Yellow Brick Roads and Tulgey Wood Paths

When you reach a time in your life when things do not go according to plan, the problem is not what to do.  We know what to do: wallow for a bit, but eventually you pick yourself up and move on because that really is the only option.  Move on.

The question is, where do you move on to?  What are you supposed to do when you lose the path that, even if you couldn’t see the end to, was at least somewhere to start?  When Dorothy started off in Munchkin Land, that Yellow Brick Road just swirled around in that shell loop for a million orbits, but at least she knew that there was somewhere to go.

So what do you do when you’re more like Alice in the Tulgey Wood, following that path that ends up getting swept up by that broom-lion-thing?  (Yeah, yeah I’m talking about the Disney version whatever I’m not hip I actually thoroughly enjoy this movie.)  You had such hope that you might actually be on your way somewhere, doing something exciting, but just when you’re daring to think even the slightest bit ahead, the road gets taken out from right underneath you.

Do you backtrack, find a new journey to begin?  Do you try to forge ahead anyway?

What do you do?

Quarter-Life Crisis I

You should be forced to take a year off after finishing high school before deciding on a post-secondary path.  Seriously, who has time during their last year of high school – in between the study-heavy classes and grad events and extra curricular activities – to just take a moment to consider yourself and think about where you might want to go in life?  There are so many different options.  What’s the most ideal for you, and what’s the best approach?

I had this terrible feeling that if I didn’t continue right away with SOME sort of schooling, I’d never be able to get myself back into it.  I only felt that way because of the expectations others had projected out into the world.

People are so concerned with time.  “How many years will it take you to finish your degree?”  “Um, aren’t you going to be the oldest person in your grad class?”  “And by the time you’re twenty-five years old you will be doing…?”  They also spout off bullshit like, “It’s not too late.  Go for it.”  But that’s not always possible.  Also, if you (or some very generous family members) have already put so much money into a certain schooling that would in no way transfer to what you really want to do, don’t you owe it to yourself/them to at least make something out of all that money and time?

When you’re going to school full time it’s hard to put aside a moment to say, “Okay, is this what I want?  Will this help me in SOME way?”  There’s no time in between classes and bussing and studying and paper-writing and work shifts to have these talks with yourself (although there is time to write blog posts about it, question mark?), but maybe you’re constantly being pelted with “I hate this, make it stop” messages in your brain, and all you know is that whatever this is…it’s not what you really want to be doing.

So now I’m kind of hoping that in my next life there’ll be a nagging voice in the back of my mind that comes out in my last year of high school, poking me and hissing, “Hey.  I know what you should do.”  And I’ll be all, “What?  Who is this?” and the past-life me will be like, “Never you mind, just listen to me.”

If I can actually make this post useful (instead of just using it to stew in my own regrets) spread the word or take this advice: Try to do what you really want to do.  Don’t settle.  Or if you do, at least make sure it’s for a high-paying job.

(Well, really.  If you’re not going to be happy anyway, you might as well be rich.)

Je m’excuse, or Vive le français!, or Those Are Kind of Contradictory Titles But Whatever

If you’ve spent a good day or two in my company, you might notice a habit of mine that I imagine must be unbearably irritating (no, not my need to always to right.  And no, not me singing every other sentence): when I’m exhausted and about to give up on consciousness, when I want to make myself laugh, or whenever I’m just in the mood, I revert to complaining and expressing my thoughts in French.  “J’ai fatiguée!” I’ll sigh.  “J’ai besoin du café,” @whimack will tweet.  “Bonjour l’hiver!” I’ll warble.  I go on and on and if I were the one hearing/reading with these crude translations, I’d roll my eyes and unfollow @whimack or smack Whitney in the face.

