Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Oh Christmas, How I Do Hate Thee

I'm fine now, but once the school closes down, it'll kick in fully. Everyone will be spreading holiday cheer, and I'm going to try not to overtly show my disdain. I can't like Christmas, in principle. On a larger level: I'm against buying gifts out of obligation, I abhor the commercialization of the season, and I'm not a Christian. Then there are the small-scale reasons why I hate this time of year. I don't like most Christmas songs. I don't like receiving gifts. I don't like how all stores are crowded with frantic shoppers. I already hated shopping. I don't like the deadline of buying and submitting gifts on a particular day. I don't like spending money. I don't like treating this day as if it is so sacred that it absolutely must be spent doing specific things with specific people. I hate the structure of it.

If I want to make my friends feel important and special to me, I just do it. No holidays required. I love picking up things that I know they'll need or want. I love writing them pleasant notes to get them through their days. I love being here when it is that they need me, and not when a holiday tells me I should be. I love being a great friend. I just hate doing these things for any other reason than because I want to.

Holidays feel like an excuse that I never needed, or asked for.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Death of Misfortunate

I'm not referring to the site, because although it's not the original one, it's still up. (I think we're in the 4th generation, or greater. I can't remember.) I mean the "friendship". And it's unfortunate because I only began to value the group some years after high school ended. In high school, I felt like I had no one. I felt equally about everyone - I didn't invest any more time in one friend than another, and was annoyed by anyone who demanded any more of me than that.

I loved this circle of friends for 2 main reasons: I could be completely comfortable and myself with them (i.e. share my ugly opinions with them), and they didn't get on my case for being too busy. When prom came and I had no date, I went with them. Whose after-party did I choose to go to? When I think back to all of the enriched classes I took, who was there with me in every single one. The Science Olympics, Concert Band. They put no stock in what is generally expected of a "friend" which was so ideologically pleasing that it was delicious. To hell with kindness - we were opinionated.

But times are changing. Drunken documentary nights at Dave's are now sober movie night's at my place. After all of the diaspora, the number of attendees has dropped down to 4. And worst of all, there's that little wedge who's managed to selfishly weasel her way into our lives. I can't make her go away! And now what was once my safe haven, is no longer. It's heart-breaking because my general philosophy towards friendship never lent itself to my being "committed" to a regular group of friends. But somewhere in the last five years, I became "committed", even if I hadn't said it out loud. It isn't the case that I stay out of any strange sense of obligation to them, because I wouldn't dare burden anyone with that. Rather, no matter how much I dislike it, it's that I like them.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Swimming in a sea of paper

That's what I'm doing today. =D Can't complain. It sure beats (1) running sport leagues, and (2) moving the contents of a department. I'll take my quiet little corner!

But this is not why I'm not writing. I'm writing for a different reason. I'm here to declare that I let the door on going back to my old job close. I just ... couldn't do it. It was strange. I loved my time there, but I couldn't bring myself to go back. Thank you to the union for the opportunity, but no thanks?

And contrary to anyone's expectations, I'm not typing to discuss/speculate on the reasons behind my passivity, or even to enumerate the reasons why I loved it so much at EP. I only wish to reflect on the wonderful memory that was my time there. Best team, best clients, best profs. I can only hope I can reach that level of comfort in a workplace elsewhere. Everyone knew I was leaving on a whim, and everyone was supportive of it, even though I didn't know what to expect, let alone wanted.

Finally, my good-bye:

From: Executive Programs Executive Assistant
Sent: Friday, September 26, 2008 4:59 PM
Subject: Thank you!

I didn’t plan to write this good-bye partly because, as many of you know, I would rather take a minute with each of you for a personal good-bye than send a generic one out en masse, but mostly because I didn't feel like this was really 'good-bye'. However, since I didn’t get the time to do all of the personal good-byes, and since a mass email is “efficient” in some sense, I decided to do it.

It was with "mixed emotions" that my departure was announced, and it is with mixed emotions that I now leave. So much is going on; so many new initiatives are underway. This team is ever-growing, and the department, ever-changing. It’s all so exciting. So much has changed since I first came on board, but some things have remained constant: this team is filled with caring, intelligent, hard-working individuals with whom I am proud to say I have had the opportunity to work. Thank you for a wonderful 3 years.

Please know that I am just down the street, and if you need to reach me, I can be reached at ********@hotmail.com, ********@gmail.com, ********@utoronto.ca, ********@trinity.utoronto.ca, etc... ad infinitum. They all get routed to the same place =).

Your former Assistant to the Managing Director, Finance Assistant, Program Coordinator, Daystaff Assistant, Facility Assistant,


Tuesday, 9 December 2008

10-Day Obsessions

Back in high school, one of my friends used to characterize me as someone who had 10-day obsessions with people. Every 10 days, I had an "obsession" with someone new. I would hang off that person's every word, and treat him/her like he/she was the only person in the world. Then I'd get bored, and move onto the next person. Naturally, I didn't see it this way. I always described my social habits as a teenager as unabashed, and myself as forthright. As far as I knew, I just liked people. If I liked talking to you, I never moderated it. I just came at you full force. One of my philosophies as a teenager was to never let people not know how I felt about them.

I remember I used to consider dating "just an opportunity to discover what it is about that person I couldn't stand to live with" - a view that is both cynical, and progressive. I carried this view well into my early 20's. Dating becomes meaningless when you approach it in this way. Friendships become impossible. As for my friend, I can't in good conscience call our relationship "dating". "Dating" to me is a special class of social interaction of which I never want a part ever again. Well, usually. I suppose it wasn't so totally loathsome.

