Wisdom? from an almost-grad

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. In a few weeks I will be done school but that doesn’t mean I’ll be done learning. School taught me a ton. Life has taught me more.

  • Always keep eyeliner and tinted lip balm in your purse. No matter what made you fall apart these two things will help you look put together.
  • If you have an idea write it down or else it may float away. On that note, you should probably always have a notepad and a pen in your purse.
  • Always remember your purse.
  • Don’t take things too personally. If someone is rude or short with you it’s probably their problem and not yours.
  • Remember that everyone has a story. This is both a journalism and a life lesson. In journalism don’t write someone off as boring, work harder for the story. In life remember that everyone has a past and that colours their present, so have compassion.
  • Be honest with yourself. Not good at video? If you lie to yourself about it you look dumb to others pretending you rock and you never give yourself a chance to get better.
  • Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for not being great at everything, for eating the last five cookies in one sitting, for sleeping in. You’re a person, treat yourself like one.
  • Turn off your phone. Too much technology can drive you crazy and it can take away from you enjoying the people you’re physically with.

This is just some of what I’ve picked up in the last couple years doing the whole school-life balance thing. I don’t have the life thing down perfectly yet, and I probably never will. But I have taken what lessons I could out of all the things that have happened to me. I’ve also learned that the only thing you can truly count on is that things will change. So be grateful for what you have now, be excited for what is yet to come.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the sweat lodge

“We pray for the women, for the grandmothers, for the mothers, for the four-legged, the two-legged, the winged ones, the ones that crawl, the ones that swim.”

To me this sounds like poetry. But it’s just the way the Elder in this sweat lodge speaks. He’s describing the first part of the sweat lodge ceremony. I’ve never been to anything like this before and I’m very interested, excited, and also nervous.

I arrived with a friend from my journalism class and we immediately felt welcome. People shook our hands and explained what we were supposed to do- put on floor-length skirts and offer tobacco to the fire. Then we enter the tiny tent in the middle of the open-concept building we are standing in.

It’s a small space for this many people and I’m pressed against the woman on my right and my friend on my left. We start the ceremony by taking medicine- bear root. It’s chalky in my mouth, a bit like licking dry grass.

The door to this little tent is still open. It faces a fireplace where the fire keeper is heating up stones. In comes a wooden board the fire keeper uses to roll the stones from the fireplace into the centre of the tent.

It starts to get warm. I’m feeling a little panicked. But it’s still light, and I can take the heat. More and more rocks roll in. A huge water bucket is passed in to pour on the stones. And the tent door shuts. And it’s complete darkness.

We pray. We pray for the women, for all the female energies in our lives. There’s singing and drumming and it’s all very overwhelming to me.

I did not make it to the end.

My body felt like it was melting, I needed to breath through my towel to feel like I could get any air. It was a beautiful ceremony but all I could think of was that I needed it to be over.

How long did I last?

“About ten minutes,” the fire keeper chuckles as I climb out of the tent.

I just couldn’t take the heat. Neither could my friend. So we respectfully, with maybe a bit of panic in our voices, asked to leave. They understood. This process is a bit intense, okay a lot intense, and it goes on for a couple hours.

There are four rounds- one to pray for the women, one to pray for the men, one to pray for the sick and suffering, and one to pray for yourself.

It’s an amazing and cool experience and I’m very glad I did it. I’m also glad I left. Sometimes your body has limits you can’t push past. This was not like anything I’ve ever done before and I’m not sure how I could have prepared.

It was beautiful too, how easily we were accepted into the sacred space. You’re curious? You’d like to know more about Aboriginal spirituality? Sure come in, we will show you with open arms and open hearts.

 

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Mountains near Kathmandu, Nepal

Mountains near Kathmandu, Nepal

Zeus. Shiva. Allah. Yahweh. Mars. God.

What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And so what I call a rose the Italians may call a rosa and the Japanese may call a rōzu. And in all the languages and in all the cultures a rose is just a rose- a beautiful flower that smells very sweet.

But when we name God something different in another language, in another culture it starts wars. In many religions there is no room for another deity, there can be no recognition that there is another path.

Sitting across from a Nepali Hindu, who moved to Canada nine years ago, at Tim Hortons I hear a different story.

“I am proudly Hindu but I completely believe in Christian doctrine. I carry the Bible all the time. I read it, I like it.”

How can that be true?

“There is just one God,” he says. “Your God, my God- there is just different names we are saying.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard this from a Hindu. This is not the first time I’ve heard this at all.

A few years ago I read a book called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. 13 pages in Gilbert writes about why she uses the term God.

“Let me explain why I use the word God, when I could just as easily use the words Jehovah, Allah, Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, or Zeus . . . I have nothing against any of these terms. I feel they are all equal because they are equally adequate and inadequate at describing the indescribable. But we do need a functional name for this indescribability, and “God” is the name that feels most warm to me, so that’s what I use.”

So this concept that we all really have the same God we just call it something different is pretty interesting. If that’s true why are there wars over this religion thing? Why are there entire genocides in the name of religion?

Well obviously not everyone thinks that way. There are people that think their way is the right way. There are religious extremists persecuting others for being Jewish, for being LGBTQ*, for being on the wrong side of the fence.

What I love to see though, is the people on opposite sides of the fence talking, understanding, caring. Maybe you believe your way is the right way, but maybe you don’t jab at anyone who doesn’t play for your team. Maybe you invite someone else’s idea in for coffee and at the end of it all you don’t buy a word they’re saying. Maybe we all just agree that religion and God and what you name your rose is a personal choice.

It’s easy to tell the story of the religious extremist, the persecutor, the bad guy. And that story does need to be told. But it’s not as easy to find a Hindu carrying a Bible. And I think we need to hear that story much more.

