Life of a University Student

Where closing one door, opens another

little-moi

The little girl in this picture has definitely come a long way. She grew up in a home where she had two loving parents that shaped her into a strong, smart and independent woman. They encouraged academics and marching to the beat of her own drum.

While her childhood and teenage years were happy, she faced set backs too. At the end of middle school, she developed an eating disorder that she successfully overcame; however, still battles with its demons every day. She was bullied for many reasons – being smart, being overweight, and the kicker… for her parents not being able to afford name brand items such as Nike, or even a pair of authentic Doc Martens. Lame, I know. She faced racism from peers because her grandfather was Aboriginal; on the flip side, she was called terrible names from some Aboriginal peers because she didn’t “look Aboriginal enough to identify with the culture.” Through it all, she came out on top and graduated from high school a healthy and happy young adult.

She turned 18 shortly after leaving high school and embarked on adulthood. She entered university unsure of her path – teaching, criminology, law, even med school. She eventually settled with Criminology because she was incredibly passionate about helping people. Her years in university were not easy. Some courses were tough, and she failed two of them. Her first year of university was especially tough because her father fell incredibly ill, was forced to retire because of it, and lost part of his mobility; her beloved aunt died after a long battle with cancer, and after her grandfather was diagnosed with an illness, he died before Christmas. She dealt with the loss and stress as best as she could and managed to finish the first year.

During the last decade she also became caregiver to both of her parents after her fathers illness left him with poor mobility and her mother battling her own mobility issues. Being a caregiver is extremely difficult and stressful as it truly is a full-time job; however, it was a choice that she made and made sure that while helping them, she made time to help herself.

The struggles through university continued, including a couple of one year suspensions, fighting university bureaucracy; transferring to another institution, battling more university bureaucracy, a two year suspension and deciding to change her career field so she could eventually become a teacher. Throughout this time she also shut out her friends in order to make sure academics was top priority, only realizing years later, that it wasn’t such a brilliant idea. During her last years in university, she became extremely organized and made sure that she scheduled in “me time” and time spent with her friends. She found words from RuPaul inspiring – “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else? Can I get an amen!” Upon returning after a two year suspension, she worked really hard to make sure she passed each course to reach her goal of graduating.

Well, that little girl is me and I did it. After a year of working my butt off to make sure I graduate this year, I did it. I passed every single course, including achieving a B as a final in math (we all know I’ve talked about my struggles in math), I will be graduating in just three short weeks.

And I’m pretty damn proud of my accomplishments.

This past Saturday I attended my aboriginal graduation ceremony, where the University and Aboriginal Student Centre recognized and celebrated the achievements of Aboriginal graduates. This ceremony was really important to me. I am extremely proud of where I come from and my Aboriginal background. I come from a long line of proud Métis people – I am the cousin of Louis Riel (we share the same grandfather – his grandfather is my 8x great-grandfather); my great-great grandparents were kicked off the reserve by the Canadian/Manitoban government in 1875 (given $160 and a land script) because they wanted to work in order to support their growing family, and my grandfather worked many jobs to support my grandmother, mother, and her siblings. My great-great grandmother was a spiritual healer, known as a Medicine Woman, helping to heal people in her community with the herbs she grew in her garden. Attending this ceremony was my way in honouring them – Creator carved my path long before I was born, and that was my thank you for being blessed with the many opportunities I have been given so far. It was an emotional ceremony where I was celebrated for my accomplishments, by my culture. My culture that I am damn proud of and always fight for. It was really special because my grade 2 teacher, and now my coworker, was in attendance (she has fought for me since being a student in her class); including  my administrator. I was surrounded by the most loving people and it meant a lot.

At the end of this month I will don my cap and gown and walk across another stage to finally receive my degree. I am going to soak it all up because I worked damn hard for that piece of paper and never ever gave up. That’s the message I leave with my students today – work really hard, never give up, and in the end you will reap the rewards. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do anything, because you can. Keep telling yourself that it is possible and it will be done. It may take a long time, but do not be discourage. Life happens and you just have to get through that.

I also have more good news to share. Last month I was accepted into the Faculty of Education After Degree Program and in September, I will begin a two year journey to obtain my teaching licence. It’s finally coming full circle and I am proud of myself for never giving up. In September I will jump right in into practicum and curriculum courses, where I will continue to work hard. By the end of the two years I will be a licensed high school history teacher, ready to expand the minds of students through tons of fun. I was lucky to find out about being accepted with one of my classes, a great experience that I will cherish forever. They surprised me with an ice cream cake and a boat load of hugs.

congrats cake

The moral of this story is the following – work hard, set goals, never give up, don’t beat yourself up, and try your best. Everyone struggles and everyone gets through it. Make it count.

“There is nothing you can’t do, if you set your mind to it. Anything is possible.” – Rick Hansen

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In my 31st year.

me_pappa

32. Thirty-two. Trente-deux. I’m not afraid to say my age, I wear it like a badge of honor. I like being in my thirties and I love being 32. Happy Birthday to me.

