Archive for April, 2010


And They’re Off!

What a fantastic day. It was just one of those days where pretty much everything that could have gone right, did. I won’t go into detail, but I’ll summarize briefly.

I sat down to take my History exam and realized that I had correctly predicted what the essay questions would be, and that my decision to study only 30% of the course material wouldn’t hurt me one bit.

After that, I went to grab a quick bite to eat at the cafeteria, only to run into a certain James character. James is a friend of a friend of mine – we’ve only met a few times, but he’s quite a recognizable character and an overall class act. I was aware that he was at Queen’s, but somehow our paths didn’t cross until literally the final hour of my Queen’s career. But better late than never, I suppose. We had a short conversation before going our separate ways.

Shortly thereafter I bid farewell to Queen’s, hopped on a train, and was off. Two and a half hours later, I arrived in Toronto. A few subway stops later, I ran into Mary, one of my co-workers who I’ll be working with again shortly. So that was cool.

When I arrived at my stop, I ran into three more familiar faces: My elementary school friends. So that was cool too.

After that encounter, I walked another hundred yards or so, only to see another friend, this one from high school. Again, very cool.

Then when I got home, I found a late birthday present on my bed from my aunt and uncle from Guelph. I opened it to find a Team Canada hockey jersey. Upon further inspection, I discovered it to be of the "Authentic" style. In layman’s terms, that’s a $235 dollar jersey. I was in shock. I immediately phoned them to thank them for the awesome gift.

Then I went to my nonna’s for her birthday, and got to see a good deal of my family again, which was fantastic as always.

We’re one day into summer ’10, and already things are looking up. I don’t expect every day to be this great – tomorrow I’m probably going to be told that I need surgery – but if this is a sign of things to come, then I can’t wait to get this summer rolling.

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Last Tango in Kingston

It’s move out time at Queen’s. People are carrying out boxes, wheeling out carts, and pulling luggage behind them. People are going back and forth between their rooms and their cars, carrying out everything that has been a part of their lives for the past 8 months.

Me? I’m still stuck here. Not for much longer, mind you; I’m taking the 2:30 train out of here tomorrow. In the meantime, I have one more exam to write. It’s about as low pressure as you can get. Basically, in order to meet U of T’s standards for transfer credit, I need to score at least a 60 in this course. I have 80 right now, and this exam is worth a mere 20% of my total grade. That means that I’m guaranteed to score at least 64 in the course, even if I score a zero on the exam somehow. Unless I get hit by an asteroid on my way to the exam room, I’m good.

As you can imagine, motivation to study for this exam has been somewhat lacking. It’s not like I haven’t studied, but I haven’t been studying to the point where studying becomes stressful. I don’t think that this makes me a bad person. There’s no risk involved in this situation, after all, and there’s no reward for doing well. It’s just something that has to be done. Why worry about things that have no consequences, right?

It’s a little weird to think about all of the things I’m doing for the last time ever. Like earlier this morning, I ate at the cafeteria for the last time. Tonight I’ll be sleeping in this "bed" for the last time. Tomorrow I’ll be looking through my window at the lake for the last time. Maybe I’ll go for one last walk if it’s not raining. This will be the last blog that I type from Kingston. Simple things like that. It just feels strange to think "Man, I’m never going to do this again for the rest of my life." After eight long months, the end is just around the corner. I’m not happy yet, but I think I will be once summer begins rolling.

Human Weakness

Last night at just before 11:30, I departed with my good friend Alice on what was to be an 18 kilometre walk. We didn’t plan it like that; it was supposed to be a 25 minute jaunt to Tim Hortons and a 25 minute jaunt back. But then she had an idea:

"Let’s get lost!"

Ordinarily I would never agree with such a foolish suggestion, but:

a) I’m leaving the school in a few days and I knew that it would probably be my last long walk in Kingston.
b) She’s staying at Queen’s, which means that I won’t see her very often for the next three years.
c) My economics exam had just owned me, and I wanted to get away from the world for a night.

