Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

Sometimes in life, you just gotta read the signs.

After my PARE test last night, I am reading the signs available to me and reevaluating once again where I want to go next in life. The test definitely illustrated to me the bald fact that I am, sadly, a petite and short individual. I had neither the torque nor the physical heft to levitate the 80lb. push/pull weights off the ground. I am trying hard not to be bitter towards that push/pull machine. This is probably just another sign, a directional arrow guiding me along the road.

Reflecting on the fitting analogy of the ‘sign’, I came to realize that signs are an important part of my life right now. In my thesis research, I’m looking at hiking trails, which of course require orientation and directional support for people to navigate. My research interests also lie in the relationship between people and nature. Y.F. Tuan, a notable human geographer, wrote often about the importance of signs in the connection between humans and the environment. In his opinion, the mind must be able to grasp sign, metaphor, and symbol to reach new understandings and emotional capacities towards landscapes (Tuan, 1978).

During my summer work with the Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation (SWOTC), signs were important because we were working to evaluate the Tourism-Oriented Directional Signs (TODS) program which help tourists find local businesses. I’ll speak to this learning experience more in one of my future posts.

I also have to read into the signs provided to me by the economy. In my email inbox right now, I have two significant emails; one, from a professor at Brock University that is interested in working with me on doctoral research; and two, an email from the graduate coordinator at my school, encouraging me to apply for Vanier doctoral funding. These two emails remind me of the plentiful support and mentorship that everyone has generously given to me during my years in graduate school.

I could continue on in the research field, even if my heart isn’t 100% invested; my mind and schedule would be more than adequately occupied. In my previous post entitled ‘Training for Employment’, however, I outlined my reservations with pursuing a PhD due to the lack of jobs in that field. My reservation is also fueled by the demand for women in the skilled trades, as indicated by the Ontario Women in Skilled Trades (WIST) program based out of Conestoga College. On a much less tangible level, I like the idea of creating something concrete in my day-to-day work (a seemingly inaccessible goal when one is teaching and submitting articles to peer-reviewed academic journals) – a viewpoint reinforced by Matthew Crawford in his book, “The Case for Working with Your Hands: Or Why Office Work is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good“.

As I carefully read over the signs in my day-to-day life, I am cognizant of the fact that there aren’t only two signs pointed in opposite directions. Too often, I draw a dichotomy in my mind – it’s either academia or the skilled trades for me! But it’s not really so concrete. I will go where the opportunities are, and maybe that’s in something I never could have predicted. Signs are there in multiple layers, and they certainly are everywhere!