Episode 5: The Art of Starting Again with waseyaa'sin Christine Sy
waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy is Ojibwe of mixed ancestry from Sault Ste Marie and Lac Seul First Nation in Northern Ontario. She is a mother to a teen bear and an aging cat, a poet, and Assistant Professor in Gender Studies at University of Victoria. She teaches and researches in the area of Indigenous gender studies.
"Sometimes it's moment-to-moment, and sometimes it's day-to-day."
waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy
Waving, Not Drowning
Rebecca Gagan: Hi everyone. I’m Rebecca Gagan, and this is Waving, Not Drowning, a UVic bounce podcast. Today’s episode is being recorded on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Wsáneć and Lekwungen peoples.
In today’s episode, I talk with waaseyaa’sin Christine Sy. Christine is Ojibwe of mixed ancestry from Sault St. Marie and Lac Seul, first nation in Northern Ontario. She is a mother to a teen bear and an aging cat. She is a poet and an assistant professor in gender studies at the University of Victoria. Christine teaches and researches in the area of indigenous gender studies and our conversation. Today, we talk about the importance of discovering your passion and then trying to connect in with that passion and follow it even through the many twists and turns of your own journey. We talk about Magiimagoyin, the Anishinaabemowin term for the art of living your life or the art of starting again. I’m Rebecca Gagan, here today with waseyaa’sin Christine Sy, and this is Waving, Not Drowning.
Hi, Christine. Welcome. I’m so happy to have you here to talk with me today.
Christine Sy: Thank you for having me, Rebecca.
[Christine introduces herself in indigenous language]
So, I’ve just introduced myself in my mother’s language and my language, Ojibwemwin, or Anishinaabemowin, and I’ve said my name; I’ve said where I’m from, which is St. Marie, Ontario, as well as Lac Seul first nation. I’ve also identified my clan, which is spare cran, and I’ve said that– in baby talk language, in baby talk Anishinaabe, when I have said that I’m very grateful to be in Lekwungen and Wsáneć territories. And I’m very grateful to be here with Lekwungen and Wsáneć peoples. I’m really grateful for them.
Rebecca Gagan: Thank,s Christine. So, Christine, it has been a long… almost a year now since our worlds changed dramatically. How have you been doing?
Christine Sy: I’m okay. I’m okay. I’ve had a few moments in the last few weeks of… a little bit of panic, in conversation with my daughter, but I quickly have just decided not to go there in my thinking around the future, but in the big scheme of things, I’m doing really okay. My family is doing really okay.
Rebecca Gagan: And I think that you’re getting at something that people have been saying to me, too, and just what I’ve been reading about, is that we’re at this time now at the almost one-year mark, where that feeling of uncertainty is really increasing. I think, as it goes– as the pandemic goes on and on. And, as you say, it feels so crucial to keep those anxious thoughts at bay as much as possible. Have you found anything this year that has been helpful for you?
Christine Sy: I want to just be really honest, for myself and my family. And this– we’re completely sensitive to the devastating impacts that other people have experienced, but for us, the retreat to home, the closing down– everything was actually quite a relief, and it was actually an opportunity for healing in my family as a visibly indigenous and black folks, we experienced some world in particular ways, and we found it quite nice to be able to just be in our own and to do things for our own wellbeing. So, in the early stages, it didn’t feel like coping at all. It felt like a relief. I think that’s an important perspective to share cause I think there may be some people who may feel shame around that, or maybe people may not even understand that, but in our world, we’ve been in conversation with our circle of people, and we have experienced that it’s been kinda nice, and we have actually built different– we found relationships with our friends and family through online, and the online world. Because we’re from Ontario, we’re already distant, and so the turning to Zoom to be with each other in different ways, it was something very new. It’s something we actually enjoyed– you know, like game nights and different things like this, so for us, it did feel like hoping in the early stages. And I have to say, it’s just I think in the last little while that we’re starting to feel a bit of aware.
