The only constant in all of my failures has been me.
I’m invariably the most consistent factor within all of my failures.
Every single time I have failed, I’ve hated myself for any length of time.
Every single time I have failed, it’s been directly because of me.
I went for a run for the first time today. 5 kilometers. Nothing particularly intense. 5k (3 miles) seems like the standard. I finished the first half of the run, clocking 15 minutes, with 1 minute running and walking intervals (changing every minute). Running at 9 miles a minute on average and walking 12. I hit 3 miles and accidentally ran past the 3-mile point, ending with a block-sprint.
I never finish things. It’s one of my diseases. I’m chocked to death by my own inspiration and noise. I lose old ideas in favour of new ones in an endless cycle of inspiration and excitement. I’m always searching for something new. I’m always on the lookout for a new project.
So I’ve been going to the gym.
Initially, it’s because I, just as everyone else, have body confidence issues. It’s turned into something more, now. Now it has meaning.
I hate myself.
I hate my issues. I hate the fact I can be derailed, in every way, by a penny. I hate that I can overanalyze every single little thing and break it down beyond the point of comprehension. I hate that when Jessie told me to name “one thing you like about yourself,” it took me nearly 20 minutes and I almost cried. I couldn’t think of a single thing to like. There was nothing within that I found likeable.
So I go to the gym. I go to the gym because it gives me a place to get angry. Where I can use my personal hatred and self loathing as a fuel, as a form of mental cleaning. I hate myself? I need to prove it. I need to push myself further. I need to use that anger as a way to get better.
My hatred is habitual. I think about it when I wake up, when I go to school, before I go to sleep. I, more often than not, will spend more time making fun of myself than I ever would another person. It’s ingrained within my very being; my day-to-day life. It’s always there. That Noise is always present.
I went for a run because I have 40 days before I attempt to complete one of the most difficult obstacle courses in the world. I’ve been going to the gym since October to train for it - but no time will matter more than these next coming 40 days.
Some people have asked me why I want to do it - why I (of all people, is what they really want to say) want to involve myself in something so clearly not my style. I’m not a physical guy. Never was. I don’t bother explaining myself. I’ll shrug my shoulders and say “it’ll be fun!” and move on. There’s no sense in trying.
So I go to the gym.
So I started to run.
I’m doing this because I need to prove to myself I can finish something - that I can discipline myself for the long-run.
I’m doing this because all of my failures have always been because of me.
I’m doing this because I hate myself.
I’m doing this because if I hate myself, and all of my failures have been my own fault… isn’t it time I started fixing myself?
I’m doing this because I need to change.
It’s taken me six months to realize it’s not a place, it’s a concept.
I’ve heard it said millions of times, and I myself must have typed it multiple times: “home isn’t just where you’re born.” But that idea, that meaning, doesn’t set in just from hearing it. You need to experience it.
Home for the longest time was, still is, and will always be, Windsor, Ontario.
Let me explain Windsor to those of you who haven’t had the privilege (yes, privilege) of going there:
It’s the greatest dump you’ll ever be in.
It’s a small version of Toronto (or a very, very small version of New York for you American followers). It’s got 210’000 people living in it’s residence and it’s largest claim to fame, historically, has been due to two things: it’s Chrysler factory, and the Ambassador Bridge.
The factory runs three shifts and produces more than 1’000 Chrysler vehicles a day. It employs over 4’000 people. I honestly believe that everyone in Windsor is related to, or knows someone, who has worked or still works in the plant. Almost like a strange rite of passage. The Ambassador Bridge is the world’s most used border crossing, as it acts as the transition between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario. At many/most points of the Detroit riverfront, the US of A is only a mile away or less. My great-grandfather used to sit on the riverfront and listen the gunshots as men tried to smuggle alcohol over the border during the 20s.
If you stand in central or northern Windsor, you are always within ten kilometers of everything. Every kinda food, every kinda person, every kinda establishment. Every kind of living space - suburbs, to every-day neighborhoods, to… less fortunate living spaces. I’m not kidding. You have to go there to really understand what I mean. People who live there take it for granted - as I did - and don’t appreciate just how legitimately diverse we have it there. And that’s awesome.
Windsor, Ontario, has the best pizza in Canada. Don’t believe me? That’s alright. After trying to find proof, I can’t find it either. Apparently at one point in time there was a poll across Canada and Windsor rated the highest for pizza and most Windsorites have heard this fact and repeat it. Don’t tell anyone I said that. I believe it’s the best pizza, anyway - the sheer number of local, family-owned pizzerias in Windsor justify this thought to me.
Windsor also has the most strip-clubs per capita.
We’re number one! We’re number one!
The music scene in Windsor is one I will always regret joining into so late. Three years I spent getting to know the family of hardcore show-goers - because that’s exactly what they are. A family. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, I believe that the style of music propagates the sense of “family” more than any other genre, but the family in Windsor is… awesome. In the purest sense. I could probably make an entire second post about the local bands from Windsor, but I’ll just link them here.
I love Windsor because I’ve had the chance to travel a substantial amount, in Canada, America, and Europe and, to me, no city is the same. Of course, right? That makes sense. No two cities will ever be the same, and it’s really impossible to compare them… but I don’t care. No city will ever be like Windsor, to me. No city can compare.
It’s not the biggest.
It’s not the most beautiful.
It’s not even the most interesting (everyone who has ever grown up in Windsor has uttered the words “there’s nothing to do here” at least once in their life.)
Jeeze, it’s definitely a far cry from the cleanest city.
But to me, it’s the best, and it always will be.
There’s this vibe about Windsor. That no matter what happens, no matter what our weird mayor does, no matter what happens to the economy and car sales, no matter how much endless construction there seems to be, and no matter how useless it an aquarium and aquatic center might be, its heart will always be the same.
Windsor is always alive.
It’s got this rhythm that no city has ever replicated; this internal motor that cannot be copied.
I can’t describe it any other way.
You either know exactly what I’m talking about, or not at all.
My second home was the high school I attended, Walkerville Collegiate Institute.
I owe so much to the place, and very few people understand, or will ever understand, why.
The same way a bunch of kids who scream lyrics into a microphone together every couple weeks, the same way your best friends who can read your mind from across the room, the same way your brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, are your family, every student who attended WCI was part of my family. I have spent a nearly equal amount of time after and before class hours in the building (I calculated it all one day). For school shows, recitals, performances, everything.
It sounds so silly to explain to people how proud I was to be a Prime Minister of a high school student council. It sounds silly even talking about it to other people because the topic, generally speaking, puts me in a better mood. But I don’t care. By my senior year I’d gone out of my way to actually get to know every single student’s first name and know them… because why not? Why not try to make the place you spend six hours of your day in the best you can? What’s the downside to trying? I did my best to take care of the educational institution I attended because it deserved that much. Because the teachers there changed my life. Because the people who I met there I will never forget. Because the experiences I had within the walls can never be appreciated by anyone who didn’t share those experiences.
I made it my home, and everyone who went there was my family.
The same way that my Scott & Greg’s, Brendan’s, and Julie’s houses are, the same way that a small church that held local hardcore shows is, the same way that an aging stage theatre can be, is the same way that a high school was just as much a home and familiar to me as my own house and bed.
You can build a house, but you cannot build a home.
The difference is the experiences you gain in it.
For months, I actively protested the concept of York turning into another home. I didn’t want another - why should I? I have enough. My friends and family (two terms I find frequently interchangeable) were all mostly in Windsor. A majority of my greatest experiences have been within its 146 square km borders… so why would I want to grow up in a new home? Away from everyone I grew up with? Away from my family?
Because I have just realized, just now, the weight of the words I have said and typed so, so many times:
Family is more than blood.
Home is so much more than where you’re born.
I didn’t want York to become a home. I didn’t want to gain a new family. I didn’t want to feel the comfort of a different set of familiar walls because that would mean things have changed. That new cogs have been added to the machine that I considered perfect.
I was scared.
I was scared that things would change in a way that would be permanent. I was scared that change would affect my family. I was scared I would come back a different person.
I was scared of the change I needed so desperately.
I needed to leave, and it pained me to think of that, but I had to get out. My family was smothering me in the most loving way possible. I had no places left to grow within my house’s walls, my school’s theater, or my city’s borders. It had to happen.
And I did.
And here I am.
This morning I woke up late, after skipping a class for film from staying up too late the night before. I left my residence after emailing my TA for food. I waved to the head janitor of my residence and saw the housing staff and said good morning. I walked through the TEL building and passed by a few design students I had met a few weeks ago and we exchanged smiles. I bought a gyro from the same lady who works at Pita Pit only after passing by two students at two different times who I’ve met in classes last semester and stayed on a friendly basis with. Then I saw my film prof and we spoke briefly about an assignment. I went to class and bought a burger from the same girl who works there during the dinnertime shifts and ate a burger with some seniors in the acting program. I went to the gym, said hello to guy working reception and saw a few of the regulars there, including a screenwriting TA, and we briefly waved between whatever it was we were doing. I bought a nacho bowl from a girl who remembers my order. I went back to my residence and saw my floor Don who reminded me of the meetings I always miss.
