Learning To Make New Choices

I love the sound of a cold can of pop being opened. Or beer. Or pretty much anything cold. Popping that tab just sounds refreshing in my brain.

And coconut rice from the place down the street, which I am eating right now.

Not sure what to talk about today. Haha

I’ve been thinking more about how I can’t do everything. Like, obviously, because few people can, if any. I mean, we spend so much time doing things that we don’t necessarily want to do, that we don’t have enough time to do more of the things we want. Factor in finances and it seems pretty much impossible sometimes.

I think part of my problem is always trying to do too much. I spread myself too thin and then can’t fully enjoy some stuff. I try to do little bits of lots of things. I still make choices – let go of some things in favour of keeping others. More and more sacrifices have been made in the past couple of years, but they don’t really seem like sacrifices, which is good. It’s usually been a choice between something I’ve always done, like TIFF, for something I want to do more, like break a Guinness World Record or spend more time with friends or go to the zoo or a baseball game more often.

I think another part of the problem is in my ability to plan realistically. Like, I used to have everything mapped out for the year. I knew when the time would come to buy TIFF packages or Fan Expo passes, and I knew how those things fit into my budget on an annual basis. But lately there are so many different things coming up; things I didn’t do before. Things I didn’t know to plan for before. My priorities have shifted, and I find myself making different choices than I used to. Which is great, definitely. It’s just that I have a harder time planning far in advance now, I think. I’m okay saving for short term goals, but the longer term is more difficult, because so much changes in the meantime. I knew last year sometime that I wouldn’t be able to go to the BLT’s 15th birthday party this summer, for example. At some point, I realized that any money I had been saving had gone to other things. I wasn’t always thinking, β€œIt’s this or the BLT but not both”, but I’m not sure it would have made a difference. It might have, but definitely not in every case.

I can’t even remember which specific moment caused me to actually choose between getting there this year or postponing it another year. It might have been renewing my zoo membership, or something Fan Expo-related. I think it was in the fall when I realized there wasn’t enough time left to start saving for a trip that would last longer than a day or two. There was whatever I was paying for at the time, and then the holidays stretching out before me, and birthdays and anniversaries and…it just got to be too late. I have very little to work with that it’s one of those things I have to commit to saving for WELL in advance; as far in advance as possible, really.

But I also think I need to change what I’m deciding between. Like, some of my monthly expenses can be altered or disposed of, and that would make a little difference each month, but a large difference overall. I think changes need to be made more in lifestyle than in individual expenditures. I need to actually figure out what’s most important to me, and focus more on those things.

Last year was the first time I didn’t go to any TIFF screenings because I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t take the time off work like I usually do, and there was just so much going on that I couldn’t even think of adding more to my plate. And yet, was it the end of the world? Not even remotely. I hadn’t even really looked into what was screening (except Midnight Madness because I wanted to go to one with my friend, Jen, but couldn’t even make that much happen), so I didn’t feel like I was missing much. I was focused more on other things; things which took priority over film screenings. Hard to imagine, even now, in a way, and yet there you go. There was too much on my To Do list so I whittled it down to something more manageable, and I didn’t feel like I’d really lost out, or gone against my instinct. I’d just changed some, and had other things calling to me more.

Things like that are all short term, too. By not spending money on a TIFF pass, I had more left over to do other smaller things, instead of that one big thing. And it was okay. I enjoyed myself.

It does, however, bother me that I won’t be at the boys’ birthday party next month. Something has to change just so that I don’t feel this way again next time.

Now I just have to figure out how to transfer that over so that it’s the other way around. Give up some little things and save up for the larger thing. It’s harder now because the little things are all kind of new, and I haven’t had a chance to really prioritize them into what I can and can’t do without. That in itself is a good exercise, whether there’s an end goal in mind, or not. I’ve been cruising along on my path of always-the-sameness for a long time; afraid to deviate lest I make a mistake and have to file for bankruptcy again, or something. However, I think I can make some changes and move things around without having things suddenly go that far, and some of the always-the-same things aren’t things I can’t do without, anymore. They served their purpose, and got me through when I needed them, but I’m not the same person, and I should spend less time trying to still be that, and more time trying to sort out what kind of person I am now.

I can be worth knowing. πŸ™‚

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Writing Choices

I realized something this morning, or at least noticed it happening again.