But I’m not trying to be –or successfully come off as— pretentious.  I just find French amusing and comforting and, frankly, hilarious.  Maybe it’s a regression technique.  I was ushered into French immersion two or three months into my grade one year by my normal ol’ English class teacher (okay this is me being pretentious.  I was once labelled as “smart”, so let me brag about what a genius six-year-old Whitney was).  Just imagine a group of nose-picking, butt-scratching six-year-olds trying to sound out weird words that they’re trying to learn, while simultaneous attempting to grasp their native tongue.  I just grew up speaking French, and while I have lost my touch since entering an English high school, I still really enjoy the language.  Yeah, I like how it sounds and how it looks written out, but what I like most is how it feels.

It feels like finding out that the French word for “lion” is spelt the exact same way as in English.  It feels like performing the Little Red Hen from our French readers in front of my second grade class.  It feels like trying to hold awkward conversations with my Quebec exchange partner, small talk that interrupts playing Roller Coaster Tycoon in French (the only interest we had in common).  It feels like stumbling through my final concours d’art oratoire, rambling on with no real point, musing about whether ghosts are real or not (I have no recollection of what “facts” or speculations I might have made, but I do remember using a badass font for my printed copy).  It feels like delivering a kickass grade seven valedictorian speech on behalf of my class, the longest one out of our three grade seven classes, the only one spoken in French and therefore the one that the majority of the audience – mainly English-speaking students and faculty as well as our parents – could unabashedly admit to not listening to.

It takes me back to a time of innocence.  I mean, okay, it’s not like the second I stepped into high school all of my innocence and naivety shed right off of me.  I’d argue that I clutched that coat tight around me – much longer than I should have.  And maybe that’s part of my problem: I try desperately to enclose the waters of innocence in my cupped hands, feeling it leak through the cracks in my fingers and knowing that one day I’ll be left with only the few drops I’ve managed to trap in the creases of my wrinkly hands.

Of course, I’m just distracting myself from writing an English assignment and job applications, so it’s entirely possible that I’m presently tuned to looking for a deeper meaning in something (and myself) than is actually there.

Vive le français!

Note: Ironically, the word count on this ramble would have been enough for my English assignment, thus allowing me to triumphantly shut my laptop and go to bed.
A Brief Explanation Turned Tangent: The concours d’art oratoire is the dreaded, unless you’re an insane eager loser, speech competition for French immersion students.  It literally translates into “what the fuck does this teach?”  (Oh, calm down, I’m kidding.  It’s actually “these speeches are bullshit”…  Okay, fine, it just means “contest of oratory arts”, but that’s nowhere near as accurate a description.)  You’re allowed to choose whatever topic you want and then write and memorize a little spiel about it to perform to your class, then (if you’re lucky) the district, and then (if you’re even luckier!) the province.  I think.  I’m not actually positive if that’s the last step, there might be nationals too.  I’ve only ever seen my friend compete in Districts before (two years in a row, may I add.  GO ERIN!).  I, myself, have never been deemed exemplary enough to make it past classroom presentations – something I was always simultaneously relieved and disappointed by (keep in mind that at this point in my life I wasn’t used to failing at things.  Except for not getting the role of Birgitta in the local high school’s production of The Sound of Music.  And being denied a solo in my choir the year before.  Basically I just sucked at things I was passionate about.  What else is new?).  This was probably because I chose random and nonsensical topics i.e. homeless people and “Les Fantomes: Vrai ou Faux?”  As you can see, even back when I was twelve I didn’t believe that a written piece needed to have a point.  I’ve always just liked to ramble.

Sleep (or Not)

There are a lot of things I put off doing: homework, leaving my house to catch the bus, writing out narratives that shuffle into my head…although it should be noted that I do get these done.  Ee-VEHN-shua-LEE.*

But the daily activity I avoid the most?  Falling asleep.  I can’t stand it.

For the whole year of grade six (shortly after getting over the nightly stress of ghosts and dead people creeping in to steal me away in my sleep) that was my favourite part of my day.  To have the time to just lie in bed in near-complete silence (or maybe to the soothing voice of Jim Dale** lulling me to sleep) and not do anything.  I wouldn’t mentally relive my day; there weren’t (usually) burning, existential questions scurrying around my mind; I wouldn’t stay up too late… I would just relax and eventually drift off.  I considered my life to be so busy and rushed and I looked forward to being able to go home and literally do nothing.

