Saturday, 27 October 2007

Hall Games

Due to a major scheduling goof-up and complete lack of foresight on my part, I, while still at home in India, made my schedule for Mt A to give me pretty much the worst Friday possible. I start with Ecology at 8:30 that leads into a fairly horrible Plant Bio lecture at 9:30. I have an hour off to breathe and check my email and such. Then have Chemistry from 11:30 – 12:20 and I’m always struggling to stay awake because that room is always so warm, I’m starting to feel hypoglycemic and I’m definitely getting my butt kicked my Chemistry lately. I have an hour for lunch and I head into an hour of Classics which, depending on the day, is either just as bad as Chem or rather interesting. And then, drum roll please, I have a gloriously painful three-hour Chem lab. 8:30 – 5:20 on a Friday. Part of me tries to convince myself that it only makes me appreciate the weekend more but I think I’m just fooling myself. All it does it make me hate Fridays more.

Yesterday was a slightly exceptional Friday. Ecology, which isn’t ever too bad, was fine. At the end of the class, Dr K, my Plant Bio prof, came into the room to tell us that our Plant class for the day was canceled. As I said to a few people yesterday, there was a small party in my brain. I had TWO hours of free time before Chem!! I, of course, studied Chem in the hopes of giving myself a better chance of having some idea what was going on in class. Needless to say, it didn’t help much. Lunch … Classics. I was falling asleep in Classics. We watched a pretty cool movie but these days, I’m tired all the time and I just don’t feel it until I stop moving. And as soon as I do, my body thinks, “Lack of movement = time to go to sleep.” And then it does. It’s a problem. And finally, Chem. It was a fairly straightforward lab that didn’t challenge what I already know about Chemistry. And, more importantly, I didn't feel like throwing myself out of the third floor of Barclay even once!

I ran back to dorm when it was over, unceremoniously dumped my stuff in my room, and went downstairs to find Nathan. “IT’S THE WEEKEND!!! AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!” There was some very cathartic yelling. It was great. I got my post-Chem Lab excitement out of my system during the time between getting home and finishing dinner and then I shuffled sadly back to my room, collected my large pile of Calculus notebooks and textbooks and trudged to the Library to see in the weekend with a few solid hours of Calc. woohoo.

It was good though. Tonight’s Thalloween and there’s no chance I’ll be able to escape the party because it’s in Thornton which will, sadly, be taken over by a bunch of drunken frosh running amok in my beloved house. It was good to get the ball rolling on the incredible amount of work I have to do; it was good to be doing something. I left the Library just after 10:00 feeling like I’d done something useful with my time.

I went home to find Nathan writing on my door wearing oven mitts and a cowboy hat. Charming. And you know what I did? I proceeded to have one of the best Friday nights in a really long time. I put on Dave Matthews, opened my door, and sat on the floor of my hall with my friends. And we talked and laughed. And then, we invented a Hall Game.

First, we discovered that our long, straight halls are perfect for kicking things in. Second, we found that rolls of green painters’ tape are perfect things to kick. And, third, we found that playing soccer/hockey (with brooms) in the hall was pretty much the best way to spend a Friday night. You’d be amazed at how intense it got. It was one-on-one, me against Christina. The phase of the game which was a bit like hockey fell apart pretty quickly when Christina broke my broom. There was a slight lull when we felt that maybe things were getting a bit out of hand but we remained undeterred. We decided, instead, that we’d stick with using our feet and, apart from another brief pause after we smacked our heads into each other during a rather intense struggle to gain control of the tape, we had a great time. It was like Calvin Ball. We kind of made up the rules as we went along, we cheated, we mocked each other, we definitely didn’t keep score and we had so much fun.

Hall Games. The best part of dorm life. The time when you feel like everything is going just fine and that you’re as happy as you can possibly be. The time when you feel like you are where you are meant to be …

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Second Chances

The last couple of weeks in the life of any Mt A student were pretty hellish. Procrastination, that evil force of destruction, gets to us all and suddenly instead of doing a bit of review before the midterm, one is spending a few days before the midterm studying that and only that and leaving everything else so that it just piles up and adds to the stress and the anxiety. When everything’s moving at such an insane pace, it’s hard, sometimes, to realize that we all need a break now and then. We all deserve time to take a step back and breathe.

Last weekend I went apple picking. Apparently it's the Canadian thing to do. So I did. And it was really, really nice. It was a morning designated to taking a break from studying and getting a much needed change of pace. The nicest part of it actually, was the drive back. At one point, we were at the top of a hill with seemingly endless stretches of gorgeous flaming red and orange and yellow on either side of us. The sky was dark with impending rain and the clouds seemed heavy like they were pressing down on us. The air was full of that pre-storm tension that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The music in the car was just the right volume, we were going at just the right speed, it felt like just the right company – it was a pretty perfect moment.

On Friday night Thornton House got drunk. Friday night at the end of a long and crazy series of weeks and we made the most of it. Trip to the liquor store, softball in the rain, hysterical running around stealing hats and keys, being carried up and down the halls upside down and slung over someone’s shoulder … good times. I love nights like that. Believe it or not, it’s not about the alcohol and the ridiculous behaviour. The great part is watching the house come together. We’re all friends, we all know each others’ names, we all get along … It’s like a big family where we accept each others’ faults and failings and love each other no matter what. Seeing that is what I love most about nights like Friday. It makes me feel good about where I am and who I’m with.

