Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fieldwork vs. Real Life

Now that I’m approaching the goals that I set for myself as part of my fieldwork experience, I find myself starting to think more about what is going to happen when I return to Calgary to begin writing my thesis. Of course, I need to remind myself that there is still plenty of work to be done here, but as the decorations go up in the shopping centres and the temperature plummets in the northern hemisphere my thoughts turn to winter, teaching commitments, data analysis and deadlines. I caught myself today, wondering what it was going to be like to return to my ‘real life’ after this sojourn in Chile.
What does that mean - my ‘real life’? Does that imply that what I’m doing here is not real life? That I’m just playing, or wasting time? Taking this view suggests that my time here is some sort of anomaly and that once I come back to Canada, it will be ‘business as usual’ with no excitement or adventure. And heaven knows, I love excitement and adventure (didn’t you read my facebook quiz results?).
Perhaps it would be better described as my ‘regular’ life? But then, what is my ‘regular’ life? I’ve been through so many changes in the last several years- leaving a career, returning to university, buying a house, gaining a nieces and nephews (congrats Shani and Jeff on the arrival of little Logan!), deciding to go to grad school, getting married, that I don’t think my life (or anyone else’s for that matter) could be considered ‘regular’. My life is unique, just as anyone’s is, and I don’t consider it to be ‘regular’. Not to mention, suggesting that my life in Calgary is ‘regular’ implies that this experience in Chile is just an interlude, an interruption to be taken in isolation and not integrated into a regular (read: boring) existence. The problem with this approach is that if I continue to keep thinking this way I will not be able to fully appreciate the experiences that I have when I travel or take on an extraordinary challenge, such as this.
So, in keeping with my life philosophy (which is more of a theoretical construct that I try to live and breath daily, to varying degrees of success), I have decided to consider this my ‘real’ life, as well as all of the challenges that I undertake in Calgary or any other place. My ‘real’ life is what is going on around me, with me, to me, and instigated by me, RIGHT NOW. Life (regular or otherwise) does not happen when you reach the next milestone. It will not happen when I return to Calgary, when I publish my first paper, when I defend my thesis, when I get that amazing job I’ve always dreamed of (*wink). It is happening to me as I write this, sitting in the garden of an amazing family who has helped me so much here in Temuco, Chile (thank you Marcela, Adrian and Beatriz!).
When I think of my life in this way, I am not only more proud of myself when I consider the challenges that I have faced head on, sought out and risen to, but I am also more proud of my friends and family who are also facing challenges of their own and succeeding every day! So everyone raise a glass (whether filled with Chilean Malbec or Canadian rye) and toast ‘real life’ and all the amazing things that come with it!
The back garden in Temuco

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