Archive for March, 2010


Loss

I checked the weather forecast this morning and smiled. 

Thursday, high of 23.
Friday, high of 28.
Saturday, high of 25.
Sunday, high of 21.

The long winter is finally coming to an end. As far as Canadian winters go, it was pretty mild. It just felt like it would never end. Now that it is, things are looking up. School is almost over, and that means that an unprecedented four month long summer vacation is immenent. I cleared up that U of T problem, and it appears that I’ve been legitimately accepted to the school, with the condition that I maintain a 72 average. I don’t forsee any problems there.

In spite of all these happy omens, I don’t feel all that well at the moment. The reason is because I can feel a sense of loss washing over me. It’s the same thing that happened last year when the end of high school was approaching. I didn’t expect to feel it this year, but I am.

Even though it hasn’t been that great of a year, there are elements of it that I will miss and people who I would rather not be without.

Things like fencing, for example. Tomorrow is my last day. And then I’ll have to say goodbye to a bunch of people. And it’s not “Goodbye for now” or “See you next week”; it’s “Goodbye forever.” That’s tough. I already said goodbye to the members of my ball hockey team when our season ended two weeks ago, and curling is almost over as well. That’s a lot of good people who I’ll never see again.

There are a few people here who have really kept me going. Sometimes they’ve done it through video games, sometimes through walking semi-aimlessly around town with me. There are times when I’ve been in a terrible mood, and I’ve texted someone and said “I need to get out of here. Now.”, and they’ve said “k”. I’m not a spontaneous person by any means, but there are times when I just need to do something, and having people that I can count on to accomodate that nine times out of ten is great. That’s not something that I’m used to getting, and it’s not something that I’m likely to have next year. I can’t thank those individuals enough.

But regardless of how grateful I am to these people, the fact remains that I’m going to lose them soon. And that sucks.

What sucks more is the fact that I’m leaving them, and not the other way around. That’s how it always seems to be with me. In grade five, I left my original school and all of my friends behind. In grade nine I left my friends behind to go to St. Mike’s. Granted, I had no say in the matter, and granted that it was a good choice in the end, but it still resulted in me losing a good chunk of my friends. Then last year I’m the one who left everyone else behind to go to Queen’s. And now I’m leaving everyone here behind to go back.

I know that it’s for the best, but… I hate how life is making me pick and choose between groups of friends. It’s not fair that I have to lose people in order to gain other people. Not fair at all.

Death of a Student

Yesterday morning they found the body of a student in one of the rooms in my residence. Apparent suicide. The story is that the guy’s alarm clock had been going off for three days, and someone finally complained about it. The building admins opened up the door and found him there. 

I didn’t know him, so it’s not a personal tragedy. It’s just a tragedy in general.

They’re not releasing much information about this, understandably. All I know for sure is:

1) He was 18 years old.
2) He was in his first year at Queen’s.
3) Before Queen’s, he went to Ridley College (one of my high school’s rivals).
4) He was in the arts/sciences program.
5) He was located on the south side of the building that I live in.

So the big question is, why? He was a smart kid – you have to be smart to get into both Ridley and Queen’s. Why would a smart kid make a decision like this?

I can’t say for sure, and I don’t want to make any assumptions, but I think that part of it had to do with the transition to life away from home. Having gone to high school at Ridley means that he’s probably from St. Catharine’s. Geographically, that’s not much farther from Kingston than Toronto is. However, it’s much more difficult to get to from Kingston because of a little body of water called Lake Ontario. In order to get home, he would have the option of a five hour drive or two trains totalling anywhere from five to seven and a half hours, plus an additional half hour after that. It’s unlikely that he had a car, and it’s also unlikely that he had a friend from St. Catharine’s with a car who would be willing to drive five hours at will. As for the double train ride, that probably didn’t happen often because of the cost ($175 for a round trip), and the sheer exhaustion that a seven hour ride puts you through. So, I’m guessing he didn’t go home very often. That surely made it very difficult for him to cope.

But damn. There was a month left. If he had just held out for another 30 days, he could have been back with his family.

