Archive for November, 2009

The Cycle of Doom

1. You need to spend time in an environment in order to enjoy it.
2. I enjoy spending time at home more than I do spending time at Queen’s.Accepting these two premises as true, I’m left in sort of a vicious cycle. Only, since it affects almost every aspect of my day-to-day living, it’s more than a vicious cycle. It’s more of a Cycle of Doom. Here’s how it works:

I like being home more than here. So, on weekends, I try to go home if at all possible. However, if I’m going to start enjoying myself here, I need to be spending more time here (i.e. weekends) in order to find new things to do, make friends, develop relationships, etc.

But, given the choice between being here and being home, I pick home. Therefore, I spend less time here, and therefore I enjoy being here less and less, which makes my desire to be home even stronger, which means that I go home even more, which means that I enjoy being here even less, and around and around we go.

How did this cycle start if my feelings towards Queen’s were neutral or even positive in the beginning? Simple. Spending a weekend here is a big unknown. In the beginning (and even now, to a certain extent), weekends here vary. Some are enjoyable, some are not. It varies. And given the choice between something that might be enjoyable and something that I know is enjoyable, I’ll pick what I know every time.

It’s for this same reason that I’ve more or less been sticking with the friends that I’ve known for years as opposed to making new ones. Why risk starting a relationship with someone who may or may not be a decent human being when I already have people that I know are decent human beings? I know it sounds like a bad strategy, but at this point I’ve been forced into maintaining it in order to be content in the short-term. It’s one of the branches of the Cycle of Doom. I hang out with my old friends, which means that I make fewer new friends, which makes me want to hang out with my old friends even more, which means that I my relationships with any new people are even further strained, and around and around we go.

I’m entirely aware that the Cycle of Doom is something that I’m maintaining of my own free will. The cycle isn’t being maintained by some guy with a gun to my head yelling “Go home on weekends, or I’ll blow your fucking brains out!” It’s kept going by my desire to be happy in the short run. I could easily say “Despite the fact that I’d be happier at home, I’m going to stay here this weekend in order to grow closer with the community, thus sacrificing short-term benefits for long-term ones.” or “Despite the fact that I’d be happier hanging out with these old friends of mine, I’m going to hang out with these new friends in order to develop our relationships, thus sacrificing short-term benefits for long-term ones.”

The thing is, I’m not really inclined to do that because of the risk involved. Staying here on weekends might change my opinion of this place for the better, but it might not. Hanging out with new friends might make me closer to them, but it might not.

And there are alternatives. That’s what was lacking the last time I found myself in a similar situation. At the end of grade 10, after the Wrigley Field Incident, I was left in a state of having few friends. And in that case, I had no alternatives. No matter what, I would be stuck in that school from 8:30 to 2:30 every day, and my only options were to adapt, or become extinct. Then, I was forced to make new friends, since the only alternative was constant discontent for two years.

But now, I have alternatives. It’s no longer a case of “adapt, or become extinct.” It’s now “adapt, cling to what you have, or become extinct.” And I’m clinging as hard as I can.

Of course, there is a way to solve all of these problems. I just need 24 days.

That One Special Thing

There is one thing that is common to both the Golden Age of grade 8, and the Golden Age of grade 12. In both of those periods, and indeed in every period of my life that I’ve been happy, there’s always been That One Special Thing that makes me happy to wake up in the morning and makes me look forward to the rest of the day.In grade 8, it was lunchtime. In that year, we were allowed to leave campus for the first time and go wherever we wanted to at lunch. My group of friends was the only group that chose not to exercise this freedom, and so it would be the five of us alone in the class, along with the new kid. As we ate we would talk about hockey, movies, video games, or whatever else was going on. That was the year of the NHL lockout, so much of the talk revolved around plotting the assassination of the NHL commissioner.

MP3 players were starting to become cool around that time, and my friend had one that could hold 25 songs (Wow!). So we’d listen to songs and then change the words to reflect our mutual hatred of the New York Yankees (without hockey, baseball was our go-to sport). You know that song “Goodnight, Goodnight” by Hot Hot Heat? When the Yankees were knocked out of the playoffs that year, we started singing “Goodnight, goodnight, you’re embarrassing Torre, you’re embarrassing Steinbrenner.” Clever? No. But we didn’t mind.