These days I find myself propped up in the most uncomfortable position against my pillows in bed, my eyelids drooping shut, my mouth beginning to gape open the way it always does the second I drift off to sleep – but I fight it off.  I tell myself, “One more episode of 30 Rock…just after I finish straightening my hair…creep one more person’s Facebook page…” (wait, what?)  Falling asleep just bores me and doesn’t engage me the way Liz Lemon does.

The nights that I do turn off the light at a decent time, I close my eyes and try.  I try to sleep, I try to let go of any thoughts that remain scuttling around my brain or any songs (hah, sucker) that are still lurking in my head.  But I can’t.  Unless I am totally and completely exhausted and ready to pass out, there will always be one more thought I need to write down, one more song I need to listen to (did you seriously fall for it again?).

Lately I’ve tried to pump myself up for sleep by telling myself that my dreams are going to be awesome and fun (it’s only worked once so far.  And my dream was, indeed, awesome).  Overall, though, I haven’t had too much success.

There just seems to be so much to DO.  I should mention that I greatly value “down time” and so I do consider browsing blogs and reading books for fun and whatnot as doing something.  But in addition to keeping up with school work and whatever other activities I involve myself in, there just never seems to be enough time to do everything.

I wish that I didn’t have to sleep.  Instead, how nice would it be if the hours between 2am and 7am were considered Self Time (or something not lame) and the norm would be to spend this time on your own in your room, reflecting upon life, or watching a movie, or writing, or singing, or doing whatever you want, but something on your own?  It’d be super nice.

*Sorry.  That reference is unrelated, super short, and about a minute into the video.  But it is one of the best scenes of television I’ve ever seen, and is also one of the most quoted in my house.
**Firstly, I’ll take this moment to point out that this is how I’m able to quote the Harry Potter books so accurately: I used to listen to the audiobooks every night from the age of 8 until way too old.  Secondly, this was one of the only videos that YouTube hadn’t taken down of the audiobooks, but OHMYGOD Harry Potter and The Sims?  Too good of a chance to pass up.

A Slice of Cheese

I’m a pretty independent person.  I enjoy do things on my own, I don’t like to be the one to ask for help from others, I relish my alone time (with my Sims)…

But I can’t escape the fact that we live in a social world.  I’m a heavy believer in having respect for one another.  I don’t care if you like someone or think they’re an idiot, but I think that you need to look at that person, realize that he/she is a human being like you, and respect that he/she has feelings and emotions and a backstory that need to be considered.

(That was super cheesy and sounded not a bit like me, but it is honestly something I believe in.  And I repeat: I do not consider liking someone and respecting someone to be the same thing.)

At times, we rely upon one another, and that’s not a sign of weakness.  It’s okay to accept a friend’s help with your homework.  It’s nice to support a friend in his/her photography/makeup/musical endeavours by giving a virtual thumbs up.  Show support for one another.  Be there for each other.

You’re not alone in this world, no matter how much you might sometimes wish it.

IF YE HAD THE CHANCE TO CHANGE YOUR FATE, WOULD’YE? (nothing to do with Brave)

My little cousin had his grade seven “graduation” this past week.  And, of course, calling him “little” might come off not only as a lie, but perhaps a tad bit demeaning.  After all, myself having a fresh face of twenty years old, there are many people out there who would wheeze through their dentures that some “little lady writes stuff on the Internets” (the elderly having a tendency to add “s” onto the end of words that have never before encountered the letter).  Of course, I don’t mean for it to come off as demeaning.  It’s just that I’ll always be the protective big cousin– or “cousin-sister”, as he used to inform to his very confused preschool teacher.  (Just for the record, we’re not some weirdo hillbilly family with brother-cousin-uncles named John-Billy-Bob or however else they abuse hyphens.  We’re just close.  But not in a hillbilly way.  I’m gonna go ahead and shut up.)

