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Category Archives: A Day in the Life

Does Not Play Well with Others

Yesterday as I walked back to the house I board at with my friend (and housemate), I was overcome with a feeling of “hey, look at me! I have friends!” Okay, yes, that sounds really, really sad. This is certainly not the first time I’ve had friends in my eighteen years of existence. I’ve had plenty of friends in lots of different levels of friendship, from “frenemy” to BFF.

Nevertheless, for a number of reasons, I’ve always felt a little different — you know, just like everyone else supposedly does. Never really felt like I quite fit in. Always felt a bit like an in-betweener — not quite a total loser who ate lunch by herself in the library, not quite sitting with the popular kids (or the type who even wanted to).

But this year, everything changed. I guess that’s what happens when you do a gap year program at a weird (i.e. awesome), little art school with seventeen other artsy girls. No one really fits a mould, so somehow we all fit in to our not-fitting-in.

I was discussing this with my friend while we walked home, and I was explaining my previous friendless, lonely life. To clarify that it wasn’t quite as sad as I had initially made it seem with my melodrama and hyperbole, I told her about one of my “cherished childhood memories”. This story probably just made it worse.

I was four or five and it was playtime at kindergarten. Everyone else was either playing well with others or quietly occupying themselves with the abundance of toys we had on hand. I was playing with some form of connect-y toys probably something like Tinker Toys. With these not-excessively-girly toys, I attached some of the long stick-ular items together and — ta da! — I made myself a magic wand.

It was made out of boring stick-y things; I was probably wearing green sweat pants. But in my imagination (which was so fully functioning that this is how I see myself in this memory) I was wearing a flow-y, flounce-y, tulle-y pink fairy dress and on my head I had one of those cone-shaped princess hats with the piece of tulle or whatever waving in the wind. My wand was, of course, also pink and had one of these flow-y things protruding from the top. It obviously shed fairy dust whenever I waved it. I led (lead) a very rich fantasy life.

This is kind of what I was picturing, but the dress in my imagination was WAY cooler. Also this picture’s missing a wand… Credit: http://www.fantasytoyland.com

I was (am) very kindhearted and didn’t want to keep my newfound magical powers to myself. I wanted to share my fun with everyone! So, I began skipping my way around the room, telling my peers that I was a magical fairy, asking them what they wanted me to turn them into and tapping them on the heads with my ‘magic wand’. If I recall correctly, I genuinely believed that they would love my game. I imagined they’d oblige me to the point that they’d tell me what they wanted to be turned into and, when I tapped their heads with my wand to grant them their wishes, they’d act like the magical creature they had wanted to be.

My bubble was popped pretty quickly. Most kids just ignored me, some got annoyed and shooed me away, and one kid got so irritated that I got told on and our teacher had to intervene and make me stop. This was heartbreaking for me.

Hmmm… It actually makes a lot of sense that I’d fit right in at art school. My game pretty closely reflects one of the ‘improv exercises’ we do in my theatre class. After all those years of ‘repressing my creativity’ to avoid being ridiculed, it’s pretty nice to come to a place where my own personal brand of insanity just adds to the fun.

I love going to a school where my friends and I randomly burst into song throughout the day, play theatre games where we “let the walls feel us” (for real. This is a ‘legitimate’ exercise.) and sit in class fighting over toy cars borrowed from our principal/teacher’s four-year-old. I’m also taking some creative writing classes and am working on an awesome screenplay. It’s about a math teacher who never really understood me. Go figure.

Oh yeah — and I may finally get a check mark on my report card in the box for “plays well with others”. You know, if I wasn’t eighteen and such a box still existed for me.

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True Love at the Breakfast Table

Today in one of my classes, we had a thought-provoking discussion on the grandiosity of “the little things” — both in maintaining solid relationships and in living a fulfilling life. How enormous gestures, overtly life- and world-changing acts are no more significant than teeny meaningful moments.

This reminded me of something I saw several years ago. I was somewhere between five and eight years old and I was staying at my grandparents’ house for a few days. When my younger brother and I woke up in the morning, our grandfather took us downstairs for breakfast — our grandmother would be down shortly.

While I was eating my cereal, our grandfather was busy by the sink with a mug of water. I asked what he was doing, and he told me that our grandmother had a cup of hot water every morning and he was preparing it for her.

Then he put his index finger to his lips and leaned in close, about to divulge a deep secret. “Now, she’ll think it cooled down by the time she gets downstairs, but,” he looked around for effect and continued in a stage whisper, “I’m adding just a little bit of cold water so she doesn’t burn her tongue.”

“That’s true love,” I remember thinking.