And during any of this, if the new kid so much as spoke, we would throw a chair at him. Or a desk, if he really crossed the line. There were no teachers in class, and even when he told on us the teachers didn’t really take him seriously, so we could bully with impunity.

I remember vividly that on one particular day, the new kid went too far, and one of my friends whipped a container of white-out at him. Alas, his aim wasn’t perfect, and the white-out container missed the new kid and hit the door behind him. The container exploded upon impact, unleashing a blast of white-out over everything within a one metre radius. I think I’ll remember the seconds afterward for the rest of my life:

The look of horror on my friend’s face as he realized what he had done and dashed to obtain some paper towel with which to clean up the mess before anyone else saw.

The look of disbelief on the new kid’s face as he looked down at himself and saw that he was covered in white-out. “This is a 50 dollar shirt!” he yelled.

Me and my friend watching from the other end of the room, and falling off of our chairs with laughter.

Those were good days. I still miss those old friends very much.

But I digress. What kept me going on a day-to-day basis was the fact that I had lunchtime to look forward to, and another lunchtime the next day.

With the end of grade 8 came the end of lunchtime, and I had a really difficult time adjusting to the fact that my One Special Thing was gone. It took me three years to find another one.

In grade 12, I found it. That One Special Thing was period two spare.

It would be impossible for me to explain period two spare in a blog. It defies explanation. Between the games of Smash Bros. and fooseball, the hockey pools, the crossword puzzles (DRAM IS A WORD!), and about a billion other things that I could never possibly fit in here, it was hands down the best part of my day.

I mean, everything happened during period two. It even had its own grammar structure.

I’m serious. Here’s a typical period two conversation.

“Smash Bros?”
“Most pools must there be first.”
“Boost on the pools. Smash Bros.”
“Most are you dead!”
“Boost on that! Most upsies will there be.”
“Least upsies. Most spikes will there be.”

This sort of thing would continue for a while before we actually started playing the game. Essentially the grammar boils down to “most” indicating a sentence in the positive, “least” indicating a sentence in the negative, and “boost on _____!” meaning “_____ is a lie!” Then you scramble the positions of nouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc, and there you have it. You’re talking period two style.

Period two spare was the reason I woke up in the morning. It was that good.

So now we’re in university, and I think that one of the things that I’m having trouble adjusting to the lack of That One Special Thing. Talk to me for five minutes, and it’s plainly obvious that part of me is still in period two mode. When I think that someone is exaggerating or lying, I’ll automatically say “Boost on that!” But instead of someone responding with “Least was that a boost.”, instead I get strange “wtf” expressions. Or whenever something good happens, I’ll shake my right hand rapidly, slowly raise it into the air, and say “Wooow!” – The quintessential period two victory pose, used after a particularly satisfying Smash Bros. victory. But again, all I get back are confused glances.

Clearly, the key to being happy here is to find That One Special Thing in Kingston. It’s more urgent now than it was in either elementary or high school. The reason for this is that in the two previous phases of my education, I was able to come home and be with my family every night. When I’m with them, That One Special Thing is no longer necessary.

But now I’m without my family. As a result, I really need to find That One Special Thing that’s going to make me look forward to each and every day again, and I need to find it very soon.

The odds are against me. I mean, it took me seven years to find it the first time, and three to find it the second time. I don’t have that kind of time. I’ll go crazy.

I’m trying. Believe me, I am. I’ve joined fencing and ball hockey. I’m doing curling next term and possibly squash as well. I’m doing everything within my power and morality to find That One Special Thing.

Thinking back, my friends are what made That One Special Thing truly special. Without those people, lunchtime and period two spare wouldn’t have been what they were. At the same time, the activities themselves were important. Great people and great activities are what produce That One Special Thing.

Some of the people I’ve met are good people. But they don’t seem to be great people. And the things that I’m doing are good fun, but they’re not great fun.

So the question remains: Am I just meeting the wrong people? Or am I doing the wrong things? Or both.

I need to figure this out, and fast.

35 days.