I was going over in my head some of the things I’m planning to do with the story contained in my first novel, and what I’m toying with having some of the characters do. One in particular is bothering me more than I’d realized at first, because it’s the one loosely based on moi.

Now, don’t get me wrong – our lives are not at all the same. I have a brother not sisters, I am the oldest not the youngest, and I am nearly a decade older than the character is in the book. I’m not with a Sarah, both my parents are still alive, I didn’t grow up in that house, or have Trick for a dog. I don’t think I’ve ever even carved a pumpkin for Halloween. Not on my own, at least.

So really, I guess that character is just more like how I think I’d react in the situation I wrote her into. Though I guess that could be said for everyone I write, in a way, because there’s part of me in all of my creations, to a certain extent. But that one in particular was written to give myself an alternate story to exist in, just as Sarah was written to give the person she was inspired by a different imaginary path to tread upon. Neither of them are more or less real to me than the others in their story, though. I just have I guess more of an emotional attachment to one in particular. I don’t want her to do anything I don’t think I would do.

But since the screenwriting conference, I’ve been considering doing just that. I’ve been struggling with a reason for it – a believeable reason, something that felt true – and haven’t come up with one as of yet. I did come up with a plausible yet similar act for which there would be justification (at least in her mind and kind of mine), so I might very well go with that. I’m not certain it’ll make the story stronger, but I’m not sure that it won’t, either, so I am betting on at least keeping the sense of truth to it all, instead. Because truth can do wonders for the power in a story, and for real life.

The crazy thing I realized or noticed again this morning was how much it was actually bothering me to try and come up for a reason for my character to do something against my own inner traits. I felt a little nauseous, and distracted, headachey and sadder than usual. When I say it was depressing to think about – to imagine possible scenes that would lead the character down the path to making that choice – I don’t mean it in a flippant or surface way. I mean that it affected me on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I felt horrible just thinking about it in detail and trying to make it work.

My imagination can be pretty strong sometimes.

I felt worse about that than I have about many actual things that have happened.

So I’ve decided that – whether it works in theory or not – it won’t work for me. As in, I won’t be able to make it work, not for that character. I could easily have a different character in the story perform the act as it started out in my head, but that would have been more believable and far less powerful than having this particular character do this particular thing, but have the scenario leading up to it be a little different from what I had originally considered. Which means I get to add power to my story, while not making myself sick, or at least not in that way.

It’s amazing how much better I felt as soon as I realized the effect even thinking about it was having on me and made the decision to literally change my story. Even just a tiny alteration made all the difference.

Generations

I’m a child of the 80’s. Even though I was born in the early 70’s, I feel like it was the 80’s that really defined me. Or began my definition, at least. The music, the TV shows, the movies…not the fashion so much, maybe, but was anyone really defined by 80’s fashion? Well, maybe acid wash.

At any rate, the 80’s were what I’d consider my real formative years. Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, The Boss, WHAM, Bon Jovi and Bryan Adams (on vinyl, of course); Silver Spoons, Facts of Life, Family Ties and V watched as it aired, until we got a VCR; Goonies, Back To The Future, ET: The Extra Terrestrial, the Karate Kid, and of course the remaining two films in the original Star Wars trilogy on the big screen. So much neon. High top running shoes. White freaking pants. Over-sized sweaters and t-shirts. Riding our bikes around town. Heading home when the streetlights came on. Walking to the convenience store/gas station at the top of town for snacks on a Friday night. Having to take a bus to high school because it was in a different, slightly larger town.

And then, once we were in high school, the world seemed bigger and the possibilities kinda endless. I did a lot of things academically in high school, but I wish I’d done more. It was really the only time you could really experiment with things and not have to commit to a whole stream of study. You could try a sport or a club or a class or other extracurricular activity and not have to make it your life. I think I mostly did stuff I already liked – music, for the most part – and didn’t really try much for the hell of it. I took a visual arts class just because I could. And joined a couple of sports teams early on, but that was pretty short-lived. Still, there was lots to do and learn, if one wanted to, and I’d say I was involved at an average level. It was high school. I wasn’t super popular, but I had a few friends and we had fun together and that’s what matters.

