1/15/2020

On being … Vitamin D replenishing


By Ingrid Sapona

Though I do like snow (a remnant from my youth), I’ve come to enjoy sunshine and sand too. So, I’ve decamped to Mexico for my annual (over)dose of Vitamin D. As I’ll be away the rest of January, you get a break from On being … until Feb. 15th.

Until then, stay warm and safe.

© 2020 Ingrid Sapona

12/30/2019

On being … 2019 by the letter


By Ingrid Sapona

I have to admit, I enjoy doing the year-in-review alpha list. I add to it throughout the year – any time something gives me pause, for better or worse. So, here’s my list. I wonder whether you took note of any of these or what other things caught your attention this year…

A is for attention economy: this term relates to the monetization of human attention through algorithms that lure users to things like clickbait and addictive technology designed to keep us on-line and constantly scrolling.

B is for banhammer: this term refers to when a web administrator decides to ban certain content or users.

C is for circular economy: this term’s been around for awhile, but it’s gaining in popularity, especially with economists and those concerned with waste. At its heart, it’s a refinement of recycling and reusing things. It’s also about designing products to last longer or be repairable and upgradable so they can be reused or resold.

D is for dumbfakes and deepfakes: these terms refer to edited and altered video. Think of it as photoshop taken to a new level. The concern, of course, is that such fakes will make it harder for folks to know what’s real and what’s not.

E is for elements: 2019 was the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Elements. I certainly hope you all celebrated it. (Mind you, I forgive you for not inviting me to your party.)

F is for fake followers: apparently there are companies that can make it seem like you have more digital followers than you really do. Kind of reminds me of folks being paid to attend funerals.

G is for gender lens investing: it refers to analysis of gender risks in investment decisions. It’s one of the less well publicized phenomenon that some say is attributable to Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour.

H is for humiliation: the negative consequences – both domestically and internationally – of Trumps use of humiliation of individuals, groups, and countries is woefully underappreciated, according to somepsychologists.

I is for identifiable victim effect:  This phenomenon explains why individual stories of abuse and tragedy have more impact on people than statistics. It helps explain why people reacted more profoundly to a photo like the one of the father and daughter who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande in June than stories of the thousands of asylum seekers trying to cross into the US along the southern border.

J is for Jacinda Ardern: The New Zealand PM who showed the world what’s possible when leadership, empathy, and commitment coalesce.

K is for killing: Sadly, no year-end list would be complete without noting the extraordinary number of deaths in mass shooting incidents(those involving 4 or more victims) in the U.S. Even sadder is the fact that there’s no political will in the U.S. to do anything to stop the senseless killing.

L is for livestreaming: the phenomenon of showing things on the internet as they are happening. Sure, it relates to delightful things like webcams trained on eagle nests and other natural phenomena, but its main claim to fame is it’s become the technique of choice for shooters and other terrorists who want to show off their killing. See P below.

M is for maintenance holes: Apparently, thanks to a change in their municipal code, Berkeley, California no longer has manholes. Good for them. For those of you having trouble with the change, perhaps you’ll understand if you stop thinking of it as an attempt to be gender neutral and just see it as being more inclusive.

N is for Nike: this year they introduced a self-lacing shoe – an idea that harkens back to 1985’s Back to the Future II. Though I don’t think Nike had seniors in mind with these, imagine how handy they are for folks who can’t bend over to tie their shoes or who have dexterity issues.

O is for othering: this is where non-whites are depicted (typically in speech) as being alien and (typically) undesirable.  

P is for performance crime: this warped term came up after the Christchurch massacre. It relates to video streaming that’s a central component of the violence itself, not just incidental to it or some sort of record the perpetrator can re-watch later.

Q is for quid pro quo: thanks to Donald Trump, Latin is “having a moment” in the U.S. and Ukraine.

R is for rituals: just as gun violence in the U.S. seems here to stay, so too is the standard ritual that follows: vigils and prayers … and nothing more.

S is for student debt: the U.S. now has more student debt than credit card debt. How can that be?

T is for techlash: this term refers to the backlash directed at certain tech megaliths, like Google and Facebook.

U is for under the radar: While Trump’s wreaking havoc in plain view, what worries me as much is the long-term damage Trump’s family is causing behind the scenes (not to mention the untold ways they’re lining their pockets).

V is for virtual assistant – it seems Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa is an equal opportunity helper. An African grey parrot named Rocco directed Alexa to place an order, and she did. For my fellow lawyers, if the issue of who must bear the cost of Rocco’s order were litigated, one of the interesting arguments that might be made is that the transaction is voidable because a parrot lacks legal capacity to enter into a contract.