I’ve taken all of these small experiences for granted because I didn’t want to acknowledge that, maybe, York is the home I always knew I needed, but didn’t realize. Maybe York will never have the same experiences as Walkerville, but isn’t that the point? Isn’t growing up, isn’t change… supposed to bring new experiences, not old ones?
I never wanted to answer those questions until now.
It’s taken me 6 months and 400 kilometers of distance to realize the true depth of these words:
Family is more than blood.
Home is so much more than where you’re born.
I will never be able to replicate the experiences I’ve had in my home, in my high school, in my city… and that’s alright. That needs to happen. I need to change. My family needs to grow and my home needs new walls.
No matter who I meet, or where I go, though, there is one thing I will remain absolutely certain of:
My home is wherever my family is.
My name is Peter.
I’m 18 years old.
I left home for university.
I can legally drive a vehicle.
And ever since I can remember, I’ve been scared of sleeping.
It was Monday, October 11, 2002. Canadian Thanksgiving night.
We had our family over as usual: my nonna cooked, we all ate, hung around, had a good time. Business as usual. I was 8. Nine o’clock rolls around and it’s time for me to hit the hay. I shower, brush my teeth, switch into pajamas, and pass out. Business as usual.
I wake up, suddenly and with anxiety.
It’s three o’clock.
And there’s a bomb somewhere in the house.
I jump out of bed and nearly trip myself. I make a break for my parent’s room - they need to know! I open the doors and turn on the lights the second I’m in and wake them, shaking my mom.
W-what is it?!
There’s a bomb in the house!
My dad wakes up, still groggy. I don’t have time to explain to them! They need to help me find it. I can see it in my head. A big, monstrous explosive device hidden somewhere in the house. There’s a time - green digits are ticking down at a rate I can’t even fathom. We need to find it!
I grab my mom’s hand and take her out of bed.
Peter, what’s wrong?
There’s a bomb in the house and I need to make sure everyone’s alright!
What makes you think there’s a bomb?
I-I… I dunno I can just see it!
Where is it?
Somewhere in the house!
Don’t they get what I’m saying? They should be as scared as me! I could feel the walls starting to bend, floorboards warping. I needed to run. I jumped down the stairs and woke nonna, she was just as confused as my parents, but it didn’t matter because she was alright.
I sprinted downstairs into the basement, turned on all the lights. I threw things out of my way, I needed to look!
It felt like I was so disproportionately small. Like the walls were miles away and my hands weren’t even attached to my body. Like looking through the other end of binoculars. I kept searching.
Why was I doing this? My attempt at a rational head asked. What the hell’s going on? A small part of me realized how ludicrous the scenario was. A bomb in the house? No way. But I couldn’t stop. I was on auto-pilot in my own head.
The shadows were staring at me.
I had to turn on all the lights.
The walls were watching me.
Nothing in the basement, but I could still see the bomb, clear as day, in my head. I could imagine everything about it. The numbers, the wires, the cold, rusted steel it was built out of. Ground floor, it had to be there.
I kept searching for something that only the smallest part of me knew didn’t exist.
My parents watched from a few feet away, asking a question here or there. If I wanted something to drink. If I was feeling sick. Nonna argued it was because I hadn’t eaten enough food the night before. My parents remained relatively quiet, as if they knew what was going on. How could they? They can’t see the bomb that I did.
I wasn’t in the kitchen, the living room, the washroom…
It had to be somewhere!
I began to shake. Where was it? I had to save everyone. Anxious tears rolled down my cheeks as continued to tear my house apart. I had to find it I had to find it I had to find it I had to find it I had to find it I had to find it and make sure everyone would be alright.
The shadows were getting bigger.
I was getting smaller.
I was being crushed by expansion.
Nothing made sense!
I ran upstairs and started to look there, but my dad grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eyes. He told me it would be alright. It could wait until morning. No, you don’t understand! I told him. We don’t have any time! He kept trying to reassure me, but he didn’t see what I did. He wasn’t getting smaller and smaller. His walls weren’t staring at him.
He guided me into my bed, despite my best efforts to break free.
He lied me down.
After a few minutes, I passed out.
The bomb was defused.
That was the first time I remember experiencing a sleep-walking night terror. My parents tell me I’ve been having them in varying degrees ever since I was four. I would cry in my sleep, yelling. Horrified. In reality, about once every two or so months I would have an episode. The older I became, the more aggressive and vivid the imaginations were.
I never knew what caused them, and I never knew what I could do while I was experiencing them. I hypothesized it was a mix of anxiety and growing up, but that didn’t always make sense. They seemed random. They were horrifying.
“They” are a mixture of everything I’ve ever been scared of in one nightmare that I would be semi-consciously experiencing. The standard night terror causes someone to have an awful nightmare while they’re asleep. They’ll sweat, cry, yell, but never wake up until it’s over. The standard sleep walking episode causes someone to do a series of actions they deem as “logical” or “normal” in a semi-conscious state.
My night terrors happened to me only while I was sleep walking.
I was hallucinating things I couldn’t see.
I never see anything outside my own head. Like the bomb, I never saw it as something tangible, just something that was a very vivid imagination, nothing more. I was horrified of things I could, really, only imagine.
This would happen for years, eventually leveling out in frequency around two years ago.
By then, they’d done their damage.
I would go to sleep with a worry that it would happen again. If I ever went to sleep anywhere other than my own bed - a hotel, a friend’s house or even my own goddamn basement - I would fear that I would have another episode. I never wanted other people to see me like that. I was another person entirely.
So… I kinda stopped sleeping.
In grade school, shit, I loved waking up early (I still do). I’d get to school at 7 in the morning for shits. My dad would wait outside with the car reading the newspaper until another few kids came. I just liked being early.
In high school, I started to slowly push my sleep schedule back. As the four years went by, I went from going to sleep around one, to four or five in the morning, to get up for school at 8:00 for early-morning classes.
It was eating me alive.
I had less concentration, I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t focus during classes and it was a miracle if I didn’t nearly fall asleep in at least one lesson.
I had a bunch of things to blame it on, but in the end I could only blame myself and the fears I had.
The funny part of it all is that less sleep causes higher levels of stress, anxiety, and general irrationality… which caused the night terrors. There was no avoiding them.
And now I’m in university, two years since my last major episode, and I’m still horrified of going to sleep. Of waking up in the twilight hours and being another person entirely for thirty minutes. Of waking up and being so scared of something I can see but no one else can.
I’ve been trying to get better, honestly. I’ve done my best not to take this all lying down (haaaaaaaah). I’ll take melatonin every now and then. I’ll try to stay relatively stress-free - as much as I can, in any case - and I surround myself with people who can help me out while I’m in a bind. I like to think I’ve been episode free for the past two years because I’ve made that choice.
It’s not completely hopeless.
At least, I try for it not to be.
My problem is that it’ll only take once.
The monsters are stuck in a cage in my head.
One day, they’ll have to be let out again - maybe accidentally, maybe because of stress or anxiety… but they’ll be loose again.
And I won’t be able to stop them.
And it’ll just be business as usual.
Everyone loves you when you’re six feet in the ground.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t publicly grieve, nor am I saying I don’t publicly grieve. I’m just saying that, in wake of previous and recent events, I’m very, very pissed off.
And, frankly, I wanna get some other people pissed off, too - at me, at the scenario, or God forbid, themselves.
Here we go.
For me, it was Bill Waterson.
As a child, I had few influences quite as (and still are as) powerful as Calvin and Hobbes. The two of them, in tandem, represented what I thought to be my childhood in a few different ways. I really felt a strong connection with both of them, and the experiences they had in their world. I could recite pretty well every single strip - I’m not kidding - if you described the first panel to me. I loved it. Bill Waterson justgot it.
One day, I’d asked my parents if there were any new Calvin and Hobbes books out that we could buy.
Peter… I don’t know how to tell you this, but he’s done making them.
He finished the same year you were born. None of them are recent. I’m sorry.
That was/is one of the saddest days of my life. I was a mix of emotions, all over something that had occurred ten years before I’d known about it.
The parallel I’m about to draw is thin. Lemme try another.
Didn’t care much for him, but I was the average person in thinking that his music was pretty neat in all the ways his off-stage persona wasn’t. I thought the man has done a few highly questionable things.
When he died, it sucked for the music industry. No doubts.
But how many of you know people who, within 5 minutes of hearing of his death, immediately posted about how, despite all knowing of the allegations of his private life of illegal activities and never listening to a single song of his off the dance floor, they loved him and it was’just so sad to hear he died!’?
Everyone loves you when you’re six feet in the ground.
We’ve all been, or we all know someone who has been, in a scenario of public grieving over something that they have no direct contact with. Something so far in the distance that all theycan do is talk about it. And that’s alright. That’s okay.
What’s not okay, what bothers me to no end; what irks me to my core, is when people pretend to empathize with the people involved in a tragedy. Not sympathize, empathize. They “feel” the pain others do. They “understand” the darkness someone else is going through.
I’m gonna say this once, and one time only:
Shut the fuck up.
