January 1, 2004 by Allen George
Yesterday, December 31st 2003, I officially completed my 2B work term. I’ve got to say – I miss it. It was my second term there and I was fortunate enough to get to know some very interesting, insightful and funny people. They made every day there fun and I looked forward to going to work.
It is, I admit, frustuating for me to change my job every 4 months. I get to know a group of coops, get to be friends with them and before I know it – I’m saying goodbye. This time was a harder to be honest. Why? Because we got to know each other outside the context of work. Some of my colleagues and I worked out at the gym together. We had insightful conversations on a wide variety of topics. I got to understand and appreciate their viewpoints. I feel that its one of the few times I really connected with anyone.
Sounds odd doesn’t it? “one of the few times I really connected” What does that mean? I’m more than what I portray at university. I’m interested in politics, world affairs – I’m interested in debating and hearing other people’s opinions. I like to have conversations, and I mean _real_ conversations, the meaty ones where opinions fly in from all over, people disagree and where everyone’s trying to express their opinion. That’s what I like. That’s what I enjoy doing in my spare time. I find, at university in my program (Computer Engineering) I don’t get a chance to experience that. It’s a consequence of my choice that I’ve never come to grips with and always regretted. When I’m at university it’s as if everyone – including myself – becomes a lot more one-dimensional.
Why does this happen? We’re all so focused on our studies that we start to lose sight of everything else. We think of our peers in the context of our studies. Since we don’t know them very well (beyond studies) that becomes the basis of our conversations. Most of the conversations I’ve been involved at university are funny – recitations of humorous events, quick one-liners, cheap shots and so on. The few times I attempted to engage in an in-depth conversation I could actually see the interest die out in the other person’s eyes. It seems the easiest way to hold a person’s attention is humor. While it can be crude there’s less of a chance that you can offend someone and that’s a big plus in an atmosphere where you’ll have the same peers for over 5 years. It’s a much bigger risk to engage in a discussion where you might end up challenging another person’s views. Anger, disillusionment, condecension, the feeling of being snubbed – all these feelings could be the result Personally, I was never very quick at getting the cheap shots that seem to be the quickest path to humor, so I (frankly) lost out. Slowly, I grew to accept the fact that as long as I was in this program, I would never really engage in a good discussion…
Oh that’s not to say that I haven’t met individuals who didn’t relish a discussion (or a monologue) but often I ended up feeling steamrolled. I wonder if you know the feeling – the vague sensation that you’re being faced with a verbal onslaught and you can’t get a word in edgeways. There’s no equality in this conversation. That’s why I value, so highly, the discussions my colleagues and I had. I felt like I was truly having a discussion with … peers (for the lack of a better word). They didn’t think or act like me or share the same opinions but that didn’t matter. It felt like we were on the same page.
I’d like to say “Thanks” Terri and Salman. Thanks for making a difference. Thanks for making my days brighter. And most importantly, thanks for helping me experience the thrill of having a great discussion.
When I left, I lost a lot more than a paycheck. A lot more.