Clearly there are other many other elements to this that I’m not aware of. Homesickness alone is no reason to kill oneself. Maybe there was trouble at home, too. Maybe he had mental stability issues. It’s all a great mystery. I really wish that I knew more about the situation so that I could comment more intelligently about it, but I don’t. Maybe that’s for the best.

My deepest condolences to the family.

WTF

So, I received an acceptance to U of T today. I’m in a celebratory mood now, right? Absolutely not. I’m just confused as fuck.

First off, the U of T website says that they don’t make decisions until all required documents are submitted. One of those required documents is a transcript from Queen’s with my final marks. That won’t be submitted until May, so I didn’t expect to hear from them until June. So, I was confused about getting the acceptance in the first place.

Then I looked again and saw that it’s an alternate offer of admission. That is, I’ve been accepted to the university for a different program than I applied for. I applied to a program with the code TAH, and was accepted to a program with the code TAF.

‘Alright,’ I thought, ‘What’s TAF?’

And that’s where it gets really confusing. Because as far as I can tell, TAF doesn’t exist.

I searched the Ontario University Application Centre website, and they had no record of it.
I searched the entire einfo website, which is a website that has information on every program from every university in Ontario. Nothing.
This morning I phoned the OUAC and spoke with a representative. She couldn’t find TAF anywhere either.
I tried calling U of T, and their phones are busy. I’m going to continue trying throughout the day.

But basically, I’ve been accepted to a program that may or may not even exist. This means that somewhere along the line, someone fucked up. Was it me? Was it the OUAC? Was it someone at U of T? I have no clue. All I know is that I need to get to the bottom of this before this situation turns into Something Really Bad.

Fencing

Over
the past seven months or so, I’ve used this blog to talk about my experience
here at Queen’s. I’ve mainly focused on the negative aspects, and ignored the
positive ones for the most part. Today I’d like to reverse that trend and talk
about what has become one of the best parts of my week: Fencing.

A lot of people are aware of the basics of fencing: Hit the other person with
your sword, but don’t get hit by the other person. But there’s a lot more to
the sport than I was originally aware of, and I’ve only grown to like it more
as time goes on.

I first became aware of the fencing program at Queen’s during frosh week, when
I saw a poster advertising a demonstration on the weekend. At first I was
unsure of whether or not I should go. But, the weekend came, and I had nothing
better to do, so I figured I’d check it out. It took me a long time to find the
place, since it was on West Campus and I’d never been there before. But
eventually I found it and sat with a bunch of other people in the stands and
waited for the demostration to begin.

In came Coach Hugh, a bearded man with a Scottish accent. Sean Connery lite,
basically. He gave us the first plot twist of the day: In fencing, there are
three different weapons, not just one. Like a lot of people I just assumed that
a sword is a sword. But no. Hugh informed us that there is the epeé, the foil,
and the sabre, and each one has a different set of rules associated with it. The
basic "hit-or-be-hit" rule applies in all of them, but they all
differ in the size of the weapon, how hits are made, and what part of the
opponents body is a target.

In epeé, the whole body is target. That means if you get hit in the toe, it
counts as the other person’s point. Points can only be scored by making contact
with the tip of your blade, and double points are possible. By that I mean that
if I hit you and you hit me at the same time, we both get points.

In foil, only your opponent’s torso is a target. That means that headshotsts,
hits below the waist, and hits to the arms are invalid. Like epeé, you need to
make contact with the tip of your blade to score. Unlike epeé, however, foil
follows "priority rules" other words, if I hit you and you hit me,
there are a set of rules to decide which one of us gets the point. I’m not
going to explain priority rules here because they’re too damn complicated.

In sabre, anything above the waist is a target. That includes the arms and
head. Unlike the other two weapons, you can score points by hitting with any
part of the weapon, not just the tip. And like foil, sabre follows priority
rules.

So we watched a demonstration of these three weapons by the Queen’s team. Hugh
said that the vast majority of fencers specialized in just one of these three
weapons, and told us to pick out the one that interested us the most. I took an
interest in epeé because I didn’t like the concept rules of priority. If I hit
you, I should get a point, and that’s that. Plus, I liked the fact that the
whole body is target in epeé.