Rebecca Gagan: Thank you for Christine for sharing that perspective, because I think that… especially your point about how there can sometimes be a kind of hesitancy to say, actually, we as a family, we needed that time to– we, as a people we needed that time to kind of retreat– a kind of pulling back into family, into a healing space, and that we are concerned about talking about silver linings in the midst of such loss. And yet, it is so crucially important to talk about the ways in which the pandemic, as Arundhati Roy, the writer, has said, is also a “portal,” right? It’s a portal to step through into healing, and I think that certainly for my own family, I have felt that while there have been challenges, I have a son with special needs. And I’ve thought quite a lot about how us being able to be home together, and for me to support him differently has been so just beneficial for him, and that’s something, though, that, as you say, we tend not to talk about the ways in which there has been healing coming from this– so healing and not only coping, so thank you for sharing that.
And Christine, you know that I’ve asked you here today for a conversation, as well, about how, you know– what was your experience, really, as a student and as, whether that’s an undergrad or a grad student, and what kinds of perhaps challenges and difficulties did you experience? This time, for many students, this pivot to online learning has been probably one of the most difficult times for students to go through, perhaps, to do their studying. And so, I’m interested to hear from you about… just your own story and some of your own experience to share with our listeners, not just for the moment that we’re going through now, but just thinking about that experience of a student?
Christine Sy: Yeah, I think– I’m just thinking about all my different degrees– such distinct experiences and it was– cause I have, four degrees, so I think one of them has been– that is consistent through all of those experiences has been– the pressure around time: to get done in a certain amount of time, or the shame that comes with not getting done in according to the time. And that pressure is even exacerbated when you hear some of your heroes talking about how all they finished on time or they finished before the time. And I just don’t know. My experience has been not that. I never finished my degrees according to time. And so, when I talk to students, you know– as one of the ways we talk with each other in class to get to know each other as we talk about the programs are in what year they’re in– and I always give the caveat that it’s not about, are you, you know– if you’re in your fifth or sixth year of your undergrad, don’t feel shame. It’s okay. And so, inevitably, there’s a student or two who talk about that, and so I think it’s really important to understand that your journey as a student graduate or undergraduate is your– it’s a journey.
Don’t get too caught up with comparing yourself to what other students or what your peers are doing, even as we put a lot of pressure on that with awards, words, and different things– we’re profiling students, and those things– those things that we do are also very important. They can inspire. We want to emphasize that, but yeah, it’s, it’s about balancing, being inspired, but also not beating ourselves up with not meeting these timelines or not performing at the same levels our peers are doing because we all have such distinct lives. And I think being an indigenous student undergrad was very bizarre, and it didn’t start to change for me until I actually started taking indigenous studies course, and then my university experience became something so wildly different, so fulfilling it… I had a sudden increase in my grades, and I wasn’t depressed anymore. It just was so world-changing for me, and it actually changed my life. I actually had, in my first degree, I wanted to be– I was in psychology, and I wanted to become a child psychologist, but after my final year, my undergrad, I decided to go and take some– to try to take indigenous studies courses again because of my first attempt was a little bit destabilizing. I wasn’t raised in my culture. I wasn’t even aware of the politics of colonization. I was raised with my father, who’s not indigenous, and my stepmom, who’s not indigenous. It’s my mom who’s Ojibwe, and so I wasn’t raised that way. So, when I went back to my– I went to indigenous studies in my last year, it was life-changing, and I just gave up on psychology.
It gave up on the whole idea of child psychology, and I thought, “no, I’m going to do this now for the rest of my life.” And I’ve been so lucky to be able to do that, so that’s not to say that there’s no difficulty is within an indigenous study or indigenous-focused program because these programs are in settler institutions. It’s incredibly hard to resist those forces and to not reproduce them. In fact, we we’re forced to reproduce some of those institutional structures, so it makes for a particularly different difficult situation, just as much as it makes for a particularly world-changing and wonderful experience, in my case anyway.
Rebecca Gagan: And so, Christine, was that in your fourth year that you said you started taking those courses?