Clearly, I’m mostly talking about the school shooting that happened last Friday - and personally, I’ve got no issue with admitting the truth: when I read about it on Twitter, I just kept scrolling. Didn’t think twice. Didn’t phase me. Kept scrolling. Am I a cold-hearted asshole? Occasionally, but not for no reason. Am I emotionless and desensitized to even the most basic of human sympathies? No. Do I acknowledge what happened that day is an unbelievable tragedy? Yes, absolutely. Seven times a week and twice on Sundays.
Do I believe, that even for a moment, pretending to publicly mourn over people I’d never have known about if not for this moment makes me look like I’m a great person?
It pisses me off that I saw endless social media updates about people who were “crying about what happened,” or those people who had the gal to say that they “understand the pain of those involved,” or even worse, those who “feel what they’re going through and give them [my] prayers,” No you don’t. No you don’t, even a little. Most of you (although not all) have never lost someone of that magnitude in your life. You do not understand people feel when that happens.
I’m not making a commentary on the power of prayer or religion (I don’t even know my own opinion on those things), but I’m making a comment on how fucking useless it is to say something like that out in the open.
You want to put them in your prayers?
Go right on ahead, but stop pretending that saying it publicly will make a difference. Your God does not care who knows you’re praying for them.
It is very likely that:
- No one involved will see your Facebook update on it.
- The Tweets you sent those people involved changed very, very little.
Sending love and good wishes to those people involved is, within reason, good. I know a few people who needed messages like that when they were in very, very dark places in their life. Everyone needs those kind of pick-me-ups; it’s human. Like I’ve been saying though - there is a huge difference between sending love and false understandings.
You want to help, you say? You actually care about what happened at that elementary school? See how you can donate money. Don’t have any money? See if you can network with people who can give some sort of monetary assistance. Don’t have the ability to do that? See if you can start a kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign to assist them. Don’t have the time for that? Make a package and fucking mail some nice letters and actually do something that requires even the slightest modicum of effort and time - commit yourself to trying to make someone, who is likely in one of the darkest places they’ll ever be in their life, happier. Even for a moment.
Start proving to people that you’re more than just a facebook status or a twitter update; that you’re more than just a reblogged tumblr photo of sadness or a youtube vlogger of anger.
Act on the emotions you claim to feel.
Posting about how much you are disturbed, horrified, disgusted, saddened, empowered to change things, or connected with those people involved will not make you look like you’re a caring individual who understands the world and cares for everyone. No.
Instead, you look like someone who only mourns when it’s trending on Twitter.
Stop that #bullshit.
Inevitable post about oncoming American election incoming.
This is my segue post between a few, far more sappier, posts.
I’m so sick of reading politics on Tumblr.
Yes, that is unbelievably, ridiculously, incredibly hypocritical to say because this post is about politics, but hear me out.
I’m so sick of people, who in the same breath, try to promote free- and critical-thinking and then immediately encourage to vote for Obama. If you’re promoting critical thinking, promote options, not singular ideals.
Lemme tangent for a moment.
I love teachers.
I love what they do. I love what they stand for. I love the incredible impacts they can have on students. I am the way I am because of my family, my friends, and the teachers I’ve had, and have, in my life.
Unfortunately, very, very few teachers in the educational system are cut out to be able to teach the one thing that no curriculum I’ve ever heard about never seems to cover -critical thinking.The ability to look at a problem and work it out on your own, using the resources and people available. To learn how to make an informed decision based on the information you’d been given, or gained, access to.
When people asked me my political views, I used to know right away - I was right-wing Republican. Not for the God thing (hahaha). I had my reasons for liking the Republican party; so long as they weren’t extremist, I had no problem backing them. From what I knew, their morals and values, for the most part, were pretty agreeable.
Also worth noting, my dad had intentionally brainwashed me to like the Republicans. He doesn’t listen to music on the radio, it’s 24/7 political talk shows. (It became an ongoing joke that he would never have music on the car radio presets.) From the insane to realistic; Limbaugh to Hannity. Every car ride with just the two of us involved politics of the here and now. What stations where what political bias, what’s going on with the elections, why Republicans believe what they do and what Liberals believe.
And then, pulling one of the smartest moves a father and teacher could make, he admitted it.
I got to a point in my life where politics and political conversations were more frequent. I had nothing but regurgitated information my father had fed me, and it became obvious. I began to question some things, realize I didn’t agree with what any Republican had to say on some topics.
Then came this conversation:
Dad, I feel like you completely brainwashed me as a kid to believe what you do when it comes to politics. I feel like nothing I say is my own thoughts.
Of course I brainwashed you as a kid. How else were you supposed to form your own opinion?
If I didn’t force this on you in any way, you might have not cared. If you don’t have an opinion, you would have became potentially apathetic. Because of the fact I gave you an opinion, you had something to argue for, even if you didn’t realize you didn’t agree with it.
You see, now you’re beginning to disagree with the things I told you as a kid. You’re learning how to do your own fact-checking, you’re reading up things on your own and having an educated conversation with me on this stuff.
If I didn’t give you an opinion, you might have never formed your own.
All this to say:
Stop trying to tell people that they need to go out and learn about the political beliefs before they make a decision, and then feed them your opinion.
Critical thinking is more important.
Critical thinking is not defined by reading the Wikipedia page of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Critical thinking is not defined by following the crowd because it’s easier. Critical thinking is not defined by going on Tumblr.
So please: go out and read on your own. Read from a series of sources, not just one group of people. Learn what you like and dislike.
And for God’s sake, if you’re legally allowed to, vote.That’s the most power you’ll ever have as a young adult that no one will ever be able to take from you.
I fucking miss my friends.
Right now I’m suddenly emotional, and I’ve put this off for far too long, as I do with most of my long posts. Should I be doing this at 3 in the morning? We’ll soon find out. This will be part 1 of 5 posts coming.
If you read this through-and-through, my hopes is you will have the same amount of respect for this man as I do, as he deserves nothing short of just that.
The “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator” was created by Carl Jung, Isabel Briggs Myers, and Katharine Cook Briggs. Their thought, to my basic understanding, was that there had to be a set amount of personalities in the world - there could only be so many different kinds of people out there. No personality is better or worse than others, no personality makes you a greater person than the next. Some personalities were more rare than others, but nothing diminished the fact that there had to be a specific amount. After their studies, they had concluded that there were 16 different types of people on this planet. They were different variations on 4 common themes.
- Introverted vs. Extroverted
- Sensing vs. iNtuition
- Thinking vs. Feeling
- Judgement vs. Perception
If you are true to yourself, and answer those 4 questions honestly, the result is your MBPT - Myers-Briggs Personality Type. If you find a reliable source to find a profile for your 1/16 result, the results are shockingly accurate. Disturbing. I’m an ENTP.
Scott is ENTJ.
Extroverted, iNuition, Thinking, Judgement.
These kinds of people, if left on their own, or without someone or something to ground them frequently, can be very scary, and very dangerous people. When they have a grounder, they’ll potentially be the greatest people you’ll ever met.
That’s how I want to start this.
Scott’s a bull in a china shop. He’s so intelligent it’s disturbing. He’s got no idea what the word “subtlety” is, and he’d take a bullet for his best friends - and none of this ‘I’d take a bullet for you, in the leg’ horse shit. Don’t insult the man. He’s got an ego and pride in what he does, but only when he knows he’s done it right. Feel free to challenge him on that. If you’re right, he’ll admit it (in his owns ways). If you call him out and you’re wrong, I’m sorry to hear that, but he won’t be.
He’s my best friend.
Scott’s the only, the only, the only man on this planet I know that will always, without falter, tell me the truth.The truth. None of this fuckin’ sugarcoating bullshit, I mean he’ll tell you what you need to know. Sometimes, he’ll do you the courtesy of asking if you want to hear it, and Jesus, I’m sorry if he has to do that, because it’s gotta be some shit he either knows you don’t want to hear, or he thinks you have to hear and he’s just being polite about it.
Don’t think he’s not a gentlemen. He is. He’s one of the most courteous men I know. He’s the kinda guy that could sit with your grandfather or grandmother and shoot the shit for a few hours without breaking a sweat. He’s a conversationalist to the point you’d wonder if he was born in the right era.
Frankly, he wasn’t.
1994 wasn’t the year he should have been born.
Think Roman Empire and you’re getting the idea.
Scott’s had a fascination, borderline obsession, with history. If any historian can call the topic he or she is talking about “modern,” then he’s instantly not nearly as captivated. But ancient? He’s on that like white on rice. Particularly, the life and times of Caesar. He read an 800-page novel on Caesar for leisure, and actually remember the shit he learned.
Remember how he’s an ENTJ?
Funny story - by looking back into Caesar’s writings and literature, we can adequately determine that he was, in fact, also an ENTJ.
Scott’s a leader. Natural born. He does this because he hates inefficiency. He’s excellent at it because he’s fantastic with people, and he loves working with them (so long as they can keep up.) He leads because he looks at life as an ongoing challenge; challenges he finds, breaks down, and solves at lightening speeds. Breaking things down into workable figures, that’s his forté. Any situation, any complication, any issue you can think of; if you give him the whole story, he’ll break it down in 10 words or less without an issue. He’s fast, he’s decisive. He’s “corporate-minded.”
He’s a man of tremendous personal power.
When he wants to be, he’s an unstoppable juggernaut.
