A Week in Review: “The Incredible Gift of Life”

My very core is the human spirit. I believe in the absolute necessity to be honest with yourself and to make the most of yourself. You have been given an incredible gift just to be alive. And if you don’t use it, if you don’t challenge yourself to make the absolute most of your own given capabilities, then you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself but it’s like a fundamental insult to everybody that ever tried to teach you something or give you a talent or a skill in history.

– Chris Hadfield

I normally don’t do posts like “a weekend in review,” but there have been some things this week that have resonated really strongly with me, and I wanted to put them down and people are welcome to read. The above quote is food for thought for what continues next.

 SATURDAY

This week has been a busy week for me (weekend plus start of week).

 Starting Saturday, I returned back to my University to help out with an internal first aid competition for the Campus Response Team. I had a scenario that I created and judged, much the same as I often do, except this time I was responsible for the joke / silly scenario. We normally have one joke sit per competition. The silly scenario normally doesn’t emphasize much on actual first aid skills, but is a bit more relaxed, and is supposed to be “fun” to help break the stressful barrage and onslaught of the day’s scenarios that competitors have to go through. [Typically eight]

 I had come up with a zombie scenario for this term’s “Halloween” branded competition, and by all standards and measures, it turned out much better than I had anticipated. [In case anyone doesn’t know, first aid competitions consist of a number of scenarios, and competitors are scored on how much first aid treatment they are able to get through.] On the day before competition, I was promised (or told to expect) 3 casualties and five zombies. Come the morning of the competition, only 4 of the volunteers assigned to me actually show up.

 So I go “that’s great,” although it wasn’t really a problem. So unfortunately, half an hour into the day, and half an hour before competition starts, I had to start scrambling to reconsider my scenario.

 I wasn’t too upset though, as I had originally designed my scenario for fewer people, and I had to compromise to an earlier draft of my scenario. Generally though, this was more of a minor nuisance than an actual problem, since generally I always try to write scenarios with only a modest number of casualties, as historically we have struggled with volunteer turnout.

 Therefore, I had only 2 casualties, (patients) and two “zombies.” It still worked; I just had to tell my “zombies” to “respawn” whenever they got slain.

 I was happy that I had planned ahead for this and knew to expect less than I actually had. Not only that, it was almost my duty to be able to improvise for my scenario. I only found out my room assignment that morning of, and had only a half hour to think of how I would set up my scenario, in addition to all the other prep-work (briefing casualties/putting up signs/briefing judges].

 What I want to draw from this is the fact that plans can almost never be assumed to go according to plan, and never, depend on the fact that it will. Always try to think of every situation and every outcome, and be prepared for it. In my case, I had 5 different revisions of my scenario write-up, and it was practically report-length, filled with information. I thought of everything [just about]: any options the responders might try to use to get through the scenario, what questions they’d ask, where to put people, how the lighting and sound would play out to create a spooky atmosphere… I had tried to consider it all.

 Moral of the story, is, unfortunately, I can’t really depend on anyone. Every one has let me down at one point or another. It’s a sad truth, but real one. No one else will understand the context, or needs, or priorities the same way as another person do (unless that person is empathetically selfless to the point of…craziness?)

I don't have a picture to show you guys from this event, but here's a picture of some props that I did use for my "very fun" scenario.

I don’t have a picture to show you guys from this event, but here’s a picture of some props that I did use for my “very fun” scenario.

 I’m not saying that other people are unreliable. There are just too many variables to control, too many things that can go wrong,

But at the same time, even though I understand other people will slip up, and let me down at times, I always try very hard not to take it to heart, because if I was in that same position, overwhelmed with the same deluge of responsibility (I’m assuming this, of course,) I know, I’m not used to it enough to perform perfectly. But as long as there is always a fall-back, or a contingency, then nothing’s any worse off.

[About Emergency Spacewalk…] and it is purely due to sweating the small stuff and not being paralysed by fear and planning ahead and it set us up wonderfully for success.

 – Chris Hadfield

 So, continuing on, of all things considered, the scenario mostly went off without a hitch. It was a scramble as always, but it I was deeply grateful to hear good feedback from participants. There were some who got mad at me for creating a scary scenario, but were still happy to have enjoyed it. And as a creator of anything, it is always good to hear positive feedback. It is something that I don’t give enough back to other people. I am trying though, I am trying.

 And that feedback is probably the main reason why I continue to enjoy writing scenarios and judging at these competitions, term after term. Although… I’m not quite sure what I can continue to do to top the level of detail I placed in this one.