Christine Sy: Yeah. So, in my undergrad, my first year– so I’ll date myself here. So, I did my undergrad at Laurentian university in– I went in 1999.
Rebecca Gagan: Oh, same year I started. Yep.
Christine Sy: Yeah. And I think in my first or second year I wanted– I took some– I took an indigenous studies course… back then it was called native studies and I barely got through– I took two courses–I barely got through them. There was a few things– that concepts that were being introduced to me that I just couldn’t make sense of, and that’s a whole other story that I have talked about in other settings. It’s a little bit much to unpack here, but it kind of threw me for a whirl, and so I retreated, and I just went back to psychology and focused on that. And I actually was really torn between taking psychology or English literature. I didn’t know. I really– Did I want English, or do I want psychology? I ended up going into psychology because I wanted to give back to young people because I had been a youth who struggled, and I only made it through, I think my youth because I had adults who helped me like people in my life– who really helped get me through.
And so, I wanted to give back, and that’s why I ended up going to psychology and thinking I’d become a child psychologist. And I have to tell you; this is a bit of a funny story. So, after I finished my undergrad, I returned home. I was all about indigenous studies, and I was going to work with, you know, my people and I did all that. And I was so lucky to be able to do that and to have been able to do that, but I returned home to work with the native friendship center in Sault St. Marie, Ontario. It’s called the Indian friendship center, and I was lucky to get work right away. And one of my first jobs was supervising the childcare workers for the summer camps. And I have to tell you, the practicum is so important because I didn’t have a practicum opportunity. And I’m so grateful to have that opportunity because, I tell you, I got that. I had that experience, and I was supervising the daycare workers, but all the little kids were sweet, but I was like, this is not the gonna work for me. I didn’t know how to work with little ones on a daily basis. People who do that work– there definitely is a calling.
Rebecca Gagan: And as you say, you went from having a kind of idea of what you were wanting to do, and until you do the practicum and then, “oh, so this is actually what it is.”
Christine Sy: And yeah. So, I would also recommend that for students, if you have any opportunities to do practicum and what you think you want to do, do that.
Rebecca Gagan: And so, Christine, what was… can you tell me a bit about what happened? So, after the daycare after the practicum, did you– you obviously went to grad school, so can you tell me a bit about that?
Christine Sy: I actually worked for almost ten years with, in– in you know, their urban indigenous community, but then I went on to work for eight years in family counselling. So, I worked for a group of people, a team who were called CST, the community support team. And we were with a small family counselling agency, but we provided services to use in conflict with the law. So, there were referrals to us and we– you know, we had social workers on the teams, like a psychologist, myself, was given the generic title of counsellor, but I only had a BA in psychology, so not that I only had a BA, but I had an honours BA in psychology, and some experience working from the friendship center. And so, I did that, and then we amalgamated into a larger organization, and I continued that work, but I worked with another team called the multisystemic therapy team, doing of a similar kind of work, but 24 hours service, with particular like high-need families. So, I did that, and then through another long story, came to leave that job and returned to graduate school.
So, grad school came from me about actually– while I was working as a counsellor, I returned to school for a second degree, undergrad degree. I was able to get my degree in Anishinaabemowin, and that was such a life-giving experience. Wow. That was– that to me was– that was a BA Anishinaabemowin, at Algoma University. And that was everything to me. That’s where I became introduced to indigenous literature, to all kinds of things– creative writing, of course, the language, but that was just so wonderful. And that really prepared me to go back to grad school. It was when I used it as my warmup to get back into grad school, but I tell you, while I started my masters, my girl had just turned five. When I started my masters, she had just studied a JK, and I have to tell you, that second degree did not warm me up for my best. I did not know what I was getting into. It was like… I felt like I was treading water, and my nose was just the water above the water the whole time. I had no clue. Nowadays, they have like… I don’t know– there’s programs where grad students– if you want to go to grad school, you can go and do like a pre-grad program. Maybe it’s a summer course or something like this, and I think that’s fantastic if you have an opportunity to do that. Yeah. I think it’s great. It just gets you into that culture. It gets you into the thinking, the demon– the shock of how much reading, developing your reading strategies. Yeah, you really have to adjust. I really had to adjust my life. And the major adjustment that I did was I got rid of my TV to do grad schools.