He’s a freight-train, fully loaded with all the equipment he needs, and nothing he doesn’t.
Scott needs to be challenged. He needs someone there to always be questioning him - just not frequently on the same topics and not because you’re trying to find faults. Scott can find his faults on his own, and if he doesn’t see them, they must not be relevant to the task at hand. He’s got a supreme appreciation for learning, so long as he’s got any sort of minor interest in it. Being the master at everything doesn’t concern him, it’s being knowledgeable in most things that matters more. Any subject that you find you have a common interest in, you could talk to him for hours. Politics, people, video games, music - especially music - and, every now and then, art.
Scott’s a deep, independent, critical thinker. He’s one of the most loyal people you’ll ever meet. You can go to him with anything and he’ll always give you the truth and nothing less. He’s someone you could dump your entire soul onto and, if you needed it, he’d carry it until his back broke.
He’s my best friend.
He’s my General.
And I’ve never missed him so much.
Twice before, once now.
Twice in my life, things have reset for me.
The first time, I was 13. I was a tall kid, to put it mildly. I’d dwarfed everyone in height by grade 6, and I wasn’t showing any signs of stopping. Within the span of 12 months, I had actually grown 2/3rd a foot. This being said, some of the standard concepts of growth had hit me harder than I’d wanted or expected. It was the usual, greasy hair, the need for deodorant and a razor - all of that was okay with me. What was awful was the acne.
Some people had acne.
Some people had bad acne.
Some people had awful acne.
Then there was me.
It was so bad I couldn’t talk some days, as it would have covered the areas around my mouth so badly. I’d spend at least 45 minutes a night trying to purge my face, and as it spread, other places around my body. I stopped eating sugary food - nothing changed. I stopped eating wheat - nothing changed. I stopped eating anything that I thought or read would cause acne - nothing changed. Genetics weren’t on my side, and as a result, I needed acutane.
Acutane, for those of you who don’t know, is the medieval medical response to acne. Google “Acutane Side Effects” and you’ll read of horror stories; vision degradation, tinnitus, hearing loss, even infertility. When my dad was my age, he had to take three rounds of it, a single round of medication lasting 6 months. Medically, this was the only option to fight it.
And it sucked.
Acutane’s core method of working is no different from any other acne medications’; it must get worse before it gets better. After two weeks of it, bones ache, you have constant fatigue, burn and scar stupidly easily, a high sensitivity to light (which I’m positive I still have as a side-effect), headaches, some hair loss, bleeding lips, frequent nose-bleeds… the list goes on. I still took it. Six months of hell, I decided, would be better than 12 months of not doing everything I could to get rid of the shit.
And it worked.
But things didn’t reset for me when it worked, hardly.
Things reset for me when it was bad, on the days where I didn’t want to wake up because of the medicine, my growing pains, or acne.
I distinctly remember looking at myself in the mirror one night, at least 30 minutes into my nightly routine, when I just… had this really distinct thought.
This isn’t going to get any better any time soon.
I looked myself in the eyes and came to terms with the fact that, for the next sizable chunk of my life, I would look absolutely horrendous and I couldn’t do anything about it. I had to change in a way that wasn’t physical. I had to make an internal change.
Anyone with any sort of deformity (not that acne is really that bad in comparison to most, but I was in grade 7-8, c’mon) knows that it’s really easy to blame the deformity and hide in your shell of self-sorrow. It’s simple to be sad and let it happen. It’s hard to find another solution.
Comedy was something I’d always enjoyed but acknowledged I was never good at. My jokes were never funny, no one ever understood what I was trying to say because my enunciation was so shitty (my speech impediment was still audible). Arguably, my jokes were a bit ahead of their time, but also arguably, I was a moron, so there’s that too.
So I watched comedians. All the time. Everyone you can name that was popular at the time. Seinfeld, Letterman, Leno, Rock, Cosby, Martin, Rickles, Murphy, Cheppelle, Vaughn, Foxworthy, Cook (yes, Dane). Notably, Carlin and Pryor. They changed things for me, especially George Carlin and Richard Pryor. They taught me though example. Comedy was something anyone could do so long as they had the right pieces of the puzzle.
I’d beta test some jokes, take field experiments. I’d write everything down in my head and physically. I kept all the information I knew on all the styles of comedy I knew on random pieces of paper and I’d keep them in my shelf. I’d adapted past the acne. I tried to make myself likable without being in-your-face about it, I tried to make people see past what they initially thought. I’d remolded my own personality without becoming someone else.
I reset things for the first time.
Second time was the time things were expected to reset, high school.
Do I really need to get into this? If you’re reading this, you’ve likely
become very bored gone through anything I’d describe, you already understand it. We’ve all gone through it, the ability to meet people and have a pretty fuckin’ blank slate.
People don’t understand how different Walkerville made me; and not because I think people can’t understand or something, it’s just that most people don’t - only a few people do, and that’s only because they knew me BA (before acne), AA (
alcoholics anonymous after acne), and AW (after Walkerville).
No, I never intend on using those abbreviations again.
My point is this:
I’m given the opportunity to change, to reset, in a way that is absolutely unprecedented. Acne reset things internally and mentally, high school reset things externally and physically. York?
That’s 79’998 students I’ve never met. There’s only one other guy going from my school, and another girl I’ve met this summer - both of which I don’t have any classes with anyway. I’ll be in a single dorm (sharing a “unit”, technically). No one there will know me.
I can be anyone, I can do anything, I can change everything. I can take the years of “experience” - mistakes, failures, stupid things - and not do them. People won’t know my flaws and insecurities, or my aspirations or intentions. They’ll know my face, maybe my name, and potentially who I am. I’ll be in a whole new environment without any family, any of my best friends. No doctors, postmen, taxi drivers, corner store workers, McDonald’s employees, local show promoters, Cineplex workers, music instructors… No one.
Twice before, once now.
The chance to be anyone, do anything, and change everything.
All I’ll really know is myself, I hope.
words, words, words.
To the approximately 4 women who will ever consider having any form of relationship with me above friendship over the course of my (un)natural life: be a good story teller.
I hated books.
Honestly, I couldn’t stand them. The concept of reading was horrendous to me - I preferred visuals, tangibles, things I could hold and work with. I needed immediate reactions and responses; people, things. It just seemed like a chore, something that had to be done to appease the Powers that Be.
Don’t get me wrong: when my mother read books to me, it was the best fucking thing ever, holy shit. My earlier memory (other than throwing a ball of string around the house) was my mom reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to me in the summer, one chapter a night, voices and all. My sister and I would lie there and just enjoy the crap out of those books. So this being said: as a kid, loved having books read to me, hated reading books. I was lazy at a young age.
Obviously, something changed.
My mom bought me a series of books called the Time Warp Trio. As you can imagine the story goes, I was incredibly apprehensive. As a kid, my imagination was broad, but only so far as it could be… logical. It sounds contradictory. Let me explain.
I hated Teletubbies, didn’t like the Muppets (until much later, that is), was horrified of the Bearenstein Bears and had a distaste for the Bananas in Pajamas. Why? They didn’t make any goddamn sense. I mean, think about it: how the shit could aliens have huge televisions in their stomachs? Since when did bears talk? Bananas aren’t supposed to have legs. And the muppets… well I dunno, I just didn’t like them very much.
That being said, I realized I did love fiction - fiction that was in the bounds of realism. Ex: for some reason, Harry Potter. Back the original story.
Apprehensive is the best way I can describe my reaction to when my mother brought home a series of books that I would find “fun.” Mom, an English teacher and Chapter’s sale clerk, had alwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalwaysalways said “Reading is power.” I never knew why, but because I wanted to make her happy, I ended up reading the first book in my room around night time.
I was maybe 2 pages in when… this very strange realization of sorts overtook me. As I sat int he sheets, the lamp giving a soft glow to the newly printed pages of the slender book… I realized I was imagining what I was reading. In my own head. By myself. I wasn’t reading aloud, all the action was right in front of me, in my own imagination. No middle man.
I can’t even remember what the page was about, just that I couldn’t stop. I finished the book in a night.
I was 7.
I kept reading. Every single chance I got, I would burn through a Time Warp Trio book. Why wouldn’t I love it? It was about kids who go back in time and learn the shit out of things. It was educational, interesting, and kind of funny. There was 4 books in the series, Knights of the Kitchen Table; The Not-So-Jolly Rodger; The Good, the Bad, and the Goofy; Your Mother Was a Neanderthal. At the end, and after multiple readings, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so perplexed with my situation, I’d never been in it before. I needed more books.
I kept buying and reading books at a rate that even made my mom surprised. Any book I could find on the shelf that was mildly interesting, bought and read. By grade 6 I had an entire bookshelf of novels and stories I’d read and re-read with a reckless abaddon. I would spend hours at Chapters at a time.
I was 12.
I was also a huge loser.
When I was 12, I was kind of tall. I reached my mom’s height - granted, she is kinda short - and surpassed my teacher’s height. I had acne, prepubescent facial hair, growing pains in my legs that kept me home, and a strange disposition to try to be funny to a crowd of people that just didn’t like or understand my humor. Or me. Comedy was a big part of my child hood. That’s another story.