Of course, I was very young, so I’m not sure if I truly came to this insight at the time, but if my memory can be trusted, that’s exactly what crossed my mind in that moment. I was touched then, and even now, as I recall this moment which has crossed my mind countless times over the years, I am moved almost to tears.

It was such a minuscule moment, it could easily have passed without my noticing. I might have brushed it off as many grownups are apt to do as we go through life, not noticing the monumentality of ordinary moments. Thankfully I was very young and very impressionable when I had the privilege of this experience. I took note and hope to hold it with me for always.

Not only was the moment fleeting, but what made it so missable was the (seeming) smallness of the gesture itself. It wasn’t, in the words of Anne and Gilbert Blythe, “diamond sunbursts and marble halls” (Anne of the Island, Chapter 41). He wasn’t buying her roses and reciting love ballads to her. He wasn’t trying to do anything grand or make her think he was so wonderful — from what I understand, she never knew of this and he didn’t need her to. He was merely acting selflessly out of concern for his darling’s comfort.

What’s more, it wasn’t as though they were still newly weds by this point, fawning over each other, “sucking up each other’s awesome,” as Janice Ian of Mean Girls might say. They’d been married for several decades, certainly enough time to slip into comfort and the laziness (or what have you) that often follows. And yet, while it wasn’t necessarily necessary, my grandfather took that extra moment to secretly cool down my grandmother’s hot water — just a drop — so she wouldn’t burn her tongue.

More than ten years later, this memory continues to inspire me and invoke what my current creative writing teacher might refer to as ‘gooeyness’. It reminds me to do those really teensy things because they’re more significant than I can even know and to stop and take a moment to notice such little, beautiful moments that happen all day long, starting at the breakfast table.

More Posts to Come (Probably…)

I wonder what Elizabeth Anne’s been up to lately. We (my online persona — who is basically just me under a different name — and I) seem to have lost touch lately. I’m not sure what she’s been up to, but I’ve been pretty busy with my new school, new home, new friends and such.

I’ve been trying to write more, after an extended period of what one of my teachers calls “creative blockage”. So far I’m mostly working on poetry for my Creative Writing class and in my Screenwriting/Playwriting class I’m writing a screenplay about a psychopathic Math teacher I once had.

In Music class I discovered that I like playing piano. In Art class I found out that I’m capable of drawing. I’m singing in the school choir (probably just because the woman who leads choir is one of my favourite teachers here and she said I have a pretty singing voice). I’ve already gotten a reputation for playing five-year-olds in my Theatre class (not that playing a five-year-old requires much acting for me, despite my eighteen-and-a-half-and-and-a-quarter years). I’m learning what the duck a Plie is in Dance class. Then there’s Filmmaking and photography… I’m not really sure what I’m learning in those classes…

This is what I’m learning how to do in Art class. It’s my hand.

Our school is in a cute little building (that was seemingly once a house), tucked away in a cute little neighbourhood somewhere in The States. And it’s a very small school, so we can basically do whatever we want and it’s a very relaxed atmosphere. Some of my peers react to this by spending class socializing in the lunchroom. I choose to take off my shoes the moment I walk into the building and walk around in socks all day. I also bring a blankie to class and spend a lot of time cuddled on or beside the radiator during class (because adorable old buildings tend to come without central heating). That’s all the freedom I need. Well, that and coming to school twenty minutes late every day — at least I’m consistent…

I’ve also been learning how to wash dishes and do my own laundry and trade with a friend when I get stuck on garbage duty — I don’t mind washing dishes (especially with the help of rubber gloves), but for some reason dealing with garbage is where I draw the line.

Now that I’ve been in this crazy new place for a bit, I think I’m actually adjusting (as opposed to when I thought I was adjusted after being here for literally three days and then freaked out when I realized that I wasn’t adjusted a few days later) hopefully I’ll have some more time, energy, and ideas for posting more than once a month. I bet the internet’s been pretty quiet without my voice chiming in lately — just like they say my house has been since I moved away just over a month ago. Regardless, of the noise level on the internet, I do hope actually resume posting again — no more excuses!

The Best Medicine (But Not for a Cough)

Everyone knows that moderation and balance are super important — right? A little coffee will wake you up, too much will mess up your sleep schedule. Socializing is great, but it’s also good to fit in some alone time. Sometimes you need to take a break from writing or *cough* blogging, sometimes that break goes on for far too long.

But what about laughter? Isn’t it the best medicine? How can you have too much laughter? Well, today I nearly died laughing. Twice. Okay, well, not quite literally, but still.