Then Hugh hit us with the second plot twist. He ushered us into a small room
wherein dozens of fencing outfits were hanging on the walls. He told us to get
changed, pick our favourite weapon, and return outside. It was only supposed to
be a demonstration. I didn’t think that we would actually get to fence. But we
did. It took me forever to figure out how to put the stuff on (the zippers are
on the back), but eventually I got myself sorted out. I remember seeing myself
in a mirror shortly thereafter and laughing at how silly and cool I looked at
the same time. In my excitement, I ended up picking a sabre instead of an epeé,
but whatever.

We all went back into the gym and learned the basics. How to move, how to
strike, and how to lunge. It was a lot of fun. Two hours later the lesson
ended. I was exhausted and dripping sweat, but I was also happy. I decided then
and there that I would sign up for the Queen’s fencing team.

The way varsity fencing works at Queen’s is that anyone can join the team, but
you have to be good in order to get to go to events. With so many experienced
and skilled fencers already on the team, I knew that there was no chance in
hell that I’d get to go to any events this year. But being on the team would
give me the opportunity to get better, and that’s what my goal was. When I saw
the practice schedule, my heart sank a bit. The Queen’s fencing team practices
four times a week, but two of those practices are during my psychology class,
and one is on a weekend. So no matter what, I would miss two out of four
practices every week, and possibly three out of four if I wanted to go home for
the weekend. As such, joining the Queen’s team was impractical.

However, there was another option for me. For about half the price of joining
the Queen’s team, I could participate in the weekly instructional class. This
class was available to anyone between 15 and 22 years of age, be they Queen’s
students or not. Since it was my only other option, I decided to sign up. A
very good decision, since these classes have become the one of the best parts
of my week.

For the first few classes, we all used foils, since foil is apparently the
easiest weapon to learn to fence with. After that we were allowed to branch off
into the other two weapons. I tried out all three in turn.

Epeé was a nightmare for me. Because of the nature of the weapon, having a long
reach is vitally important, which means that tall people are generally better
at it than short people. And my fencing partner was usually the 22 year old Nick,
of Sweden, who was at Queen’s for an international study program. He was around
6’2", and not surprisingly he slaughtered me when we tried epeé. I quickly
gave up on that weapon.

Foil was better. Although tall people still have the advantage in foil, short
people have the advantage of having a smaller target area. I think that me and
Nick were about equal when it came to foil. He might have been a bit better
overall.

And then I tried sabre. A match made in heaven. Since sabre allows you to hit
with any part of the blade, your attacking motion is a slash as opposed
to a stab. Thus, while people with longer reach still have a slight
advantage, reach is less important in sabre than in the other two weapons. In
sabre, speed and reaction time are far more important. That’s my kind of game.
If I’ve gained anything from my many years of video gaming, it’s a speedy
reaction time.

For the first term, me and Nick squared off about a dozen times. We split our
time between sabre and foil. We were fairly even at foil, but I had the clear
advantage at sabre, and so sabre quickly became my favourite weapon.

After the first term, Nick went back to Sweden, and I found a new partner by
the name of Tristan. Tristan was the opposite of Nick. As I mentioned, Nick was
22 years old and well over six feet tall. Tristan was 15, and just over five
feet tall. The only problem was that Tristan wasn’t a fan of sabre, so for a
while I returned to foil. Despite the fact that I had the height advantage, me
and Tristan were about evenly matched. We’d play about three matches every
week. On some days I would win two of three, on other days he would win two of
three. I don’t think either of us ever succeeded in winning all three. Even
when I was stricken with tendonitis a few weeks ago and forced to fence left
handed, I still managed to win one of the two matches we played that day.

Last week, Tristan was on March Break, so I found a few temporary partners to
fence sabre with.

