No ragrets

Today I took a (somewhat) big step in trying to move outside my comfort zone.

Although, let’s be honest – it’s a step I should have taken years ago, when I was much younger that 30.

But it is what it is, and I did what I needed to do.

So for years I have always had this issue with *living* and instead I would analyze things half to death, plan things down to the nth possible contingency, and just hesitate for the perfect time and situation.

In all honesty, those are not the worst traits to have and actions to do. There is definite value in planning and making sure you cover all your bases. But at some point you eventually have to pull the trigger, through caution to the wind and f—ing do it!

So that’s going to the theme of the next few weeks and months – if I want to do something, I’m going to do it. Price and time willing, of course. I can’t just fly off to [insert country] on a whim for [insert reason] whenever I want. I need to have some limits. I *do* have *some* adult responsibilities, after all. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Or at least that’s what I say. I’ve said this several times before.

Things I can’t take seriously – 2

I knew I had more items for my list of things I can’t take seriously. But when I was writing that first post, I couldn’t remember all of them.

Well, now I have remembered one more.

BMX bikes on streets/sidewalks: I totally get that BMX bikes are a legitimate bike, with completely legitimate uses. But you look ridiculous when you’re using a BMX bike as a form of transportation. The bikes are so small, and it’s often lanky boys, with the sideways ball cap riding them, and the whole package looks, like I said a few words ago, ridiculous. Get a real bike and keep your BMX for the skate park.

I’ll be back. Eventually.

Things I can’t take seriously – 1

I’m a bit of a cynic. And somewhat a skeptic, as well.

I judge things and people. A lot.

OK. Enough preamble. Here are some things I can’t take seriously. I may even include why I can’t take those things seriously. We’ll see.

  • Sports leagues with single-game elimination playoffs: Anything can happen in a single game. It’s unfair to both teams to make their seasons come down to a single game. Here I’m pretty much referring to NFL/CFL football. I think the NLL also uses single-game elimination playoffs. I know NHL, NBA, MLB can all have single-game eliminations, but that comes after four or six games, so by Game Seven (or Five) you know the teams were evenly matched. But when your entire playoffs are single games, just one error or great play and the team that was the better might be wiped out. And yes, that can happen over the course of a seven- (or five-) game series, but it’s a lot less likely. Now, I don’t have as much of a problem with single-game eliminations in tournaments. That’s mainly a factor of the nature of tournaments – they’re short events as it is, and there is not enough time to play playoff series.
  • Drivers in vehicles with lift kits (usually pickup trucks) in the city: When are you ever going to need the clearance you get in city driving situations? You look like a loser. And I’m sure you’re also overcompensating for something.
  • Boston Bruins fans: You don’t like your team. You’re just afraid Zdeno Chara is going to come into your bedroom at night and beat you up.

I’ll try to think of more. I really thought I had more. Clearly I did not.

Seven years later

Nine days ago I sat down in an Edmonton cafe to write a letter to a friend. That letter took me 2.5 hours to write. And nearly four full sheets of paper.

The subject?

The “ordeal” I went through from May 11, 2009 until Oct. 23, 2009 — my brief but life-altering time living and working in Meadow Lake, Sask.

It was in that town (now city) where I first started this blog.

Anyway.

It’s been seven years since I hopped on a plane en route to Meadow Lake via Saskatoon. It was a very hard thing to do. I’d never been out on my own for real (university doesn’t really count, because that’s only four months at a time).

This was Tim living by himself, hundreds of kilometres from home, and having to care for himself and feed himself and pay bills and all that fun stuff.

And have a job — that job being the reason he was even out in Saskatchewan.

Now, looking back on that whole experience, I remain of mixed and confused thoughts.

On the one hand, it went so horribly wrong. I didn’t really know what to expect entering the journalism workforce fresh out of school. I didn’t realize the amount of work and pressure I would be under.

I had been a solid student journalist. I had acted two terms as a community newspaper editor-in-chief (Centretown News), albeit under the direction and tutelage of our professor. I had solid skills. I thought I could hack it.

How wrong I was.

Now, I am biased here, but I don’t feel it was all my fault. I received little to no direction and mentorship. My employer knew I was coming right out of school, and I believe the bosses knew I was from Toronto and Ottawa. Assuming that second point is true, it should have been clear I was entering a completely different environment than I had ever encountered before.

In the mid to late stages of my time there, I kept thinking to myself that they want too much out of me too quickly.

I was expected to arrive and hit the ground running.

But I needed some mentorship and understanding of my situation. I don’t feel like I got it.

Now, on the other hand, and this is the realization I’ve come to since moving to Alberta, is that Meadow Lake is unquestionably the best thing I could have done for my career.

Being new to the game, having my first job being a colossal disaster (as I interpret it) was perhaps the best thing I could have done. What better time to have your confidence shattered than right at the beginning, when you have a shorter distance to fall?

