“To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:”
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 NKJV
And so, the time has come to let go of a significant part of my life – one that has given me purpose, identity, fulfillment, and a sense of belonging.
The most pleasurable part of my twenty-eight years working in the Registrar’s Office of Victoria College (affectionately known as Vic) has been advising students and being a witness to their frustrations, dreams, hopes, confusions, disappointments, and their triumphs. Some came to see me to have a good cry or simply to be heard, listened to, or to be acknowledged; but others came for the pleasure of conversation, laughter and the desire to feel connected to the larger institution that is the University of Toronto.
I will miss the students’ ‘hellos’ and their smiles when I walk around campus; the interruptions to my reading at lunch time when I try to get away, sitting in Queen’s Park, and where students still find me as they cross back-and-forth on the way to lectures. Above all, I will miss the warm greetings of welcome at the student-run Caffiends, where I go mostly for the opportunity of getting a burst of energy from the affectionate reception I am given; learning about new music, books, and the meaning of current terms like ‘lit’ while I wait for my Lavender Tea Latte or a simple cup of coffee.
There have also been memorable encounters with students met by chance while on holidays as far away as London, England one New Year’s Eve, and another time in Oxford one autumn’s day; the delight of meeting each other by such serendipity making our vacations that much more memorable.
There has been laughter during my presentations of dry seminars on course and programs selection, delivered with a light touch in the hope that my jokes would put students at ease before they had even started their university studies. It has been this personal contact with students that has rejuvenated me with each passing year: being present to their lives bursting with possibility, discovery and potential; seeing in their innocent-yet-pretending-to-be-all-knowing selves, their vulnerability, fear of the unknown future, and the need for assurance and guidance.
I have also enjoyed the company of the teaching staff; professors who have shown me such kindness and humanity, engaging me in conversations and showing a side of themselves that students rarely see. Furthermore, I have had the privilege of working with many wonderful colleagues since my arrival at Vic in August of 1990. I have seen many changes in staff over the years as people moved on to positions elsewhere or retired or passed away. I remember them all and the mark they left on the college and on me. I will also miss those with whom I work presently.
Although it is the students, the professors, and the staff who bring life to Victoria College, I will also miss the physical space we inhabit: the idyllic grounds with trees and flowers for each season; and the buildings that shelter us from the distractions of the city beyond the campus. I’ve been surrounded and wrapped up in this academic institution that I have grown to love and that will always be a part of who I am.
What will life after Vic be like for me? I feel like each year’s graduating class, who leave us with both joy at their accomplishments but also with trepidation about where they are going next in the world. At the end of June, it will be my turn to go forward and explore unknown territory, curious to discover what lies ahead, even as I look back a little and feel the longing for what was.
Northrop Frye Hall, where I have spent most of my working life. I leave it now and walk towards unknown adventure…
“The Cat That Walked by Himself”
Just So stories for Little Children, Illustrated by the author Rudyard Kipling
Image from British Library postcard