And I was incredible. I played two matches against one guy, and won both by
scores of 5-2 and 5-3. Then I switched partners and faced someone who I thought
was easier than the first guy. I admit that I underestimated this opponent, and
ended up falling behind 4-1. I turned it on though and came back to win 5-4.
Then I switched partners again and won three more in a row, by scores of 5-0,
5-0, and 5-2. And for my last match of the day, I went back to my first partner
and beat him a third time, 5-3.

Total record for the day: 7-0
Aggregate score: 35-14

Oh. Baby. Forgive my arrogance, but I was unstoppable. No matter how they
attacked me, I was able to parry everything and counterattack perfectly. That
was a great day. Winning is so much fun.

So now I’m going to give you a few reasons why you join fencing at your local
school/community centre/wherever

1. You get to hit people with freaking SWORDS. There’s no other legal way to do
that, unless you use Nerf swords. Fencing swords are actually classified as
weapons, however, so unlike Nerf swords, you can’t carry them in public. That’s
badass.

2. It’s exercise. You don’t believe me? Try it for two hours and see how you
feel. Then wake up the next day and see if you can walk. Good luck.

3. You get to wear those suits. You’ve always wanted to look that cool. 

4. It’s a great way to let out stress. Mostly because of #1. Go figure, hitting
people with swords relieves stress. I think you actually fence better if you’re
angry. You have to bear in mind that you opponent is trying to hit you. The
suits aren’t padded, so if you get hit often, you’re probably going to leave
with a few bruises. Your opponent may be a friend, but once they put that mask
on, they’re trying to hurt you, and the only way to avoid getting hurt is by
hurting them first.

5. It’s easy to learn. 50% of the sport is instinctual. If someone tries to hit
you, you either get out of the way or block it in any way you can. While
learning the rules of priority takes a little bit of time, the basics of
striking and parrying are taken care of by our survival instinct.

6. It’s fun. That’s the bottom line. If you join fencing, you’re going to enjoy
yourself. I promise.

My adventures with fencing at Queen’s are nearly at an end. This Tuesday will
be my final session. But fencing is something I intend to continue in the
future. If everything goes according to plan and I’m at U of T next year, I
will definitely look into joining the fencing club there. Wouldn’t it be
something if at some point I was able to go to competitive fencing events and
ended up fencing against my old Queen’s comrades, except I would be
representing another school? It’s certainly possible. I’ve still got a long way
to go before I’m at that level. Fortunately, I’m having fun with it, and as
long as that holds true, fencing is something that I’ll be motivated to
continue.


Thinking

It should come before speaking.

I’ve always struggled with this one. Speaking is just such an impulsive thing to do. It takes essentially no effort to do. Thinking, however, takes time. How is it possible to think before you speak without there being awkward pauses in between? It baffles me.

What do you have to think about before you speak?

  • Syntax: Do the words that I’m about to say make grammatical sense?
  • Meaning: Do the words that I’m about to say mean anything? 
  • What are the immediate consequences of what I’m about to say?
  • Is this the best way to phrase what I’m about to say?
  • What are the indirect consequences of what I’m about to say?

The first two are pretty much automatic. You can produce a grammatical sentence that has meaning without thinking at all in most cases.

The third one is a little more difficult. Still, it doesn’t take much thinking to know approximately how a person will respond to something you say.

The fourth one is much harder; there are a near-infinite number of possible sentences in the English language. How can you be sure that you’re about to use the perfect combination? How can you be sure that no better combination exists?

But the fifth one is the killer. That’s the one that I’ve always struggled with. How can you be sure that what you are about to say won’t come back to haunt you later? To know this, you need to know how likely it is that the person you are speaking to will repeat what you’ve said to other people. Then you need to know how all of those people will react to what you’ve said. To do this at all is exceedingly difficult, but to do it within the three seconds you have to respond to someone before an awkward silence is created? Madness.

It’s hard enough to think before you speak under optimal conditions, when your mood is in check. But what about when emotion gets involved? What if you’re angry with the person you’re talking to? Or what if you’re having a bad day? Or what if you’re really excited about something?

Emotion of any kind clouds your ability to think objectively about your situation. That’s how mistakes are made. That’s how people get hurt.

