Western News – Mind before matter
Keith Chow has long believed that focusing on the highlights of each day is essential to surviving the tough times. In 2017, while in his sophomore year at Western University, he started a Daily Appreciation Instagram blog to feature one photo per day of something that made him happy. It was a way to stay in touch with family and friends, spread positivity, and build community.
“The idea was that there would be things that get you down every day, but if you pay more attention and enjoy the great little moments that happen in your life, you learn that the hard times aren’t that bad. after all. It was really important because, sometimes, course management, university training and a social life naturally presented challenges, “he said.” A lot of positive things have come out of this. [the Instagram blog]. I built a small community around it and even inspired other people to start their own daily appreciation journey.
This strategy then helped him get through one of the most difficult experiences of his life. On March 2, 2018, while Chow was in his first year of Ivey’s HBA program, he suffered a severe concussion over several years that left him wondering if he would ever be able to fully function again. .
At first, Chow tried to cross it. He finished his classes for the year and started a summer internship role. But soon his health deteriorated. He had difficulty with basic brain functions such as remembering things, expressing thoughts correctly, and thinking without pain. Chow cut his internship short and decided not to go back to school in the fall.
“I quit school for a year because I didn’t know how to deal with my concussion. I didn’t realize how bad the situation was until I couldn’t even get up to get myself ready to eat. I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own, ”he said.
Chow returned home to Vancouver, British Columbia, saw a specialist and began working with an occupational therapist to resume his duties. It was a difficult time. Once a top athlete, having competed with Team Canada Ultimate and captain of the Western Mustangs Ultimate Frisbee, Chow struggled to slow down. Part of his recovery plan was to limit himself to just 30 minutes of daily activity, whether it was socializing, exercising, or tasks requiring mental focus. He spent the remaining hours of the day meditating and trying to keep his mind blank. He tried to get five extra minutes of activity every week. He knew that if he pushed himself too hard, he would be off duty for days.
“Holding back is the hardest part. You just want to be better and prove to yourself that you can do more. I was a driving person before. I played sports at a very high level. At Ivey my social life and my work have always been at a very high level, ”he said. “The real test of resilience for me was being able to say that I understand what my limits are and that I will take a step back and rest. “
As a sociable person, he struggled to limit his social interactions. From the age of 10, Chow would ride a bus to downtown Vancouver and start conversations with random passers-by for fun, from homeless people to professionals. As captain of the Ultimate Frisbee varsity team, he used his people skills to foster a team culture of success. He was always curious about how different people operate and interact.
“I definitely had a little identity crisis because in social situations I was used to being the bubbly person – the person who connects people. I was good at meeting people and building relationships,” he said. “Then, with my limitations in thought, speech and energy from my concussion, I had this strange period of social adjustment.”
Focusing on the positive – every little step of progress – has helped him persevere in the face of adversity.
Chow returned to Ivey in September 2019 and eventually completed his HBA by organizing a limited workload. Basically, one year of programming spanned two years. There were certainly difficult times. One of them was when it took him eight hours to complete an exam because he had to take a break every 30 minutes to clear his head before returning for another round of assignments. Taking the exam was a memorable one for him. Chow took a photo from the bench and shared it as a message of appreciation for the day. He was capturing the bright side of the experience again – he had survived a grueling eight-hour workday, which he had been working on for the past two years.
“Getting the extra time was great, but it’s getting harder and harder to work every hour longer. Every time I sat down to write I completely used up all of my concentration energy, so I tried to muster as much energy as I could on this bench, ”he said. “At the end of the day, I don’t care how the exam actually went. I wanted this to be an important step in my recovery and proof that I was going in the right direction. I finally had the validation that the recovery work was paying off.
By understanding his limitations and restraining himself, Chow grew to 10 hours of activity per day. He even just finished a marathon. After completing his HBA in December 2020, he started working. This feat seemed unlikely a few years ago. Chow first worked as a business development manager at WandrPass, a startup that provides marketing solutions and business analytics to restaurants to help them cope with the pandemic. He recently joined TouchBistro, a software company that offers restaurant management systems, as a Market Development Representative.
Chow said the new role made her feel like she had come full circle. Working in sales forces him to build relationships with people, just as he did when he was a kid on the streets of Vancouver.
But he’s not the type to attribute that to fate. The hard-won victory came from his change of mind.
“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think everything happens for a reason. I think life is just happening and it’s your ability to let go of your past reality and make the most of your new reality that determines your happiness in the future, ”he said. “I had to be okay with not improving at some point. I have learned through this recovery process not to think about the future, but rather how I can make the most of what I have right now.