Rebecca Gagan: Wow. That seems very virtuous, Christine. I don’t, especially these days, I don’t think I can live without it.
Christine Sy: No, I mean, yeah, so I– TV has been a big thing in our life, but I did get rid of the TV, and my girl was okay with it. She had other things.
Rebecca Gagan: Well, as you say going back with a young child… just so challenging, as you say, that, just kind of– I’ve done that as well, and just keeping your head barely above water as you go through that experience. And did you find that having been working for almost ten years before going back to school– did you find– how did that shape or impact your experience of going back to grad school?
Christine Sy: I think I certainly don’t regret it. I love that time of my life. I learned so much. I still draw upon some of the main takeaways from that job, from those experiences. I still have relationships from that time– good friends. But I left that situation under a kind of duress, I would say under protest duress. And I went to grad school to seek answers– and so, I was able to get those answers, but there was this element of being wounded that I also brought to grad school with me. And I don’t recommend that. Because you’re bringing that into grad school, and unless you have help with that, then that shapes everything. And because cause getting education versus getting counselling are two different things, so…
Rebecca Gagan: Absolutely, and as you say, something difficult to navigate on your own.
Christine Sy: Yeah. And you don’t even– you don’t really know– you don’t know until your future… until you are your future self, then you can look back, and you can say, “ah yeah, I should’ve done that. Or maybe I was a bit difficult.”
Rebecca Gagan: Well, on that point, Christine. Thinking, we’re here having this conversation now… many years on, and there’s a way in which yes, faculty can talk about those experiences and say, “I would’ve done this differently,” but there’s some things that you can’t know until you know them, and nobody can shape that journey for you through their advice, but I wonder what kinds of words of support you might offer to students who are listening now, just based on your own experiences a student.
Christine Sy: First of all, yeah, I would go back to that point of not comparing your path to other people’s; understand– many of us, of course, go to grad school as a strategy for our future employment, of course, that’s one of the key reasons, so it is competitive for that reason, but really if you can, somehow, as Anishinaabe, everything for us is about spirit, and there’s something else happening. There’s a bigger life force at play. If you can understand your life as your journey and not as this kind of structured path that global society and settler colonialism are determining. If you can tap into some kind of spirit, some kind of force that’s making your heart go, boom, that will get you through. Have your people, whether your people is a tree, or a garden, or a human being. Have that. That’s what I consider having a bundle, having, you know, — I don’t want to get into the do’s and don’ts, but this is what worked for me, or this is what I wished I would have been more conscientious about.
Rebecca Gagan: One of the things, Christine, that I’m hearing, and in all of what you’ve shared today, is that it was so important for you– and I think it’s something that is very important for students– to tap into, as you say, as a kind of larger force, but also a sense of understanding what was right for you and who you were in that moment, and who you were apart from all of those systems and structures and what you wanted. So, it sounds to me like you actively worked at this, and also there were, as you say, those moments in which you started taking the indigenous studies courses when you were able to do your second BA, for example, that there were those moments that really brought you in connection with your culture and home to yourself. But it sounds to me, and you can certainly correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me like you were guided by a sense of following a path that was yours, and that felt that was right for you, and that you actively worked to keep out, or keep it bay or push back all of those other voices, systemic voices, that are telling you how you should do your degree, but also how you should be, how you should be as an individual.