W is for weights and measures: for years, scientists have relied on standard weights (and other measurements, including metres, seconds, amperes, and others) to measure things. Well, in May of this year, the folksbehind the International System of Units revised various universal measures –including the kilo. Apparently the changes made are imperceptible to most of us, but if you’re doctor asks why your weight has changed, I say blame the standards folks.

X is for xenophobia: Initially I shied away from using this word because I thought readers simply would assume I was (once again) railing against Trump. Ultimately, however, I decided it makes the list because I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Don Cherry’s display of it on Hockey Night in Canada in November. 

Y is for youth: It’s a Wonderful Life (one of my favourite movies) is considered a timeless classic. One of the more memorable lines in that film is: “youth is wasted on the young”. Well, this year Greta Thunberg and other young people throughout the world have proven that to no longer be the case. Their eloquence and activism is admirable and hopefully it will rally adults to action.

Z is for zero: the chance that America will be great again if Americans continue to see those who may not look like them, think like them, or pray like them as an enemy.

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona

12/15/2019

On being ... crafty


By Ingrid Sapona

I don’t know if you saw the news video in November about a woman in Australia who ran into a fire to rescue a koala bear. The poor little guy was singed and traumatized and it whimpered as she splashed water on its burnt paws. It was one of those stories that’s both heartbreaking – seeing this animal disoriented and in pain – and heartwarming – seeing someone fearlessly head into a bushfire to try to help a wild animal.

The desire to help animals is nothing new, I know – that’s what organizations like the SPCA are all about. But this particular act involved bravery and selflessness of a different sort. To me it was an uplifting example of what differentiates humans from other species, not to mention showing humanity at its best…

About a week after the koala rescue story there was an article in The Conversation by an Australian academic titled, “Crafting in times of crisis helps critters and creators”. I wondered if it had something to do with the rescuing of animals from the wildfires in and around Sydney. In fact, it did. In the wake of the horrendous fires and the suffering they are causing to lots of animals, thousands of knitters, crocheters, and sewers mobilized. Apparently they heard (or knew?) that rescuers use pouches to soothe and keep rescued animals quiet as they are cared for. (The pouches aren’t just for rescued kangaroos and other marsupials.)

The article mentioned a similar mobilization in 2012 when German knitters crafted 40,000 (!) sweaters for rescued penguins from Phillip Island. (The sweaters were put on the penguins by rescue workers after spilled oil washed onto their feathers. Covering the penguins prevented them from licking their feathers and ingesting the toxic oil before the rescuers had a chance to clean the penguins with soap.)

Interestingly, the article also talked about the therapeutic benefits of such action for the crafters, especially in the face of traumatic events, like the raging wild fires in Australia. Crafting helps you focus on something positive and provides a sense of accomplishment, both of which can help ease anxiety. As well, creating something that’s needed helps the solitary crafter feel part of something larger than themselves. As someone who has always enjoyed making things with my hands, the idea of crafting for a cause really speaks to me. (And, if I’m honest, makes me think I should learn how to knit!)

Stories of people showing compassion toward other species – whether by running into a fire to rescue an animal, or by crafting something to help with the rescue effort – pretty much embody the Christmas spirit, don’t you think?

Now, for those who might want a little extra time to want to get back to some Christmas crafting – or other acts of compassion and kindness – I thought you’d appreciate a shorter column than usual.

Happy Holidays to you.

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona

11/30/2019

On being … blamed?

By Ingrid Sapona

Toronto’s crime rate is low and most who live here would agree that the city is safe. But, the number of pedestrian deaths on city streets is of concern to many. In a November 24th article, the Toronto Star reported that 34 pedestrians have been killed on city streets (so far) and the CBC recently reported that more than 1,100 pedestrians have been hit in Toronto in 2019 (again, as of late November). 

Just under one-third of pedestrian deaths this year have been seniors. So, last week a city councilor organized a pedestrian safety event at a mall in her ward. At the event, Toronto police offered safety tips and handed out reflective arm bands for seniors to wear when they’re out and about.

When I heard about the arm bands, I thought “great”. I’m a big fan of reflective strips on clothing and other items. A few years ago, I started noticing the ways sports clothing makers creatively incorporate it into things like their logos and on the edges of garments. Reflective strips are now even used on dog collars and dog sweaters. I’m grateful every time my car lights cause a reflection that helps me see a dog or something that I otherwise might not have seen.