 But enough about the participants side, on the judge’s side, I enjoyed being there at the scenario too. It was fun and very entertaining to watch some of the responses and the solutions that people were using in the scenario. I had people who would find the nerf gun ammo and use the gun, people who wouldn’t find the nerf gun ammo, and just whack with the gun. Some people used the [foam] sword and one person even went as far as to conduct combo-moves with the sword and gun. [Bonus points there!] I had guy scream like a girl when he saw one of my casualties that had slowly been transforming into a zombie [as written in the scenario.] I had one person who “creatively” (and questionably) conducted human sacrifices to buy himself time. I had one group pick up, quite literally, every piece of moveable furniture in the room (it was a large lecture hall) and use it to build a barricade (which ultimately was actually unsuccessful.)

 All in all, it was a fun experience.

SUNDAY

Unfortunately, I had to pass on the social afterwards as I needed to be back in Toronto that next morning, since on the Sunday, a friend and I were dropping by an E-sports competition at the Toronto Congress Centre. For the first time in the four years since StarCraft II had come onto the scene, a tournament for the season champion was hosted in Canada. And since it was in Toronto, and choosing not to pass up this rare opportunity, and knowing that there was nothing to lose, we decided to “check out the competition.” (<- that’s a joke, I don’t actually play competitively; I’m nowhere near good enough.)

Setup at the Toronto Congress Centre

Setup at the Toronto Congress Centre

 For what it’s worth though, that was another great experience. To be in an environment surrounded by other fanatics sharing a common interest with enthusiasm was enlivening. Normally things like video games are difficult to enjoy publicly aside for the close knit circle of one’s gamer-friends. To be in a place with so many other fans who shared the same experience, the enthusiasm, the cheer, it was where I could let go all reservations, and be completely free, and take in the experience.

 Of course, of course, many of you are probably saying that this is exactly what a sports game is. And essentially, it is! So now I guess I can say, (and I did say) that I think I finally understand hockey games. I also accept the fact that it appears only StarCraft e-sports interests me. Understanding and knowing the game definitely helps. It really develops a profound appreciation for some of the harder and more difficult feats which therefore end up captivating the audience.

 It may also have to do with the fact that StarCraft is a rather intellectual game, whereas regular sports are generally more physical games of fitness, stamina, and endurance. That’s not to say that I would necessarily be able to sit down and enjoy a riveting and suspenseful game of chess (does that even exist, or is that a bit of an oxymoron?). It also probably works against me the fact that I never got into chess very much, so I lack a lot of knowledge on the intricacies and the strategies used.

 As I discovered though, watching the web streaming on Friday and Saturday, a lot of the experience and enjoyment also depends on the quality of the commentators, for it is them who have the ability to provide useful and interesting commentary that engage and captivate the audience. It’s really hard to listen to a monotonous host, or one unfamiliar with the game and mechanics. But one who has the right personality and knowledge can be both informative and entertaining, something which I have taken for granted. [However Day[9] was there, so it was all good, and even the female Canadian player Scarlett was around. [Represent!]].

"Thank you Day[9]" by Temp0

Day[9] and Gretorp and Clutch dancing along at the WCS Season 3 Finals in Toronto

 Unfortunately, I suppose aside for Korea, e-sports events and venues are still nowhere near as popular as regular sports events and venues. It’s a bit of a shame for us nerd-folk. Yet I do not regret the experience; for I am only saddened by one thing: the fact that I was not able to drag more of my StarCraft-playing and StarCraft-watching friends along. It would’ve been more fun.

 But that hasn’t even come close to the excitement I’ve encountered this week. Monday was a bit of a break, but I still had to upload the photos from the first aid competition, and did some scouting at the local Indigo books.

 Which now leads me to Tuesday.

TUESDAY

 I went to Indigo during my lunch hour to purchase a book ahead of time, a book that had just been released only that day, and was going to be part of a book signing that exact same night. Naturally, I wanted avoid any foreseeable problem, and if there were going to be line-ups, I didn’t want to be in them when there was a line-up.

 So what book is this? – you might ask.

 Well, it’s the autobiography (of sorts) written by the newly risen to fame, and recently retired Canadian astronaut (who has also taken up a teaching post at my soon-to-be Alma Mater).

 Being as famous (and as popular) as he is, my expectations and hunch was correct. Boy, oh boy, was the event busy!

Indigo Manulife - Hadfield Signing Event

Crowding by 8:00pm

Indigo Manulife - Hadfield Signing Event

Another view

 At 7:00 PM, Indigo’s CEO Heather Reisman interviewed Chris Hadfield with some questions about his book, and as always, being no man to disappoint, Chris replied with thoughtfully inspiring words of wisdom. There were some comments and jokes that he had told before which I was a little sore to hear again, but was in no way disappointed. His personality and his life story truly make him an inspirational Canadian figure to behold. (You can believe whatever you like, this is my opinion, and though I recommend you share it, you do not have to.)