So, I agreed. And we walked farther and farther away from the university, along both side streets and main streets. It was fun at first. You know, the whole "sense of adventure" thing kicked in, and we were having a merry old time. About nine kilometres and two hours in, we began to tire of our walk, and decided to head back. At that point, something occurred to us that hadn’t before: If you walk away from a place for two hours, you need to walk another two hours to get back.

Thus we began the long trek back to Queen’s. And at that point, things began to get a bit scary. It was 1:30 by then, so the streets were dead quiet. It was just the two of us, alone against a world that appeared increasingly menacing with every minute. When your brain starts to get fatigued, it plays tricks on you. Every shadow is an axe murderer. Every tree has a dead body hanging on it. Every forest contains all manner of foul creature waiting to leap out and attack. So, for the next hour and a half, we lived in constant fear. At the same time, the situation was sort of funny. We were afraid of all sorts of imagined evils, but we realized how ridiculous our fears were and laughed at them, even though we were still scared. It’s hard to explain.

Finally, we began to approach familiar territory. We were both very relieved.

But then we witnessed something which is going to disturb me for quite a while. This is the main point of this blog.

In the distance, we saw two people on the opposite side of the road. One guy and one girl. They were yelling loudly, or at least the guy was.

"Drunk people," Alice observed astutely.

As we got closer, we began to hear bits of what they were saying. A lot of profanities.

"Cursing drunk people," she added.

Finally we got close enough to hear most of their conversation:

"You stupid cum-guzzling whore!" The guy yelled at her. And we laughed a little at that. But our laughter quickly faded as the conversation went on. "What the fuck are you doing?" he yelled at her. "Come here!"
"No!" replied the girl, who was clearly terrified. "You’re going to hit me again!"
"Do you want to get shot in the head?" he said. "Do you really think I’m that nice?"

So basically, what we had here was a guy who was clearly threatening to assault this girl. Given that she was afraid of being hit again, it ‘s pretty clear that he had beaten her before, and was dead serious about doing so again.

I can’t speak for Alice, but I was entirely convinced that this was a serious situation. But how did I respond? By turning my head and walking away.

When we were about 50 metres away, we heard a scream and a dull thud. He had hit her again.

How’s that for being a decent human being? Another person was in trouble, and instead of helping out, I let her be assaulted. And who knows what he did to her once we were out of earshot? Did he continue to beat her? Did he rape her? Who knows. We were probably the only witnesses within a mile, so there was no one else to see what he did. He could have gotten away with anything.

Last month in psychology class, we learned that in such a situation, most people won’t do anything to help. We all like to think of ourselves as being part of the 10% that would help, but in reality, most of us wouldn’t. It’s one thing to fill out a personality questionnaire online and say, "Yes, I would help the person", but it’s another thing entirely to be actually placed in the situation. When you’re in the heat of the moment, fear takes over. You think "What if this guy is armed?" and "What if he turns on me?" and the end result is that most people end up walking away. You can’t really understand unless you’ve been in the situation before.

For me, this is the second time that I’ve been placed into this situation. The first time was last year in late April, so almost exactly a year ago. I was walking into the subway station at St. Clair Avenue when I saw two girls and a guy. One of the girls was lying down on top of the escalator while the other girl kicked her in the head and the guy looked on approvingly. The guy was over six feet tall, and even if he wasn’t armed he could have beaten me to a pulp if he so desired, so I decided that it was better to just walk away, and I did. And the one girl continued to kick the other all the way down the escalator. Fortunately, a subway station is a public place, so once they reached the bottom of the stairs, they were seen as by a TTC worker, who yelled¬† "Hey! What are you doing?!", and the violence ended.

But this second time was a lot worse. This time, there was no TTC worker to help. There was no one else, period. We walked away, and in doing so left this girl at the mercy of a guy who clearly did not have her best interests at heart. In the first situation I could sleep soundly knowing that the girl was going to be okay and that the culprits had been caught. This time, I have no such knowledge. I have no idea what happened to that girl afterwards. I really hope that she’s okay. I’ll be checking the newspapers for updates on this, but hopefully I don’t see any. I already feel really shitty about this, and if I hear that this girl was raped, or worse, it’s going to haunt me for a long, long time.