When I came time to start choosing what to do after graduation, I don’t remember really thinking about it very much. I assumed I was going to university, and I had no idea what for, but I was sure it’d be great. I can’t remember what I thought I was going to do…I’m pretty sure β€œEnglish Major” wasn’t my end game, and I started university as a Psych major, but for the first year, that rarely means anything. I took Psych 100 and 4 other 100-level classes that were the norm. English, Philosophy, Sociology…yeah, I can’t even remember that much. Maybe I took 2 English-like courses? I don’t know. I didn’t have to declare a major in any of the things I was taking, because they weren’t that locked down. Not like being a doctor, or something, where you have to take specific courses most of your post-secondary career.

In my final year of high school, I remember my mom talking about how there were basically only, like, 2 different streams to choose from, and whichever you chose made up the rest of your educational track. But for me, at the time, the world was my oyster. I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted. All I had to do was choose and work for it and it would be mine.

The only real problem is I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do. I had no idea. Definitely never aspired to retail, but that still leaves a lot of options. Maybe I couldn’t choose just one, out of all the things I thought I might like to do with my life.

I still have no idea, actually.

Looking back, I almost wish I hadn’t had as much choice. I mean, it’s hard to know what you’d like to do if it’s something you haven’t actually done yet. Haven’t tried, I mean. Maybe I should have done some co-op placements or internships somewhere, but in little towns, that doesn’t really come up as an option. I know I thought about going into Public Relations, which NOW would be pretty awesome, if I’d done that. I think. I’ve never done anything in that field, though, so I don’t really know. I don’t think I would have liked being a journalist, because I don’t like talking to people. I’d probably love working with animals, but maybe I just love being around them. It’s hard to know for sure, because I’ve never worked with them.

I thought it would be terrible to go through school for something, only to find that you don’t really like it, and have to start all over again.

Yet here I am, with two bachelor degrees (one in English, one in Education), and I’ve spent the majority of my adult life working in retail, because – of course. What the hell does one do with an English degree? Teach. And yet I have never found employment as a teacher, either, so…retail it is.

Those who can’t do, teach. But what those who can’t teach do? Work in retail, apparently.

I wonder how different things would be if I’d had less choice? Would I be better off? Or worse? Or just different?

I can totally just change my career at any point – or, like, GET a career. But again, what do I want to do?

I have no idea.

Does an abundance of choice end up stalling a person, I wonder? Maybe I’m still just going over my choices to see what I want to be when I grow up.

Adulting is hard.

(How’s THAT for good English talking?)

I wonder sometimes what it’s like for kids now. So much has changed since I was young. β€œBack in MY day…”

I had my first email address when I was in 4th year University (so 22 or 23 years old), and my first cell phone when I was 30 years old. Growing up we got 2 channels, sometimes 3 if the weather was nice.

Now I have to choose which shows to watch On Demand, because my PVR will only record two at a time. And that’s not even advanced technology, because I am broke.

I know other 80’s kids relate to the basics of growing up in that era. We all watched pretty much the same shows, listened to the same music, saw the same movies. We can smile and reminisce together even if we haven’t seen one another over the past 20 years or more.

Do the generations since then have the same kind of connection? Or does more choice create a gap in the generational experience? With hundreds of channels and even more content available online, are the teens of 2016 watching the same television shows and movies? Are they enjoying the same music and playing the same songs over and over and rocking the same silly dance moves? Will they connect with others of their generation two decades from now, based on shared memories of a time they all lived through, without having met one another until much later in life?

Will those defined by these years of multiple choices find common ground with one another the way children of the 80’s do? Or children of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s…every decade has had its common experience, at least until more recently.

I wonder if they still do? Or are we just all floating in a sea of our own choosing, connecting on many different shared experiences, instead of a few?

Maybe I should have put this much thought into what I wanted to do when I grew up, huh?

On This Day

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With Contessa at Jungle Cat World 2015

Today happens to be the 7th anniversary of what was arguably the worst day of my life.

Melodramatic, I know.

And for sure worse things have happened. But it’s not so much how the day itself went, as the effect it had on me then, and continues to have on me now.

I was pretty sure my life was over, and in some ways, I was kind of right. Obviously it wasn’t physically over, because I’m still here writing about stuff. But something broke inside me, and I’m not sure it’ll ever be repaired. I’m not sure it can be. I’m forever changed, and for the most part, that’s okay.