Christine Sy: Yeah. That’s a really wonderful paraphrase, for sure; I really like hearing that back, so thank you for giving that to me. It’s really lovely. Yeah, you have to– I think if you’re going to do university life, as many know, it’s not easy… whether it’s undergrad– and for many reasons– grad undergrad. For me, it was– I’ve always been like just attracted to, pulled by, have an affinity for learning, for research, for reading, for being in conversation, for thinking, so I feel like this is my life. This is my path. And just being… that is what has gotten me through all the horrible things. But also, there’s just so many beautiful things that keep me pulling through. It’s like a lifeline. We have a word… what does that word mean? Keeping the lifeline going– oh God, it’s leaving me now. It’s an Anishinaabe word, but it’s this idea of every day you get up, and it’s keeping the lifeline going. It’s starting again, starting anew– wow, I can’t believe that word is leaving me cause I use that word so often, but it’s that idea of starting again every day– keeping your lifeline going. And it’s like when you know your lifeline, sometimes it’s moment-to-moment, sometimes it’s day-to-day, but sometimes it is– there’s that beautiful vision that I want to work to. And so, for me, in the university system, as a grad student, and even as a junior faculty now, it is that, you know, this is where I want to be. This is where I’m meant to be. And yeah, for all the ups and downs, this is it. This is the place.
Rebecca Gagan: And sometimes, it sounds like you’re saying as well like just based on your own story, that sometimes you don’t maybe feel the lifeline or see the lifeline, or it’s not brought into Sort of a realization or something like that until– like it can take time. So it’s now it’s as if when you were an undergrad, it took a little bit of time for you to really understand or have a sense of what your thread, your lifeline really was at that time, and I think that students sometimes feel that when they walk onto campus, that somehow they’re supposed to know, and that’s supposed to be very apparent to them like what their future holds and what they’re supposed to do. And as you said, you had an idea that you were going to be a child psychologist. That’s, you know– and I hear from students, as I’m sure you do, who are very early in their undergraduate careers and they’re saying, “no, I’ve got it all figured out,” and then it can be very challenging when something happens and then they– it can be challenging, and as you say, beautiful, but there has to be that kind of openness to change and a kind of flexibility… to let in those other voices that are there, that are calling you to do something else.
Christine Sy: Yeah. I guess we can use the word spirituality, and some people might not be attracted to that idea or want to recheck that idea, but it is being open to something larger than this human-made life, and I’ve always been a spiritual person. I remember even being a little girl and being very attuned to a larger forest. Piaget would call that something else, but I know Piaget is wrong in this case. It is a connection knowing there’s something greater out there. It’s not magical thinking, Piaget. So, yeah. So, I think if you’re naturally that way anyways, then people would really get that. But I think it’s harder for people who aren’t naturally that way to maybe– this may not resonate with them, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be spiriting. It’d be just something that I thought, even with students, if they’re so trained in this traditional academic writing, I encourage them to do creative writing. It has something different off the path that they’re so used to. It doesn’t have to be so much as go out and get your bundle cause they’ll say, “what is she talking about?” It can be, if you’re so used to just writing academically, start writing creatively, read something different, maybe read in a different way, read somebody different, something like that, so just to prompt that.
Rebecca Gagan: Just a kind of interruption, I think. Interruption of those– I call them voices, but I think it’s a system. It’s a way of thinking that also when you enter into university, you, of course, step into that and become much more enmeshed in it. And as you say, you have to disrupt it, you have to interrupt it, in order to find your own voice as well, and to figure– and to be able to figure out your path. And you’re right, maybe, the idea of spirituality doesn’t resonate with everybody, but I think we can use other words in terms of thinking about a passion, or something that energizes you like nothing else, and then I think it’s about talking back to voices that might tell you “No, you can’t do that” or that’s not the path—and being able to follow your heart or follow your lifeline.
Absolutely. And I can say, too, as you know, now I know we’re the same age… just thinking about, you know, reflecting back and what I didn’t know then, I feel like it took me a really long time to figure out my own lifeline, but also you can lose it sometimes, right? Like I think it’s there, but you can lose sight of it or lose your grasp on it, and that’s okay too because it’s there. And it will come back to yourself. And I think even if, as you started our conversation today, by saying Christine, that it can take a long time to find it. And there may be moments where you lose it and come back to it. Like I love hearing about how you worked and then you– you love learning, but you also said you wanted questions answered.
Christine Sy: Yeah, yeah.
