A personal reflection for the holiday season

IV 26549 Kai Zhao

‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la la la, la-la-la! While the Christmas holiday is always a time of relaxation and enjoyment, this year it is especially important. Leave is always an opportunity to catch up with friends, tease my sister for her youth (10 years my junior), and gorge myself on as much of mother’s cooking as I can before I must return to school again. For the most part, however, I don’t think that I have appropriately prioritized family time in the past. I realize that I want to shift my focus more towards myself and my family than anything else in the world. For this holiday season, I have three goals; to spend more time with my family, to relax and re-energize for next semester, and to reflect on my past, present and future set out some realistic goals to work towards.

On paper, I had an easy semester as I only had four courses. But in my experience, there has never been an easy semester at the college due to many opportunities to become involved and self-develop. Since September, most of my spare time has been taken up with the goal of securing a career for myself after graduation. Unlike most of my colleagues, my future as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces is at risk. Last summer, I failed Phase 1 of Pilot training in Portage-La-Prairie in Manitoba. I have been facing a Compulsory Occupation Transfer (COT) since coming back to the College. After completing an almost endless amount of paperwork and the agonizing slow routine of checking off all the required boxes, I found out with a shock that of the only occupation currently open to me for COT has only one position available. Applicants like me from all over Canada are competing for this one position – in Kingston alone, there are three others. If I am not selected, then I could be facing release from the Forces.

My future, that has been so certain for so long, is starting to fade away. In a couple months from now, I may be putting my uniform on for the last time, and then become another unemployed university graduate looking for a job. It’s a cruel reality, but in the current age of budget cuts, what else could I really expect? This wave of depression could not have hit me at a worse time – the exam period. I realized that throughout the semester with the threat of an uncertain future ahead, I had lost my passion for success, and my usual habit of reaching out for opportunities for further self-development. Everything became a chore, and to be honest, I was scared of losing myself.

Photography has long been one of my passions, but in the thick of studies and training, I had let it fall to the wayside. To alleviate my distress, I picked up my camera again. Through my viewfinder, I saw the world in entirely different perspective. I always believed that each frame should tell its own story. Through these stories, I hope to inspire my audience. In these last two weeks of restarting my photographic passion, I realized that my pictures are also inspiring hope in myself.

By photography, I’m not referring to the various events such as Remembrance Day or Reunion Weekend that I take for e-Veritas and the school’s Public Affairs Officer. Instead, I’m referring to photos that take for personal pleasure. Last week, my friend Bill Oliver was kind enough to share my first creative photo of this semester, the Mackenzie Building under a full moon. This week, it’s a snapshot of the daily ceremony of raising the flag on the parade square at 0730hrs. Both shots have very different meanings.

In the first shot, as the moonlight brightens the night sky around the clock-tower, the college seems to be at peace. It reminds me that no matter how difficult or harsh the College life may be, there is still beauty that constantly surrounding us. The situation that I’m facing may seem dire, but then I realized that I’d be one of the only university grads of my generation who will have completed a university degree debt-free. The experiences that I had the privilege to collect here at RMC may in fact give me a leg-up against my would-be competitors in the civilian job market. How many other university grads have served as the leader of an expedition to Ecuador? How many of them have had the privilege to serve as an intern to the recently retired Senator Romeo Dallaire? If I were to release, it could only mean the opening of another set of windows of opportunities for me in life. Who knows where they might take me?

The second shot, released in today’s update of e-Veritas, reminds me of one of the key qualities expected of any military personnel: perseverance. Despite the harsh December winds, despite the blowing snow, the lady and gentlemen cadets of the morning flag party still carries out their duty without hesitation. I may be facing the possibility of releasing in the near future, but that does not mean that I will forget the lessons learned during my short military career.

No matter what the outcome, I must carry on. Starting January, I will be a Cadet Flight Leader (CFL), responsible for around 16 third and fourth years. I will have six courses including a thesis and I must pass my French oral proficiency test. So, for this holiday season, I’ll be readying myself for the on-coming challenges. I’ll be continuing my daily workout and spending time with my family. I’ll also try to get out onto the slopes with my snowboard as often as I can. Of course, I will always have my camera by my side.