The hellish two weeks are over. I got the breather I needed.

I have a midterm tomorrow afternoon and once that’s done, I have just under two weeks to re-establish normality in my life. The plan is to reboot. Reset the entire system and start again. I’m going to change the way I study, the way I get my homework done, the way I spend my time. The great thing is that even though one set of midterms has gone by and I definitely didn’t do as well as I’m capable of doing, it’s not too late to reorganize things. There is such a thing as a second chance and, if you recognize it for what it is early enough, it’s easy to take it. Sometimes we wish that we could go back in time and change things but that’s really quite impossible. It’s ok, though. It’s never too late to fix something.

I’m headed back to dorm now. My Classics textbook awaits me. My second attempt starts now …

The Monster of Swan Pond

Have you ever wondered if there’s a Monster in Swan Pond? (And here we’re talking, Harry Potter Giant Squid Monster. Nothing scary. It’s not going to eat you. In fact, if you fall out of the boat, it’ll make sure you don’t drown. It’s a good Monster.) It could be true.

Every place has its quirks. Every town has little things that make it special. Sackville is no exception. It’s a town of what, three thousand people? You’ve got Main Street: Bridge Street CafĂ©, Ducky’s, the RBC, the Dollar Store … “downtown”. You’ve got a slightly bizarre profusion of churches, funeral homes and bars. You’ve got the Swan Pond and the Waterfowl Park. You’ve got Mt A. Sackville is an odd little place with an odd collection of things that is my life for the next three years.

I went for a walk down Bridge Street a couple of weeks ago. It was Thanksgiving weekend and those of us who stayed in Sackville to work had decided to take a break. We walked all the way down to the broken bridge at the bottom of Bridge Street and then all the way back. I’d never walked that way before and I hadn’t realized there was even anything there. It’s strange that, in a town this small, there’s still stuff that I’ve never seen or even heard about. I admit I’ve not been here long but really, everything is five minutes away in Sackville – I wouldn’t have expected to find that there’s so much that I don’t know about.

We had a good time that evening. We played the Throwing Things off Things Game. We looked for the biggest rocks around and then launched them off the bridge into the frighteningly deep and quicksand-y slush below. We marvelled at the disgusting squelching sounds and came up with theories about which person if thrown off the bridge, at which angle, would make the most satisfying noise and the biggest crater. We talked about what the cross between a Polar bear and a Grizzly bear would be like and whether it should be called a Grolabear or Pizzly. There was a lot of laughing.

On the way home, the sun was setting in front of us and the trees and buildings were silhouetted black against the orange sky. The light was a little eerie and we began to feel like at that moment, something totally weird could happen, and we’d have to take it in our stride. It is Sackville after all. Strange and mysterious Sackville. We started talking about the Monster in Swan Pond. It’s what represents everything that’s here for us that’s still undiscovered: everything that there is to do that we haven’t done yet, every new experience that we have, everything we learn, everything that moves us forward in life.

On the evening that I walked down Bridge Street, I caught a glimpse of the Monster. I caught a glimpse of all that this town – this odd little town – has to offer me. I found it in a walk on a Sunday evening. I could have found it in a classroom or in a textbook, or in a person I met in a store. I could have found it wandering around the Waterfowl Park.

So. Wake up every morning with the hopes of seeing something new. Of discovering something you didn’t know existed. Go find the Monster.

Monday, 1 October 2007

A little bit sick, a little bit tired … but filled with hope

Thursday last week – the 27th of September – was a month from the day I arrived in Sackville. My first full month in university is over, my first full month living in another country. I thought it was a pretty big deal. It’s one of those stepping stones, you know? It’s something that’s worth mentioning, worth being happy about. It surprised me to notice how quickly the time has gone. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been here a month.

Of course, I barely had time to think about it. Things are pretty crazy. It’s just that one doesn’t really feel it. You crib a lot about how much there is to do, or how much you hate this lab or that lecture but really, the routines are so easy to slip into. And routines aren’t necessarily a bad thing … they just are. After doing something a few times, you soon find you don’t need to look at the schedule you put on your wall. Your feet know where to take you. Things stop looking so new and strange, and you learn all the little shortcuts tucked away in the buildings. There’s a feeling that starts to develop where you find that you’re part of something that’s bigger than yourself. It’s bigger than your floor, your house, the South Side or the North Side. I’ve not been out of high school as long as a lot of other people I know, but it’s still a little strange to find myself slipping back into that mold. And it’s a good mold. For the most part, at least.

During a conversation I had with Chris Durrant, I told him that I was doing ok but that I was “a little bit sick and a little bit tired”. And then I added with an ironic little smile, “but filled with hope.” He smiled understandingly and said that that’s how it always is. I think that might become my motto for life in university. I’ve only been here a month but I can already see that it’s probably very appropriate.

There’s a lot to do, a minimum GPA to maintain, a scholarship to hold onto … it’s pretty heavy. But really, what have I done since I got here? A fair amount of reading, lots of homework, a bunch of labs, one pretty decent paper … the usual. Not very different from what anyone else has done. We’re all in the same boat. Thousands and thousands of people go to university every year and graduate and do perfectly well in life.

So yes … I’m a little bit sick, a little bit tired … but filled with hope. It’s a good school I’ve got here. Good friends, good classes, good things to spend my time on; lots of good reasons to get up every morning.

And it’s great. It’s everything I hoped it would be …