Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Balding

I'm going bald. This isn't really a big surprise to me, I've been making fun of my dad's lack of hair for years, but it's something that I've finally noticed happening to me. It's a surefire physical sign sign that I'm getting older.

In a way it looks oddly distinguished right now. I shaved my head before I left for the field and let my beard grow while I've been out here, so my beard and hair are about the same length. The slow recession of my hairline has been balanced by the increasing bushiness of my beard in a way that squares up my head. There's about as detailed as I get with physical descriptions.

I could use this to riff off into some thing about aging and the inevitability of death, but the truth is I don't care about aging and I don't see death as "inevitable", so for now I'll just enjoy the first signs of aging on my body while they still look distinguished.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Right

I'm a jerk.

Let me qualify this statement. When it comes to matters of being right, I am a jerk. This has become abundantly clear to me out here in California as I sit around and have many discussions with my coworkers. A point of fact will come up and my we'll disagree on something simple (for example, the number of movies about Sherlock Holmes made by Guy Ritchie). Being quite sure of myself, I stake my claim in rightness and establish a firm foothold. Someone else firmly establishes their disagreement. It usually ends in a google search.

Due to my personality, I really stick on some things and so these interactions often get quite personal for me. It's really useless though. Ultimately no one feels good in the end, and we haven't changed anything by having a discussion about Sherlock Holmes.

I'm trying to stop being so concerned about this kind of stuff. At the same time I'm discovering that people in the top slice of school bring out these exchanges significantly more often than those in the middle or at the bottom. Is it possible that high achievement brings the expectation that you're always right? Maybe, but if it does then I should also get off my high horse and get humble when it comes to arguments because I used to be in that top slice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Meaghan

I'm sitting at the foot of Candy Mountain which reminds me of one of many standing jokes I had with Meaghan during our friendship, so it's appropriate that I write this post here and now.

When I was in high school, I hit a social dead spot. After Grade 10, I had few friends in Kingston and I had been kicked out of my Counter-Strike clan so I had very little personal interaction at home outside my family. All of this changed when I met Meaghan in the summer after Grade 10. On any given night, I'd talk to Meaghan over MSN at least once. Conversations would jump around randomly and often centered around internet videos, but we developed a close friendship. We also did a lot of stuff together in real life when we were able to meet up. I think if it wasn't for Meaghan's friendship, I might have found my later years of high school much more difficult.

Meaghan, thanks for making high school easier.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sabbath

I've been here for 10 weeks now. It's been 67 days out here, and in that time, we've had 3 scheduled days off, 3 3/4 days, and 8 travel days. Right now I'm sitting at the picnic table, feeling completely exhausted. My boss is feeding me lines from her supervisor about still working for the rest of our time here minus one say (16 days). I don't really know how to respond at this point.

I can understand working two weeks without a day off. It's hard but you get through it. But this schedule is insane. There's no tie to the rhythm of the week, there's no connection to a location, there's little option for outside communication, and little rest. This feels inhumane.

When God created the world, he took six days to do it. Then on the seventh day, he took a break. When he issues the law to Moses and Isreal at Mt. Sinai, he told them to work for six days and then take a break. I think there is a great wisdom in this. We are cursed to work the ground, but we can't do it 7 days a week.

I remember a guy at camp who told me about an experience he had after working without sabbath over the course of a full summer. He said it felt like he left his body for a moment at the end. There is something deeply dehumanizing about endless work. Sabbath rest helps us to regain that humanity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Left Behind

So I made it to NorCal (Northern California for those of you who were once as uninformed as I). There's not much in the way of cell reception out here, so my wonderful feeling of being connected to home has sort of evaporated. Oddly enough, I get reception on Goldbluff Beach (which is out on the coast 4 miles from the highway) but nothing in the campground.

It's getting towards the end of my trip so my correspondence with people has tapered off as I've made it through my backlog of people to email, and I've been getting a reduced volume of regular correspondence from others.

It's been making me think about how in my position, communication with home has been vital to my continued survival. Twitter and emails provide an outlet to connect with others and that has kept me sane and happy and it has made the experience much more enjoyable.

On the other end, I think the people I'm emailing don't have the same level of need for my emails to them. It's healthy for our friendships, but I don't know that not hearing from me would have the same effect on them that not hearing from them has on me. It's sort of like I need them, and they don't rely on me as heavily.

These sorts of unbalanced arrangements occur often in life. Someone who is receiving welfare or a gift of some sort from someone exists in a very different kind of relationship than someone who has an equal work partnership. One of the things I want to take away from this trip is the identification of those relationships. I don't want to forget how much some people might rely on me. I want to hold those unbalanced relationships with great care.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Snub

High school regularly serves up some rough justice. If the academics aren't tossing you around, there's always the social aspect that many people seem to fail at.

You're probably wondering why this is coming out now. Most people leave high school, wash their hands and forget about the whole experience. Well, most people left high school before Facebook. Facebook allows the people you knew in high school to taunt you with their photos and status updates.

Ok maybe I'm descending into a rant here. I've been flipping through photos of my friends from high school on Facebook and I keep finding pictures of the same group of people still doing stuff together 4 years later. I open a photo album and find a wedding or a table full of people I used to see every day and now only see online.

Something I've been learning on this trip is that I tend to drop out of people's lives, often on purpose. High school was one of those times when I did that, and I think it shows. I haven't talked to anyone outside of a small group in years, so I don't really get invited to stuff with those people anymore.

I think it might be too late to make up for the lost time in my high school, but at least I can fix the problem in the future. I'll certainly be keeping up with all the emailing of people.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Driving

We drive around a lot these days. Most of the posts are written while driving up and down the coast of California through towns with strange names and strange histories. I spend most of it in the front seat, watching the world go by, and occasionally navigating.