Hypocrisy of the Teenagers

Human beings have an incredible capacity for learning. I mean, we learn how to walk and talk by the time we’re two, and it keeps building from there. We learn manners, we learn how to act in certain situations, we learn how to elicit a certain reaction from other humans. We learn how to lie, cheat, and steal, and how to get away with it. And we learn most of this just by watching other people and copying them.

Really, we’re amazing.

And yet there are some things that, for whatever reason, we just can’t understand. It differs from person to person. Some people can’t understand science, some people can’t understand curling, and some people can’t understand math.

Me? I can’t understand teenagers. I try to, I really do. I study and study and study but I just can’t wrap my head around them.

What really baffles me is their hypocrisy.

Okay, I need to pause here for a second. I’m well aware that I’ve just committed a cardinal sin:

You can’t call people hypocrites without them saying the same thing back to you, and usually being right about it. We all do hypocritical things every now and then, after all. Take me for example. Just writing this blog is hypocrisy on my part. One of the things I hate most about teenagers is that they’re always calling each other hypocrites without being aware of their own hypocrisy. And what am I doing? Calling all of them hypocrites. My only defence is that I’m aware of my own hypocrisy, but that’s not a great defence, since it still makes me a hypocrite.

So, you’re free to comment on this and call me a hypocrite, but you’d just be wasting your time since I’m already well aware of that.

With that out of the way, let me continue.

I’m often criticized by most of teenagerdom for certain aspects of my behaviour. Like my strong aversion to drinking, for example.

And they scoff at me whenever I tell them what my idea of fun is. I might propose a shoe-flinging contest, or a water war, or a good old fashioned game of manhunt, depending on the occasion.

"Childish," they say. It’s an accurate criticism.

But it’s also bullshit, because that’s not how they feel about my version of fun at all.

I mean, how else do you explain this:

The same people that tell me that fun = drinking, and laugh at me for thinking otherwise, are going to be hitting each other on the head with foam weapons in two weeks. I don’t know what to think of this, other than to call them a bunch of hypocrites.

I have a theory: A lot of people are more like me than they’d like to admit.

I think that a lot of people have this inner twelve year old who they want to let out, but are afraid to because it isn’t socially acceptable. And I think that at least a few people that I know like me because they can act like they’re twelve around me and I won’t bat an eye.

Am I being conceited here? Am I way off the mark?

Damned if I know. Teenagers confuse the hell out of me.

I’m On F*cking FIRE!

Alright, let me explain what I’m going to do.

I’m going to open up the word file containing my novel.
I’m going to get a third draft finished.
I’m going to write a cover letter.
I’m going to send it to as many publishers as I can.
I’m going to pray.

Fuck writer’s block, fuck apathy. This shit is getting done. It’s been over two years since I started and it’s time that I get something to show for it. What was lacking before was the necessary motivation.

I have it now. I have a reason to write again.

Sammy and the Tootsie Roll

Sammy was sitting in her living room, watching TV and eating a Tootsie Roll. Then she heard a knock on her front door. She walked over to the front entrance and opened the door. It was the boy.

"Hey," she said.

"Hey, he said.

Sammy stood there for a moment, expecting him to explain his presence at her front door. Then she realized that it was -5 degrees outside and snowing. The boy was shivering.

"You want to come in?" she offered.

"Sure," he said.

The boy took off his coat and boots, and then followed Sammy into the living room.

"Eating a Tootsie?" he asked, noticing the distinctive brown coloured wrapper that she had left on the ottoman.

"Yep," she said. "That’s the last of my Halloween candy for the year."

"Yeah?" said the boy. "I’ve got about a week’s supply left."

"I love how long Halloween candy lasts." said Sammy.

"Yeah," agreed the boy. "It kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?"

"About what?"

"Who has the best Halloween?"
"Huh?" said Sammy. She was starting to get used to the erratic nature of her conversations with the boy, but she was caught off guard by this apparent non-sequitur.

"Okay, let me explain," said the boy. "Halloween is celebrated differently depending on how old you are, right?"

"Aren’t most holidays like that?" Sammy asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, take Thanksgiving for example. We don’t spend all day preparing the food. The grown-ups do. We just eat it. That’s something different. At at Christmas, kids don’t give nearly as much as they receive. Or what about Easter? The parents hide the eggs, and the kids find them. They’re not doing the same thing."