My time in Meadow Lake was integral to teaching me what it takes.

You need to get over your apprehension to cold calling people (but calling deceased people’s family and friends never gets easier).

You need to just realize you’re going to have to walk up to strangers and talk to them.

You need to get comfortable quickly with sticking a camera in a person’s face.

You need to learn to be creative with story ideas and how to get them.

Yes, I got some of these lessons in J-School. But there I was also taking other classes and I wasn’t doing all journalism all the time all day. Assignments weren’t three to four stories a day, on average. They were maybe three or four a month. Or week, at the worst.

J-School was a long time ago.

But, this realization didn’t come easily.

It came through failing at a job interview in Wakefield, Que. I mean, besides the fact I am not bilingual. Why did I apply to that gig if my French is garbage?

Anyway. The woman interviewing me was the only one who actually took the time to tell me what I needed to improve on to increase my chances of getting hired.

So, because I can, here is what she said:

«…perhaps your confidence took a beating from your experience at the newspaper in Northern Saskatchewan. If I were to make one suggestion: turn that bad experience into a good one when talking to prospective employers. Sure that gig went bad, it was not a fit; you and your boss agreed on that and you quit (no need to tell me he beat you to the punch). BUT you could talk about the fact that you still learned a lot (you could describe those things specifically) and mention that you would not make the mistake again of taking a job in such an isolated place. In fact, you could mention you’d work doubly hard in a place that you liked just to make sure it turned into a positive experience…»

That was the other kick in the pants I needed. In fact, that was likely the more important kick in the pants. It made me realize I had to find the silver lining in what was a really discouraging four months of employment and five-plus months of residing in Meadow Lake.

So here I am, once again. Seven years after I landed in Saskatoon and drove up to Meadow Lake, I continue to reflect on my short time there.

It was truly influential, and without it would not have met the people I’ve met here in Westlock, Barrhead and Edmonton.

I also wish I could say this post here is cathartic, but that letter I spent 2.5 hours writing was the true catharsis.

I think it’s time to move on, but that won’t happen until September, when we hit seven years since I quit that job, and Oct. 23 when we hit seven years since I left that town.

Mellowing out

I am 30, and turning that age seems to have had a strange effect on me.

I seem to be mellowing out in some ways.

I can’t really explain it, but I’m really getting good at not letting things bother me too much.

Oh, sure, at work I am still as high strung as ever, launching half-verbal profanities when the people I need to speak to, or who are supposed to supply me with content to fill my pages, are not getting back to me as deadlines approach. The creative swears I come up with remain, well, weird. And my tone of voice when on the phone with some superiors is certainly questionable. I do let my emotions get the better of me at times, but I’ve never out-and-out erupted, which is a good thing.

On the sports field, well, we’ll have to see how my mellowing out is going. The season starts in six days, and knowing how last year went, this year will be a test.

But when it comes to dealing with friends and relationships, my mellowing has certainly become apparent.

When I first moved out here, I had a friend who had been ‘pressuring’ me to come out to Alberta, and while I didn’t come out here because she told me to, I did end up out here.

Once I got out here, we tried making plans to get together. But we never did. Not even once. And we only got one skype date in. I was fairly livid about the whole situation. I’m thinking, “You can’t find even one day to meet up? You’re that busy you can’t book a day off? You encouraged me to come out here and now you can’t make time for me?”

Yes, perhaps it was me being unreasonable, but really, how busy are you? Even an hour every few weeks for a skype date isn’t asking too much, is it?

Ugh.

I’m actually still ticked about it to a degree. I must be, as it’s been five years since that ‘incident’ and I still think of it on occasion.

But it’s in the past, so whatever.

Looking to the present, I am in regular contact with friends back home and abroad. We chat on occasion, some of us more often than others, for myriad reasons. And in many cases, not as often as I would like.

There was a time I would get impatient about chatting with friends. I would want them to drop everything and talk, text, etc. Well, maybe not to that extreme, but I have wanted to be in touch as much as possible. Considering I’m in Alberta (and for a while, Saskatchewan) and all the friends are back in Toronto, Ottawa or even farther away, I feel regular contact is key to maintaining relationships.

But of late there has been a fair amount of drop off.

I used to be a bit bothered by this. “Do they hate me?” “Oh, god, what did I do or say?” “They must be The Cheating on me!”

Of course, none of this is true. It’s just we’re all adults now. Some of us have jobs. Some of us are still in school. Some of us are married. Some of us have kids. Some of us check off several of those boxes.

In short, we all have lives that occupy our time.

And besides, who am I to assume I am top of mind? I mean, I am full of myself and think I am the most important thing ever, despite ample evidence to the contrary. A lot of ample evidence, actually.

I jest, of course.

But back to the thrust of this.