People didn’t really like me.
I was a precocious little sprat with 0 impulse control and an attention span that rivaled a flea. I always wanted to make people happy or make them laugh or something. Because it would simply be too easy if that worked, I can safely say that no, it didn’t work. As a result, I made up my own characters. I wrote my own crappy stories. When the assignment was for a 2-page story in English, I would write a 12-page allegory that ended with “to be continued”. I hated myself in real life, so I made up my own lives online and on paper. It was an escape for me.
Anyone who ever thought ex-patriotism was a good solution for the need to leave the world they knew clearly hasn’t found a decent novel yet.
I was addicted to words, which brings me to the real topic of my post this early morning - I saw Christopher Plummer’s one-man show, A Word or Two. Plummer, the Academy Award’s oldest Oscar recipient, took me (and many others) through his life of literature, of books, novels, stories, allegories, and anecdotes. With a flick of his fingers he became Satan from Don Juan, played a highly jealous Othello, an excited Hamlet, eager to act and perform. He carried us all through a speech that was beautifully written and incredibly moving - even deceptively so.
The purpose of A Word or Two is simply to celebrate language which seems to be fast vanishing from our midst.
After the first line was spoken, I had simply forgotten who was even talking, it was the voice that mattered to me most. I was looking past the wise, aging man and was treated to an incredible time-warp travel into his life; a life not unlike many of our own. His ability to tell a story only has two true rivals: Stewart McClean, one of the greatest Canadians of all time, and my mother.
At the end of the day, that’s what this experience felt like for me.
It was the ability to be 7 once again, lie in my parents’ big comfy bed, sit back, and let words wash over me, painting gorgeous images and telling stories of witty princes and brilliant devils; of a standard Canadian family and their dog, and a boy who fell into a world of magic.
It reminded me that despite all of my strange addictions and insane habits, regardless of my potential successes and failures, and in spite of all the times I want to sit in a corner and do away with myself once and for all, I will always have words, words, words.
Prime Minister’s Address
There’s a lot I could tell you about Walkerville Collegiate Institute, but I won’t.
I won’t because in the grand scheme of things, most of the details are irrelevant – they don’t matter. In 50 years, you’re not going to remember that Walkerville was originally built in 1922 with a population of 195 students. You’re not going to remember that the first principal’s name was Mr. Robert Meade. And you’re certainly not going to remember that the Walkerville Pipe Band was provincially recognized in 1929. What you are going to remember, however, are the experiences. You’ll remember the time that you slept at the school overnight to support mental health awareness or the impoverished children in Africa, or the time you spent making popcorn for what felt like seven hours at the Capitol Theatre for the WCCA production of Phantom of the Opera. You might remember the time that Sienna Blakney, Speaker of the House, was stuck in a locker and you watched a silly instructional video on how to open your locker lock and eventually save her. Or maybe you’ll remember the time you saw a guy walk around with a pyramid on his head next to a student who was immaculately dressed as a Star Wars character for Halloween… and didn’t give it a second glance.
All this to say, what you will remember are the experiences you’ll have, and have had, at Walkerville. Those memories of those experiences will shape and define you; they’ll chip away at the mould that makes you unique and will craft you for years to come. And better yet? You’ll remember the people with whom you shared those experiences with – the people that made those experiences happen. So maybe the time you tripped down the stairs and embarrassed yourself was a horrible experience you never want to remember, but who’s to say you won’t meet the senior student that helped pick your books up, 10, 20, 30 years from now? Who’s to say you won’t see your old locker buddy treating you in the clinic, fixing your car, reporting live news from somewhere across the globe or in front of the big screen?
No one. Because the number one rule at Walkerville is all the motto: nil sine labor, “nothing without work.” As Tartans we don’t believe in luck or chance, we believe in controlling our own fate, in getting where we want to be by our hands and our hands alone; we believe in making our own experiences and manufacturing our successes. We never sit and watch other people pass us by simply because we’re too lazy, too bored, or too apathetic. No matter what grade you graduate in, no matter who your friends are or where you intend to go in life, if you went to Walkerville, you’ll remember the most important lesson any teacher could ever instill in you – nothing without work.
So, yeah, there’s a lot I could tell you about Walkerville Collegiate Institute… But I won’t.
It doesn’t matter.
You already know all of it.
I’m addicted to the one thing I cannot create.
People who know me closely, in fact, anyone who really knows me at all, knows I’m pretty well a perfectionist of the highest order. It’s a trait that’s been self-taught; I’ve grown it like a tree over time. Feeding my obsession (because that’s really what it’s turned itself into) here or there and giving it more attention than I realize has turned into this… leviathan. Monster.
I’ve begun to start to work with it, prune its branches and build foundations with its wood; work around its roots. Ironically, my solution for working around it isn’t perfect, but it’s been working… albeit slowly.
But that’s not why I’m writing.
I’m writing because, for the first time, I’ve acknowledged the existence of my very real, very prominent addiction. Originally, I’d just pegged it as perfection, the need to create “flawless” representations of my art, but over the past few weeks it’s become evident to me that it’s more than that; these roots dig deeper.
My addiction is Silence.
As any addiction is, my addiction comes in a few different flavours - there’s different ways to get the same feeling, but the core essence of it remains true and consistent. Silence is the sensation I experience when I’m playing drums on more than just a physical level, when I understand the rhythms and just act off instinct. Silence what I hear when I’m just sitting alone with her, doing nothing but sitting and enjoying time spent with no unnecessary words spoken. Silence is what reverberates through me when I’m leading people for a cause or into a situation I know well. Silence is what my brain eases itself into when I direct. Silence is what I feel when I’m doing something I love.
Silence is the one thing I cannot create.
It has to create itself.
I cannot fabricate it; it can’t be falsified or forced. I can’t just put myself in that type of clarity, it doesn’t work that way for me. It either happens or it doesn’t, I either hear the non-stop drone of noise or experience the absolute quietness of silence. That’s how it works for me.
So I try to feed into my addiction because I love it. Because I simply can’t live without encountering the sheer euphoria of that noise disappearing, if only for a few fleeting moments.
That’s why I do things the way I do them.
It explains everything: why, and to what degree, I plan things, the people I work with, the meaning behind my artwork, the perfectionism I demand from my product and myself.
It’s why I’ll work for days on end with little to no sleep and set everything aside for one goal, one short-term purpose. I’ll be miserable, I’ll be furious with myself. I’ll make some mistakes and find others later. I’ll command nothing but perfection from a body that cannot physically handle and process what my vision sees.
And I love it.
I find myself always muttering lines like “I fuckin’ hate art,” and “why the fuck do I do this.” I grow impatient with myself in seconds and I can be drawn into this maddening rage in such a short time it’s ridiculous - all because my work isn’t perfect; because I can only hear Noise.
It’s been the subject of a great deal of my recent work - in fact, the concept plays of through every piece I’ve done within the past school year. At first I only saw or heard it as a literal droning, but now… now it’s more. Now it’s ugly. It’s a beast made of white noise and fog. It echoes from the tips of my fingers, through my spine, and down to the base of my heels. It fills my brain with nonsense and non-sequitor. Useless garbage and stress and rage and feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. Noise is black as sludge and as elusive as oil. It can blot out any positive thought I have, any genuine happiness is smothered; any ounce of confidence is drowned.
I can’t describe it to you any other way. You either know what I’m talking about, or you never will.
Noise is the enemy commander of the internal war in my mind, and creativity - particularly Vision, Drive and Progress - is the only weapon I can use against it. The second, the very moment, I let my shield of creativity down, Noise attacks with full strength, so loud and so thorough that it can derail me from anything entirely.
Here I am, on the precipice of ending my high school career. I’ve got so many things left to do it’s inhuman and Noise is barely being kept at bay. Any moment, my guard could drop and Noise will fill my head once again - who knows where I’ll end up.
All I’ve got left is Noise and Vision and my addiction to Silence.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I didn’t write this.
25 minutes into 3rd period, a 9th grader at my school came precisely 4.3 Newtons away from flying through the drywall into my classroom.
Thank goodness for fire ratings and building codes.
Seconds later, the class next door erupted in barbarous laughter and shrill cries of victory.
Oh god, someone is pinned down… children are dying…school lock down…police… does this mean I will get home late? It’s Friday, faack…
The crash certainly registered as an “uh-oh noise.” Experienced teachers, like trained sonar technicians, recognize the “uh-oh noise” above the baseline din of stupidity and adolescent tomfoolery that bounces off the walls of educational institutions. The “uh-oh noise” warrants a stoppage in teaching and a prolonged listen to make sure it isn’t:
A) A fight.
B) A fire.
C) A horrible maiming accident.
After the mandatory pause in my lesson, it was evident everything was fine.
The Grade 9 boys were simply laying down a top-rate emotional shit kicking on the new teacher.
Nothing to be done here.
Common decency tells me I should open the door, briefly ask, “Everything okay?” in order to temporarily quell the bludgeoning, but my educational terrorist training dictates in this situation.
If I go in there, then the terrorists win.
Kids have no problem strapping themselves full of C-4, walking into their own education, and pressing the detonator.
