Archive for September, 2009


The Nature of Relationships

I was in the cafeteria, eating a plate of pasta prepared with sauce that may or may not have been ketchup diluted with water, when a girl walked by me.

And she was pregnant.

This was something new to me. I’ve never had a pregnant classmate before. Part of that is due to the fact that I went to an all guys school, but even beyond my schoolmates, I’ve never known anyone my age to be pregnant before.

Sixteen year olds do get pregnant, I’m aware (and MTV is too, but I won’t go there). It just doesn’t happen that often. High school ranges from ages 13-18, and even though the media makes a big deal out of teen pregnancy rates, it’s still not all that common to see a pregnant high school girl. I’ve never seen it, at least. And I don’t know anyone who has.

But undergraduate students in university range anywhere from 17-22 years of age. The pregnant girl was probably around 20. She might have been younger or older, I couldn’t tell for sure.

The weird thing about it is that it wasn’t that weird.

I mean, a sixteen year old getting pregnant is weird. You’d question her decision-making skills and her upbringing a little, wouldn’t you? At least I would. 

But a twenty year old getting pregnant isn’t that weird. It’s a little young, for sure. But it’s not weird like a sixteen year old getting pregnant.

I don’t know. It just felt weird to realize that I’m getting really close to the age where pregnancy in females goes from being taboo to being celebrated.

Even more weird is that fact that there is actually the possibility of one of my classmates getting married by the time their undergraduate careers are through. My mother was married at 21, after all.

I understand that planning a wedding while balancing school is difficult, but it is possible. And that’s the thing: It’s possible. In high school there wasn’t even the most remote possibility that one of my friends would be getting married. But now, there is a chance. Probably not in first year, or second year, and not really even in third year. But in fourth year, you’re 21 or 22 years old. And suddenly, you’re into borderline marriage range. Marriages are generally happening later in life now, but 22 is still borderline.

I just find it weird how the nature of relationships has changed so quickly. In high school, even at the end of grade 12, break-ups were a foregone conclusion. I remember a time when I would congratulate friends on making it six months with the same girlfriend/boyfriend. Occasionally a long-term relationship would sprout up, but the reality is that 95% of all relationships died within a few months. And even if you hadn’t broken up at the two month mark, you’d break up at the six month mark, or at the one year mark. But at some point, you’d break up. That much was certain.

But now suddenly the inevitable break up isn’t that inevitable anymore. And long-term relationships seem to have become more common than short term ones. Just looking at my friends, almost all of them are either single or have been dating the same person for over a year now.

And yes, I recognize that these year long relationships started in high school as opposed to university. What I’m saying is that the attitudes towards these relationships has shifted from "It’s puppy dog love, it’ll be over in three weeks." to "It might end. But it might not. Ever."

I’ve generalized here, and I’ve spoken from an outsider’s perspective. As such, I’ve probably offended at least one person in a long-term relationship. Every couple likes to think that they’re "different" than the others, after all. And to be fair, some couples are different. But I don’t think that I’m far off the mark here.

University is a strange and scary place.

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Is This Necessary?

University is a strange, strange place.

There’s a vending machine near my dorm. Looking at row D and scanning from left to right, I see Snickers, Mars, Smarties. M&Ms, and a package of MaxPro condoms.

I understand that we want to stress safe sex as much as possible, but is putting condoms in a vending machine really a necessary measure? Come on now.

Maybe it’s just me (and it probably is), but I’m actually sort of offended by the fact that condoms, the ultimate symbol of growing up and losing your Innocence, is right beside a package of M&Ms, one of the favourite candies of my youth and itself a symbol of youth and Innocence.

Sammy Meets The Boy

Ah, Saturday. The only day of the week with absolutely no responsibilities from sunrise until sunset. No school, no church, and no homework. Nothing but cartoons and bike rides for twelve glorious hours. The best day of the week, in other words.

But not for Samantha Rollins.