"But they are doing the same thing."

"How so?"
"Think about it," started the boy. "On Thanksgiving, everyone gets together and eats a feast. That’s the main activity. Everyone, regardless of age, participates in that activity. Kids just have a different role in it than grown-ups do. And on Christmas, the whole family gets together and exchanges gifts. Everyone, regardless of age, takes part in that activity. Kids often receive more than they give, but they’re still involved in the gift-giving. They just play a different role. The same goes for Easter. The grown-ups hide the eggs, and the kids find them, but they’re all participating in the same activity in different roles."

"What about New Year’s? My family splits up for that, and everyone goes to different parties."

"But everyone is still involved in the same activity: counting down the minutes and seconds until midnight. You might not be in the same house as other members of your family, but regardless of the age, everyone does the same thing."

"Alright, but how is Halloween any different?"

"On Halloween, everyone does something different depending on their age group. At first, we dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating. Then we get too old for trick or treating, and take one of two paths: Either we continue our costumed lives, and go to Halloween parties, or we abandon the costumes and cause mischief in our neighbourhoods by throwing eggs at people and houses. Neither of those two paths have anything to do with trick or treating. When we have kids of our own we again get involved in trick-or-treating, either by accompanying our kids or giving out candy to trick-or-treaters."

"Okay, all of that makes sense, but what’s your point?"

"Who has it best? Who has the most fun on Halloween?"

"I don’t know," said Sammy. "Maybe the teenagers who go to parties. Why, what do you think?"

"I don’t know either, to be honest." said the boy. "It’s impossible to judge things without having experienced them, and I’m still a few years away from experiencing a Halloween party. With that said, I think that we have it the best."

"Why’s that?"

"Think about all of the positive things we get from trick-or-treating: Dressing up in costume, a night out with our friends, and candy. Mischief-causing teenagers only get a night out with their friends, and none of the other benefits. As for parents, they get to spend time with their kids, and they probably get some gratification out of giving out candy to trick-or-treaters, but that’s it. Which leaves only two groups: The trick-or-treaters and the party-going teenagers. And looking at our list, there’s only one difference between the two groups. Both groups get to dress up in costume, both groups get a night out with their friends, but only we get candy."

"So basically you’re saying that we’re better than them because we get candy and they don’t?"

The boy nodded.

"Isn’t that kind of… immature?" asked Sammy.

"I knew you’d say that," said the boy. "Let me explain myself better. I’m not saying that their Halloween is awful and ours is amazing. I’m just saying that we have exactly what they have, plus some lasting gratification that they don’t. We’re into December now, and you still have that Tootsie Roll to remind you of Halloween. They get a hangover that lasts a day. That’s why ours is better."

"Still… it’s just candy. I mean, I love a good Tootsie Roll as much as anybody, but it’s still just candy."

"You’re talking like one of them now!" said the boy, his tone rising suddenly. "Yes, you’re right. It’s just candy. It means nothing. We can give it up. And let’s give up recess, too. And bike riding. And snowball fights. And tree climbing. And tag. Let’s give all of those up because they’re just small parts of our lives that mean nothing in the long run. Don’t you get it? You don’t just wake up one day as a grown-up. It happens slowly, over time. You give up all of the little things, one by one, and slowly you grow up."

Sammy had never heard him speak like this before. She was speechless.

"The little things in life are what make us who we are," continued the boy. "You give those up, and suddenly you’re someone else. I have to go now. My mom is calling me."

And with that, the boy put on his boots and coat, and departed.

What a strange boy,’ Sammy thought.


Check out this formula:

Knock on door + say "Trick-or-treat!" = Receive candy.

Did we ever have Halloween as good as we had it then? Personally, I don’t think so.

The problem with skipping a few weeks in the chronology of this thing is that it makes writing about recent events difficult. I knew that I wanted to write a Halloween piece, but since the last Sammy and the boy was set in "the middle of November," I couldn’t write something taking place on October 31st. Thus, the Halloween piece takes place in December. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to get beyond the fourth line of this because of that.