The day after the pedestrian safety event there was a tremendous backlash against the police and the councilor who organized it. A number of critics – so-called safe-street advocates – said that giving out the armbands puts the onus on pedestrians and amounts to “blaming the victim”. The critics said the police should be focusing on dangerous drivers instead.

By way of background, I should explain that another big news story this month was a request by Toronto’s police chief for an extra $1 million to put additional officers on traffic enforcement. This request came after the release of eye-popping, albeit not particularly surprising, statistics. Seems that since 2013, when the city stopped having dedicated traffic enforcement squads, the number of tickets issued dropped nearly 50% while the number of collisions in the city have steadily risen.

I don’t think anyone disagrees that Toronto streets are not as safe as they should be. And, there’s a lot of differences of opinion in terms of what to do to improve road safety. But the complaints and accusations about the police wasting their time or supposedly singling out walkers is ridiculous. Toronto has a real problem with road safety, but neither the responsibility for safety, nor the fault for behavior that creates dangerous conditions, lies with one group. The onus is on each of us to look out for our own safety and to behave in ways that aid in making our streets safe. Indeed, I daresay that outlook is what motivated the seniors to attend the safety session.

If we follow the critics’ logic, does that mean we should no longer teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street? Or what about the idea that if you’re walking on the shoulder of the road you should be on the side facing oncoming traffic and you should walk single file. (Of course, I can understand not teaching kids the racist rhyme we learned to remember that strategy, but shouldn’t we still teach that advice??)

If anything, I think there’s more behavior we should be telling pedestrians to avoid to stay safe on the streets. If there were mobile devices when I was a kid, I’m sure I’d have been told not to be looking down at the device as I cross the street, or not to get so caught up in listening to something that I don’t hear cars and bike riders ringing their bells.

I imagine that when the police give talks to groups, they focus on advice they think might be most relevant to those in the audience. Assuming that’s the case, it’s clear the police figured walking and texting isn’t much of an issue with seniors, but making sure they’re seen in the dark is. I don’t think that’s unreasonable, do you? Apparently, at the session the police also reminded seniors of another defensive walking tactic I observe religiously: make eye contact with drivers before walking out in front of them. Mind you, it’s getting harder to do that because so many cars have darkened windows. (Personally, I think darkened car windows ought to be illegal for just that reason.)

Why would encouraging people to take personal responsibility be something others criticize? And how is that victim blaming? The folks attending the safety event were not victims – they were there because they want to avoid becoming victims.

The only victims I see in all this were the event organizers and participants who were unfairly dumped on by critics who seem to think drivers and others on the road owe them something and who are offended when reminded of their role in reducing risk.

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona

11/15/2019

On being … a uniting way


By Ingrid Sapona

The United Way (UW) is a non-profit organization that raises funds that it then distributes to charities and groups within the local community. (I should point out that that’s my definition – not theirs. I imagine many readers are familiar with the United Way, but I thought a brief explanation might be useful.) I’m sure the UW raises funds all year long, but in the Toronto area its big fund-raising campaign is in the fall.

My first exposure to the UW annual campaign was 30 years ago when I worked at a large accounting firm. That’s when I realized that the UW’s primary fundraising approach is to partner with companies to tap into their employee base. This strategy has two significant benefits: it heightens peoples’ awareness of the work of local charities that are supported by the UW, and it provides access to a large pool of potential donors. Indeed, I don’t know if UW originated the idea of donations via payroll deductions, but that remains one of their signature methods of raising funds.

The company I’m currently working with has historically run a three-week UW campaign. In addition to signing folks up for payroll deductions (far the biggest source of donations), the campaign features a number of small fundraising activities. As you can imagine, putting on these activities can be quite labour intensive.

So as not to burden the same business unit year-after-year, the campaign is assigned to a different group every year. To their annoyance, the business unit group I’m working with was put in charge of this year’s campaign. Given that the campaign is an annual event, I was surprised at how disorganized the unit was at the start.

Though the company runs many of the same events every year (a bake sale, a company-wide bingo game, a 50/50 draw, silent and live auctions, a pancake breakfast, a hockey pool), it seemed no one had a clue about how these events were run in the past. It soon became clear that part of the issue was an attitude problem. Indeed, the phrase I’ve heard leaders in this organization use to describe their grudging participation in the corporate campaign is that they were “volun-told” to work on it.

