Sunday, December 15, 2013

November Adventures

November wasn't marked by any single major events like the past few months have been, but it was still one of the bigger months of the year.

The biggest news of the month is that I quit my job at the VCM and have started working at UVic. Some kind of career change or positive move has been an idea I've tossed around for a long time, and although there is a lot about my old job that I loved and miss, I really couldn't hope for a better opportunity than this. I'm glad I was able to get an interview at UVic; I knew it would be no trouble to wow them in person with my incredible poise and self-confidence.

Okay, so I distinctly lack poise and self-confidence. But they ended up overlooking that, so it worked out all right.

In the few days between jobs, I went to Vancouver with fellow NIN fan @ectobot for the concert. Taking the ferry seems like a mini-cruise—at least on the initial sailing. I head straight for the buffet, which I guess is what makes it seem most like a cruise. The trip back is always a little excruciating. Fortunately, they added unscheduled sailings both days, so we didn't have to wait around too terribly long. The concert itself was fantastic, as expected. Along with getting to visit a couple stellar Vancouver-based friends, in all it was a super trip.

Not too long after that, we went to the Vinyl Cafe Christmas Show, which I'm insistent upon making an annual tradition. The show was even more fun than last year, if possible.

So now I'm busy with work, learning all the new things that come with a new job, trying to remember a portion of the new people I meet every day, dealing with my own and other people's mixed feelings about the change. When I'm not at work, lately I've been coping with an onslaught of medication side effects, compounded by persistent problems like migraines, sinusitis, and other delights.  The whole ordeal leaves me with little time or energy to do anything other than cower in bed. It's like I'm 22 again.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

October is Saskatchewan Month

Right on the heels of my last trip, October is Saskatchewan month. This was my 5th trip in under 11 months (3 of those being international) which is very atypical for me.

More accurately, October is Thanksgiving month, but I've wanted to get back to Saskatchewan during the fall for several years now. There's just nothing like the gold of aspens on the prairies in autumn, or the burnt orange of pea stubble after harvest. And there's nothing like family at Thanksgiving.

Plus there are cats:
Autumn has always been my favourite season, and it was glorious to spend some time in a place where it's so vividly showcased. It always takes me a while to find it, but my tree is still alive and well :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

September is Las Vegas Month

Well September has long passed, but I've been severely lacking in inertia and haven't gotten around to writing until now. But September needs writing about, for September is Las Vegas Month.
Gotta admit, I really enjoy going to Vegas. I love the spectacle, and the soundtrack that accompanies you down the Strip, and the shows and the round-the-clockedness. I love the power I feel at traveling by myself, and the genuine contentedness I take back home with me after a trip with no objectives other than leisure. I love becoming completely nocturnal, and eating gelato for breakfast at 7pm or cheesecake and coffee at 4am. I love mingling with friendly strangers, and chatting with the bartender (who kindly let me stay hours past closing), and strolling in the night air without having to wear a jacket. Most of all I love the chance to hang out with one of my very favourite people.

One of the few things I don't like is the slow moving, counter intuitive, frustratingly unpredictable pedestrian traffic. I walk at a pretty good clip and invariably found myself behind a daisy chain of waddling packs, more often than not teetering for miles down the strip on stilettos. I don't know if it was deliberate, but every single couple seemed to walk as far as humanly possible apart from each other while still holding hands—and had the uncanny habit of weaving to cut you off if you tried to skirt around them. Seriously, it was like they had all set their armspan to /range 10.

On the other hand, some guy actually ran out of his store in the Fashion Show Mall, chased me down, and said he thought I must be European from the way I walked and dressed. Shrug. Harmless accosting happened pretty frequently actually, which is what I get for wandering around alone.

I didn't end up seeing any Cirque du Soleil shows this trip, but did catch Blue Man again and had a pretty awesome seat for it.

I wore these boots 100% of the time I was there... and we're talking extensive striding from one end of the strip to the other in 40ÂșC desert heat. The boots were a pretty big gamble considering I bought them the day before I went, but my feet were resilient the whole trip so it was definitely a more successful gamble than anything I achieved in video poker.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

August is Birthday Month

[Second installment in the new monthly Thing of the Month series]

Most people who know me a little will probably tell you that I hate birthdays, and in a lot of the most ubiquitous ways it's true: I don't like the typical spammy Facebook wall of variously iterated "happy bdays"; I don't like the begrudging work posse who gather around a hastily assembled card and scatter the very instant that tact allows; I don't even like a simply and dutifully uttered "happy birthday" from most people.