I’m off at my gap year program, away from home for the first time, having the time of my life and all that. Earlier, I was sitting in a class, minding my own business, drinking some tea to (hopefully) soothe my cough/sore throat.

One of my friends raised her hand and made a funny contribution to the (relaxed) class, most people giggled, I took a sip of tea. Then I started laughing. The tea made its way down the wrong tube and a whole choking, coughing, laughing situation ensued.

Being a small class, the discussion was put on pause so that everyone could gape at me and make sure I was okay. This just made matters worse, and elevated my hysteria — it’s awkward enough to have a coughing fit and freak out that you can’t breathe without everyone in the room watching you do so. And I’m a nervous giggler (by which I mean I giggle in  awkward situations, not giggling makes me nervous), so by this point I was laughing too hard to even try to start breathing again or even catch my breath.

So that was a nice way to break the ice with a roomful of people I met five days ago.

credit: mediawebapps.com

Later, there was a bug in my room. It made my roommate very nervous, but, while I didn’t mind its presence, I wasn’t about to get my hands dirty catching it.

So our friend in the next room came in to deal with it. While my roommate was hiding in the hall, our friend from the next room was trying to coax the bug down from the ceiling, asking it to demonstrate how well it can fly and begging it not to smell up the room (it was a stink bug). Meanwhile, I was watching from my bed, barely controlling yet another outbreak of laughter. I was paying more attention to the laptop I was holding and the bug-catching expedition than to how close I was to the edge of my bed.

I bet you can imagine what happened next — good thing my bed isn’t too high off the ground!

My Empty Closet and Full Floor

I’m going away for school in about a month and had to buy a whole bunch of new clothes for the endeavour, so I thought it would be an opportune time to finally clean out my closet. I haven’t done so in at least a year, maybe even two. I tend to tackle such tasks by taking everything out, and separating it into piles: “keeping”, “tossing” and “maybe”.

I filled two garbage bags with stuff to toss, a bunch of clothes have gone back into my closet and everything else is in the “maybe” pile — mostly stuff I have to spend some time trying on and making tough decisions about. That was where it stood on Monday. It’s now the end of the week and not much has changed. I still have a garbage bag of stuff to “toss” on the floor by my bed and next to that I have two “maybe” piles. My desk chair is usually occupied by my pile of new clothes, but that pile has temporarily been relocated to my bed so that I can sit at my desk to type this. Shockingly, I look around and — aside from all the mountains of new and old clothes — I consider this to be a somewhat “clean” day in the land of My Room.

True story, except replace “toys” with clothes, books, notebooks and other miscellaneous crap that has no place on the floor.
Credit: cootcartooning.com

Earlier, my younger sister came in for something. “Your closet’s so empty,” she said — in shock,  and perhaps somewhat in envy.

“Yeah,” I said, “but my floor is so full.”

The reorganization (upheaval) in my closet is kind of like the reorganization (upheaval) going on in the rest of my life. I’m leaving home for school soon, and (don’t tell anybody) I’m kind of freaking out. I subconsciously tried to reroute my anxiety, focussing it on concrete things within my control, instead of all the uncertainties and unknowns I’m being faced with and am trying to avoid looking in the eye. I guess I thought this might help. It just led to a minor nervous breakdown over bed linens — one of the few things about the room I’ll be in next month that’s within my control. It accomplished about as much as rerouting my clothes from my overflowing closet to my (now) overflowing floor.

My excess clothes — the ones from the ever-expanding “back of my closet” — are like my worries. They both take up valuable (physical/emotional) space, drive me insane and are completely unnecessary. But, unless I actually do something about them, they (my worries and my clothes) will just continue to lie around, doing no one any good.

But then, even if I do move them around, there are productive ways to do so, and unproductive ways. And whatever I do, the clothes and the nervous energy won’t just disappear. They’ll still be somewhere, all that I can control is where. I think I’ve figured out where not to put them. My clothes are no better off taking up precious floor space. My anxiety didn’t help much while I was trying to choose bedding.

But, like a certain Anne Shirley, “I never make the same mistake twice” (well, actually I do, but that’s entirely besides the point). I think I’ve figured out where not to redirect my clothes and general anxieties, and realized that they should probably be redirected elsewhere, in healthier, more beneficial channels.

I could get my act together, figure out what to keep and what to toss and then put away the keepers, while sending the “toss” bags to a charity-clothing-collection type place. That’s generally where all my old clothes end up eventually, but the sooner I get it done, the sooner my clothing donation can help others in need. And then my new clothes can replace the old ones in my closet.