I threw a little party

Video by Braiden Watling Productions

So I threw a little party. But it was kind of a big deal. For the past year I’ve been working on Circus for Circus, and event to raise money for the Circus and Magic Partnership (C.A.M.P.).

C.A.M.P. puts on circus camps for at-risk kids. It’s a pretty cool program. Kids that normally don’t get to do out-of-school activities get a shot at learning trapeze, unicycling, juggling, magic, and more. Then they perform at the end of the week. These are kids that may not get a lot of attention at home, or have a lot going on to say the least. Every situation is different. But C.A.M.P. gives the kids an opportunity to thrive, to learn, and to have people clap for them. They get to build confidence and have fun in a unique way.

So I threw a little party to raise money for C.A.M.P. It’s a cool, necessary program and non-for-profits always need funding.

Circus for Circus raised $3331.73 for C.A.M.P. The night was a cabaret-style evening with circus performances, cocktails and prizes. Most of the night was sponsored, from food to funds, and all the prizes were donated.

This was probably the biggest project I’ve ever taken on. Getting all the sponsors and donors to work with me on this event was a long process. It was also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

So I threw a little party, and I loved every minute that I had to work at it.

A tribute to a great man

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Duncan McMonagle is retiring. This is the end of an era. For 18 years this man has taught Creative Communications students.

Duncan has a distinct style. There are teachers that pass out notes. There are teachers who lecture. There are teachers with books, teachers with exercises, and teachers with slideshows. And then there is Duncan.

Duncan asks a lot of questions and doesn’t give a lot answers. You ask, “Hey Duncan what do you think about that story on CBC last night?” He’ll answer, “Well, what do you think about that story on CBC last night.” He won’t give you the answer, because there is no right answer. Just discussion, opinions, arguments, evidence, perspective. Duncan makes you think, and think, and think some more.

Duncan pushes you to be independent. He points you in the right direction, and then lets you walk on your own. Which usually means something like going to the law courts on your own to find a story.

With Duncan you don’t need that BS detector he’s been talking about, because with Duncan there is no BS. He’s honest. He’ll tell you how it is. Wanna be on air? “Get out of town.”

Duncan is supportive. He wants you to succeed and he’ll put you through your paces so you can get there.

Duncan is an amazing teacher. I have no doubt he will be sorely missed in CreComm. I wish him all the best in his retirement and I’m glad he’ll have more time to read even more newspapers.

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
-Albert Einstein-

Got any ideas?

The dreaded story idea. Got any? Journalists need ideas, ideas, ideas every. single. day.

If you have one, does it hold up? Flesh it out. Is it newsworthy? Who cares? Who does it affect? Who can you talk to? Are there visuals?

The dreaded story idea. Got any?

I do, now.

This past year has been a struggle with story ideas. How do you come up with them? How do you know to cover something before it’s already in the news? How do you know it’s a story? Who do you interview? How do you find them? How do you show the story?

I’ve learned. I’m not perfect. It’s still a huge, daunting task to come up with ideas. There’s ideas for print, ideas for a column, ideas for a TV story. The approach is different, the principle is the same- why should we care?

People need to care about the story, people who aren’t me. People people. Public people. People with opinions, people without any time to waste.

To find a story idea, pay attention. Pay attention to Facebook and Twitter and the lady sitting behind you on the bus talking loudly to her friend about how no one has cleared her back lane and she keeps getting her car stuck so she’s taking the bus today.

To find some one to interview, use your network. Google it. Creep. Phone a friend. Phone your grandma.

To find the visuals, find when it’s happening. Go there. Proceed to take footage and photos.

Stories are hard. It’s a struggle, an everyday struggle to find out what’s going on in the world and package it into a bite-sized news piece for people with opinions who don’t have any time to waste. But I am working at it every. single. day.

Being a journalist, or a journalism student, is not a 9-5 gig. It’s full time. Your ears always need to be open, your mind always busy. It’s a lifestyle, love it or leave it. I cannot deny that sometimes it exhausts me. But I love it.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”
CS Lewis

I look back and I can’t believe how much I didn’t know a year ago. And I’m sure a year from now I will do the same.

 

7 Generations

7 Generations is a story of a Plains Cree family. It’s a graphic novel and I’ve never seen anything like it.

I never read comic books as a kid. I’ve never gotten into anime or other graphic novels. But I really enjoyed 7 Generations.

The story brought Aboriginal issues up that I haven’t given much thought to. I knew that the Europeans brought over small pox and infected many First Nations people. I knew that residential schools robbed Aboriginals of their language. What hadn’t crossed my mind since 8th grade social studies was how recent this all was.

When the author, David Alexander Robertson came in to speak to our class he told us that during research for his book he talked to elders that were forced into residential schools. The people affected by these atrocities are still around. In my head, in my history book it felt like all this must have happened ages ago, like it was all just a skeleton in the closet now. But now I realize that’s not true.

And that means there’s still a lot of healing to be done. One of the ways Robertson is healing is writing graphic novels about what happened. He’s trying to educate, to share the stories and using a creative medium to do it.

The book is based on history and fact so in a way I think it’s journalism. Not journalism in the way we think of it in the news- quick 400 word stories about what happened today. But it’s journalism because it’s telling a true story.

The pictures threw me a bit at first, like I said I’ve never been into graphic novels. Other books we’ve studied in journalism, like A Thousand Farewells and Winnipeg’s Great War, are a bunch of words that paint a picture in my vivid imagination. 7 Generations actually showed me the pictures. They were beautiful and really added to the story.

It just makes for less work for the reader, which I think gives you more time to think about the issues as you go. There were also some shocking pictures that left me with an icky feeling, which I think really conveys some of what Aboriginals have gone through. It’s not pretty. It doesn’t feel good. And you can’t imagine it away.