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!

My 2016 plans…

Also known as resolutions.

I figure I should try to improve myself in different ways, and what better way to ensure *some* accountability than to post some resolutions here for the wild world to see.

So here we go!

  • Be more assertive when it comes to women. What I mean here is, if I’m interested in a woman, I should just go for it. Talk to her. Ask her out. Show I have interest. The worst that can happen, in most cases, is she says ‘no.’ I lose nothing by asking, but stand to gain lots.
  • Save more money. I’m going to be 30 soon. I shouldn’t be living with other people with whom I have no connection. Yes, housemates do keep rent down, but then I have to deal with people I have no interest in knowing anything about, and are always in my way. By saving money, I can eventually put a down payment on a house or condo and be truly self-sufficient.
  • Get in better shape and lose weight. This is a multi-faceted resolution — go to the gym more, eat less, eat better. Once it warms up, this means biking to work. This also dovetails nicely into saving more money.
  • Read more. I will set a target of reading for at least an hour every day. I have a lot of books to get through, and the perfect time to read is during my commute.
  • Take more photos. I have a prosumer-model camera, and now that I have a job that doesn’t require near-daily photography, it sits unused for weeks at a time. And my skills are deteriorating during that downtime. So, I resolve to take photos every day, and post regular updates of all those photos. Much like I did in 2011.

That’s pretty much it. Short, sweet and to the point.

Here’s hoping I can do it.

Comments on «The Force Awakens»

I saw the new Star Wars movie the day after its wide release — on Dec. 19.

I loved it.

Many people, I have noticed, did not. To the point they are calling it the worst Star Wars movie.

That’s their prerogative. I don’t agree, naturally, but I won’t say they’re wrong and denigrate them for their opinions — they’re allowed to have them, and things like movies are subjective because different people are looking for different things in movies.

For me, I was looking forward to seeing how the film matched up with the trailers, all of which basically said, “Tim, you have to see this! You want to see this! You *will* see this!”

So I did.

And now, I want to talk about what I saw and why I liked it.

I will also refute some of the arguments those buzzkills made in arguing The Force Awakens is the worst Star Wars film.

There will be spoilers, so in the spirit of protecting those of you with delicate sensibilities, I will place them under this new-fangled ‘read more’ tag I just discovered…

Continue reading

Monarchy

I like to think of myself as a monarchist.

I support the monarchy in Canada, and Queen Elizabeth II as our head of state, since it is a largely ceremonial title in this day and age.

But from reading A Song of Ice and Fire lately, as well as watching Game of Thrones, I’m starting to wonder about royal families and all that fun stuff.

For example, the idea of traitors and treason.

Listen, I fully understand and can get behind the idea of lines of succession and heredity in such a world as the timeframe in which ASOIAF is set.

But the idea that, when the reigning monarch dies and others who are not in the direct line of succession declare they are the proper monarch, saying there is more than one person declaring to be the king/queen/etc. is treasonous is ridiculous in my mind.

Think about it, using the example of what happened in ASOIAF…

Robert dies and Joffrey ascends to the Iron Throne. But because of the (true) questions about his right to the throne, his two (supposed) uncles declare they are to be king.

I’m leaving out Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy here because Robb never really declared for the Iron Throne, and I don’t completely recall how Balon declared.

So, as I understood things while reading, it was considered problematic if someone within Westeros said there were five kings, or that five men had declared they are kings.

I don’t see it being a problem, because it’s a statement of fact — there are five men saying they are the king.

And what’s in a name, anyway? What does ‘king’ really mean? It’s just a title that has been elevated to the highest echelon of importance.

You know, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this. It’s just made me think, is all.

I guess if I were to opine on our current constitutional monarchy in Canada, and all those people who can’t seem to wrap their head around how our system works, I would say this:

We’re not dumping the monarchy any time soon. If we ever do, I figure it would happen when Liz dies. And by that I mean we would only begin the debate in earnest at that point. Liz is well loved, and it’s highly unlikely there will ever be the necessary groundswell to introduce someone else to be Canada’s head of state.

Beyond that, it would require a constitutional amendment, and that’s not going to happen in our current political climate. We’ve had two tries, and they failed. And this country is more polarized now than it’s been in a very long time.