||Volume 14, Number 1, September 2001|
Bye bye Berniece
by Berniece Stuart
After 31 years, I am retiring from the BCTF.
I started out in the Professional Development Division as a clerk typist, and over the course of those 31 years, I meandered through various job incarnations to my current position as something that doesn’t really have a title and is difficult to describe. My job has brought me into contact with a large group of people whom I consider myself extremely fortunate to have known.
I would love to name the many of you who have had an impact on my life, those of you I like and admire so much, those of you whose fine intellect I so envy, but, unfortunately, the editors won’t give me an entire page.
Because many people have known for quite some time that I was going to retire, I have been the recipient of many comments such as "So Berniece, how many more days?" or "Your last AGM, eh, Berniece?" or "So Berniece, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?" However, one frequent comment that comes my way relates to the size of my feet. "Wow, Berniece, your replacement is sure going to have big shoes to fill." What’s this fixation with my big feet? I’ve had big feet since I was in Grade 6. I’m a big person and presumably my large frame requires fairly large feet with which to support it. What I don’t hear a lot of is "Wow, Berniece, someone’s going to need a really big brain to replace you." There hasn’t been much mention of my cerebral capacity being difficult to replicate, but my size 10s generate frequent comment. Mary, I’m not leaving any shoes behind for you to slap around in (or to squeeze into as the case may be)—you have to bring in your own shoes and fill them in your own way. And I have absolutely no illusions that you will have no difficulty doing just that.
I’ve always (wisely, I believe) been reluctant to give advice to those who are a lot smarter than I am. I believe that my exhorting any of you to do or strive or achieve or whatever, would sound pretentious. However, when asked to write this final article before drastically altering the course of my life, I decided that there is one bit of advice that I feel very qualified to give. If you have a choice, attend fewer meetings.
The novelist Anna Quindlen, addressing a graduating class, advised her audience to "get a life. A real life, not the manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheque, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger."
Not once did Ms. Quindlen exhort her audience to make sure to attend more meetings. A lot of people have asked me what my plans are for retirement. I’m going to strive to avoid meetings like the plague. I’m going to watch our new grandchild concentrate on those Cheerios. I’m going to take some of those interesting courses like the history of jazz or the Vancouver Symphony Companion. Maybe I’ll write a screen play that will languish on some director’s shelf for years. Maybe I’ll learn to grow tomatoes that will actually ripen on the vine before the frost comes. But I won’t spend a lot of time attending meetings.
I fleetingly considered signing off my career with the BCTF as "your humble servant," but I don’t think many people would buy that. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with humility, and being anyone’s servant was never high on my list of priorities, although I am at the beck and call of my cat. I’m signing off simply with a great big thank you to all of you for the many great memories I hold dear, some great educational experiences, and lots of great expectations for the future.
Berniece Stuart, administrative assistant, BCTF’s Organization Support Division.