They have no regard for the innocent bystanders trying to learn that y=mx+ a bunch of irrelevant shit because these educational terrorists are hell bent on delivering their message to the adult world.
I AM BORED. THIS IS STUPID. AND YOU ARE A SHITTY TEACHER.
And part of me knows they are right, just like I recognize that western infidels like myself are materialistic, spiritually undisciplined, selfish pricks. But at least I don’t want to blow myself up in a public square in the name of a religious fairy tale. I simply want to teach kids to care. And that learning can be connected to something real, tangible, and meaningful.
Nonetheless, in my world, educational terrorists are as real and scary as the bearded turbaned ones living in caves. Both must be dealt with swiftly, or else civilization will crumble.
I am fascinated by their cause and respect their capacity for destruction.
As a specialist in educational counter-terrorism, I first had to understand their cause. I had to get inside the mind of the terrorist.
To begin, I studied the terrorists who colored my own educational experience.
I began with the Osama Bin Laden of my 7th grade class. For a couple periods a day, I sullied my “gifted and talented” self to join the plebian educational herd for “regular classes.” In my regular, English class, I got a kick out of how Paul Marks utterly humiliated Ms. McQuade and the teaching profession itself.
He owned her. And the whole class knew it.
For starters, when Ms. McQuade, meak and mousy, turned her back, he engaged in all manners of dastardly terrorism. On this day, he threw a chair out of the third floor window. A fucking chair.
Moments later, when Paul was working up to throwing a desk out of the window, the assistant principal arrives, chair in hand, “Does anyone happen to know why a chair fell into the lawn?”
Paul Marks, sitting next to an open window, calmly shook his head, “nope.” The chair was the 9/11 of his attacks, but Ms. McQuade was so clueless that she failed to recognize the warning signs. In the weeks prior, Paul had tossed nearly everything out of the window – a whole set of textbooks, erasers, all of her chalk, her coffee mug – anything he could find. I like to think about the moments when Ms. McQuade realized her shit was missing.
“Oh geez-louise, where did that go?”
She never thought to look on the lawn to find the growing collection of her shit.
The class centered on what Paul would throw out the window, not reading strategies or sentence clarity, or whatever the fuck Ms. McQuade was trying to teach.
Inert students saw her vulnerability, were emboldened, and became terrorists. Weeks after the chair incident, current Harvard Scholar and rehabilitated educational terrorist, Jay Marzano, put dissected frog intestines from science class into Ms. McQuade’s new coffee mug, then pinned the act of terrorism on a known 7th grade degenerate, Todd Costello, and walked away, while Costello languished away in the after school Guantanemo Bay.
The only thing I learned in Ms. McQuade’s class was that she was a shitty teacher and preferred monochromatic outfits and turtlenecks. Maybe she got better, but I am willing to bet that even now, a couple years away from her pension, she is mind-numbingly average and adequate, like most teachers working with your kids.
Paul Marks and Jay Marzano were and are brilliant individuals, and yet, the educational system bored them into terrorism.
When I started teaching, I vowed never to be so boring that throwing a chair out the window seemed like a better idea for my students than learning something, anything.
In my first few years of teaching, I ran into a few educational terrorists who tried to mastermind sleeper cell terrorist units within my class.
One such terrorist, Ali Akbar Hernandez, decided that rolling paper joints in the corner of my classroom was more important than learning how to put a sentence together so he didn’t write a like a third grader for the remainder of his life.
In my early days I employed a shock and awe campaign to combat educational terrorism. When I saw Ali Akbar ripping up little pieces of paper, then rolling them into a ‘fatty blunt yo,’ I kicked my overhead projector across the room and chucked a dry erase marker against the wall, dropped cluster f-bombs all over the village of school children, and stormed out of the room in a strategically planned maniacal hissy fit aimed at showing my students that when it comes to teaching, I ain’t fucking around and I am reckless and not concerned about collateral damage.
As I left the room, it probably went, “Fuck it. Paper joints? I suck that bad? Paper fucking joints? Not even real ones? Shit. Find yourself a new English teacher. I must really suck. I am out.”
I walked up to Mrs. Tamson’s office, my assistant principal and told I her I flipped right the fuck out and had no idea what my kids were doing in the unattended classroom.
She didn’t say anything. She just let me figure it out and I thank her for it.
Then, enraged, I stormed back into the classroom, wrote in big letters on the board, “Why are you here in grade 10 English?” Then turned to the class – no one had left in the 15 minutes I was gone – and told them, “leave an answer to that question on your desk if you want to come back tomorrow and try this again, if not, screw it, I can’t help you. But, I will be here tomorrow, maybe you will, maybe you won’t, but shit isn’t going down like this.” And then I left again, lobbing a few more f-bombs into the field of combat.
I was nuts. I still am.
Later that afternoon, I read 20 of the coolest pieces of honest writing I had ever seen out of 15 year old kids who seemed to give a fuck about learning.
The next morning, all the kids came back, including Ali Akbar Hernandez, who turned out to be one the kindest and most intelligent people I know.
And nothing about my teacher training taught me that any part of that madness was a good idea, sound pedagogy, or responsible in any way.
I was a madman, but at least I wasn’t Ms. McQuade.
Back then, I taught next door to the guidance counselor and fellow union member who ran a real estate business out of his guidance office where he closed on more properties than he helped kids get into university. It was fucking sinful. Furthermore, he “allegedly” threw a desk at a student while at his previous school, and instead of getting fired, he was transferred to the room next to mine.
Compared to that, I figured, fuck it, I can swear and throw a dry erase marker against the wall. That is nothing when thrown into moral relativism in those halls. My hi-jinks were easily downgraded to “slip of the hand” and plausible deniability on the swearing when defending my actions to some nimrod filing a report on me.
It was pretty clear I had to assault a kid to lose my job, so, well, game on.
I am older now, and use more strategic psy-ops and untraceable sabotage instead of cheap theatrics to grab kids’ attention, I haven’t lost the passion, and these days, I fear even less. I am not sure I am a role model and I certainly don’t have teaching figured out, but if you want your kid to read, and think, and learn to write, and be a better person, then you want me working with your kid.
Just like the war on terrorism, you don’t really want to know how it is fought, so simply focus on the positive results.
“Oh Mr. Charles, how did you get little Jack reading again? And his writing, oh it is so much better?”
That is classified maam.
My students don’t resort to educational terrorism. Perhaps, I’ve won their hearts and minds, or maybe it is simply because a few “enemy combatants” disappeared before Thanksgiving and are currently indefinitely detained and water boarded in a unmarked prison in the Ukraine.
I’ve heard rumours, but good luck finding the paper trail.
Stupidly, I value student learning over my paycheck, and in turn, I make my kids care by any means necessary. I never look back with regret on the trail of terror I have blazed in my classroom, a space that has propelled kids from self doubt to the most elite educational institutions covered in Ivy.
I teach with nothing to lose, my back against the wall, and everything to gain. And it is fun and upbeat and the kids seem to enjoy.
Honestly, if and when the ax falls on my head, I am pretty sure I can figure out a way to make 50 – 80k a year. It is shit pay, given my level of education and the daily effort. I’d dig a ditch before I played by the rules that dictate the current state of mediocre, safe and sterile teaching that characterizes a typical high school education that serves the kids who excel at sitting down and shutting up.
Many of the students who were honors level sit downers and shut uppers became teachers. And if you have read anything about education, then you know that there a is real shortage of risk takers and entrepreneurial spirits going into teaching because the profession sucks the creativity out of you and smashes your soul with its perpetual efforts to combat systemic failure with systemic standardization in an industry whose client base couldn’t be more eclectic.
Seriously, parents, come to a professional development day, fuck it, a staff meeting and you will see how far creativity and risk taking behaviour gets a teacher.
For me, my controlled insanity, is how I combat the educational nihilism that proliferates educational terrorism in classrooms.
In real time, the modern day Ms. McQuade, teaching next door to me, is probably having chairs thrown out her window and kids slammed against her walls causing the “uh-oh noise” while the educational terrorist in her class runs wild on her.
And part of me is happy. Maybe this terrorist will take her out, and in her place, someone stronger, more fearless and better armed will take her place. Or better yet, she will stand up to the terrorism by becoming better at her job, maybe re-assessing her new approach, perhaps even learning to play a little dirty when it comes to dealing with terrorists.
I will try to help her, but my aid will have to come through back channels, silent threats to kids in the hall, promises of fiery hell reigning down from unknown locations, maybe a severed head in a locker, and a bevy of passive aggressive emails to parents derived from intel leaked to my principal.
“Hey Brett, big plans for the weekend?”
“Oh yeah, I am going to Canada’s Wonderland. It is going to be awesome!”
“Oh that’s great! Well have a good one.”
And then, 5 minutes before school ends on Friday, I gleefully sit at my desk, concocting a devastatingly passive aggressive email to Brett’s parents updating them on his “progress” in class, and the ways he should improve his 55″
On Monday, I ask him how his weekend was.
“That wasn’t fair. That was mean.”
“Freedom isn’t free, Brett, … freedom isn’t free.”
But for you, young Ms. McQuade, you need to figure your shit out real quick. Or stop teaching kids.