Today my older brother and I were talking about the annoying mannerisms of the early teenager, wondering whether we should tell our cousin to cut that shit out, lest he walk through the doors of his new high school in the Fall and get his ass kicked.  Our conversation boiled down to one question:

“Wouldn’t you have appreciated someone telling you what not to do?”

And, honestly, I’m going to have to say “no“.

If someone had told me to not be loud and obnoxious and straight-up annoying…I mean, yes, it would have saved me endless moments of embarrassment, but I would have been so cautious.  I would’ve been afraid of saying or doing everything “wrong”.  I already have a small trepidation of this, but luckily (?) my inherent blabbering quality barely tips its hat towards this anxiety before chucking hardly-connected sentences out of my mouth.  People tend to see this behaviour as me being talkative, rather than socially ill at ease.  I like these people.  They keep me around for a laugh.

I always got the feeling that those kids in high school who constantly worried about how others saw them, or what they could say to impress people, or what not to say so as to avoid being shunned…they can’t have been enjoying their time, could they?  Living in constant fear of being prosecuted for being yourself, like it’s the Second Wizarding World War.  How can you start finding out what kind of person you are if you’re always stifling your own thoughts and replacing them with those of others?

I would never suggest that there weren’t times when I kept my mouth shut to ensure I didn’t say something against the norm, but after steadily letting go of that fear I felt more free.  It’s entirely possible I was just oblivious to what people might have been saying about me, but I figure most people have better things to talk about.  Also to those kids who do sit and judge their peers…get the fuck over yourselves.

The most I will do for my cousin is offer honest, if not clichéd, advice.  Surround yourself with good peopleget involvedtake chances, make mistakes, get messy… anything more than that and I might as well go play The Sims if I want to control someone’s life.

However, if any pimply, punk-ass kid ever sends my cousin come home in tears, I’ll willingly remove myself from my computer chair and take more aggressive involvement.

Mid-Year Resolutions

[I almost accidentally wrote “Mid-Year Crisis”.  That’s a nice start.]

I cannot fathom why people think the beginning of the New Year is the ideal time to leave behind bad habits and comfort, and to leap into daunting exercise plans and strict dietary schedules.  Why would the midst of winter, the time when one is still reeling from post-holiday depression and when the weather is presumably miserable, be a good time to go, “Yeah…I’d rather eat a stick of celery than a steaming mug of hot chocolate right about now”?  And so, fine folk, I present to you the MID-YEAR RESOLUTION.

I, personally, have never been into New Year resolutions.  Bundling up to trudge off to school for another four months hardly inspires me to take chances, make mistakes and get funky (got you, didn’t I?).  But right after that final stretch… Well, spring is all about freshness.  Flowers, air, freedom of scholarly obligations…  What feels better than finishing off your exams, sucking in that brisk spring air and deciding to make some vital changes to your life?

This year I’m considering the usual: exercise more, eat healthier, read more books, use that right side of the brain more… but I’m also taking it a step further.  Just like those of you who choose the beginning of the calendar year to make promises to yourself, I’m just deciding to take on these challenges at a more practical time.

My two big resolutions are something that, I think, will be appreciated by all who come into contact with me.  So, you’re welcome.  Firstly, I’m trying to cut down/eliminate the word “like” from my speech.  Whether I’m describing something is similar to another thing, or reenacting a dialogue (“And I’m like, ‘To be or not to be’ and he’s like, ‘That is the question’.”), or one of those that just slips in between words when what should really be there is a pause for thought, the fact is that there really are so many other words to use.  My second goal is to take on a less aggressive tone when talking to people.  I’m aware that I come off as abrasive when I’m really not.  I caaaaare.

[Edit: Oh yeah, and to not correct people’s grammar.  You’re very welcome.  /asshole Whitney out.]

And so I challenge YOU.  Aren’t you so much more inspired to be a better person now that the sun is staring to show it’s shining face?  Read a book a week, smile at strangers, volunteer your time to the community, practice your skateboarding tricks (I dunno, I’m trying to appeal to the masses here).

Explore, learn, grow.