Sammy and the Shooting Star

"The stars look very different today," said Joshua, gazing upward at the night sky.

"What do you mean?" asked Sammy. "They look exactly the same to me."

"I don’t know," answered Joshua. "They just do."

The two were lying down in Sammy’s backyard. Sammy wasn’t yet at the age where her parents perceived boys to be threats, so she had been allowed to invite Joshua over to her house with no protests from them. The two were silent for a while. Then Sammy spoke.

"So, do you think that we’re alone in the universe?" she asked.

"You don’t like silence, do you?" Joshua replied, again countering her question with one of his own.

"Not really," said Sammy. "Silences are awkward."

"People are so interested in making noise and being heard that they forget to listen every now and then." Joshua said, his voice becoming soft. "While we’re busy making noise, the world is trying to speak to us. If you’re not quiet, you can miss out on some of the most amazing things."

As if to drive his point home, at that moment a shooting star zipped across the sky. For the remainder of the evening, the backyard was completely silent. Even the crickets ceased their chirping. Occasionally Sammy would look over at Joshua, and occasionally Joshua would glance over at Sammy, but not a word was spoken between them. Not a word needed to be.

*************************

The world around you will carry on in the exact same way whether you’re paying attention to it or not. It’s a nice place. Pay attention to it every now and then, and you’ll see what I mean.

14:14:14:14

14 days, 14 hours, 14 minutes, and 14 seconds until The Queen’s Experiment wraps up.

Lately I’ve been wondering two things:

1. Was coming to Queen’s a mistake?
2. Do I regret it?

The two often go hand-in-hand, but not always. You can make mistakes that you don’t regret making, and you can regret things that weren’t mistakes. I’d like to tackle these two questions briefly right now, if you don’t mind.

Was coming to Queen’s a mistake? Was it the wrong course of action? I have to yes to this one. If it wasn’t a mistake, I wouldn’t be taking the necessary steps to correct it for next year.

It’s funny because I put so much effort into making the right choice. I put an incredible amount of effort into it. I put so much effort into answering that question correctly that it made me sick. I came up with cost-benefit analysis charts and pro-con tables. I toured each school multiple times. I spoke with people who attended each school and got their opinions. I read over every pamphlet and brochure, gathering every bit of data possible. I spent hours and hours thinking about it and took every imaginable precaution to make sure that I was making the right choice and that I wouldn’t be transferring after one year.¬†

And in spite of all that, I blew it. I made the wrong decision.

I over-thought it. That’s what went wrong. It’s like that Coldplay song: "I was just guessing at numbers and figures/Pulling the puzzles apart." I tried to be scientific about it, and in doing so I completely forgot about what really matters to me: "Questions of science, science and progress/Did not speak as loud as my heart."

What do you know? I guess Coldplay can be right every now and then.

So now the second question: Do I regret coming to Queen’s?

And that’s a tough one to answer. Although it’s been a less-than-ideal year for me, I don’t think I can come to a definite answer on this question right now. The thing is, I’ve had some good times here, and met some good people. I learned how to fence and how to curl. Had I gone to U of T, would I have met those people? Would I have learned how to fence or curl? Almost certainly not.

The other thing is that regret is relative. Sure, I regret coming to Queen’s, but would I have regretted not going to Queen’s more? I know myself, and I know that if I was at U of T right now I’d be on Facebook, looking at the statuses of people who are at Queen’s, and thinking to myself "I could’ve been there. I could’ve been a part of that." I think about the road not taken a lot. All of the "what-ifs" and "could-have-beens" are forever circling in my head. So I know for sure that I would have regretted not going to Queen’s as well. The question is, which is greater? The regret I feel for going to Queen’s, or the regret I would have felt for not going to Queen’s? There’s no answer to that question right now, and I don’t know if there ever will be, because I can’t compare what I’m feeling now to something that I never felt. It’s impossible.

It all depends on next year, I guess. If I’m able to restore Toronto-based friendships that have taken damage over the past eight months while maintaining my relationships with the people that matter to me at Queen’s, I think it’ll be okay.

But that’s just another "if", isn’t it?