I find that expression offensive. The way I see it, given how well off all the workers at the company are (they’re paid well and have rich pension benefits), I feel they should be volunteering to help a cause that gives back to the community – not waiting to be told to do so. I also think that such an outlook is bound to play out in terms of the campaign’s success. Indeed, that put-upon feeling clearly contributed to the inertia that the campaign suffered from at the start.

But, things started to come together once some of the co-op students and younger staff got involved. They gladly lent a hand with the “usual” activities and they came up with some new ones, including a haunted house, karaoke, and a foosball tournament. Though not everyone was keen on all their ideas, their enthusiasm made the decision easy: let’s give ‘em a try.

The campaign just ended and the final tally of how much was raised hasn’t yet been determined. Given that the purpose was fundraising, the dollar amount is undeniably an important measure. But, in terms of measuring the value of the campaign to the company, there are so many non-monetary benefits to running a campaign.

For starters, it’s a tremendous team-building exercise and a rare opportunity to work with folks from other business units. Each event required those involved to reach out to others within the organization for support – from working with facilities folks to stage different events, to the communications folks to advertise events, to getting folks to sell tickets, and getting people to come out for events.

It can also be an outlet for folks’ creativity – perhaps the best example of that was the clever story and props the students developed to bring the haunted house to life. And it can be a chance for folks to show-off their skills and talents – from baking, to singing, to foosball prowess. In other words, it can be a terrific way for people to share themselves. And, of course, it provides the opportunity for folks to give back in small ways (for example, contributing items for the bake sale) and in big ways (for example, through regular payroll deductions).

Maybe corporate United Way campaigns shouldn’t be seen as mere fundraising campaigns. Instead, they should be seen for what they can be: a uniting way campaign.
© 2019 Ingrid Sapona


10/30/2019

On being … a lifelong learner


By Ingrid Sapona

Have you noticed how “lifelong learning” has become a thing? Well, it has. There are lifelong learning institutes and even an entry for it in Wikipedia. (There it’s described as “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons.”)  While that sounds lofty, I think that definition is too narrow. Missing from it is the role necessity often plays AND the fact that traditional ways of learning – like classes, lectures, seminars, and discussion groups – aren’t always available or particularly useful.

The first time I really focused on what it means to be a lifelong learner was this past spring when my 92-year-old mother had to learn how to maneuver herself to and from a wheelchair. In the assisted living world, such movement is called transferring. Before moving to the wheelchair she’d been transferring using a walker that was not particularly stable. 

Initially, thinking Mom needed to develop more upper body strength in order to continue using her walker, we got her physiotherapy. That helped her get stronger but her physiotherapist brought in an occupational therapist, who suggested it would be better if Mom used a wheelchair instead of the walker. The two convinced Mom to try it and they worked with her to show her how to safely transfer.

Though it sounds straightforward, there are a lot of little things to learn (and get used to) when using a wheelchair. The occupational therapist was terrific, making suggestions that we’d never have thought of on our own, like angling the wheelchair a certain way, so that the transfer is safer, if not easier. On top of that, the therapists showed us ways of re-configuring her apartment to make it easier for her to get around with the wheelchair.

In the first or second week she was transitioning to using the wheelchair, I remember one day when she was almost in tears because she was overwhelmed at all the things she was having to re-learn to do. But, she took all the suggestions in and figured out how to adapt them, given her personal physical limitations. Besides being impressed (and grateful) at her determination to learn these new skills at 92, I couldn’t help think that she was a living example of a lifelong learner. I also realized what a difference finding the right teachers (the therapists) made.

The other day another lifelong learning example cropped up – this time for me and my sisters. All of us have iPhones and over the past week I had conversations with both my sisters where we all complained about some of the iPhone functions that were changed after the most recent operating system updates Apple pushed through.

Though I’m an Apple fan, I always feel a bit of dread when there’s an operating system update, as I wonder what changes I’ll have to get used to. Though some updates are relatively inconsequential, others install new apps and other “features” I don’t care about. When that happens, I just move the new apps to a folder I created for “extras”.  But some updates make changes to apps I rely on, and this can be extremely frustrating. In some cases, not only are the apparent “improvements” not obvious, it’s irritating to have to figure out how to do things you used to know how to do. 

