The Moment Begins Now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Convocating in Kenya

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

I remember the day, late last year, that we were asked to confirm our spot at our convocation ceremony that was to take place in early June 2010. I clicked the "Will Attend" option with hope, but something inside of me tingled with anticipation. Without any tangible explanation to explain it, I had a feeling that I was not going to be around for it.

At the same time, fate was dealing the cards to land me in Rwanda, far removed from the Edmonton celebration.

I am addicted to the world; the pulses, people, cities, cultures and general chaos that comprise our lot here on earth. It's taken me to the top of distant mountains, and dozens of meters under the sea. I've seen a small city struggle to overcome a devastating earthquake, while on the same trip watched as a thief struggled to keep me subdued while grabbing my wallet. I'm a proud survivor of multiple infamous 24 hour bus trips, have endured more travelers diarrhea than I should care to admit, and have emerged from it all with experiences, friends and memories I will keep for the rest of my life.
That being said, nothing is all sunshine and mangoes. By being here, I have missed out on things at home; Ultimate Frisbee season, weddings (Congratulations Pablo and Theresa!) BBQ's, beach parties, friends, family gatherings... heck, the short Canadian summer. Convocation is lumped in with this crowd, one of those things I wanted to be home for.

Thirteen thousand and three hundred kilometers away from where I sit (13,348 kilometers to be exact), my Nursing graduating class walked across the stage to shake hands with the higher-ups and collect degrees that we have poured our souls into for the past four years. I've idly replayed the moment hundreds of times in my head, hearing my name and walking across the stage clapping and fist-pumping the whole way, turning at the end of the line and sending a hearty "WooHoo" to my already embarrassed parents sitting in the stands.

Instead, the last time I would see my classmates before we all set off on our own adventures would be last December, at our graduation ceremony.

At that ceremony, Laura and I were nominated by our teacher to leave our class with an "uplifting message in these dark times" (meaning the current hiring freeze for nurses in Alberta). We decided to speak about happiness and entitled our talk, "Happiness and the Carrot." The premise was exceedingly simple; in Nursing school, we realized we were guilty of keeping happiness at bay, like someone would dangle a carrot in front of a rabbit.

We always had excuses for this. "When I finish this class, then I will be let myself enjoy this" became "When I finish this year," which, upon nearing graduation became "Well... maybe when I find a job." There never was a moment where we would let ourselves be truly happy, we were always busy looking for the next big thing. We then reached into the podium and extracted a bushel of large-stalked, earthy carrots to show to the crowd.

We had it all wrong, we argued. Being happy was something not to be rationed and controlled. Once you find yourself enjoying a single carrot, you found that it multiplied and grew. The speech ended symbolically with us biting into our carrots, encouraging our graduation class to not let happiness be an abstract, elusive dream.

I thought back to the simple truth in that speech, that you have to take happiness whenever it presents itself as I glanced around at where life had led me; sitting in a crowded open-air courtyard in Nairobi, Kenya surrounded by my closest Canadian friends on the continent who were together for a brief reunion. I realized, with a little shock, that I didn't miss Convocation as much as I thought I would.

The waiter pulled up to the table with a fresh round of beers as I resigned myself to enjoy where I am and how it all turned out as I stood up to address the gang with a smile, "Halfway across the world right now, my nursing class is convocating. This one's for them. Cheers!"

The clink of glasses was loud and hearty, a collision that sounded not unlike the crunching of a carrot. A sound I now associate with happiness.

Three Cheers and Congratulations Nursing Students.... We Did It :)

No comments:

Post a Comment