My recent transition from grad school to the work – or “real” – world has been no less complicated than it was the first time around, when I was a newly minted undergrad. The same socio-emotional roller coaster has ensued: whatever pride or sense of achievement I derived from completing my degree quickly wore off, as I discovered many people had accomplished more than I had, with fewer letters embossed after their name. To describe it as a total deflation would be an exaggeration; however, like in 2008, I’ve discovered that more energy and concentration is needed to transpose new ideas to community living and vocation than to acquire them in the classroom.
In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela describes a similar onset of ego-taming sobriety in the wake receiving his BA: although it was an achievement that loomed large throughout the course of his studies, it quickly became apparent that it was “neither a talisman nor a passport to easy success”. Although he remained modestly aware of the importance of black South African’s retaining higher degrees, his most profound early influences were brilliant, passionate, and convicted individuals whose education had been primarily tacit and experiential. Mandela unequivocally describes one of these figures, Gaur Radebe, as his “superior in virtually every sphere of knowledge”.
Obviously, the resonance between Mandela’s words and my thoughts on this stage of life is where any similarity of experience ends. Despite his unfamiliarity with organized protest and political mobilization at the time, Mandela had always been subjected to the racism and disempowerment that he came to so epically challenge. Although I have lived and communed with some of my own societies oppressed since receiving my own BA, I have never entered into a refugee’s skin. I’ve also never walked into a Toronto Employment and Social Services office as the one being accompanied, and as such don’t know how it feels to be a member of a practical underclass.
My personal narrative as a Christian, citizen, and professional emerges from these realities, among others, and I hope that this blog authentically captures the joys, challenges, and revelations that spring forth throughout my journey. Recent developments include my getting married and starting work as front line staff at a men’s homeless shelter; among other themes, both engagements have taught me about the limits of empathy, the laborious nature of love, and the deep importance of serving. Other terms are leaping to mind as I type, but I’m going to let them emerge organically in the coming days. It’s been eons since I last posted, and I think I finally have the momentum to keep things consistent. Thanks for tagging along!