Rebecca Gagan: You came back and out of that passion and curiosity, but a kind of drive to know more about yourself and to understand more about, I think, like your culture– like all of these questions that you wanted answered. And you, not that you ever lost the thread, but it came back even more strongly, it sounds like to me.
Christine Sy: Yeah. I definitely came back in a different way, and I had always had a vision that I wanted to do my PhD in indigenous studies, so I always knew that. As soon as I knew that such a thing existed, I knew I wanted to go to Trent University. It was a dream. It was a dream that I had had for many, many years. And it was… it happened. It was… it happened. And I have to tell you– again, maybe this might not resonate, but it will for maybe it will for others–, but I was telling my daughter the other day that even sometimes I think I wake up and I think in some ways I have lost myself through this whole process of the PhD and different things and the pressures of work and all the things. And I just shared with her a few months ago I said, “I was just thinking that actually, all my dreams have come true.” That Kreda has been so good to– like in Anishinaabe when we talk about giche manidoo, the great kind mystery, and I say, has been so good to me and I’ve always known that, but I woke up the other day and I was thinking all my dreams have come true. I didn’t even realize– I didn’t set out on a path to say, this is my dream. I’m going to achieve it. I’ve kind of just, oh didoodoo, just do my life, but also let life happen. Like it’s a balance between doing life assertively as stepping into it, but also letting it happen. And so, I found myself living here amongst these beautiful cedar trees and the Sitka and all these–the ocean.
I’d always had a dream of being around these gargantuan trees, living out here on the west coast. I always wanted to be a writer. Like these are little girl dreams, and here I am. I’m surrounded by these amazing books, amazing people, I’m writing, I’m living in the most beautiful area with amazing human beings and these trees. And I have my beautiful girl, and I just said to her, I said, when do you wake up and realize– some days you wake up, and you think God, nothing is working out for me– but then some days you realize it actually is, it actually is, my dreams have come true. This has been my path. You know, we’re not– we all have different paths, but I guess my point there is to say that, have your dreams. You don’t necessarily have to pursue them in such a focused way. You have to let life happen to you because it will work its way. It will have its way with you.
Rebecca Gagan: Yeah, I find what you’re saying, Christine, just so beautiful, actually, and just so powerful because I think that we can get very focused on, as you say, what’s not working out or what we don’t have, and what we have yet to achieve. And that things seem out of reach and yet– and there is, as you say, also this desire to control it, that you control our future, control everything– and that we can in some way do that. And yet, think it’s that the life– the lifeline is there and that it’s always there and that you’re– I believe– that you’re guided, right? And that you move through the world in this place, thinking that you can control all of those things and that there is so much that you can yourself individually do, but as you’re saying, Christine, life unfolds, it unfolds.
Christine Sy: And we know that– with the pandemic is teaching us that, right?
Rebecca Gagan: That is so true… that it is. And that I think all of us have felt very thrown by a kind of lack of control over our lives these days. But to wake up and to be able to look at your life and your own journey and say, “Look at how my dreams have been realized and to see like your beautiful life,” you know, I think that that is what is sustaining, and I think that maybe that’s something if we could have to test with your students too, it’s a way, as you said, of being compassionate and gentle with yourself. That it’s to not think about what you’ve not achieved yet, or the ways in which your dreams have not come true, but to be so gentle with yourself, to be able to see also the beauty in your own life.