The majority of the teachers who struggle mightily with basic classroom management are the ones who sat quietly in their desks for 12 years, raised their hands, did homework at night, went to university, “OMG, had such a crazy time,” then immediately hunkered down in a teaching certification program to stave off the looming disruption to the cherished safety, routine, and order that defined their lives while they moved silently and steadily up the educational escalator.
“Oh I don’t really know what I want to do, maybe I will just be a teacher, I don’t know.”
These teachers are targeted by educational terrorists.
With vacuumed sealed and sterilized pedagogical goobly-gook stuffed between their ears, a perfect lesson plan, nauseating enthusiasm, slacks, and marginal life experience, the fresh faced teacher shows up at my school, looking much like a reservist pressed into action, stepping off the plane into the hills of Afghanistan, blissfully naïve to the utter clusterfuck they landed in.
I hope they get blown to bits by the roadside IED, planted in period 3. Don’t bumble around your classroom trying to figure out your life, while you have 25 kids trying to figure out their own and the stakes are much higher for them because their formal education is in front of them, not behind. You are 23, a kid, and don’t know shit about shit, so until you do, stay out of teaching.
I definitely had no business being in a classroom at 23. I was a mess. I barely knew what an honest day’s work meant.
And so, this well intentioned, bottom of the pay-scale teacher is there because the Grade 9 teacher before her just got loaded onto the plane in a body bag. You are the replacement. You are cheap. And, like the person before you, expendable.
It isn’t personal; it is the way it works in private education. At the end of each year, I negotiate my contract based on my performance. If I suck at my job, then I will actually get fired instead of being passed around internally from school to school, like a steaming sack of teacher shit, until I land at Claremont Academy, the end of the line for those truly hardened piece of shit teachers.
Or so I hear.
My point is that I don’t have a lot of tolerance for the mousy and soft Ms. McQuade’s out there teaching who fear everything, including the kids they teach. Nor do I have a lot of patience for the teachers who put more effort into following the rules than they do into teaching kids while they count the days until their pension kicks in. There are plenty of other professions out there where you can take no risks, earn a steady paycheck, and inspire no one.
Just don’t work with kids. Please. You make me want to stick pencils in my eyes. There should be a rule about moving from one side of the desk to the other. Go sling drinks for a year, work a menial construction job, smoke pot in your parent’s basement and fail miserably on your time. But live and learn beyond the walls littered with construction paper craptastic student work and nonsensical motivational posters before you go back inside.
And so, I feel bad for you young Ms. McQuade. I do. But I feel worse for those kids, who you can’t convince that the shit you have to offer isn’t better than slamming each other into walls, hooting and hollering, and tossing paper clips at each other.
The war on educational terrorism won’t be won by the traditional methods that only reach top 10% of students who are exactly like you.
The war on terrorism will be won by convincing those potential terrorists, so bored and frustrated with their current educational reality, that the world right here, right in your classroom is too critical to destroy.
Why is it the people who are against the Afghan War are also blaming the US for the soldier going nuts?
I’m waiting for photos to render to video, so while I’m sitting here, I might as well point out the hypocrisy in this issue.
Because all I do in my free time is bitch, am I right or am I right?
Here’s some context, just in case you’re not following what I’m saying.
Cool, let’s go.
More commonly than not, the argument for no more war in Afghanistan ends up branching out to the death vs. causality rate of American soldiers.
Mental health is something definitely worth arguing, I’m not about to disagree with the validity of the statement. A photographer, Claire Felicie, has even made a series of photos called Marked, dedicated to the drastic changes of US soldiers before, during, and after their tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some of the changes are drastic:
So, yes, mental health changes are big for those of the population who are sent to fire a rifle at other living people, be shot at, and deal with a constant state of alertness, 2 4 7 3 6 5.
My question is simple:
Why are those of you who make the argument that we should pull out of Afghanistan for the soldier’s sake are hating on the US army for this?
“I can’t believe that an American would do this.”
“Of course it was an American.”
“They’re fuckin’ bloodthirsty.”
Amongst other statements I’ve seen.
Think about this for a second, take a second and think!
Why would you get angry at the guy for proving your point?
I just need to type it somewhere. more
This time tomorrow, there’s a good chance York will email me; the contents of the email will define my next two weeks. If it’s negative, then my portfolio was not enough, my reference letters were useless, and I didn’t make the cut. I wouldn’t have been one of the 250 in 750 applicants. I would hate myself.
So goddamn much.
But you know? I would hate myself more if I was accepted to get to an interview and then denied. I’ve said it once before, I’ve said it a thousand times before, York Film Production accepts 45 students. All of them out of high school. No second-year university students. If I’m denied application, I will have lost a literally once in a lifetime opportunity to be taught film in the second best film school in Canada.
I won’t forgive myself.
I won’t want to forgive myself.
So here I am, filming Windsor Ontario’s first-ever run of Phantom of the Opera, done by my school, Walkerville Collegiate Institute. I couldn’t be more proud of my school - not only for being allowed to attain a 10’000 dollar grant to perform the production at all, but for doing it so well that WCI is one if the first schools in Canada to sell out it’s evening shows so fast and with such volume that we actually hit 75% capacity for 14 shows by opening night.
I’ve been filming on a daily basis - filming everything I can. The goal is to sell the back-stage, behind the scenes footage as a documentary, coupled with the show itself.
And so, I film everything. From 8am to 11pm.
I’m also trying to organize an overnight event at my school for an evening dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. I’m trying my best to bring in professionals from across SWO to talk to students (for free) and have students give their own experience. Problem: it’ll cost about 3’000 dollars to run. Problem: I’ll need about 40 teachers to supervise the event. Problem: this needs to be planned before March break.
I have nothing of value to show York.
I really have nothing.
In the next week I have to shoot a 5-minute video that shows them that I’m worth something. That they’ll be able to look at and say “yes, you’re accepted.” I have words. I have nothing but words. Smoke. I’m a bunch of nicely-cut, good looking appetizers without a real meal. There’s nothing I have that’s worth showing them, and I hate myself for this.
For being here in the first place.
Because months ago, in September, I knew I would be in this position.
I knew it.
I’ve done nothing to prove to people I’m one of the students that should be selected out of 750.
And because of this fact, I’m really and truly angry… at no one but myself.
I finished my portfolio today.
I thought I was supposed to be happy.
I’ve worked over 36 hours on 6 photos, one question, and a proposal for Ryerson.
Timeline in short:
- Photos at midnight last night.
- Opinion question and outline/proposal for 4th-year movie until 2:30.
- Wake up at 6 to study.
- print photos at 8.
- Study until 9.
- Exam until 10:30 (fucking joke of an exam)
- Trek to Dad’s office and prepare everything for delivery to Ryerson at 4 pm.
- Hunt for OUAC and Ryerson number.
- Edit and print out all written components (opinion answer/proposal/resume) 12, 11, and 7 times respectively.
- Determine order of photos.
- Reorder photos 8 times.
- Notice mistakes in all the photos.
- Write on envelope for Ryerson.
- Rewrite 6 times.
- Hate myself.
- Hate myself.
- Hate myself.
I have never been this pissed at myself. I can see at least 5 issues with every single photo I submitted. Regardless of how long it took me to get here, the end result was rushed, and the end result is all that matters. That’s all they’ll see. And they’ll see mistakes. Underexposed photos. Distracting lights. Technical issues.
Last night I felt like I was invincible. I was jamming to After the Burial and Alexisonfire like I would die the next morning. You could have chainsawed my family in front of me and I’d have been alright with it.
I hate myself, really and truly.
How do I expect to get into a BFA program with what I put in?
Effort means nothing if the result isn’t strong.
I’ve slept around 12 hours in 4 days, working on this fucking portfolio. I couldn’t have even possibly done it alone. I’ll save the credits for when I’m not in a fantastically disgusting mood.
I’m so tired.
I don’t even feel like I’ve accomplished much.
I feel like I’m supposed to feel happy, but I just hate myself.
It’s finally done.
The only thing in life that’s worse than art is a career in it.
Art in general is likely one of the most ubiquitous “careers” in the world. There’s different types; media arts, fine arts, physical arts, installation arts, musical arts, martial arts, literary arts, performing arts, calligraphic arts, decorative arts, photographic arts, architectural arts, fashion arts, and occasionally, bi-weekly on Sundays, lithographic arts. Then there’s society’s take on arts, what it accepts, denies, doesn’t appreciate, wants, suggests, builds, destroys. How foolish or naive it is to have a career in the arts, or how logical it is.
Then there’s the medium for each art form; canvas, screen, stone, paper, and approximately seven billion others I couldn’t care to mention nor research.
All this to say, when asked, I do consider myself to be an artist. I don’t flaunt the fact that I will take small amounts of pride in what I consider to be one of the hardest careers on the planet. I don’t lecture people who just don’t know or care why one particular piece of artwork is meaningful or different from the others. I don’t sit in Starbuck’s writing my screenplay in a turtleneck, listening to Arcade Fire, while sipping an expensive latte that was ordered in another language (although I do highly value the occasional apple fritter).
However, if there is one thing I absolutely do not do is argue with people who tell me, with a great sense of honesty and knowledge, that art will get me nowhere in life; it’s a pointless career that has no value and doesn’t power society forward. Because you know?