I still experience a pang of disappointment when plans to chat fall apart for any and all reasons. I think that’s natural – I budget time to chat, and then we don’t chat. But I always remember we all have lives and things can pop up unexpectedly.

It could be my chat partner falling asleep while on the phone. It could be my to-be chat partner falling asleep at “not my place.” It could be wonky internet. It could be family coming over to see the baby. It could be a newborn baby. It could be a phone battery dying. It could be getting sick.

The end result is the same. And really, what does it matter? Things happen.

I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Unless we plan something when I’m normally sleeping – then I’ll actually be upset, because I would like to sleep otherwise and staying up for nothing does not make Tim a happy man.

Friendship

“Friendship is weird. You pick a human you’ve met and you’re like, ‘Yup. I like this one,’ and you just do stuff with them.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. For a number reasons.

I don’t make friends very easily. I have been a somewhat awkward person since, best as I can tell, Grade 4.

Man, Grade 4 was a rough and weird year. That was a strange year because it seemed all my JK-3 friends simply fell away. Obviously, since that was way back in 1995-1996, I can’t think back and figure out what the heck happened, but I do remember that was the time when I somehow got saddled with the ‘loner’ label. It sucked.

High school was a much better experience, as I managed to acquire friends again. We hung out away from school. We did projects together, actually choosing to work with each other (mostly). We had the band trips to Europe to cement our relationships.

Since high school ended, I have lost touch with many of my high school ‘friends,’ because I have to put ‘friends’ in quotes. I was willing to keep in touch, but it’s pretty clear many of them did not.

And you know what? I don’t really care. I was thinking about how I’ve lost touch with them since we all graduated, and I realized I knew them for four years, and I’ve been out of high school now for nearly 11 years. Not to say good riddance, or anything like that, but when we’ve been apart for nearly three times as long as we were together, clearly it’s time to let that go. We’re just people who were friends who had circumstances separate us. It happens.

But then there are the friends from high school, and university, with whom I am still friends. The high school crew (ugh, why did I use that word) are the ones I did my OAC year with (fifth year, Victory Lap, Grade 13, whatever). We were the remaining group and we were a clique.

But even then, the fissures are starting to show. A few have dropped off (well, dropped off right after graduation), while others held on for a lot of my time out here in Alberta. Even then, I’m realizing a bunch of us are gradually going our separate ways, to the point where I am not entirely sure I want to make the effort to meet up the next time I’m back in the T.Dot. And, truthfully, that makes me sad. I know it can’t be helped, as people change and time marches on, but you never really want to set aside a part of your past.

I seem to have rambled along for a while here. It happens.

I suppose the crux of what I was thinking when I thought about this post is the friends I have, the ones who have a history dating back various numbers of years, from almost 26 years, to nearly 16 years, to approximately 11 years, and one who will be eight years in September, another that is probably (and I still think inexplicably) at seven years, and one that hasn’t even hit its first birthday (such a young’un!).

How have I kept these friendships alive? How am I friends with these people? This is not to say I’m unhappy to have friends of these varied ages and experiences — I’m incredibly grateful. These are people who have put up with my BS, my insecurities, my quasi nagging, and my utter stupidity. How can I ever show true appreciation for them sticking by me?

I don’t think I can.

Each of these people means something different to me, while at the same time they all mean the same to me. They have kept me grounded. They have cheered me up with their sometimes random messages. I have lived vicariously through them, as I truly have a boring life at the moment.

So to my friends who read this, thank you!

To my enemies, I say this: what are you doing here?

Road biking

I own a road bike now. Her name is Isabelle. I ride her several times a week. I used to think that was a funny turn of phrase. I’ve killed it because it’s really not that funny anymore.

Moving on.

Before I bought Isabelle, I had been strictly a mountain bike rider. Every bike I’ve owned since I turned maybe 10 or so has been a mountain bike. Sure, I had ridden road bikes with the curved handlebars a few times, but those were my parents – they were old, not in great shape and a last resort. And with my familiarity being to the shape/feel/ergonomics of a mountain bike, they just felt weird to ride.

For those who have never ridden a road bike, let me tell you a road bike is a fairly big adjustment.

Yes, it’s still a bike, and the basic premise remains the same – you pedal and build up speed to keep the machine vertical.

But road bikes are so narrow. My first few turns around my neighbourhood were, while not exactly hairy, less than comfortable than my old mountain bike.

And let me tell you about the brakes. A few times on my first commute to work, I felt I needed to brake quickly, so I reached for my brakes – on the top of the handlebars where there are no brakes.

Like I said, these road bike things are an adjustment.

Then there are clipless pedals and shoes. You know the ones – you clip your shoes onto them so you are attached to your bike. I have fallen three times because I could not unclip fast enough.

Isabelle is a cruel mistress who insists on dumping me, but I will not be deterred.

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And she is gorgeous!