FIGURE OF SPEECH

Dr. Gerry Turcotte

August 26, 2013

"The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

2 Corinthians 5.17

It is not unusual at this time of year for people to prepare for new beginnings. While this may be a formulaic feature of New Year's celebrations, the reality is that for many the end of the holidays and the start of the school year marks a fuller restart.

Parents and children plan for the impending classes, organize school outfits, buy supplies and textbooks, and coordinate forthcoming activities.

As a parent and academic, September marks a dual excitement. Helping to organize my children's schools and classes, anticipating the first days and weeks - all this is exciting and nerve-wracking.

As a university president, I also look forward to the orientation days and my opportunity to welcome new and returning students to St. Mary's University College.

This year, with record enrolments, and at a trying time in the post-secondary landscape, I look forward to being rejuvenated by the enthusiasm that learners bring, when much in the wider world can be less than positive.

There are few academics that return to the classroom without a similar sense of nerves and excitement, and so for the university's staff and faculty September also marks an exhilarating moment.

This time of beginnings, though, also reminds me to assess the weight of undone things. Like all of us, I struggle to keep on top of things, to stick to my resolutions, to exercise and eat appropriately. These pressures fall under what one might call the self-improvement category.

MEANINGFUL READING

I remember, as a very young man, fronting up to the self-help section and buying a volume about wealth creation. Years later it occurred to me that the only person who got rich from the book was the author.

Later in life I began to thirst for something more meaningful.

The weight of undone things is something that we all carry. This is the burden of tasks large and small that we put off, anxious to enjoy the moment or frightened of the enormity of the work.

Over time, these undone things grow and accumulate. Some are small: the light bulb that needs changing in the garage; the garden that needs fertilizing; the paperwork that must be completed. Some are ongoing: the physical fitness routine that is left unfinished; the dietary change that is desperately needed.

Others are work related: the report that needs filing; the article that needs writing; the performance review that must be undertaken.

Finally, there are the big picture things that, surprisingly, slip below the radar: the time to play board games with the kids; to have a secluded moment with a loved one; to pray and be mindful.

So my mid-year resolution is this: I will lift a number of these weights off the scale and see how tall I stand when I am done. And I will continue to offer a daily prayer of thanks.

(Dr. Gerry Turcotte is president, St. Mary's University College in Calgary.)