It was one o’clock in the afternoon, meaning that the run of Saturday morning cartoons had ended one hour prior, and that it was now designated bike-riding time. The only issue was that Samantha (or Sammy, as she preferred to be called), had lost her bike one week ago, and as such found herself sitting on her front porch while every kid within a twenty kilometre radius was riding.

Yet Fate acts in mysterious ways, and sometimes the most insignificant events can end up changing one’s life forever.

In Sammy’s case, the insignificant event was that of a boy on a red bicycle riding slowly past her house. Sammy was instantly drawn to attention by this, and she bolted from her front porch in the direction of the boy.

"Hey, that’s my bike!" she shouted at him. The boy came to an immediate halt, clearly surprised by this interruption.

"What?"

"That’s my bike!" Sammy repeated. "You stole it!" What could the boy do, faced with such an accusation, but defend himself?

"I didn’t steal anything." He asserted. "This is my bike."

"But it’s the exact same as my bike!" Sammy maintained.

"It’s mine though."

Sammy had neither the time nor the patience to draw this conversation into a lengthy argument. Saturday was wasting, after all.

"Look, I’ll prove it to you." she said. "My bike has three white marks on the pedal. Move your foot." she commanded. The boy obliged, and Sammy knelt to get a closer look. "See? Right over…"

But Sammy stopped there, for there were no white marks to be found beneath the boy’s foot. Sammy looked up to find the boy staring back with a smug smile.

"I told you it was my bike." he said. Sammy went completely red.

"I’m so sorry," she said, speaking quickly now out of embarrassment. "It’s just that my bike went missing last week and I saw you riding the same one so I thought that you stole it."

"A lot of people have these bikes, you know." said the boy, still looking smug.

"I know, I know, I’m sorry." she said. "I just wasn’t thinking. Forget that this happened."

"Alright," said the boy. He paused for a moment to see if this strange girl had anything else to add. When it was clear that she didn’t, he mounted his bike and added "See you around."

"Yeah," Sammy said, still quite flustered. "See you."

The boy rode off, and Sammy watched him go. When he was out of sight, she turned and went back inside her house.


***

 

I usually don’t write about my own writing process, but I’m going to do so here.

A little over an hour ago, I opened Microsoft Word, and wrote the following sentence: "Take two characters, and give them a problem."

And that’s fiction at its most basic. Give two characters a conflict, and watch them resolve it. So, that’s what I did. I took one girl and one boy, and had them work out the issue of a bike theft. What resulted is a fairly anti-climactic and uninteresting bit of fiction. 

I don’t intend for the story to end here though. And I’ve given myself the ability to go virtually anywhere with these two characters. So, we’ll see. Hopefully the apathy and writer’s block don’t overcome me this time. If they don’t, then I might have just written the beginning of something that will keep me occupied for quite some time.

And otherwise, I’ve at least written a fairly anti-climactic and uninteresting bit of fiction, which in my books is better than nothing at all.

Girls

This is a topic that’s borderline inappropriate for this space, but I’m going to post it anyhow.

Looking around me, I can see that I’m running out of female allies in this world. I don’t know what I’ve done to lose them all, but for some reason they all seem to be gone.

While the misogynist in me is thrilled about that fact, I can’t say that I entirely agree with him.

If you were to go back four or so years, to when this space began, you’d find that I actually had more female friends than guy friends at that point.

And then high school hit, and I lost 80% of my friends, both male and female. And, since the high school I went to was an all-guys school, the void was inevitably filled with only guys.

This is another point in my life where I’m pretty sure that I missed a train somewhere, because most people in my school didn’t experience the same phenomenon.

But regardless of how or why it happened, at last count, I’m down to two close female friends, and then a few Internet friends and other acquaintances.

And worse still is that fact that I find myself 250 kilometres from the nearest of these allies.

I get the feeling that at some point my inability to hold on to such friends is going to screw me over somehow. I’m not even talking girlfriend-wise here. I’m just saying that I could use a few more female friends. For all of my insults towards the gender, I do recognize that (some) females are genuinely great human beings, and deserve equal and in some cases greater respect than their male counterparts.