So here’s the story:

1. You need to think before you speak, or else people will get hurt.
2. It’s impossible to truly think before you speak. 

Which gives us:

3. People will always get hurt.

Normally I’d end a reflective blog like this with a final piece of advice. "Think before you speak" is the obvious thing to encourage you to do, but as I’ve said, that’s impossible. So here’s what I will say:

Be careful who you speak to. People with mutual friends can be great, but also very dangerous.

…Okay, this blog was really pessimistic. The next one will be happier, I promise.

Beer Pressure

See what I did with that title? Pretty clever, eh? I thought it up on my way back from economics class this morning and chuckled to myself for the next five minutes.Anyhow, according to my calendar, I’ve been nineteen for two weeks now. That means that it’s now legal for me to drink in this fine province of Ontario.

I don’t, really. According to some people, that’s a problem. So there’s peer pressure to deal with. I’m usually good at dealing with that, with a few lapses here and there.

But it’s a whole different ball game when the main source of peer pressure is my family. I mean, these are the same people who raised me to believe that if I ever touched alcohol I would spontaneously burst into flames and have my bowels spill out.

…Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But they did tell me to avoid alcohol. But then once the earth had revolved around the sun exactly nineteen times since my birth, the laws of the universe changed and alcohol became okay.

Well, the laws of the universe might be able to change overnight, but I can’t. So, despite their pressure, I continue to abstain. The question is, am I fighting another Pointless Battle?

You see, generally I act in a logical manner: I try to make decisions that will benefit me, and I try to avoid making decisions that will harm me. If I realize that I’ve made a decision that will harm me, I immediately reverse my decision if possible. Occasionally, however, my stubborn side prevails, and I stick to a course that I know is the wrong one, often against the advice of my family and friends. The result is a Pointless Battle. I struggle against my family and friends in order to prevent myself from doing what’s best for me. In other words, if I win, I lose, and if I lose, I win. In grade seven I fought and won a Pointless Battle for the right to not go on a school trip with my friends. Later on I fought and won a Pointless Battle for the right to not go on the Maid of the Mist. In high school I fought a Pointless Battle against the school itself. I lost this one after two years, and as a result I made a ton of friends and had a great time, especially in my final year of high school.

You can see a pattern emerging. In the past, I’ve generally fought Pointless Battles in order to deprive myself of a positive experience.

Why do I fight them? As unbelievable as it might sound, I often don’t see the full benefit of the experience that I’m depriving myself of. In my mind at the time of the Pointless Battle, the value of winning the fight outweighs the value of the positive experience.

The key to avoiding Pointless Battles, then, is to recognize which experiences are truly beneficial and which are not.

It’s usually obvious. By not going that school trip, I missed out on three days with my friends. The value there is obvious (though at the time I couldn’t grasp it).

Right now, I can’t see the benefit of drinking with my family. What would I gain? Looking at it from the other angle, what do I lose by not drinking with them? I wouldn’t see them any less often. I wouldn’t have any less fun with them. The only thing that I would have to deal with is the intermittent pressure they put on me. But surely that isn’t enough to warrant giving up the battle.

There are two possibilities then. Either I don’t see the value of drinking with my family because I’m blind to it, or because there is none. I just need to find out which situation I’m in.

My Eggs!

They’re all in one basket now.

About six weeks ago I applied for residence here at Queen’s for next year. As a backup plan, you see. I figured that if Something Really Bad happened and I didn’t get into U of T, at least I’d have someplace to go next year.

Queen’s uses a lottery system for handing out room assignments. This system determines whether you get your first choice of room, second choice of room, third choice, fourth, fifth, etc, or none at all.

And of course, I got none at all. That’s just another example of the luck I’ve been having here.

This puts me in a bit of a tough spot. Now if Something Really Bad happens and I don’t get into U of T, I’m sort of fucked. I won’t know whether I’ve been accepted U of T or not until June, by which time it’s way too late to look for housing in Kingston, which would make going to Queen’s very difficult.

I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get into U of T. I could scramble to try and find a house in Kingston last minute, but failing that I have no other options. I’d have to take the year off and work or something.