In my 31st year, I have accomplished a lot. I was working in an awesome school, in the best classroom and having a blast. I went back to school so I could eventually enter the Education program (something that I will be preparing for over the next few weeks) and the support system that is behind me is simply incredible.

I continued my love of traveling with a trip to Minneapolis in May and Grand Forks in September and October. I also began a collaboration with the Greater Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau, becoming a guest blogger. It has been so much fun being able to combine my two favorites – blogging & travel.

This past year I have tried to be more kind to myself – committing myself less to things, learning to say no (no matter how upset people get) and taking time for myself. Money over the last two months have been extremely tight, so it was looking for fun things to do for very less. Simply painting my nails, enjoying a cup of tea or watching a movie have been my modus operandi as of late. Saying no has been the most difficult of them all. I enjoy helping people and when it becomes difficult, I cannot say no, no matter how stressful it gets. I’ve ignored my self worth to help others and that is something I will have to work at.

My wish for my 32nd year is to continue the path of self-kindness, a permanent full-time job; continued opportunity to travel and blog (perhaps for other organizations), and enter the Education program Fall 2015. I also wish for good health (for myself and my family), spending more time with friends and continuing on my path of weight loss (blog post to come).

32… let’s make this one heck of a year.

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Giving Thanks

In just three weeks Canadians will gather around the table to the sights and smells of a deliciously cooked turkey and all the fixings, giving thanks and reflecting on what they’ve been thankful for. For me I am thankful for my incredibly supportive family and friends, employment, and good health just to name a few. Of course it’s all the things that we typically give thanks to, but there’s one thing that I am especially thankful for and that I think deserves a public acknowledgement of thanks.

Being a blogger entitles you to have a voice and with that voice we choose what we talk about in our day-to-day postings. Some use it for good, some for bad and some just use it to get things off their chest. Writing is cathartic and good for the soul, allowing you to get things off your chest that you might not be able to say anywhere else.

January 2013 will mark the 30 years that The Children’s Hospital of Manitoba saved my life. It’s something I rarely talk about, and some of my friends don’t know about, but I thought that I would share it to let CHM know just how thankful I am for their amazing talent and care.

This was me almost 30 years ago. Just a few short months after I was born my parents experienced the worst nightmare of their life – one winters day I became suddenly ill, with no warning signs. I stopped eating and my breathing was extremely shallow and short. They rushed me to the hospital and it was then I was diagnosed with a type of pneumonia common to infants – RSV (Respiratory Syntactical Virus). Could you imagine being new parents for only a few short months and then your brand new baby girl falls ill and nearly dies? Even at 30 I cannot fathom the pain and heartache my parents went through. While they can always talk about it and describe it, I guess you can’t understand or feel it unless you are a parent yourself.

I was the largest baby in the ICU, given my age. I wasn’t a newborn, but just a few months old and because of that, they had to construct an incubator that would allow me to sleep inside – made out of a plastic pail and thick plastic wrapped around it (see the photo above). The doctors, nurses and support staff worked feverishly around the clock trying to improve my health and status… it was very difficult as my little body was trying its hardest to fight alongside them.

As time progressed I wasn’t getting any better. The doctors suggested that my parents bring in our family priest to pray and that’s what they did… he came in, blessed my soul and they prayed. I don’t even know what it’s like for my parents to hear the doctor tell you that your baby probably won’t make it through this. My parents were fighters, just as I, and never gave up.

The next day, came a miracle. With the help of the Lord above and the amazing doctors, nurses and support staff as well as modern medicine… I was getting stronger and better. My parents fondly recall the orderly bursting through the doors shouting, “She’s getting better!” with my blood test results in his hand.

Nearly thirty years later, I’m still doing better. While I’m not the perfect picture of health and I developed asthma (as a result of the illness) which is now non-existent, I am here sharing my story and giving my thanks to those who deserve it. Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital Foundation don’t seem to receive the recognition they deserve. Sure they have their yearly fundraising drives (which I more than happily support), but I don’t feel they get the credit where credit is due.

To the past and present staff of Children’s Hospital,

I want to thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to help sick kids like me. While some make it through, and some don’t, your efforts are not forgotten and I want to thank you for your efforts in saving my life. Your endeavors have saved a lot of lives and given much hope to those who are looking for a little bit of it when things seem grim. You let them know that they are never alone.

Your fundraising accomplishments are not only incredibly amazing, but astonishing. Each year you strive to collect funds to help keep you going and each year Manitoban’s open up their wallets and hearts to help. From the Radio-thon, Book Drives and the current, and most delicious, Tim Hortons Smile Cookie Campaign, we’re always wanting to help out and from a former sick kid… the generosity of many makes my heart feel so good.

Thank you for saving my life. It means more to me than you will ever know.

Your friend for life,

M.