A silent witness

[Disclaimer: Aspects of this post may cause emotional discomfort]

Monday began like an ordinary day. My alarm clock forced me to greet the morning at five-thirty. I responded to e-mails and penciled a to-do list over three cups of coffee. I squeezed myself onto the ridiculously crammed metro, caught the bus, and unlocked the door to my lab about thirty minutes later. It was an ordinary day of collecting and analyzing neuroscientific data, of meeting my supervisor, and of writing bits of my dissertation. I was busy, focused and pretty reserved all day long. The afternoon was also quite ordinary; I waited for rush-hour to subside a little and left work around six-thirty, in order to have a less stressful time with overcrowded transportation. I recognized the bus driver, got a seat towards the back like I usually do, and was at Sherbrooke metro in fifteen minutes – just like any ordinary day.

When I pushed the heavy door to enter the metro station, I noticed two police-offers were shooing a man toward the exit. “Outside!” one officer yelled in English (which, I remember, surprised me more than the fact that an itinerant was being asked not to loiter). The man began to retaliate, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying, as I was listening to my iPod. “Outside!” the officer yelled again, and added something that sounded like a threat to intervene if the man didn’t comply. I passed the busker who was singing joyously with her guitar, passed the turnstile as my STM pass emitted its routine “beep” to let me through, and walked slowly down the stairs to the platform. As I walked down, I could hear a man shouting something below. A different man than the one they had just ushered out of the station, obviously, but someone who sounded equally distraught. I removed my iPod and continued down the steps. He was loud and sounded upset, like he was venting about something. He did not sound like he was well. Before I even got to the bottom of the stairs, I could tell roughly where he was standing, due to the converging glances of passengers waiting on the track. Everyone was silent – listening, watching, pretending not to listen, pretending not to watch.

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Doing

*This is cross-posted at rwoodmass.wordpress.com.*

“What I knew for sure from this experience with you is that we are all called. Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. Every time we have seen a person on this stage who is a success in their life, they spoke of the job, and they spoke of the juice that they receive from doing what they knew they were meant to be doing. …Because that is what a calling is. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. And that is what I want for all of you and hope that you will take from this show. To live from the heart of yourself. You have to make a living; I understand that. But you also have to know what sparks the light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

-Oprah Winfrey, Farewell

I am currently living the 25th year of my life as Rebecca.  These past 25 years of my life have been wonderful, full of discovery, philosophy, and experimentation.  I am young and full of potential, but I am no longer a child, and it is time for me to start putting all my youthful passion and dreaming into action.  It is time, as Oprah says, to ‘get about the business of doing it’.

Alot of people talk about ‘what they do’, especially in the business of art.  In fact, there is alot of talk in general, and I suspect not nearly as much actually ‘doing’ as there is talking.  The reason I suspect talkers talk more than they do is because I am one of those people.  I paint – but do I really paint?  I dance – but how often do I really dance?  I sing – but do I really put in the daily time required to be the best that I can be?

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Clarity

‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’  -Thomas Edison

I think most of us have a small, seemingly impossible dream or desire that could turn into an amazing opportunity.  It could be an opportunity to make money, but more likely, it is an opportunity for happiness and fulfillment.  Thomas Edison recognized that no amazing thing happens without a large amount of hard work and dedication.  Human beings are lazy, and we like to complain.  Perhaps it would be a valuable lesson if we could get over our fear of having less and working more – it may even lead to a more fulfilling life.

I have been experiencing this personally this summer.  Right after graduation, I found myself enjoying the life of no work, all play.  Part of this had to do with a sudden feeling that if I had a Master’s degree, I should not have to stoop to get a lowly summer job, especially not in a restaurant or café – ewww.  As you know from my previous post, I decided to busk instead of get a job.  Initially, I was terrified of the act of busking – it was something new that I had never done before.  How would I know my efforts would be appreciated?

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Summer Job

I don’t want a summer job.

All year, I was supported by my Teaching Assistantship, my scholarship, grants, and bursaries, and my *ahem* parents.  I am in the mood to make music, to be a poor artist, to declare my passion and refuse to do anything else.

What to do, what to do?

I have no idea how much money I can make in one week just by busking in the metro, but this is the current plan.  If I absolutely must, I will look for a part-time job, but how fantastic will it be to make money doing what I am actually certified to do by McGill University?

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The metro is the measure of my grad student soul

I use the metro to measure my progress as a graduate student.  I admit this is a subjective procedure.  What I mean by progress needs some clarification.

There are a number of concepts that go into defining ‘progress.’  The first is my comfort level on the metro.    In the winter my comfort on the metro is compromised by the fact that I have to bundle up against the cold in order to get to the metro, but once I am in the train itself, in that hot underground tunnel, it is hotter than any summer.  In summer, it is simply hotter than hell, many days.  Winter or summer I sweat in great streams which soak through my thin clothing or soak in under four layers of wool, cotton and gore-tex. (more…)

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