I was thinking about this on the bus on my way back to Kingston, and a familiar saying popped into my head: Adapt, or become extinct.

So maybe that’s what I have to do at this point? Adapt a little bit?

It makes sense that some manner of adjustment would be necessary when going from an all-male environment to a co-ed one. I don’t want to be known as a woman-hating asshole. Maybe I’ll just turn the misogyny down by 15%, and raise sympathy by 10%. Or something like that.

No? Well fuck, I don’t know. You try figuring women out.

RANT #15: Students

I could never be a professor.

The sheer amount of crap that they have to put up with from students is just mind-boggling. I couldn’t handle it. I would have to light somone on fire as a coping mechanism. How they manage to do their jobs daily without losing their sanity is beyond me.

There’s a notable difference between how people act on their first day of high school as compared to their first day of university.

You see, everyone makes it to high school. The law demands it. So no one goes into high school on the first day thinking that they’re hot shit just for making it to high school.

Not everyone makes it to university, however. And not everyone makes it to a university such as Queen’s. For a lot of people, getting into Queen’s isn’t that big of a deal. I never went around bragging about it, and not too many people did.

But some people get into university thinking that they’ve attained some level of greatness just for being there. And that’s a problem, especially when you place one such person into a classroom with 400 other people who have all attained that same level of greatness.

Let’s look at the situation here:

1. You’re sitting in a room with 400 other people of the same age and approximately equal intelligence.

2. There’s a professor at the front of the room who doesn’t know you or anyone else in the room.

3. You’re an egoist.

Your course of action is painfully obvious. You need to show off your high degree of intelligence so as to:

a) Make the professor aware that you are better than the other 400, and
b) Make sure that the other 400 know that they are not on the same level as you and that you alone are worthy of your place in that classroom.

And in trying to show off how brilliant they are, some people say the stupidest fucking things. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time that anything has managed to annoy me this much.

Like yesterday, for example, in philosophy class the professor was discussing power relationships, and as an example she briefly mentioned the relationship between a man and a woman.

Some girl in the fourth row raised her hand and said "The relationship between a man and a woman would be considered a sort of microcosm of the society in which we live today then, right?"

And the professor laughed a little and said "No, I think that would be stretching it just a little. I don’t see how you could justify that without it breaking down somewhere."

And the girl was silent for the rest of the class.

Now, what I would have said was: "I’m glad that you know the word ‘microcosm’, but in this class we try to string together theories, as opposed to slapping together big words and hoping that they make some sort of sense. That’s what elementary school was for."

A better example of this happened today, actually, in politics class. The professor asked a very simple question as a way of leading in to his lecture: "What is an animal?"

And someone from the front row raised their hand and said:

"The species homo sapien is differentiated from all others by its capacity for reason. Animals lack such a capacity, and as such are distinct from human beings, who are able to use logic and reason to their advantage."

(That’s not the whole of what she said. Her full answer lasted closer to a full thirty seconds, and was full of more redundancies and needlessly wordy language than you see here. All in all, it may just have cracked my top ten list of the stupidest things that I’ve ever heard. In fact, if you just repeat that sentence three or four times, you’ll probably be really close to what she actually said.)

Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, no one ever says "homo sapien" unless they’re trying to impress someone. Not even professors. Secondly, what the fuck are you rambling on about? He asked what an animal was, not what a human was. Shut the fuck up. 

The professor responded by saying: "That was a great description of a human being, but I was looking for the definition of animal."

I would have said something more along the lines of "Alright, that was good answer right up to the point that you started speaking. I’m pretty sure a second grader could have given me a better answer than that, since a second grader probably would have actually answered the question that I asked. Thanks for wasting my time though."

Maybe I’m nuts, but I think that in an Institution of Higher Learning such as this, people should be more concerned with actually learning as opposed to sounding smart.