They’re completely right.
What does art do? Really? People look at it for however long it takes. They appreciate it for a bit; maybe even so go insofar as to think about it before they sleep. In some cases, pay for it - in more cases, take it illegally. Other than that, though, it does nothing for people. Like I said: useless.
In fact, a career in the math department (particularly, astronomical physics) is probably a better solution. All of the artists in the world should just convert, and I suggest the easiest method would be for mathematicians to go door to door, like members of Jehovah’s Witness, and teach them in all the ways they are leeches to society. Treat them like the parasite or amoeba of the work force. The best part is that any decent, self-respecting artist will probably agree.
I mean, why wouldn’t they? It’s simple to be an artist. Art is to the career path what golf is to the sports industry; everyone can do it if they just try hard enough. All they have to do is practice that composition, get that line-art down, or maybe nail that directorial ability. Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? No, not at all. If you factor in the amount of time it takes to research the lessons of art (which is a joke, am I right?) to which you would like to master on Google, Yahoo! Answers or Wikipedia, and it would probably only take you a long weekend - or two, depending on the amount of actual work you have to do in between. It’s only a few years’ worth of schooling anyway.
The best part about the whole art career is the lack of a required personality, self-esteem, or confidence you need. What does it really take, to produce anything art related? Pretty well nothing. The amount of confidence you need to present a film, painting, or dramatic monologue doesn’t take nearly the amount of confidence it takes to, say, work in a cubicle for Bank of America or be a computer technician and fix the fax machine. The horrors those poor lawyers must go through - being scrutinized by their peers for having to work with other people in the way they do. How they must truly loath going to their office, having to talk to their assistants, associating - in the open! - with their peers, while grabbing a free sandwich from the Thursday-morning breakfast cart.
Now, let’s get a bit more specific with the easiest kind of arts:
These guys have it all - the glamour, the prestige, the fame, the money… but for what? Memorizing a couple lines? Walking down the street with character-born swagger? Lest we forget the epitome of advanced acting, “headspace.” Actors and actresses can potentially be paid millions of dollars for being able to sit in a room alone to “mentally prepare themselves” and after which talk in a particular manner. More over the fact, they somehow obtain awards, entire shows, dedicated for the simple act of lying in front of an audience or on a screen for money. Then, as if it wasn’t easy enough, you have big-shots with equally large glasses and unsurprisingly larger egos with money to throw around and a camera with a charge to last a couple of hours telling these people what to do. So not only do they get paid to lie, but they’re specifically told how to do it. Sign me up.
And while we’re going down the line of proving how pointless each worthless art form is, it seems that the category of “fine arts” would be the next logical step – although to be quite honest seldom would a fine artist understand the concept of logic. Just think about it for a moment and pay close attention to the lack of change or maturity they’ve gone through since they were six. The only difference is instead of using their fingers they use over-priced paintbrushes that were somehow on “sale” at Michael’s for 45 dollars a pair. The things they complain about make absolutely no sense, like proportions. What’s so difficult about proportions? So long as they have two eyes and a tape measure, perfecting the art of proportioning can’t be difficult at all. Why would it? They live in a proportional world! And skin, they complain! Skin is difficult to shade. How isn’t that a simple task? Skin tone can be something easily mastered within the first two attempts from any sideshow painter. Aside from all that, they insist it takes time… for what? What subtleties would really need heavy consideration or work? The answer is simple, and the answer is none of them. The only thing they should truly consider is a job that wouldn’t strain the economy, waste people’s time and tax dollars, and nothing short of their entire life.
Lastly, my favourite branch of art: media arts. The photographers and cinematographers. The ones who, like only the best magicians, can truly make something out of nothing – “something,” they insist, that will always have varying levels of depth, meaning, power and will always attempt to invoke some form of commentary. Allowing them to analyze any form of media artwork, be it a film or photo, would allow a series of conversations obscure and abstract enough to make a psychologist question their sanity. In fact, you could almost assume it’s some form of escape for these folk. Without the ability to overanalyze and “appreciate art on a higher plain of thinking” these people would be nowhere. On the streets of the cities they flock to for the urban landscape and bright flashy lights. Dramatic artists can at least be in commercials; fine artists can draw the funnies in the newspapers. Without a video or photo camera in front of them, the media artists are useless.
By now, you must surely believe that all forms of artists, in any country, are worth their weight in dust. Society gains nothing. Humanity doesn’t care. Expression of art in culture is pointless.
Art is, and will forever be, one of the hardest careers on the planet, and if you actually agree with anything I just said, you could drop off the planet and I really wouldn’t care.
What does art do?
It expresses the inner commentary that we all have, but no one knows how to express. It showcases the hidden dialogue that we all partake in but few are willing to admit. Art is passion in its purest, most basic form. Art can change someone, for a day, for a week, for a month, for a year… maybe for their entire life – but by even making someone think about something differently, by being able to evoke another perspective on a social issue, on a conflict, on a problem, that someone didn’t previously have for one second the artist has done their job. They can sleep happy.
Do you know how difficult it is to be an artist?
Do you know how frequently I’ve stayed up all night, with a shaking body and a brain that I swear is as loud as a jet engine because I wish, I wish so very hard, that I was talented in something practical. That I was as good as my sister in math. That I could learn languages as quickly as my cousin. That I could work with my hands as well as my uncle. That I could be a doctor, mathematician, engineer, even a fucking watch maker. Anything but an artist. I have shed more tears than I would ever feel comfortable admitting because the only thing I can do is think creatively. I’ll watch a documentary in class and think of ways it could potentially be better; sat through a lecture, writing a monologue for the class that would teach the lesson so much more effectively, I’ve watched a fight outside school and the first thing I thought was how would I shoot that…
Do you know how difficult it is to tell people that you want to be an artist?
I’ve been through the conversation so many times I don’t think you would actually believe me. While getting my haircut, talking with my taxi driver, speaking with distant relatives – it always goes the exact same way. “So, what would you like to go into university for?” And I always try to scramble and think of a decent answer that would make people happy and convince them I’m sane (see: anything my friends are applying for) but I always inevitably give the same answer. “Oh, well… film would be nice.” They look at me with mild shock in their face, almost as if they think I’m kidding. “Yeah? That would be cool.” Cool wouldn’t even describe, but I don’t call them on that. I just let it slide and let the small-talk continue. Unfortunately, though, the exact same line always reaches the surface, “so, I’d bet you’d like to be the next Steven Spielberg, eh?” They ask me that because they think the only way to be happy in as an artist in life is to be rich, that the only way art is ever practical is when you’ve got a six-figure revenue stream on a yearly basis. Every time I’m asked that I want to scream in their face, I want to yell it to everyone in proximity, to all that can hear – No! No, I don’t want to be the next Spielberg! I don’t give a shit if I need to wait tables for years to only make one movie in my life! I don’t want to live my life by someone else’s standards, I want to live my life and be happy! Fuck practicality! Fuck letting my dream die because of insecurity, because of worry, because of danger and uncertainty and doubt! But I can’t say it, I won’t. I always laugh nervously and let the conversation die.
I’m the oddball out of my friends. One of them wants to go out and be a pharmacist, another an aeronautical engineer; the third, a history major and study diseases. They’ve all got the same common traits – IQ and confidence in their career choices. An unreal intelligence and the ability to apply themselves to chemicals, numbers or facts. They’ve known since they were kids where they’d like to go, it’s the only sensible next step for them. Their careers come clearly to them, with confidence because it’s just always made sense. Me? I sat there through all of pre-school, grade-school, and most of high school just wanting to make people feel something. A comedian and magician in my youngest years. Later, a psychologist, and after that, a private investigator. Until now I haven’t noticed the glaring similarity between all of those careers - the fact that they all affect and are affected by people. A comedian make you laugh, a magician makes you wonder, a psychologist makes you think, and a private investigator understands you. Confidence in any of those careers? Necessary. Have I ever had it? Never.
If I had any idea how hard art would be as a child, I’d have run away and never looked back. Tried harder in math or paid more attention in French… but it wouldn’t have worked. I’m not wired for those things. I’m only made for two things in life: curiosity and other people. If I had any idea how hard it would be to get into university for art, I would have laughed at anyone who tried; yet here I am, applying for screen writing and film production at the most prestigious film school in Canada. None of my friends will be with me… there won’t be any family in the area. My foundation will be gone and my sanity will be strained. I have nightmares about it – both being accepted and being denied. I’m in the limbo of my life. I’m scared from just writing this.
If there was one thing I believe in that I’ve written, it’s that the only thing in life worse than art is a career in it – because why in God’s name would anyone want to put the amount of effort they do in trying to change things, trying to show people the other side? Why would they put as much thought as they do into interpretation things in the ways they do? Who benefits from the detail? Why create? It’s taken me until this very moment, feeling the weight of 17-years’ worth of decisions and fighting through tears of stress and fear that I can truly, from the bowels of my soul, have clear answers for those questions.
There’s nothing more powerful than art and those who make it.
Art is proof that everything can be changed, that every problem is multilateral and open for interpretation.
That no matter what, there’s colour in a world that seems so very black and white.
That there’s beauty in every detail.
That there will always be more to create.