Christine Sy: Yeah. And I think about– I know we’re speaking to a different generation and like people in different locations as students, but yeah, we do have to be gentle with ourselves because we just don’t know what we don’t know. We’re in it. When you’re younger, there’s definitely something else going on. You have to get your job– like I’m speaking from the position I have a job, so it means we have our jobs. I don’t want to lose sight of that, and I just think, even now I think, what does the future hold? I see my elders. I see my dad, who is not Anishinaabe, and he’s in a senior’s home now. And he– life just does not relapse; life does not stop giving; life does not stop happening, so you know, he had a stroke a few years ago, and so now his whole world is different. And my dad is still teaching me like– what a gift for me as a 48-year-old to be able to see how to be as an elder. How does keep dealing having life throw us these curveballs. And he’s just been such an amazing– we haven’t– I can understand him. He can’t talk anymore, but I can still understand some words that he’s saying. We still communicate. We’re finding new ways to communicate over the phone. Thank gosh for the phone. Thank gosh that he still knows how to use the phone, and he has that capacity. And I just think, even if you have babies in our life, or if we have elders in our life, they’re always there to give us perspective– young people. I love working with students because they humble me because I really don’t know what they’re going through. They teach me. I have students who are very kind, and they’ll say to me, in student hours, “you said this word, and that’s actually not how you’re supposed to say it”– and I do create that kind of atmosphere. I do have boundaries like I am the professor, but the students do know if I’ve made an error. I mean, I’m always learning. I try to put that off. So, with students and to learn from young people from your generation behind you, the generation ahead of you, many generations ahead of you or behind you. Anyhow, I feel like we could go on and on, but I wanted to say that the word just came to me for a lifeline, that starting the life, like starting again, is maajiimaadiziwin in Anishinaabe. Maajiimaadiziwin, and it’s the art of starting again, the art of living your life.
Rebecca Gagan: So, the artist starting again, the art of living your life. So, Christine, would that then mean that living your life is the same as always starting again?
Christine Sy: It could be. So, this word, maajiimaadiziwin now, I’m not a language person. I’m a language learner, so I recall speaking with my teachers around this, and it is– so our language can mean different things in different contexts. It always has this same kind of mean, but maajiimaadiziwins the lifeline, so that works the wind, it makes it a noun, but also a verb. So, it makes it the art of living– the art of starting again, the art of living your life. So, it’s used as a lifeline. So, this word, in particular, I think about what are those old ones who were making language? And we were still making language as indigenous people. We’re still making new language. Language has always changing, culture is always changing, but I think about those old ones, and I think what was the context? Why did they make this word? What compelled them to make this word and something about their lives made them to have this word about starting again. Was it a time of suffering? Was it… what was it that made them come up with this word of the art of living, the art of starting again, the art of living your life, keeping that lifeline going. And so, I think I do use this word to teach cause I teach really heavy content, as many of us do. And I don’t want to leave students feeling disempowered or hopeless. And so, I use this word to say, from generation to generation, we each have our responsibilities, and sometimes it’s the cycle.
We have to continue to resist. We have to continue to regenerate our lives. And of course, I was speaking about indigenous peoples, and our allies and our families. But I think in this context, we talk about living in a pandemic, and I’ve had reverted to this of late. maajiimaadiziwin, it’s the art of starting over again, so every morning you wake up, and it’s not just, “oh, it’s another day.” It’s the art of another day, the art of living another day. How am I going to get through today? Or how am I going to get through this afternoon? And I’ll be honest with you, last semester, near the last few weeks, I was one step in front of the evidence. Yeah, so maajiimaadiziwin, and I think for me, particularly in this context is really just about the day-to-day getting up, and it’s not as mundane as one step in front of the other, but it’s more of a having that spirit involved as well. Like the spirits of leaving our life, living in our life every day, one step in front of the other. It is life that we’ve been given, and we can do this. We can do this.
Rebecca Gagan: Thanks, Christine. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to talk with you today and to learn with you today, and I know that your words will be just so supportive to our listeners. So, thank you so much for being here.
Christine Sy: Thank you for having me, Rebecca.
Rebecca Gagan: Take care. In next week’s episode of Waving, Not Drowning. I talk with Dr. Susan Breau, professor and Dean of the faculty of law at the University of Victoria. In our conversation, we talk about Susan’s experience as a student with disabilities, about her decision to leave her thriving law practice and return to graduate school so that she could study her passion, international law, and also about the importance of going your own way. I really hope that you will tune in for that conversation. You can stream Waving, Not Drowning on Anchor FM, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Please follow us on Instagram @uvicbounce, where you can send us your comments, your thoughts, your ideas. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks so much for tuning in.
Until next time.