The reality of the situation is this: We’re not in university because we know a lot. We’re in university because there’s a lot that we don’t know. And we know that we don’t know much. And the professors know that we don’t know much. So I fail to see the purpose of this facade.

It’s not everyone. And it’s not a majority of people. In a class of 400, there are usually about three or four of these people. But those three or four people have thus far really tested my nerves.

Sirius Fenris

See what happens when I try to tell myself when I’m going to write a blog? It doesn’t work.

Anyway, I promised a blog about my pal Sirius Fenris, so here it is. It’s not anything extraordinarily significant, but I found it interesting.

A few days ago, I was walking down the street on my way to my frosh group’s meeting spot. For whatever reason, I decided to take a shortcut through a less busy part of the university. I was about halfway down the road when I saw a car park about 50 metres in front of me. A person dressed entirely in black (including a black cape and black zorro hat) and wearing a demonic hallowe’en mask emerged from the car and started walking towards me. Obviously, I was a bit frightened by this, though not for the obvious reason.

See, during frosh week, you’re identified as a frosh by the yellow wristband and yellow t-shirt that you’re wearing. Anyone not wearing the wristband or the t-shirt is an upper year student. Some of them are friendly, and some of them aren’t, but you usually can’t tell which is which until you’re within a two metre radius, and by then it’s too late. The general rule is that anyone sporting a purple jacket and a ridiculous hairdo (i.e. engineering students) is unfriendly and should be avoided at all costs. However, the rulebook said nothing about persons dressed up as nightmarish figures. I just automatically assumed that I was about to be subjected to some awful type of initiation, and so I proceeded with extreme caution.

But nothing bad happened. All the pseudo-demon did was hand me a letter.

I was still frightened though. I was worried that the letter would say something like "Gotcha!" and then I would find myself surrounded by a bunch of engineering students who would proceed to do terrible, terrible things to me. But I was curious, and so I opened the letter.

This was the first sentence:

"I hope you find it in yourself to forgive this intrusion: it’s only so we can discuss a monstrous collusion, so to gain your brief and precious attentions I have to step somewhat outside your societal conventions, for if I were to simply stand here and shout it is for certain that all of you would just turn your eyes away and tune me out."

How clever is that?

I mean, the guy has a point. If someone is just standing on the street corner handing out pamphlets, what do you do? You say "No thank you", and politely refuse. Or maybe you just avert your eyes. Or maybe you accept the pamphlet, scan the title, and then throw it away.

But if someone comes up to you in black garb and a hallowe’en mask and hands you a pamphlet, you’re going to be curious about what’s in that pamphlet. And you’re going to open that pamphlet. And you’re going to read that pamphlet. All because you want to know what the hell that guy was doing dressed like that in early September.

Now, the rest of the letter was all conspiracy theory bullshit about how the H1N1 virus vaccine is actually a government plot to wipe out most of the human race. Cleverly written bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless.

I read it though. Sirius Fenris (as he signed the letter) got his message across. And if he had been dressed normally and standing on a street corner, he wouldn’t have.

Psychology 101?

The title of this blog isn’t an indication of what my mood actually is. Rather, it’s how we’re required to respond whenever an older student asks us how we’re feeling. The "Oh"s must be accompanied by a strong pelvic thrust, of course.

Persecution from the upper classmen increased about tenfold today. Anyone wearing a shirt designating them as a freshman instantly became a target for all sorts of abuse from the older students. Anything from simple taunting to being bombarded by water balloons fired from slingshots at a range of 20 yards was possible.

But in spite of all that, today was a better day. And I think that’s because I spent a decent portion of today with my old high school friends. They’re sort of the difference between the transition I had to make four years ago and the one I’m making now. Four years ago, I entered a new school knowing only one other person. This time around, I have the strength of 15 brothers behind me.

Going into this, I sort of figured that with a total school population of just over 20,000 students, I’d rarely see these old friends of mine. In reality, it’s been impossible to not see them around. I can hardly go a few hours without bumping into one of them. That’s been really good for me.

