A Lesson in Self Awareness
3 January 2018 | 11:23 am
I had a brief interview with the Registrar, School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto.
He asked me 3 questions:
1.) Do I generally get along with others?
2.) What do I do if I don’t get along with someone?
3.) When can I start?
I started the following Monday.
The Registrar was my first mentor. He gave me his complete trust. He was supportive when I initiated changes, he recommended me to collaborate on exciting projects and encouraged me to be engaged at all levels at the university.
During my second year at U of T, the Registrar announced his upcoming retirement. I was disappointed that he would be leaving soon, but also happy for him to begin a new chapter. I decided to invite him for lunch, as a small token of gratitude for all that he had done for me.
On the day of our lunch date, I met him at his office. He was an unpretentious man, with an unpretentious wardrobe, but that day he wore a trendy new shirt and tie. I commented on his new look and he smiled and said, “My wife picked this out.” I told him that she has great taste.
I asked him if he likes Indian cuisine and he told me he was up for anything. So, we headed out to a quaint restaurant nearby, that had a great lunch menu. On our way there I noticed that he walked a little taller and had a little spring in his step. He was in a great mood!
After we placed our order we started to discuss work but I wanted to learn more about him – about who he is as a person. He quickly opened up and shared some really surprising stories with me. The Registrar told me that he was once a volunteer teacher in Africa, which is where he met his wife, who was also a volunteer. And I discovered that he has a great sense of humour. He told me a hilarious elephant story, which had me in tears at one point!
We enjoyed delicious meals and great conversation. When the server presented the bill, the Registrar reached across the table to pay. I insisted that it is my treat. I paid the bill and then we left the restaurant.
As we were walking back to work, I expressed to the Registrar how much I really appreciate all of the time and support that he gave me. I told him that I will never forget his kindness. Then I said, “Thank you”. He smiled at me as we walked across the campus.
Then he stopped for a moment and asked me, “Can I share something with you?” I answered, “Of course.” He said, “I have been working here for 25 years and this is the first time a colleague has invited me to lunch.” Then he said, “Thank you, Michelle.” I smiled at him.
We walked the rest of the way in silence. When we arrived at our building he held the door open for me, and then he followed behind me. We walked up the stairs together to the second floor, where his office was located and then I continued up to the Ph.D. Oral Exams Office on the third floor.
When I reached my office, I sat down and turned my chair around to face the window. I gazed outside and thought about our conversation. I was so grateful that we had the opportunity to gain self-awareness. We learned how our actions impact others and how others perceive us.
That was the best lunch I ever had.