When we got here, everything was weird. My coworkers started to joke about how often I said "this is so weird". When you fly to the opposite coast, everything in the windows around you is so foreign. Everything is novel and spectacular. You take so many landscape pictures, and remark at everything you see.

We drive a lot though, and things get less novel. I don't comment on how weird things are anymore. I've grown accustomed to the formerly foreign California landscape. I don't stare out in wonder as much anymore. I'm adjusting to the scenery.

When I get back home to Ontario, I want to remember to always find joy in the landscape around me. It's beautiful, expansive, and green. I want to pay more attention to the scenery at home and not get so detached.

Monday, July 11, 2011

James

I met James almost at complete random. I was sitting in Psychology one day and James came up to me and asked "are you Ben?". We had been made aware of each other through a mutual friend, and discovered we had a few more mutual friends.

Men tend to develop friends through shared interests and activities. James and I have had a lot of shared activities. When we were roommates in second year, we spent many a night playing video games or watching each other play video games. We also share a lot of the same interests and so we've had many a discussion on music, hockey, and church. James was a solid roommate and continues to be a solid friend.

James, thanks for being solid.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Echoes

I waver back and forth a lot when it comes to writing here. If I write a lot, people seem to visit the page more regularly. However it's hard to get excited about writing posts with such an invisible audience. It makes content production a bit difficult.

What motivates me to write the most is when my posts here become a dialogue with others. I write what I write because I've thought about it and come to some kind of conclusion, but it feels a bit like I'm yelling back at my own echoes if no one says anything about it. The times when I write the most tend to be the times when people say the most about what I've written.

It's a bit like having an audience. Not having an audience makes performing kind of pointless, but as soon as you have one person in the audience, the whole dynamic changes. Suddenly you have someone to offer your work to.

I'm not really getting at anything specific here, I just have a strange relationship with my writings here and sometimes I need to address the medium with which I write.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jason

In first year, I lived with a bunch of people (who I'll get to eventually in this series). Our house had an open door policy and so my door was always open for visitors. It was rare to be interrupted by anyone, but if anyone came in it was usually Jason. I'd be doing something like aimlessly browsing the internet, and in he would come to engage in lively conversation about life and whatever I happened to be doing.

This is a pretty good summary of one of Jason's best qualities. You are sitting there on your own, and suddenly in he comes with suggestions to enrich your life, or things to do. Too often, I find myself feeling sluggish and stagnant, and Jason is usually the one to stick his head in my room and say "Ben, let's go".

This goes for small things like social outings, but this also goes for big life changing stuff. Jason is often the one who helps me get out of bad habits or patterns of stagnant living. Our lengthy conversations over a pitcher of beer (most commonly Whitetail Cream Ale from the Kingston Brewing Company) have had a lot of weight in some decisions I've made, and I think that's for the better.

Jason, thanks for the figurative kick in the pants when I need it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Church

I've been going to Next Church for almost two years now. I started going after a brief church tour in Kingston revealed that the crowd was a good fit for me and Amanda liked it too.

Sometimes when I go to church, the greeters ask me if I've been there before. You might think this rude or ignorant of them, but the truth is they are often justified in this reaction. I probably do look like a visitor often. It's a problem that's been somewhat magnified since I arrived here. Magnified in the sense that I've been thinking about that reaction a lot.

Not everybody goes to church. I understand this, so let me expand the scope of what I'm talking about so that you might understand. Everybody engages with some type of community whether it's people at work or your Monday night basketball league. Over time, you get to know these people and you develop jokes, bonds and patterns and you become comfortable with these people. It's only natural. We're built to be social and bond with others.

In any given group, there's someone who's a bit of a flake. Sometimes they don't show up, sometimes the sneak in late and leave early. Everyone is friendly with them, but because of their spotty attendance and flaky nature, they are not as well integrated with the group. Maybe people don't trust them, maybe they don't think it's worth the time if they're just going to leave, or maybe people just don't have enough time with this person to develop a bond.

I am this person at my church. I show up often late, sneak out after the service, and have involved myself minimally in church stuff. Sometimes I just don't show up at church for weeks at a time because "it's summer" or "it's Christmas". I'm non-commital and it's showing in how people at church relate to me.

I do this to people too. Sometimes I just stop interacting with a group of friends or stop doing an activity. Either way I disappear, and it's something I need to work on as I try to figure more stuff out in this crazy life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Amanda

How does one sum up their relationship with a significant other in a single post. It's tough to do. Amanda and I have been dating for almost 2 and a half years now and there's a lot there. Let me try.

Spontaneity is probably my favourite thing about Amanda. She is willing to go along with just about anything. She's up for making plans at 11 PM, and she's willing to go on long trips on short notice. Once after a particularly long day, we went to see a movie with a friend. After this movie, we started driving back home and headed for the highway, I asked her "do you want to go to Toronto?". She replied "I was just about to ask you the same thing. Yes."
So at 10 on a school night we got on the highway and drove to Toronto. It turned out to be a lot of fun. We shared a drink with my sister and had a long chat in the car. It was great to have someone who would go along with plans so easily, and it made for a great story.

Amanda, thanks for your spontaneity.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Friends

I can be a really bad friend. My tongue is not the most careful of organs and often I make statements (often in jest) that hurt others. Sometimes I am not careful about the stories that I share. I try to make up for these things with apologies, but often I do not right the wrongs I have committed. I want to take the time to fix that. I've decided to spin one series of posts out of this one. It will probably be a long series of posts but I would like to share some things that I really appreciate about the people around me. I want to tell you all (all twelve of you) about my friends so that you do not get only one side of the story.