I can see how this could backfire: Seeing my old friends more might result in me putting less effort into making new friends. I’m hoping that I don’t end up shooting myself in the foot here.

It’s all about finding some sort of balance I guess. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve discovered that balance already, but I’d also be lying if I said that I think that finding that balance is an impossible task. We’ll just have to wait and see.

And in case you haven’t noticed, these blogs are sort of coming fast and furious. University is a new experience, and as such I have a lot on my mind, and a lot to share. For the time being, these rapid updates are going to continue this pace. So, stay tuned. Tomorrow (or later today, technically), I think I’ll have a short psychology lesson, featuring the ever mysterious Sirius Fenris. Until then, enjoy yourselves.

Changes, Changes

Things are different here.

I know that’s stating the obvious a little, but it’s true. Every few hours I see something that I’ve never seen before.

Like just this morning, I was walking down my hallway (which is an all-guys hallway), and I happened to glance to my right and see a girl and a guy in various states of undress. From what I surmised in the split second that I saw them, they had just finished screwing.

What’s up with that? I mean, I’ve been away from home before, and I’ve had to share a building with girls before, but in the past there was always someone knocking on my door at 11 o’clock to make sure that there were no girls in my room.

But now if you want a girl to spend the night, they can. And by spend the night, I mean fuck you. No one is there to stop you.

I’m somewhat bothered by the random acts of teenage sex, but I think I’m more bothered by the fact that I can’t walk around an all-guys floor in my underwear without bumping into a girl. That was the only advantage of being on the all-guys floor, and now it’s ruined.

Yesterday the opposite happened. Me and a few friends went into the all-girls building. And no one gave a shit. In the past, if you stepped foot in an all-girls facility, you’d end up triggering one of those laser beam alarms and ninjas would burst through the walls and kick you out. Now no one cares.

Right now, the "Principal’s Welcome" ceremony is going on, and I’m skipping it. A lot of people are skipping it. In the past, such an official ceremony would be mandatory, with "severe consequences" for anyone who tried to skip out. And now, no one cares.

That seems to be the theme here: no one cares.

Stay Positive

I might have underestimated university just a bit.

So much about this is different than high school. I went in expecting quite a bit of change, but I wasn’t prepared for this. I guess I should have been, because it’s all the really obvious things that are bugging me. And they’re all things that I knew would happen, but for some reason I’ve still been caught off guard by a few of them. Maybe mental preparation is useless, since the only way that you can really imagine what university is like is to experience it firsthand.

First off, nothing is mandatory. Absolutely nothing. At all. I’m supposed to go to a floor meeting in a half hour, but if I’d rather not attend, I don’t have to. No one is telling me what to do anymore.

And honestly, I don’t like that. It’s too weird. For the last 14 years of my education, I’ve been told exactly where to be at what time, and I’ve been punished when I’ve failed to meet those requirements. At the very least, someone would become very disappointed in me.

Now, nobody cares. I guess I sort of got used to having people care about me.

Secondly, everyone is old. There are a few seventeen year olds here, and that’s it. Everyone else is either my age or older. There’s no one under seventeen for about a two mile radius. I went from being the oldest im my school to one of the youngest. It’s not that I’m bothered by being the youngest, it’s that I’m bothered that there’s no one younger than me, if that makes sense. I feel out of my element here.

And that wonderful 5:2 ratio of school days to home days has been thrown out of whack simply because now school is my home. There is no ratio. I get the feeling that that’s really going to fuck with my system.

But you know what? I’m placing too much emphasis on that 5:2 ratio in the first place. Here’s the thing. Even during those five school days, I still went home every night. Sometimes it wasn’t until 7 o’clock or later, but I always went home afterwards, spent a few hours with my family, and went to sleep in my own bed. Now that’s gone. That’s what’s going to fuck with my system. Not the 5:2 ratio. The 5:2 ratio is nice, but it’s not everything.