It used to be that when you bought something, you got a manual that explained how to use it. But these days, if there is a manual, first you have to find it on-line. And, when you do, it’s almost guaranteed to be out-of-date, given how often tech companies update their products. Yes, Apple provides an information blurb with each update, but have you ever tried to make sense of them? The blurbs are jargon filled and cryptic for those who aren’t computer scientists. Here’s the beginning of the blurb for the pending update (for iOS 13.2): The update “… introduces Deep Fusion, and advanced image processing system that uses the A13 Bionic Neural Engine …”. Get that? Well I don’t… Is it any wonder I no longer bother reading the description before tapping: Download and Install?

My tech guru friend Sandy has taught me it’s usually worth googling the issue because sometimes you’ll find information about it. I do that – but often all I can find is reiteration of the tech speak Apple used and I’m no further ahead. If it’s a feature that I really depend on, then as a last resort I ask Sandy for help. But what do folks that don’t have a Sandy of their own do?

Well, the other day, I happened upon a source for helpful Apple operating system tidbits that I hadn’t thought of before. It was a NY Times piece titled: “16 Useful Gems in Apple’s New iOS 13,” by David Pogue. I recognized the name immediately because I’ve seen pieces he’s done for CBS Sunday Morning and I always found them a great combination of entertaining and sensible.

The piece was everything I could hope for – and more. It explained some of the changes my sisters and I were confused about and he talked about some cool features I never would have thought to try. (Surely it wasn’t just me that never realized that every September Apple does a big update – one that rolls out all sorts of things! No wonder my sisters and I felt helpless – it was a September release!)
Besides all the truly useful information in that article, finding it sparked a curiosity that I don’t have when I view tech changes as something merely to be coped with. In other words, it reconnected me with the joy of learning about new ways of using the tools at my disposal. It also helped me realize that I should search out more curated content to learn certain things. (Thank you, New York Times.)

I realize these two stories seem pretty different, but for me, they represent what lifelong learning is all about. At its core, I think lifelong learning is a mindset that accepts that as you go through life, things change and you can either be defeated by them, or you can learn to change too. And, it requires a willingness to try things and to be open to sources of knowledge and information that you might not have been exposed to before.

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona


10/15/2019

On being … allowed


By Ingrid Sapona

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. I’ve always loved Thanksgiving and though it took awhile, I’m reconciled to the differences in how it’s celebrated on both sides of the border. For example, in the U.S., once the turkey and pumpkin pie are over, the weekend is focused on football and shopping. Here, folks tend to squeeze in the turkey and pumpkin pie between cottage closing activities and getting out to see the autumn colours.

Despite these subtle differences, for me, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on – and celebrate – all the things in my life that I’m thankful for. Like many, family, friends, food, and a lovely place to call home dominate my list.

But one particular news story from the past week has made me think about how much I have that I value and that I take for granted. The story was about the fact that for the first time in decades, women were allowed to attend a FIFA World Cup qualifying match in Iran. When I first heard the story, I thought I misunderstood. I had never heard – or thought – about women being prohibited from attending a soccer game.

I admit that I have exactly zero interest in soccer (at the World Cup level or any level), so perhaps it should not have surprised me that I’d never heard that women going to a game was an issue. I remembered being shocked at the news in 2018 that women in Saudi Arabia had finally “won” the right to drive, but I never thought much about what else women needed permission for in some places.

Though there are obvious common denominators to these two stories, somehow the idea of not being able to attend a soccer game seems very different to me. I guess I always assumed that things like driving bans are rooted in some misguided view of what women are capable of. All those ridiculous fictions about women being the weaker sex, or not as physically as capable, or not able to concentrate and focus – arguments that are total crap – are what I assumed were behind the panoply of limitations put on women in so many parts of the world. But none of these excuses could possibly apply to women who simply want to attend a soccer game.

Financial circumstance is another factor that often has a more direct impact on women than men. How many stories we’ve heard of families who – when they can’t afford to educate all their children – choose to only educate the boys. Of course, often what’s behind such decisions is another unfairness: the fact that girls are expected to work at home, while boys are free to learn – or just play. But even if we assume that poverty is equally disadvantageous to men and women – money can’t be behind why Iranian women soccer fans were not allowed to attend a game. (Clearly these women had the financial means to afford to attend a FIFA World Cup qualifying match.)

I’ve always been aware of the tremendous good fortune of having been born where – and when – I was. I don’t think I’ve ever taken that for granted. So, while I knew from an early age that there were things I wouldn’t be able to do or be – for example, a physician, an astrophysicist, or a concert pianist – I’ve always believed the reasons for this have to do with my personal aptitudes, skills, and interests. In other words, these things were never off limits because of my gender.