As for the stress, such things are pretty hardwired into me, but rather than wallowing and redirecting stupidly, I could probably deal with it in a healthier manner. Like by writing more often, because, ironically, it’s the thing that keeps me sane, but also the thing I tend to shy away from when I start leaning towards insanity — and I’m pretty sure I’m not the first one to feel/express that sentiment.

And, if I can shuffle around the anxiety a little and maybe get rid of just a little, there may be some brain space left over. I wonder if that ’empty’ space might be the right place to entertain some excitement about the incredible opportunity I’m about to seize?

Who knows how it’ll all turn out, but, in this moment, I’ve put my worries aside and I can’t wait to see. Until then, I’ll just be here, cleaning out my closet.

Babysitting on a Sleepy Sunday Morning

Yesterday morning I did the insane. I woke up at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. To babysit five children between the ages of one and ten years old. Of course, I only did this because they’re great kids who rarely give me much trouble and I’m happy to do a favour for their wonderful parents. And, despite my melodramatic, hook-to-draw-the-reader-in opening line(s), it actually went pretty well. I happened to be half-asleep, but it was okay, because it was 8:30 on a Sunday morning, so the kids were too.

When I got there, the TV was on and everyone was still hanging out in their pyjamas and it was well implied that I didn’t have to do anything crazy like make them get dressed or turn off the TV during the two hours that I would be there. So we mostly just sat around in the den, watching retro Goofy DVDs, reading adorable picture books and taking turns playing Angry Birds on my iPhone — I was obviously excluded from the latter activity. Perhaps I sound like an awful babysitter for just letting these kids sit around for two hours doing what you may consider to be nothing, but I was very pleased by how the morning turned out.

Goofy and his son Junior, circa the 1950s
Credit: http://manicexpression.webs.com/

I normally make kids actually get up and do stuff when I babysit — we go to the park, we do arts and crafts, we make a pillow/blanket fort — something other than just sitting around. But I was so tired and it was just so peaceful (a word I don’t often have the privilege of using in reference to babysitting); there was no way I was going to ruin that. There were five small children — siblings, at that — all in one room; they got along with each other beautifully and we all managed to quietly occupy ourselves for upwards of two hours. No screaming, no fighting, no crying. I count it as a success.

It was actually an ideal babysitting gig. The kids behaved themselves and acted like calm, socialized human beings (which can’t always be taken for granted with a less-than-one-year-old, three-year-old, five-year-old, eight-year-old and ten-year-old present). We (I) read adorable picture books in very dramatic, performance-y voices. And the less-than-one-year-old, a tiny, angelic little girl — who I believe is around ten months old — fell asleep in my arms.

This wasn’t a new experience for me on any level, I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past ten years holding cherubic little babies and rocking them to sleep, but for some reason — perhaps due to my own sleep deprivation — it was absolutely magical. I held an entire human being in my arms, a whole entire person who would grow up and be a teenager one day — just like me.

Heck, we’ll both grow up to be old ladies someday and the 17 year age difference will by then be hardly anything. She’ll grow up to have her own perspective and point of view, to have opinions and ideas and a whole slew of idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses. Though she can’t talk yet, and seems like more of a doll than a real, live person, she has all that potential wrapped up in her tiny package of little fingers and teensy feet and almost-gone soft-spot. And, potential aside, even as I held her, she was already an actual person, already unique, already developing her person skills (like eating and sleeping and breathing — my own favourite skills). And I held all this in my arms.

I think what amazed me most was that I wasn’t even thinking about it that much. I wasn’t sitting in a quiet room, focussing on keeping her asleep. I wasn’t contemplating the tiny-ness of her finger nails, or the rhythms of her breathing. I couldn’t be — I had four other children to tend to. And yet, while I slowly, carefully walked through the house, getting and doing things for her older siblings, and then sat on the couch reading them a picture book, which I held over her little body on my lap, this tiny person was content to just lie sleeping in my arms, unconsciously trusting me to keep her safe.

For the past few months she’s refused to even go to me for a moment, screaming as soon as her mother or father placed her in my arms, and yesterday, while both of her parents were out, she just went to me. And she didn’t just let me hold her tentatively, she trusted me so implicitly that she complacently gave herself up and drifted off to sleep, so smoothly without any ceremony and with little more coaxing than my carrying her around the house with me.

It was a quiet babysitting job, thoroughly uneventful. No retrospectively funny, nearly disastrous stories, no melodramatic diaper-changing incidents, no major antics to laugh over with my friends. We just hung out, these five children and I. We snuggled on the couch, watched some TV, read some books, played some Angry Birds, did some sleeping. But sometimes it’s the very little nothings that are really something. The things that happen regularly that are so singular. It was just a cozy, sleepy Sunday morning.

