Day 305 - Karen

Day 305 - Karen (1st person I approached)
November 01, 2014 - Tonight as I was heading in the direction of home, my inner dialogue to the universe was something along the lines of ‘please let me find today’s story as I make my way home.’ I happened past a coffee shop, and looking in through the window, I spotted Karen, sitting alone and reading. I had just come from a rather high-energy event and I was trying to be mindful to not bellow my big voice across the coffee shop. I told Karen what I’m doing and asked if she would mind chatting for a little bit. The universe smiled down upon me; Karen agreed to chat!


“I was born in Halifax and grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia,” she said. I asked how old she was when she moved from Halifax to Dartmouth.

“Well, I was literally born in Halifax because that’s where the hospital is and I lived in Dartmouth,” Karen told me patiently. So, I’m guessing no memories of the trip home then, I said.

“No,” said Karen, realizing I had no clue of the geographic lay of the land in Nova Scotia. She is the fourth of five children.

“I have two sisters and two brothers. The three girls are in the middle and my older brother is the oldest, and my other brother is the youngest. Being fourth worked out alright, the older ones had paved the way for me,” she said. 


“We lived in the Woodlawn neighbourhood. There was a little brook on our property and I had to cross that to get to my elementary school. My Grade three teacher, Mrs Dalling was my favourite. She was everything that I think a teacher should be when you think about the qualities of a good teacher. She was kind, caring, fun and patient. She set the bar high, and I always think of her as my favourite school teacher,” she said. Later when Karen was sixteen and teaching swimming lessons, she got to teach Mrs Dalling’s young daughter how to swim.

“I’d like to think I did okay in school. I went to one elementary, one junior high near my house and my senior high school was only about fifteen minutes away. I liked school,” she said. 


“I went to university right after high-school. Before graduating from high-school, I was looking at going to Acadia University (about an hour away). That would have meant that I’d have to move into residence there. I applied to Dalhousie University which meant I could still live at home. I had a boyfriend and didn’t want to leave. I wanted to be where love was. We’d been dating for a about a year and half. That’s a long time in high-school. But then he broke up with me before graduation. He was the younger brother of my best (male) friend. We all remained friends. And I went to Dalhousie University,” said Karen. 


“At first I was taking general sciences, and then went into biology. We didn’t have computers back then, it was all hands on. I graduated in three years with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I ran into a girlfriend of mine, and she told me about her sister just graduating from university with a degree in nutrition. I thought that sounded interesting. I went to Mount Saint Vincent University (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and got my second degree in nutrition," she said. Karen had moved into an apartment with two of her friends during university. She had lived all of her life to this point, in the same house.


After completing her university schooling for nutrition, Karen had to do a one year internship to graduate.

“I had selected to go to either London, Ontario, or North York, Ontario. It was a really cold winter in Nova Scotia. I remember seeing people on the news in BC (British Columbia) sitting outside in the sunshine on deck chairs, in front of the Legislature. I changed my location rankings on my applications and put Vancouver at the top of the list. I think my parents were sad to see me leave, but thought I’d be back after the one year internship. I worked for that year at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). I never moved back to Nova Scotia. I’ve been here ever since,” she told me. 


Karen got a job working in retail after her internship.

“I did that for a little while. Then I worked in a couple of senior’s care homes. I didn’t like those that much. I think it reminded me of my own mortality. What I saw was very different from what I wanted to see, when thinking about my life when I got older,” she said. About a year after completing her internship, Karen got a full-time position at VGH.

“I’ve worked in a number of different ares and roles. I spent some time working in the diabetes ward, counselling patients on what to eat and being healthy when they have diabetes. Then I worked on the kidney ward. I was working with people's dietary needs to help improve their condition and recuperation,” she said. Karen is currently working in mental health care. She's helping patients who may have once had the skills to cook and maintain healthy diets, and now need some support to regain those skills.

“I like what I do. I’m hopefully making a difference for the people I work with,” she said.


Karen has a thirteen year old son, with whom she has good relationship.

“I’m not so sure he still thinks I’m cool. But he’s not afraid to show affection,” she tells me, smiling. Karen has a thing for hats as well. She currently has about seven or eight that she chooses depending on what she’s wearing.

“I’ve been into hats probably since the 1990’s. I go through phases. I had my fancy ladies hats that I wore for a time, but now I’m going more with casual and comfortable hats. I like hats because you can easily accessorize an outfit with a hat. You can dress up a look, or change the look all together,” she said.

“I live in an apartment so I don’t like to keep things for too long. That’s why I only have about seven or eight hats at any one time.”


There’s an irony here in the reason why I had stopped outside the coffee shop when I first saw Karen. I decided to go in ask Karen if she would talk to me, because she was wearing a fun and funky white hat. #notastranger