Some people can appreciate this overwhelmth of polite sentiments, which is pretty admirable to me. But I also don't like how most greetings are accompanied by an insincere "how are you" whose answer is often left unheard or unwanted—and this is what "happy birthday" feels, to me, like it is becoming. I want my birthday wishes to be heartfelt and all the more special for their rarity. But I do want it to be special.

August may have been one of my lowest points yet,  but I'm grateful for super friends who took the time to make my birthday feel special—even (or  maybe especially) if they didn't even realize they were doing so.

Monday, September 02, 2013

When I was in high school, I had a tiny little tiger finch. We'd leave his cage door open so he could fly around the house whenever he wanted, and he loved to sit among the plants in the living room, look out the picture window, and sing about what he saw. Sometimes in the summer, we'd hang his cage out on the deck so he could feel the warm summer breeze and mingle with the goldfinches who clustered at a nearby feeder.

One day we hung his cage outside without noticing that the cage door was still open, and he flew away. It's a large farm with any number of predators; although I despaired of ever seeing him again, I spent the whole afternoon searching, cage in hand, in the hope that familiarity would entice him (even though he wasn't particularly tame and was certainly terrified whenever I had to handle him). I didn't find him.

The next morning, though, I looked out on the deck to see him back inside his cage, enthusiastically eating seeds. I guess he felt free enough in the home that sheltered him.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

July is Piano Camp Month

This started out as an imaginative description of the first two weeks of July. I'm not so sure what it is anymore, but it's more than the sum of notes I scrawled during those two weeks.  I haven't attempted a work of creative nonfiction of this magnitude since my writing class back in 2005ish. And yes, it's best to approach this as being more creative than otherwise.

July is Piano Camp Month

I don't attend the camp, mind you; I schedule it, and am physically on site, and dream and breathe piano camp for its duration. This two-week project (along with the weeks preceding it) is a test of all kinds of resilience. Because I've passed this test successfully (dare I say brilliantly? no, too vain) in the past (or at least it appears so on the surface), I get to re-experience the magic every year.

Initially, it's like one of those logic puzzles where you're given a number of clues, from which you're supposed to work out who bet on which horse in a race and which horse won and what colour of hat everyone wore.  Except there are 70 students (and counting), a dozen teachers, a fluctuating number of classes, and a worryingly small number of spaces. The clues unfold slowly, over the course of a few weeks, with key clues being withheld until the deadline is almost upon you. And you actually have to solve it (I may very well be alone in this, but when I get a little stumped on a logic puzzle, I flip the page and start a new one. Unfinished things bother me, so I might put a random solution in. I do this with Sudoku, too, if I find I've made an error somewhere and don't feel like retracing my steps; I just fill in numbers and move on). And perhaps the worst part of all is that once you complete the puzzle and show everybody the results, you invariably get a dozen messages modifying the clues you originally worked with. If you were to graph it, you'd need several extra dimensions (one of them dedicated entirely to frustration). But I had done it before, I approached it again, and all was ready for July 1st.

The next part of the project is the camp itself, which doesn't actually take place where I work. I'm given a reading room as office space, though it's ill-equipped: no computer, no phone, no ethernet jack (which wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't working with my teenaged laptop, who sports a stylish floppy drive but doesn't do that wireless thing laptops are doing nowadays), and the photocopiers I can use are way the hell across campus.

Being there is a little like what I imagine solitary confinement might be like. Once in a while someone comes to interrogate you, but the rest of the time you are alone, sitting in a chair whose design is based not on comfort but rather on the most cost-effective way of outfitting an entire campus with objects physically capable of being sat upon. Each interrogator has a unique approach on how best to break you (it really seemed deliberate, too). Some bring emotion into the room knowing that, in the arbitrary way that those with power decide these things, we're more likely to accommodate troublesome creatures. Some know that honey is more tempting than vinegar, and keep their manner sugary while managing to lace in enough toxic passive aggression to fell a rhino.

It eventually (actually, quickly) becomes too much effort to even care. I don't game much anymore, but all I could think was I am at 90 stacks of Seething Anger, and pretty soon somebody's going to get 1-shot.

