stage for valedictory for something she did outside of the school.  I told her that she had every right to go – this was not dinner/dance/prom but the most important event for her parents.  The culmination of her public school education.  The night her parents got to see their daughter walk across the stage.  Tanya had already decided that she was not going to go because she thought it was a done deal.  I told her what her mother had to do – and I’ll put it out right here – to contact the Superintendent and make the case that any other punishment could suffice but this one was too harsh – not negating the consequences but reassessing which ones would be the best.  Tanya didn’t feel it would work and I actually wasn’t too sure myself but I just felt that one can’t make a judgment call because certain people see a person in one way and decide to punish them in other ways.  Well, Tanya walked that stage – no strutted that stage and dealt with other consequences but she reinforced a greater lesson for me – do not allow other people to tell you how to deal with, live with, interact with, relate with, get along with, deal with, just be with others because they see them in a way.  Do not allow people to put their opinions of others onto you.  Make your own calls about people based on the way they treat you and how they deal with you and go from there.  I always did that but I needed Tanya and her situation to just validate it for me!  And just so everyone knows, Tanya today is an amazing mom who is way beyond that girl in high school.  Thank you Tanya for reinforcing in me that judging a person based on their interactions with you is the only way to judge a person if you must judge them to begin with!

July 7 – 10 N C

348/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my mind, I feel I live a slightly charmed life.  For all that I’ve been through, I still see the positives and I think for the most part I have been thrown back positivity in most anything I take on.  As a teacher, salary-wise, we are adequate.  We will never be millionaires and would live a decent life.  Before the inheritance I received upon my dad’s passing, I decided to get an investment property to get ahead of the game.  I bought at the height of the market in 2008 and what happened – the market crashed.  I “lost” $50,000 on the condo I purchased in that all the others in the building were then priced that much lower 😦  Hmmm, maybe I don’t live that much of a charmed life on second thought 😉  I kept the long-term goals in sight and rented out the revenue property in highly sought after Yaletown.  My first tenants were fine.  Then that’s where it went to hell.  The next tenants went out to work and left the bathroom sink running which flooded my unit and leaked into the unit below costing me thousands.  Then the next tenants ended up housing up to 15 other students in a 725 square foot apartment unbeknownst to me.  Guess what that cost me in strata bylaw infractions!  If those tenants were not bad enough, I then ended up with the tenant from hell – well, actually his mother.  Since he was 21, she paid and caused me no end of grief – phoning me day and night, screaming at me, threatening to call lawyers, the police etc as he had lost his keys, lost his fob, window was broken, it was too busy in the city etc etc.  Oh man!  I should rethink if I live a charmed life.  Unfortunately for me, I manifest stress in the worst way possible – alopecia areata – yup, chunks of my hair on my head or in my eyebrows, or facial hair fall out.  That year, I had horrible hair!!  Having to evict and subsequently go to residential tenancy arbitration, I finally ended up with decent tenants.  The first couple stayed for two years and were amazing.  The current couple is at the end of their two years – fingers crossed that they stay.  I didn’t realize the value of good tenants until I had the nightmare of years previous.  With these current tenants, the fridge had to be fixed or a slight problem with the laundry machine but that is so minor in contrast to what I had to go through. I’m also feeling assured that they are taking care of my place.  I didn’t ever want to be a landlord but here I am trying to create an inheritance for my own kids and I’m learning a great deal.  I have to thank both the good tenants and backhandedly the bad ones because the learning curve of being a landlord was steep but I have begun to figure it out.  Am I ready to invest in another property – hell no but I have the life lessons I have taken away are amazing and would definitely help me if I were to contemplate a similar situation in the future.

July 6 – oldest niece

347/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve been told that I am quite naïve at times and take things very literally at other times missing the subtle sarcasm or subtext.  I’d like to think I’m just very straight forward and expect things to be relayed to me that way as well 😉  I have also been told that I am quite into my looks.  Okay, well, I won’t argue that but if you know my history – and if you have been reading these posts – well, then that personality trait is understandable.  I thought I was one of a kind until my niece Sabrina came along.  I didn’t see the similarities in personality until her own mother, my sister Pam, pointed them out.  From then on, almost everyone commented on how we were similar.  I didn’t take offense to it and I’m hoping Sabrina never did as it has been a running theme/joke whenever the family had gotten together for family gatherings.  Sabrina was born about a year before my daughter so I got a quick education on what parenting as an adult would look like.  In fact, Sabrina did everything a year before my daughter – entered kindergarten, high school, university etc and thus, I also received a cursory overview of what could possibly in store for my daughter and thereby myself.  I enjoyed our easy rapport and definitely our similarities and our uncle/niece bond but alas, as things have happened in my family, Pam and I have become estranged and sadly but understandably Sabrina decided to also cut ties with me in solidarity with her mother.  I hope that someday soon Sabrina remembers the happy times that we all shared as family but especially myself and her and perhaps will decide to rebuild our relationship as individuals rather brother/daughter of a family member but until that time, I wish her well and will always remember the learning that took place for me as I saw her growing up.