Despite all of that, I’m not going to do what I did in grade 9. I’m not going to become all negative and shut out the world. That would be the easiest thing for me to do right now: start hating everybody and go hide in a hole. But I’m not going to do that because I lost two years of my life the last time I did it. So, I’m going to stay positive.

After all, it’s only been one day. And not even one day of classes – we’re still in frosh week. Maybe life gets better from here. I really hope it does, because four years is looking like a really long time from where I’m standing.

The End Of An Era?

***Normally I don’t go back after I’ve written a blog and add things at the top, but this really isn’t a great blog. I just needed to get a few things off my chest. You might be better off going back and reading the last blog again. I kinda like that one. But, if you’re brave, I won’t stop you. Just don’t go in expecting anything of a decent quality. I mean, I refer to era of my life as Golden and Dark Ages. Who does that?***

This whole university thing is coming at the worst possible time.

It took me until grade 7 to figure out elementary school. Before then, I had a few close friends, but for the most part I shut out everyone who wasn’t part of that close inner circle. And though I’m still not an all-star in social situations, I at least began to develop some skill in them in grade 7. That’s the point where I started making new friends and really enjoying myself. That’s the point where I started having a life. And that was the point when my first Golden Age of joy and happiness began. I know that I’ve previously said that the Golden Age started when I was in grade 5, but I think that grade 7 is probably the more accurate starting point.

So, after six years of mild success, it was in the seventh that I finally struck gold.

Grade 8 was even better than grade 7. It was the peak of that Golden Age. I had friends, I had respect, I had a social life. The world was beautiful.

And then it ended. Just like that, elementary school was over, and high school began. I was thrown into a new environment away from those friends of mine, and put into a school with a thousand strangers and one person that I sort of knew.

I didn’t adapt well at all. And so, the Dark Age began.  I lost most of my old friends, and made very few new friends. I did not enjoy school whatsoever. Life sucked.

I wrote blogs about trying to recover the good old days, but I never knew how to do so.

It took me two years to figure out high school, and I finally managed to pull myself out of that two year long Dark Age in grade 11.

Life kept getting better in grade 12, and I think that I’m safe in saying that I entered another Golden Age. Nothing epic really happened during my grade 12 year. What made that year so great was all the little things that kept going right on a daily basis. Things that were too insignificant to blog about on many occasions, but very important to me nevertheless. Simple things, like the conversations with friends, and the games of Tank Trouble and Smash Bros.

Looking back at what I’ve written over the past year, I can see a theme emerging: I’m having fun, but I’m also well aware of the fact that my life is about to change drastically.

And now we’re at that point where my life is about to change drastically. I’m moving out in a few hours.

Is that it, then? Is history going to repeat itself? Am I going to lose everything that I’ve busted my ass for in the last two years? How about my friends? Are they gone, too, just like after grade 8?

No, I refuse. I just simply cannot fucking allow this. I know how I screwed up after grade 8, and I’m not going to repeat those same mistakes. But will it be enough? I don’t know.

I mean, I left grade 8 with every confidence that the friends that I had just made would stick with me for the rest of my life, but I ended up losing almost all of them.

And now here I am again, confident that the friends that I’ve made over the last two years are going to stick with me. Confident that I’ve learned enough over the last two years to hold shit together this time. But I just don’t know for sure.

It just pisses me off that I’m being forced to move on at this point. Just when things were starting to go well, I’m being forced to change. Do you know how great another year of high school would have been for me? Do you know how much fun I would have had in grade 13?

I remember being overjoyed when I was six years old or so to hear from my neighbour that the government would be eliminating grade 13 in a few years. That’s just a bit ironic, I think. And you know what political party decided to eliminate grade 13? The Conservatives, of course. It’s always the Conservatives.

What have I got left? Six hours? It’s nearly 2 am, and I can feel the quality of this blog spiralling downward. Whenever politics enter the picture, you know that you’ve fucked up a blog.

I’m not awake because I can’t sleep. I’m awake because I’m afraid that if I close my eyes, I won’t be golden anymore.