 Though it’s probably more on a personal note that I find I relate to the man so well, because I too, was once an air cadet. I too, am a Canadian. I too, am associated with the University of Waterloo, and I too, am an avid practitioner of [amateur] photography. (He’s probably a little bit more professional than I am.) And though I can’t say I normally have idols, but he has made it to my list; he has earned my respect and reverence, and I welcome, and look forward to finding him on the uWaterloo campus.

Commander Hadfield

Yay Commander Hadfield

 As for the book signing, it happened pretty quick and fluidly. But with over several hundred people to get through, I understand every reason for it. I had the opportunity to get a couple quick words with the man, I got my books signed, and posted about it to Tumblr. (Such a wonderful person, ain’t I?) As I kept saying in my moment of thrill, I had forgotten to reach out to shake the man’s hand, but that’s no real loss for me, because the reaction that I got back from my friend (whom the other book was signed for) was indeed priceless enough.

The ensuing reaction I got was "priceless"

The ensuing reaction I got was “priceless”

 Mission accomplished, I told myself, mission accomplished.

So these past few days, I’ve run a good scenario, went to my first E-sports event, attended my first book signing, and met a great Canadian; I feel fairly accomplished. (–Considering how much time I’ve wasted recently.)

 That is what it means to live life to the fullest, as Chris mentioned in his talk, and quoted at the beginning of this post. There aren’t too many times where I have days as fulfilling as this. My generation (and myself included) has been raised in a world full of distractions and easy-outs, avenues of instant gratification and a steadily decreasing amount of self-motivation and discipline.

 if you don’t challenge yourself to make the absolute most of your own given capabilities, then you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself but it’s like a fundamental insult to everybody that ever tried to teach you something or give you a talent or a skill in history.

– Chris Hadfield (During Indigo Books Interview with Heather Reisman)

 We all seem to be slaves to the modern technological era, but it is not the end. We must learn to adapt and live alongside it, work with it, assert ourselves, in unity and cooperation in order to make the best of our lives.

 I know I waste time… a lot of time sometimes, but there are days, or a series of days, just like these past few where things just seem to go all the right way, and for a moment, everything just works perfectly. But days like these don’t happen without time and effort, and I won’t say they come easy either. That is why it’s important to see the rewards, and not to give up chasing them.

Chris Hadfield's Rocket Ship setup at the book signing, just something cool I wanted to post.

Chris Hadfield’s Rocket Ship setup at the book signing, just something cool I wanted to post.

Be it the ten hours I put into writing and preparing my first aid scenario, the organization and search for people to bring to the StarCraft II Season 3 Finals, or planning around everything to be able to see, and meet Commander Hadfield. The rewards, I find, often make it all worth the effort in the end.

Before I end, I’d like to draw one more quote from Chris Hadfield, something that resonated

 I feel like my posts are actually progressively getting longer, even though the frequency of posting has definitely gone down. I don’t see it as a bad thing; it just means when I do post, the topics are deep, and heavily considered.

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15 Years of CRT (Members and Alumni)

15 Years of CRT, 4 Years of Memories

This week’s post was delayed to coincide after the CRT fifteen year reunion. Of course, it ended up being much longer than I was anticipating, hence, I spent a little more time on, during the morning and afternoon subway rides.

 This September marked the 15-year anniversary of the founding of the University of Waterloo Campus Response Team.  I won’t blurb much on the history,  it’s not my place to do that.  What I want to talk about is my reflection on these past few years, and my appreciation of the team that has been my ‘family’ while I’ve been here on the East side of Canada.

 I joined CRT in the winter of 2010, as a young, naive-minded first year, wanting to seek the continuation of my first aid career after having to leave the organization I was involved with during high school, behind.  But those years were slow and quiet. I was on the team, but didn’t do much. I put in my hours, met people, but was still ridiculously reserved. I put in my hours, but only just, because even though I was part of the team, I want actually “a part of the team. “

 At least, I didn’t feel that way. It was the problem, or, I like to think of as the characteristic, that I always had: the long road it takes for me to feel comfortable around people.

 I can’t say that I am one who is quick to make friends. In fact, it often takes me about three years of interaction before I’m no longer upright around people. I don’t mean to say that I give in a corner and run away from everyone who talks to me. No, I mean that it just takes that long for me to treat people as friends, instead of just merely acquaintances. (These are the original definitions of the words, not the Facebook redefinition.)

 So it was quiet, and marginally lacked fulfillment. I doubted at the end of every term whether or not there was any point to me returning. But every term, I still did. I joined because CRT gave me something to. I joined because CRT was an environment to meet people. And even though initially I never really grew particularly close with those in CRT, they were people that I knew, outside of the competitive battlefield that was my Civil class. And, in a sense, spread three thousand kilometres away from everyone I really knew, I wasn’t completely alone.