So yeah. My eggs are all in one basket now. God help me.

Luke 15:7

Sometimes I write blogs while I have a dozen other things on my mind and assignments that I should be working on. I usually only endeavour to write when I know that I have an hour or two of free time, but sometimes I break that rule. When I do, the quality of the blog sometimes suffers.

Such was the case with my most recent blog. I had a midterm to study for and an economics assignment to complete at the time, and in my haste to hit the "Publish Entry" button, I neglected to mention one very important event that occurred on Wednesday of last week. Like my encounter with Steve, this one also requires some back-story.

As you’re all well aware by now, I spent last summer working at my high school. At some point early on in the summer, a boy (let’s call him Will) walked into the room with his mother. In the last blog, I described the meeting with Steve’s family, and what great people they were, and what fun it had been to work with them, right? Well, this was the exact opposite. Will was a complete prick. He contradicted everything I said, he was rude for no reason whatsoever, he would have to be forced to try on the clothes… just a complete jerk. When he was finally fitted into his blazer and dress shirt, I asked the same question that I asked everyone else: "How do you look?"

His response was "Like a tool."

And then I reminded him that everyone would be dressed the same way, to which he responded "Then I guess I’m going to a school with a bunch of tools."

In hindsight, that was somewhat witty. And I kind of walked right into it. At the time though it was incredibly rude of him.

More importantly, it worried me because it reminded me of myself. Four years prior I had been in his shoes. I hated the school. I hated the uniform. I hated the people. I wanted no part of it. I eventually learned, but not before I pissed away two years. Sure, I didn’t have the mouth that he had, but Will was like me. And I could tell that he was going to piss away two years too if he didn’t change his mind, and fast.

It was my custom during the summer that after checkout, I would remind the student that getting involved with the school is the most important thing to do. It’s what I failed to do during my first two years, and I’d hate to see someone else go down the same road. It was good advice, but most of the students didn’t need it. Most of them already knew that they were going to try out for football/basketball/hockey/baseball/lacrosse/volleyball/drama/band/etc.

If anyone needed this advice, it was Will. But I failed to give it to him. Usually my spiel about getting involved with the school was the last thing that I said before the student left. But Will wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible. I turned to shake the mother’s hand, and poof, he was gone. The one person that my advice could have made a difference to, and I failed.

I felt really bad about that for weeks afterwards. I mean, he was a pretty stubborn kid. What are the odds that anything I could have said would have made a difference? Slim, right? But there was a chance. And I let it slip. That didn’t sit well with me. It was a dark spot on a summer that was otherwise fantastic.

I was actually going to write a blog about this incident in the summer. I even had a title for it: "The One That Got Away". One thing about my writing process is that titles are one of the last things that I do. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, an essay, or a novel. I almost never come up with the title until after I’ve written the piece itself (I don’t have a title for this one yet). So the fact that I already had a title meant that I was pretty much done the mental development process, and all that was left to do was type it out. But I never did. I don’t know why.

Anyhow, before the end of the summer, I stopped by the office of the Dean of Students to chat. During our conversation, I told him about Will, and asked him to do his best to make sure that Will enjoyed himself when the year began. He said he would, but that ultimately it was Will’s choice whether he enjoyed himself or not.

Okay, we’re done with the flashback. Fast forward to last Wednesday.

I was just about to leave my school after a most enjoyable day when I noticed a boy who looked oddly familiar, laughing with some friends. I couldn’t put a name to the face though. Fortunately, one of his friends helped me out: "Hey Will…", one of them said. And I thought to myself "Holy shit!"

He was a far cry from the gloomy smart-ass that I had met eight months before, but it was definitely the same Will. I asked him his name just to confirm. It was him.

"I remember you," I said. "You were the biggest prick at the uniform fitting in the summer."

A little blunt? Maybe. But I could tell that he was in a good mood, and wouldn’t be offended.

"Yeah," he said, looking slightly embarrassed. "Sorry about that."

"You really didn’t want to go to this school, eh?"

"I changed my mind," he said. "This place is great."

