The Performer Self

When I first began birding, I never would have thought that picking up a pair of binoculars, looking through them and discussing birds would provide a voice for my Performer Self.

Two striking examples of the Performer Self manifesting before an audience are seen at 1) concerts and 2) during competitive sports matches. About ten years ago I decided to toss out some dreadful habits and join a sports team so I investigated local running clubs. I found one: Ottawa Lions. I thought “ooh, I get it…like the various Lions clubs around town; I’ll probably find worn, kindred souls there and together we will learn how to stand and fight!” Instead I found an Internationally-renowned track club and I recall during my first team practice my mouth was half open in complete awe of the remarkable talent and palpable tenacity all around me. What struck an interest right away was the visible transformation from doe-eyed, insecure teenager scuffing his/her feet as he/she entered the stadium into a confident, ferocious, Teflon-tough warrior on track. What I was witnessing was the Performer Self manifesting itself in its optimal medium.

Before the social hobby of bird-watching found me, I suppose I lived what could be termed as a careful, sheltered existence. Though I was out and about as any university student must be, I kept a distance at the same time. I had many small pockets of friends from completely different walks of life and drifted between the groups, stopping for social sustenance whenever I needed relief from my own company. This style still dominates my social life as I really do enjoy seeing things from all sides. Anyways, bottom line is I wasn’t sure where I would end up and in a way, I lived my life without any great zeal or purpose. Throughout my time in university, I felt I had talent but did not know how I was to isolate a specific talent and tap into it.  It wasn’t until I took an Ornithology course and purchased a pair of binoculars did I find something that really struck a very deep chord. Day after day, I pored over study skins in our zoology lab and found every excuse to visit the lab off hours. I recall one day the professor walked by the lab and there I was, studying for the up-coming midterm. He walked in and placed a frozen, freshly-dead bird in front of me and also placed a huge technical manual on the identification of North American Birds beside me. “What do you think?” I really had absolutely no idea but in flipping the pages of the book I began to realize that well beyond the hobby of casual bird-watching exists a land inhabited by minds with incredibly bright intellect possessing the razor-sharp precision of the finest of surgeons. Within a short period of time, I began to have thoughts like “I think this is my calling. I think I’ve finally found my thing.” One afternoon, I sat down with my professor and discussed where my interest in birds could take me, professionally. He went on to explain and list the various forms of biological surveys/inventory work, the many consulting firms and also the option of leading birding tours, both locally and worldwide.

My first taste of birding in a professional capacity came during my summer working as a field atlasser for the Manitoba Breeding Bird Atlas but it was only after beginning to lead outings for the OFNC that I realized a spark had ignited. I was never sure who revealed himself on those outings but I never thought “I should do this or say that”; words and expressions flowed through in an uninhibited way. The whole process was really opening me up and in time, I came to realize that I had in fact embarked on quite an interesting journey. My true, Performer Self had finally found its voice and I was open to the world around me. Once I had the idea ingrained in my mind, I endeavored to carve a niche for myself through hard work and non-stop study. I decided against devoting time/effort toward achieving an impressive degree, instead opting to study birds full time. That’s right, I used OSAP for two years to fund my full time study of birds and studied just enough of the material at school to get by with a passing grade! And here I stand, five and a half years later, with a well-developed bird brain but alas, I cannot explain the basics of physics. This is where I say “thank goodness for birds, just where would I be without them?” 🙂