What the hell is the ‘quality of life?’ Part 2


So, as I noted in my last post I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of quality of life. People use it in many different ways; it’s easy to establish this observation by just entering ‘quality of life’ in a Google search. It’s often associated with medical issues and how the quality of life is diminished with, say, the need for blood dialysis. That said, without dialysis, there is death. Take your pick, a reduced quality of life or death. I’m thinking most people would chose the former option although their opinions may change if they ever find themselves on dialysis. There is a dialysis centre close to where I live so it would be less of a hardship for me to attend it than for someone who lives a long way from a dialysis centre. But there are lots of other ways that medical conditions are thought to reduce the quality of life. Blindness, deafness, the loss of a limb and cancer are a few things I can think of that many people would argue reduce the quality of life. Maybe they do. I’m not entirely sure. I’ve had cancer and lost a kidney because of it but I’m not convinced that my quality of life was reduced because of it. Of course, I had a great medical plan and an understanding employer at the time. If I had been unemployed and poor 11 years ago when I was diagnosed with kidney cell cancer, things would have turned out very differently, I surmise. I have a lot of ‘cultural capital’ too. That means that with my Master’s degree and social status, I was able to access services and information that people with less education might have found difficult if not impossible to access or even know about. Knowing how to do research is a key to my quality of life, I can assure you. Poverty sucks! I was poor once and I’m still not wealthy by any means but I haven’t forgotten about the time when our children were very young and I didn’t get a teaching contract I expected. I had to go to the ‘welfare office.’ They turned us down. It was very difficult. Good thing we had (and have) a very supportive family. Family came to the rescue more than once for us in the days before I got a full-time teaching contract.
Quality of life is not a static thing. It comes and goes. Great quality of life very seldom ever lasts forever I would think, but poor quality of life resulting from poverty or ill health can be a life sentence for some.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my former students. I had thousands of students over the 36 years I was a college instructor, 29 of those at North Island College on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I’m still in contact with a few of them. Some I know are now lawyers and doctors, probation officers and nurses. Some, in more recent times, have arrived at NIC from India and Africa, mostly Nigeria. They traveled a long way in an attempt to improve their education and consequently their quality of life and their life chances in general. A few of them have gone of to Saskatchewan to continue their studies. From Port Harcourt in Nigeria to Saskatoon. Now there’s a change of climate for you. It’s a good thing humans are so adaptable. The Nigerian students I had demonstrated a wonderful sense of determination and enthusiasm. They were game too. I took two of them to the lake here a couple of summers ago and they were able to paddle my canoe around (with an outrigger attached, mind you). They had a great time.
Other students I had came from the local area, the majority of course. Many of those have gone off to university here and there but some have gone north to work in the oil and gas fields in BC and Alberta. They’ve left the Comox Valley and Campbell River because there is very little work here that pays a decent wage. Those students of mine who stay here to work have limited choice where employment goes. I wonder if my students who found it necessary to travel away from here to work (as thousands of men and some women have done leaving the East coast maritime provinces to work in Alberta at Fort McMurray in the tar sands industry), feel that their quality of life is improved or diminished because of what they’ve done to get work. People have migrated in search of wealth and work for centuries. Is that a worse fate than staying in one place for a lifetime?
More yet to come…

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