Left alone with only my own rabid thoughts and the muffled sound of people being irritating, my thoughts tend to become increasingly black until I have to convey them to my notebook so that I won't forget all the things that enrage me.

For someone who clings to rare happy moments of social interaction like sunbeams in a wasteland eternally menaced by storms, there's a very real toll to having every single instance of human contact for two weeks be negative. As in, it's not just two weeks of extra-strength unhappiness; it's two weeks that trigger a storm that takes tremendous effort and time to break. Or maybe it's two weeks that deal the deathblow to the fragile sunshiney peace that I've worked so hard to build. I guess it amounts to the same thing.

Feigning appreciation enrages me, but I do it anyway. How were you to know that I'd be at the absolute end of my rope? How could anybody know that by this point my heart would be so stonily cold that this gesture makes no imprint at all? And yet, when the teachers stop in to give their farewells and best wishes, I get a little (a very little) verklempt in a "you guys are truly beautiful people" sort of way (not in a "gosh don't you wish we could stay here for another week day minute" sort of way).

The final blow comes when summer school ends and it's back to work in the office, with the ringing phones and the random passersby and the people. All the people. Little kids and elderly concert-goers, staff and customers, people who are a sight for sore eyes and people who induce a cringe just by walking in the door. People who call our number as if it were the peanut butter hotline (why peanut butter? who knows. who do you call with your general questions about life?). Plus I've been out of the loop for two weeks, and have even less answers than usual. By some twisted Pavlovian conditioning, I've become accustomed to an intense solitude where almost every person to approach me will leave me with a little more despair. Back at work, I can feel panic rise when the phone rings. I can feel anger literally burning me inside, and I have to get out for clear air to quench it, however slightly. I'm consumed by resentment, and I can't even say for sure why I'm resentful, only that it's aimed at just about everybody, including—maybe especially—myself.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Year in Review

2012 was a surprisingly eventful year, and December the most eventful month. I don't blog nearly as often as I used to, but it seems appropriate to take a moment for some newer updates and reminisce about some older ones before they fade into the waves of the past. First for the recent...

  • For the week or so of Christmas, I was back in sunny Saskatchewan, where the frost was the most gorgeous I've ever seen it. Shockingly, there was not a single deer to be seen (compared with the hundreds-strong herds of yesteryears), and there was no midnight coyote-yipping session while I was there. Much visiting and feasting with family, much laughter, much too much Christmas baking.  
  • Closer to the beginning of December, I went on a 5-day trip to Las Vegas to see the sights, catch some shows, and hang out with someone I had never met before. This was only my second trip ever to the U.S. (the first being that conference in Los Angeles—and how is it possible that this is all I wrote about that trip?!); like that first trip, I traveled alone this time. Anyone who knows me probably remembers me as an antisocial introvert who bails on just about everything.

    But there are moments in life when the perfect opportunity arises. When these moments come up, I usually feign unconsciousness until they move along, and then become terribly angry at myself and add it to my (hella long) list of regrets. Luckily for me, the planets aligned and—more importantly—I've spent the entire year working towards becoming a raging self-confident beast (alright, I just wanted to refer to myself as a raging beast). It was a daring moment for me.

    Vegas itself was fantastic and full of its own great moments. I didn't have much of an agenda other than wanting to see a Cirque du Soleil show and Blue Man Group (saw them both!) so it was probably the most relaxed vacation I've ever had.  
  • As aforementioned, I've been focusing on myself this year, especially after some particularly low moments in the summer (thank you Piano Academy) and autumn. In November I got into yoga, which has been a huge energy boost. At first my neck was doing its muscle spasm thing for a couple days after each class, which in turn made me do my migraine thing. But after a couple weeks the neck problem went away, and I've been feeling a lot healthier.
And finally a recap of the rest of the year:
  • January 7: Passed the 10,000-day-old mark. Unremarkabler than I had hoped.
  • Early January: Patellofemoral pain sydrome hell. Fortunately better by late January.
  • Early June: Saskatrip; never has a vacation been more sorely needed.
  • July: New positionish/tasks at work.
  • August: New piano!
  • Mid October: Combusted. We all saw this coming.
  • Late November: Recovery process initiated.
  • November 26: Finally saw the Vinyl Cafe Christmas show when it came to Victoria. Fantastic!
  • December: Vegas & Christmas!
From my first post of 2012: "But this feels like it could be a good year. It just needs a little encouragement."

It did only need some encouragement.