 Perhaps in those early years, the age (and the university hardening) discrepancy between me and the rest of the team was too much, and it was difficult to connect with people. And even though they welcomed me with open arms, I was always hesitant to let myself be caught in the embrace of others.

 But every subsequent term, I still came back. I joined because CRT gave me something to. I joined because I couldn’t let go of my first aid career. I joined because CRT was an environment to meet people. And even though I never really grew particularly close with those in CRT, they were people that I knew, outside of the competitive environment that was my Civil class.

 Perhaps in those early years, the age (and the university hardening) discrepancy between me and the rest of the team was too much, and it was difficult for me to connect with people. But things have slowly changed.

With CRT, I went to my first ACERT conference, a conference hosted by the first aid teams of the universities as an opportunity to meet, connect, and compete with fellow university campus responders. We went to Trent University in Peterborough for the NCCER 2012. There were seminars and a competition. I didn’t compete but I was a volunteer and I got to watch, and I got to be around, part of a group of people gathered for the sake of our own personal interests and motivations in an environment where we were able to let loose the overbearing burden of university, and just have fun.

 And I cannot forget experiences or the bonding that took place between members of the team. And I don’t want to say something as lame as: “and then CRT didn’t seem so bad”, but it was kinda like that. There was a sense of welcoming and adoption that I had not always witnessed from people.

 Peterborough was where it slowly changed for me, where I stopped seeing CRT as an imposition, as something that I had to do to maintain my certification and skill, to a group of people that I would be proud to know and call friends.

 Of course, things didn’t change overnight at Peterborough. (Or in more proper terms, it didn’t change over a weekend.) I was still the reserved person that I had always been, except now my eyes, (and mind, I suppose) had opened up a little more.

Then again, the people were good people too. There was one person from CRT – one person whom I hold in the highest regard of reverence and respect. Yes, there is indeed a person in this world who I respect the most, and do so openly declare it. He was highly instrumental to my incorporation into CRT. I remember he went out with effort to try and bring me to events, get me involved. I wasn’t always persuaded, but it was a start. More importantly, he showed me that I had a place to fill in the team – a niche to fill. He was aware of my presence, and he made sure well that I was aware of it myself. He reminded me of my contribution to the team, and how it had positively influenced others. He brought me into the CRT group like no one ever did before. And where originally I had been hesitant to let go and allow myself to be caught, I was now entering the embrace of my fellow CRT members.

 This person whom I revere was far more mature than me, even though he was a much newer face to the team (Joined later than I had). In university, I have learned that you cannot judge a person’s wisdom by their age or their look. I consider myself to be a fairly knowledgeable person, but I’ve met plenty more wise people from CRT many of which are not that much older than me, and some are even younger. Hopefully by now, the life lessons I’ve learned are letting me catch up a little bit. (I’ve since informed this person of my debt and my thanks.)

 And so I felt accepted and a part of something. I stood as a part of the team, happy and content to call myself a member, happy to offer my input and support, happy to be a part of something that I personally felt a part of. Other people can tell you that you that they appreciate your presence or contribution as a part of the whole, but it’s never the same until you see it first hand, and believe in it yourself that it takes hold and empowers you. And that’s what was slowly starting to happen.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until this most recent summer that I was finally able to let go of all reservation, throw myself towards the team, and let myself be caught. And I tell you, three long years leading up to that point made it all the more rewarding when that moment finally came.

 And so maybe that is what I am used to when it comes to meeting people. My long road to friendships remains constant as it has always been.

I stand aside; I wait. I wait to watch and see how people respond to me. I watch and wait and then evaluate.  I listen, I learn; and I pay attention to what I yearn. And when the time comes down to it, there are no surprises for me to hit.

 It’s worked for me in High school, it continues to  worked for me now. Why it takes me this long to get used to friends, I don’t know how. But it works; it works.  And those whom I have as friends, I will keep to whatever ends. For I chose wisely, and I keep close. Hopefully, that is a reward to those who are crazy enough to be friends with someone as crazy as me.

So now we pop forward to today. And I’ll admit, being an exec of CRT is not something for me. I like to give back, and give back I have, but in my own way, and at my own pace. I’ve been the “photographer” for the team these past few terms. I’ve added my sweat and blood (yes actually) to documenting and preserving memories for the team. And it’s a niche that I find I fit in very well. It is very “me”. For this was a way that I have ‘given back’ to the team, in my little way.

 I am happy, and my job is done. I have come full circle and all is good in the world.

 

The cake is a lie (it was too sweet)

The intricately detailed celebratory cake for the event.

Yes, we pointed out to our person that the logo isn't properly centred.

Signed by everyone at the reunion.

As it would be said (if you catch this reference): so long, and thanks for all the… cake?