For the most part.

But that day, I stopped participating in my life. I stopped showing up. I stopped being present.

I stopped dreaming.

And none of that is okay.

I can, of course, look back and point out a thousand things I’ve done since that day that would seem to prove the opposite of that claim. I’ve written 4 very different novels and self-published two of them. I’ve opened an Etsy store of geeky crafts I make by hand all by myself. I wrote my first screenplay. I am a Guinness World Record Holder. I pet a freaking TIGER! I participate in a successful blog and podcast called the Mind Reels, and that has opened countless doors to opportunities that were unimaginable to me before we started. I’ve forged friendships with people I’d previously only watched on television. I’ve dealt with my MS fairly well thus far, as well as my depression, therapy, the loss of my Kate Kitten, and the addition of my current furbabies into my adopted family. I’ve got a great apartment that is tricked out to display my geekdom to…well, me, mostly. I don’t really have guests very often.

Anyway – clearly I’ve lived. I’ve been living. I’m alive. I’m gaining wrinkles and lines and scars like a freaking BOSS.

But none of that has really set in. I don’t have any confidence in myself as a person. I actually lost a lot of my swagger in 2003, which is a large part of the reason why I can have a teaching degree without ever having set foot in a classroom as a paid teacher. I just stopped believing I could do it. And then in 2007, I stopped believing I could do anything. I stopped believing I was a good choice to be here, in this world. I stopped believing I had anything of value to contribute.

So since that day in 2007, I’ve basically been killing time. And it’s pretty miserable. Even when I do awesome things, the feeling I get from having done it is so fleeting. So temporary. More like a dream of something that happened, instead of something I actually did or participated in. Because the walls are up now and they are very high – I can’t see over them. I just imagine what’s on the other side and once in awhile I imagine myself over there, too, but it doesn’t feel real. It’s just a daydream to pass the time, from one day to the next. For seven years.

Now, in my very logical brain, I know that this is my thing to remedy. I know it was a ridiculous response in the first place, and to drag it out this long is even more so. It’s become a habit. I can’t even remember how to be different anymore.

So what I need to do is find a new way to be different.

Which sounds simple, but even as I type it, competing thoughts exist in my head at the same time.

For example, I have what I think is an amazing idea for a themed bar/pub I’d love to open. I know it’s amazing because it’s somewhere I’d freaking LOVE to frequent. I have it all set up in my head, and some even on paper. I’ve researched a series of possible steps to take to make it happen. And then I remember – I’ve never worked in a bar, let alone run one. I’ve never run ANY sort of business before. I’ve never even been a manager, unless you count those months at the Great Canadian Bagel when I got promoted to manager of our kiosk because all the other staff returned to school in the fall. But I don’t really think that counts.

I have a pretty good idea about what customers want, as I’ve been in customer service since forever, and that alone makes me a great customer for others. But would it make me a great business owner? Not bloody likely.

But man, the place would be incredible. Maybe. It COULD be incredible, at least.

And that’s part of the problem, too, really. I see so much possibility in my head, but as soon as I try to get things rolling, they…stop rolling. Even my Guinness World Record attempt – while fun – was a far cry from what I’d envisioned. I don’t think I’m much of a leader. And I have no idea if that’s a chicken or egg thing, even. Do I feel like a bad leader and therefore no one is inspired to follow me? Or is no one inspired to follow me because I am not leadership material?

Is it all just a self-fulfilling prophecy?

If things had been different on this day in 2009, safe to say I wouldn’t have done many – if any at all – of the things I’ve ended up doing since. But maybe they would have been better. Maybe I’d be a better writer, or a stronger leader, or a full-time teacher.

But maybe they wouldn’t have happened at all. Impossible to say what’s for the best. All any of us have is what actually happened, and how we choose to deal with it.

And thus far, I have chosen poorly. Like that guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade who picked the wrong goblet.

I want to do better, but my mind is at war with itself, and it’s hard to know in which direction I should take my next step. Still, there is one key difference between now and that day 7 years ago.

Unlike this day in 2009, I’m now willing to take a next step.

And that could very well make all the difference in the world.

Besides – I really, really want to hang out in my imaginary pub. I’d participate the shit outta that if it were real.