"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

A short word when departing…

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If you’ve ever edited one of my decisions, you know I can’t say anything quickly. Please bear with me for a few minutes. Thanks particularly to my retired colleagues who came to lunch, and to everyone who organized, brought food and contributed to the gifts. About a month back I was starting to feel really agitated and uneasy about the move, and when I reflected on why I realized that it was because I have never spent 10 years in one job in my life. It’s given rise to some reflection on that question. My military experience was a move every 1 or 2 years, as that was the normal pattern.

Yet I’m aware that a departure from a workplace is much like a hand being pulled from a bucket of water. When we leave the hand is pulled out and the water rushes in to fill the void, and all that is left is ripples. In time even the ripples settle down. This is not to say that time in our work community does not have an immense impact on each of us, for our work and mutual interactions shape who we are and help us to grow and develop. Sometimes that comes from happy, supportive situations; sometimes it comes from moments of intense fury, frustration and tears. Like the cycle of day and night, workplaces are similarly places of light and dark, just like all other parts of our lives. It’s always good to remember that often it is the darkest moments that lead us into the greatest personal growth.

When I applied here for a position in 2006, I was in pretty rough shape and in a really dark place. I left the military with a significant disability – 36 percent clinical impairment if you’re counting – and I was literally at the end of my rope in 2006. I had just finished two very difficult years of full-time work for the church, and had concluded that I could not continue working full-time. As I was musing over that one day while looking at the Journal’s job section I turned the page to see the Appeals Commission advertisement. I never thought I would get the position because I didn’t have the degree of experience they wanted. After the second interview I recall telling the search consultant that I thought it was time to start taking the process seriously. I’m grateful for people like George and Doug, who decided to give an ex-military guy a chance…even after Doug found out I wasn’t licensed to repair his airplane. So this place was not only a job, but a graduated return-to-work program that ended with me successfully transitioning back to full-time work. It’s a supreme and divine irony that our work to adjudicate appeals has permitted my own veteran’s compensation claim to come to a resolution of sorts. Thank you to each of you for your role in my recovery.

I’ve told several people about my reasons for leaving, but it’s worth a moment. We are in a period of uncertainty about re-appointment. I’m sure this will pass with time, but it will pass too late for me. I had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the uncertainty and the impact on my family. That’s compounded by my older hearing chair contract that has no mandatory advance notice of an intention to not renew: meaning each time my contract turns, it’s a no-notice dismissal situation. That, the uncertainty, and a number of other factors all came together once, made me turn to look outside the public service. Why outside? In the past year the 20 some positions I had applied for had not netted even a phone call. It was clear that my future was not intended to be with government.

Much to my surprise the first job I googled (literally, “engineer AND director AND Edmonton AND job”) was my first application, led to an almost immediate call in for five days of interviews with a job offer on day 6. The position looked like it had been written for me specifically, asking for a combination of engineering, legislative interpretation and volunteer management. The way it all came together in a rush, a near-perfect job with a generous offer, was a clear signal that this was time to follow a different path. So, August 17 I’m the new deputy director of registration for APEGA (The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta), basically working in the daily operation of the registration office processing some 9,000 applications per year, half from foreign-trained engineers.

What was not so easy was the decision to leave. Our work at the Appeals Commission is so important, for we have the immense authority to correct errors in the compensation system…errors that can literally destroy a person’s life (or an employer’s existence). I’ve really appreciated the direct opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, even if that difference is only listening to their story with compassion and understanding (in short, to be really human for them). The work has been hugely challenging but oh so fulfilling.

Although I’ve blanked most of 2012 and 2013 out of my mind except for the occasional recurrent nightmare, I also wanted to thank each of the people that worked with me to roll that immense boulder back up to the mountaintop. I’m speaking of our ACES project here, of course, and I was reminded by Donna the other day of how many times we came close to being crushed as we were trying to achieve a stable and functional application. You know who you are, and my sincere thanks for propping me up many times in those dark months.

I’m sad to say farewell to the group of really neat people that make up our community. I’m grateful for the support from everyone, and when I needed something I never had to look far for help. I’m eternally indebted to my commissioner peers who have provided for so much learning and development and always lively discussion over the past almost ten years. As I was cleaning out my file cabinet I came across a 6 inch high stack of decisions that Gwen had reviewed in precise detail, from the day when new chairs went through a mandatory 6-month writing review. I’ve saved those decisions because they continue to help me improve as a writer, and I now realize how much work she put into those reviews. Thanks Gwen and Marilyn for many discussions and gentle challenge when I was heading off into the deep end without a paddle board. Thanks to all my chair colleagues …and particularly to Frank for helping keep me real. Thanks also for the help as we worked through the loss of several dear colleagues, most particularly Ed Spaans who was my unofficial mentor concerning issues of learning to live in a world out of uniform.

As I passed the news of my departure on to people, it sparked some rather dramatic responses. I’ve been glad that most of the profanity and comments about my traitorous act of leaving have tapered off. Know that I have benefited more from your support over the past decade than anything I may have contributed to you. So, thank you for this lunch, and for all the kind words of the past six weeks. Keep up the fight for truth.

Matthew

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Written by sameo416

August 17, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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