"You have lots of friends here then? You’re having fun?"

"Yeah," he said. "I love it here."

"I’m glad to hear that," I said. "Take care."

It was such a short conversation, but it was the highlight of my week. I don’t know who was responsible for Will’s change of heart. Did the Dean act on my recommendation and help Will out somehow? I’d love to take some credit, but there’s no way of knowing for sure. And it doesn’t even matter anyhow. Somewhere along the line, someone helped him. Someone changed his mind. It doesn’t matter who it was. All that matters is that there is a boy who is happy now who otherwise wouldn’t be. Someone gave him the two years of happiness that I missed out on.

I don’t usually bring religion into this place, but I think the best way to sum up my feelings about this is in a Bible passage. You all know the one: "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." In the same way, seeing Will happy brought me more joy than seeing the smiling faces of ninety-nine other people.

The Homestretch

Do they honestly expect me to come back to school after a week like that?

Apparently they do, since my countdown clock is still at 56 days. But man, what a week. I know last time I complained about how planned fun isn’t all that fun, but I had a hell of a lot of fun this week.

Wednesday was the first big day. I had plans to visit my old school in the morning, and the only way I could get there was by getting a ride with my mom on her way to work. So, I woke up at 6:45 and began my day. My mom dropped me off at the local mall at around 7:15. I walked into the Tim Hortons at the mall for some breakfast, and as luck would have it a buddy from high school was there too. Not one of my best friends, but a friend nonetheless.

When I was done eating, I walked around the mall for a while. Have you ever seen a mall come to life in the morning? I’ve watched malls close many times before, but this was only the second time that I’d ever seen one open. It’s a gradual process, and one which I find fascinating for some reason. At about 7:30 the cleaning crew appeared and began washing windows, cleaning the floor with Zamboni-like contraptions, and all of the other things that cleaning crews do. By 8:00 a few workers had appeared and began preparing their shops for opening. As time went on more and more people arrived at the mall and more and more stores began showing signs of life. I walked a circuitous route around the mall, and during every lap I would see something that hadn’t been there ten minutes ago. Maybe I’m crazy, but I found it very cool.

Then I headed to my high school. I got the official business of having my high school transcript sent to U of T, and then proceeded to look for people. It didn’t take much effort. No matter where I went, I saw a familiar face. When ever I step foot into my high school, I always feel a bit of trepidation. I’m always worried that I won’t be welcomed back. I don’t know why I’m always worried about that, because thus far all three of my visits to my high school have been very positive experiences. I spoke with some old teachers, I saw a ton of old friends, and I had myself a jolly old time. One thing that made my day was when one of my old friends (let’s call him Steve) saw me and told me that Rene had sent something over for me. By Rene, he was referring to Rene Bourque, a player on the Calgary Flames, to whom he is related.

It’s a ridiculous coincidence how I met Steve, actually. Time for a flashback!

Four years ago, in grade nine, we had that "Take Your Kid To Work" thing, and so I went downtown with my mom, who works as a dental hygienist. During the course of the day, Steve’s father walked into the room. We made casual conversation, and at some point I mentioned which high school I went to, to which Steve’s dad said something to the effect of "My son Steve will be going there in a few years. Keep an eye out for him." I said I would, but the years passed and I eventually forgot all about that conversation.

Fast forward to Summer ’09. I was working at my high school, outfitting the incoming students with uniforms. It was the last appointment of the day, and it was a guy named Steve. No alarms went off in my head at this point. Anyhow, I noticed Steve’s last name, and had to ask the obvious question: "I’m sure you hear this a lot, but do you have any relation to any of the Bourques that in the NHL?" It was a fair question. My high school has a reputation as a big sports school, and it’s not uncommon to see the son of a former NHL player there.

"Well actually," Steve’s mother replied. "We’re not related to Ray Bourque, but Rene Bourque on the Calgary Flames is my nephew."

"Really?" I said. "That’s so cool! The Flames are my favourite team, and Rene Bourque is one of my favourite players!"