Sitting Around on the Couch 101

Credit: agweb.com

You know how they say the grass is always greener on the other side? They’re wrong. It isn’t always greener — just most of the time. Like, sometimes your neighbours go away for two weeks, so they aren’t watering their grass and there happens to be a heat wave. Then, chances are, their grass is looking pretty brown and however ungreen your grass is, it’s probably still greener than theirs.

I think the reason this idea has become so overused and clichéd is because we’re always comparing ourselves to others, whether the green grass is on their side of the lawn or ours. Good and Bad, Wealth and Poverty, and Green and Ungreen are all pretty relative terms and ideas, so we tend to look at others when we measure ourselves.

For what seems like every other person in the entire world, it’s the first week of school. Yesterday was the first day for both of my younger siblings, who go to the high school where I spent the past four years. And a bunch of my friends are starting at university today. I’m doing a gap year programme this year, and the place I’m going doesn’t start until mid-October. So yesterday, while everyone else spent the day either at school or making last-minute preparations for it, I sat around in my pyjamas until four, watching old episodes of Community on Netflix.

It’s funny how I’ve had the exact same level of freedom for the past three months, but now that everyone else is back to school, I feel a shift. Technically, for me, yesterday was exactly the same as the day before and I was no more free to sit around on the couch yesterday than I was the previous day, and yet it feels different. My freedom feels more free when compared to my friends’ and siblings’ imprisonment in classrooms.

Because everyone else’s grass is on the brown side, my grass is looking pretty green. But, because I’m human, and especially because I’m me, their brown grass looks kind of nice right about now — mostly because it’s on the other side of the fence.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a completely normal person (well, sometimes I am) and I hate school just as much as the next teenager. Especially high school and especially the “elite” (i.e. “phony”) private school I went to — it kind of reminds me of Pencey Prep in The Catcher in the Rye. I probably hate my (former) high school much more than other kids who go/went there. But, while I do hate school in principle — the waking up early, studying for tests, interacting with morons — I tend to enjoy learning and I tend to be an “overachiever” type. Not a good overachiever, who never procrastinates and is super organized and actually wins awards for participating in/leading school activities and getting good grades. But an overachiever to the extent that I don’t count my three consecutive 90% Honour Roll certificates as actual awards (and yes, that was an explainabrag right there).

I love Community.
Credit: http://www.capturedcaptions.com/

And this over-achieving isn’t really because I define my life based on school and think that my grades are a judgment on who I am as a person (well, not anymore…), it’s because I tend to be a weirdo who genuinely enjoys learning. I do well in school because, in subjects that I care about, I want to do my best and I want to actually learn something. I’ve never liked back-to-school time in principle because it signifies the end of summer and therefore the end of freedom and sleeping in late. But, once I can get past the fact that summer’s ending, I kind of like going back to school. September’s exciting. You see certain friends you haven’t seen all summer, you have a new schedule with new courses and new teachers, and hopefully some of the old teachers who you loved so much last year. I kind of miss that. The beauty of going back to school is that there’s often a very comfortable mix between new and old.

I’m so over high school and would not want to be going back to that retched place, but it’s kind of weird not to be going somewhere. And then, the overachiever in me feels like such a slacker for not going back to school while everyone else is. Sure, I’m heading off to my gap year programme in a month, where I’ll learn for the sake of learning and really grow, and then I’ll be off to University the year after, but still. 

My brother came home from school yesterday with some friends and needed me to drive them somewhere immediately. It was three in the afternoon and I was still in my pyjamas. And then one of his friends whom I had never met asked me if I’m in university, to which I responded “no, not yet, just sitting around watching TV all day, ’cause I don’t start school until October.” While to most kids this may sound like a dream come true, to my ears I sounded like an incompetent loser, who is doing nothing with her life. Pardon my melodrama.

I know, I know. I probably sound ridiculous complaining about how much time off from school I have and how much leisure I have to just sit around watching TV. It’s great, it really is. I think (thought?) this extra time off would be incredibly beneficial because I really don’t feel ready to move away from home yet and start with the next stage of school/life.

I think (thought?) this nice, long summer break would be a nice, comfy transition between the end of high school and moving away to start the rest of my life. It’s just weird not to be going back to school in September like I always do and like everyone else is. And I think I might be getting what Holden Caulfield might call a “goddam inferiority complex”. Of course, it could just be that your neighbour’s grass really does always look greener, even though from their point of view it’s looking kind of brown. And maybe instead of complaining about how ungreen my lawn is, I could stop comparing it to my metaphorical neighbours’ and see what happens if I actually try watering it.

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