Mind you, I’m not saying there’s true equality between men and women in Canada or the U.S. – the wage gap and glass ceiling are prime examples of the inequality that still exists. But women are not systemically discriminated against here, as they are in so many other places in the world.

I suppose, in the spirit of celebrating Thanksgiving, I could embrace the Iranian soccer game story as a victory for Iranian women. Indeed, maybe it will prove to be the first step in “allowing” women other freedoms. I certainly hope it is. But honestly, though the story brought home to me all the freedoms I enjoy, more than anything, it made me angry for all the women of the world who need special permission to do something as simple as attend a soccer game.

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona

9/30/2019

On being ... good advice


By Ingrid Sapona

Unsolicited advice is a funny thing. Maybe it’s because it’s freely given, it’s often easy to ignore – and easy to forget. But it can also end up being profound. That’s certainly how I see the advice I got in 1987 from someone who offered me a job.

I was working overseas and I was applying for jobs to return to North America. Growing up in Buffalo, I thought Toronto, which was only about 100 miles away, would be an exciting place to live. So, I applied for positions in Toronto and in New York and I had an offer in both cities. Both offers were at large, international accounting firms and the positions were very similar.

By coincidence, Bill, the person hiring for the New York job, was a Canadian who was overseeing the NY group I would be working in. He was a dynamic guy and someone I thought would be interesting to work with. Rich, the person offering me a similar job in Toronto, seemed nice but I found him hard to read.

I was quite torn. I had truly hit it off with Bill but I wasn’t particularly interested in being in New York. Hoping Bill might understand my preference for Toronto, I asked him whether there was any way I could work for him there, instead of New York. He explained that wasn’t possible, because the job was with the U.S. firm.

Recognizing my trepidation, Bill offered me the best advice I ever got. He told me he thought I should choose the job in the city I wanted to live in. His rationale was that being where you want to be is more important than following a job. I took his advice and turned down his job offer, accepting Rich’s Toronto position instead. What neither Rich’s firm nor I realized was how tricky it would be for me to get permission to work in Canada. I ended up having to get full immigration status rather than come up on a work permit. The process took more than 18 months.

This past February I celebrated the 30th anniversary of becoming a landed immigrant in Canada. I ended up celebrating the actual day with Shanon – the immigration attorney who facilitated my immigration – we’ve been friends since she worked on my case!

If you’re surprised I didn’t write an On being … about that important anniversary, it’s because this year marks an even more momentous anniversary for me. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of my becoming a Canadian citizen.

Growing up in the U.S., I always felt that voting is the most important right – and responsibility – conferred on citizens. To me, being able to vote means you have a voice that can shape the direction of your community and country. Without it, you’re not a full member of society. In both Canada and the U.S. only citizens can vote.

Back then, I think the rule was that you had to live in Canada for five years before you could apply for citizenship. On the one hand, taking Canadian citizenship was a no-brainer, given how strongly I feel about being able to vote. But, at the same time, it wasn’t something I did lightly. The main underlying question I asked myself was whether I thought I’d remain in Canada for the foreseeable future. Though I had only been here for five years, I was happy and felt at home here and I saw no reason to think that would change. So, I decided not to delay, and I applied for – and was granted – Canadian citizenship.

Given how significant these two anniversaries are for me, I thought a lot about how I might frame an On being …. I thought about writing about what all immigrants have in common: the conscious act of leaving one’s native country and settling in another country, often leaving friends and family behind. Of course, there’s no question that my immigration experience was charmed by comparison to many. But even so, there’s something humbling about asking a foreign government for status and having to make the case regarding what you have to offer that country.

I also thought that maybe I should write about what it’s like to be both American and Canadian, as that’s a somewhat unusual position to be in. I thought about writing about how, as a dual citizen, you feel you have a vested interest in both countries. Or perhaps I should write about how I relate to – and see – each country now, versus how I did 25 years ago.

But my mood is far too celebratory to delve into such weighty topics. Instead, this week I’ve been reflecting on how it is that anniversaries come about. The truth is, though we tend to celebrate anniversaries as though they’re an event that happens on a particular date, what we’re really celebrating is the choices we made that got us to the happy date.

When I think back on the root of these two anniversaries that mean so much to me, I can’t help think of Bill’s unsolicited advice. What a life changing gift it was, and how glad I am that I followed it.

What about you? Any advice you’ve been given that’s shaped your life, or led to a happy anniversary? Any advice you wish you’d followed?

© 2019 Ingrid Sapona