Needless to say, I hit it off with this family. Of all the appointments I had in the whole summer, they were probably my favourite. In the top three for sure.

Anyhow, that night I mentioned to my mom after work that I had dealt with the Bourque family, and what great people they all were, and she said to me "Oh really? They’re patients at my office."

And then I suddenly remembered the conversation I’d had with Steve’s father four years prior. "Holy shit!" I exclaimed. Only I didn’t, because my mom was in the room. But I was stunned by the coincidence. I mean, what are the odds that the best family I had dealt with all summer would be the family of the man who I had met in my mom’s office four years before? And what are the odds that this family would be related to Rene Bourque (who wasn’t a Flame back in 2005 but became one in 2008)?

I happened to see Steve at my high school’s homecoming back in October, and his parents were there with him. I explained to them the above coincidence and we all had a laugh about it. His mother then promised me that she would have Rene send something over for me. I thanked her, but told her that it wasn’t necessary. She insisted, since I’d been so good to them during the summer.

And that, my friends, is how I ended up with two signed pictures of Rene Bourque in my possession this week.

I’m sorry for taking that much time to tell a story that could have been told in two lines. I couldn’t help myself. It’s one of the cooler things that’s happened to me in the past year. Really that could have been a stand-alone blog, but whatever. On with the Wednesday!

After leaving my high school behind, I went for a walk in my old favourite park at St. Clair and Spadina. Given that it was the middle of the workday on a Wednesday, it was pretty empty there aside for a few people walking their dogs. Still, I enjoyed walking around there again. I then headed towards my (hopefully) future university. I was amazed at just how many familiar faces I saw in the short time I was there. Wherever I walked, someone was there. If I walked into a building, half a dozen people from my high school would be there to greet me. I’m not exaggerating either. I walked into a building to meet a friend, and within a minute five other people that I knew entered the room, from three different doors. It was like the Powers That Be had purposely placed everyone I knew into my path for the day. Incredible. I caught up with some of my old friends, watched the first period of the Canada/Russia hockey game (which we dominated), and went then went home, exhausted but very happy.

The most important thing about Wednesday is that it built my confidence. Next September, if things go well, I’ll be entering into another unknown environment. It’s a lot closer to home than Queen’s, but it’s still an unknown environment. Seeing all of those friendly faces gave me hope. If I can see my friends next year at even a quarter of the rate that I saw them on Wednesday, I’ll be fine.

The rest of the week was a lot of fun as well. On Friday I ate dinner and watched the Canada/Slovakia hockey game with some friends, including one that I hadn’t seen in years. One of the friends from the original Golden Age. We’re talking five years ago here. And we had fun just like old times. It kind of made me wonder why we hadn’t spoken for a few years. We hadn’t had a fight or anything. We just drifted apart. I hope I see him again soon.

I spent most of the weekend with my family, which was great as always. We spent most of our time watching the Olympics, which went especially well for our country on Saturday and Sunday. Especially that final hockey game. That was intense as hell. I think I scared my four year old cousin with my yelling when Crosby scored the winning goal. Had we lost, that would have been one of the worst defeats in Canadian hockey history. To lose on our home soil to the Americans twice in one tournament would have made a dent on our claim to hockey supremacy. Instead, it will go down as one of our greatest victories.

I thought it was really cool to see people who don’t care about hockey 99% of the time madly post Facebook statuses about the game. But that’s what the Olympics did for Canada this year. They brought us together as a nation.

And now I’m back in Kingston, and the party’s over. I’ll tell you, it’s going to be damned hard to find the motivation to work after that week. There’s not much to look forward to now except for the end of the year. The near future doesn’t hold much excitement.

I mean, I’m looking forward to the tendinitis that I’ve developed in my right arm going away. That will be great. And it’s my 19th birthday in about an hour, but I think I’ll save that subject for another blog, if I feel like typing one up in the next few days.

Anyhow, aside from those two things, there’s not much to look forward to. I just got off one of the better weeks I’ve had this year, and now I have to go back to… this. I don’t know, it just feels like sort of a letdown.

But hey, at least it’s the homestretch. 56 days to go.