As for my obsessions with people, they still exist. I can almost count on it. Like clockwork. Maybe they're not the insensitive 10-days that my friend described, but I can't help but be fascinated by the people around me. I just hope it's not as poorly perceived as it was when I was a teenager.

Monday, 8 December 2008


I always loved how in my personal life, I could be completely candid. I always contrasted it with my professional life. At the office, I had to have reservations, consider some opinions inappropriate for office discussion, be considerate of wording, etc... I'm sure it was because of how reserved I was about my opinions in the office that I held so dearly onto my personal life where I could be honest about my thoughts. In general, I thought that office-mates shouldn't discuss religion, or politics. Fortunately, now I've already made it clear (I think) to my latest office-mates exactly what I am ... because I can't help it. So no surprises come up. Phew.

I recall working at a previous workplace, and never speaking of religion. I thought this was a good policy. Then one day, I mentioned how I went to visit a shrine, and suddenly all of the Christians at the office started talking to me and inviting me to join each of their congregations. I got invitations to the weekly prayer groups; handed a Bible at the office. They had just assumed that it was the case that I was a Christian. It's poor reasoning. An atheist could go to a Christian shrine simply to admire its beauty. I didn't know how to handle it. It was the worst! It drained every little bit of energy out of me to not say "Shut up, you hatemongering imbeciles!" Listening to mass was one thing, but being trapped in a circle of gay-bashing, pre-marital sex abhorring women, I couldn't believe (1) that it was happening, and (2) that they thought I agreed with them. What kills me is knowing that if either I'd said that I was an atheist at the outset, or if I'd been consistent and not spoken of the shrine, then all would have been well. I lucked out in my new office: I had a chance to say something before any abhorrent hatred was potentially confided in me.

Anyway, the real reason why I consider the distinction between personal and professional life as drawn by our reservations is because it's blurred for me. Not only do I have less reservations at the office, I have more in my personal life. At the office, I feel more liberated now than ever before. As for my personal life, I still have the liberty to have my opinions, but I've discovered that there are just some things I can't say out loud. As much as I want to, since I know that nothing good can come of it, I shouldn't and thus won't. It's a level of discretion I've never known. Here's hoping I can do it.

The Pointlessness of a Blog

I used to write daily in my journal, and capture my thoughts, feelings, and snippets that got incorporated into my future poems. It's not that I have less to say, because that is certainly untrue. I just find that my outlet has changed. I consider it to be a reflection of the strength in the relationships I have with all of the people in my life: the older I've gotten, the better I've gotten at communicating and sharing. I was such an introvert in my teen years. Now I can barely handle not having people around me. What I used to wrestle with alone, I now flesh out with other people. It's more effective. It's like finding a collaborative solution. Well, it's exactly what it is. The only problem is when we don't come up with a solution I like. Hm.

I suppose, just to be a jerk, I could say that the "friends" that I had in the earlier stages of my life were aweful "collaborators" which is why I looked inwardly for solutions, rather than externally. =D Recalling these people, I wouldn't say this is untrue at all.

So then, why write to myself? Why do I still like it, or now feel so suddenly inclined to start up again?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Misfortunate Short Story Festival

This past summer, we held a short story contest on Misfortunate. The theme was "How I learned to stop worrying and love blueberry pie." We all posted our stories anonymously under the user account "story", and on the day that voting opened. We permitted votes from externals, or just encouraged them to read the entries. Several of my co-workers were offended by Dennis' softcore erotica. To be fair to him, we didn't specify a genre... We planned to make this a regular event because of how much fun it was to get us all writing. With the demise of Misfortunate, and the rise of its replacement, and all of the drama in between, we never did.

In fear that my winning story would disappear forever, I'll post it here and in several other places. Naturally, I have no title.

Story #2 Posted by "story" at Thu, 28 Aug 08 00:42:26 -0400

It was 9:31 p.m., and Joelle sat hunched over at her desk furiously trying to write a story. It was dim in her room. All she had was a pen, some paper, and a little lamp hovering over her desktop next to her head. She set it up in just this way so as to inspire herself. She had often envisioned the best writers writing in similar conditions. She stared at the sheet and began to write. She jotted down the first two paragraphs, and then stopped. A moment later she started up again, and again, abruptly she stopped. She paused. With a pensive gaze outside the window in front of her desk, she seemed transfixed. She started again, then again stopped. She continued in this fashion until she decided to go and have a drink. She was thirsty, or so she thought. Perhaps she thought it would help her write. “How can I write when I’m dehydrated? I need to have a drink now before my dehydration further retards any of my mental processes.” She tended to come up with things like this - lies that helped her rationalize her procrastination. But at what point did awareness of one’s bodily functions become synonymous with procrastination? She often asked herself this question, always answering plainly that at no point would it. She continued with her trip to the kitchen.

Seventeen minutes passed. It was now 9:48 p.m. Joelle thought perhaps it best to start from scratch. Now discarding all of the previous scenes which were written on paper, she turned off the little desk lamp and flicked on the main lights in her room. She opened her laptop. In her usual methodical way, she devised a OneNote notebook to hash out all of her ideas. She thought, “Well, I could use Excel, or Word, but nothing quite gives me the flexibility I want in rearranging ideas that OneNote affords me. I don’t want to be restricted this early in the writing process. I need a tool that will let my thoughts flow freely, and I will reorganize what I find when the time comes.” And on that basis, she began typing hysterically – words everywhere, tabs for themes, tables for ideas, highlighting words, drawing diagrams, colouring shapes, and all. She hoped that some combination of themes therein would surface, she would be enlightened, and the plot of her story would reveal itself! Much like a Platonic ideal: she decided to conceive of her story as pre-existing, waiting merely for the artist to bright it to life, into the world of existence.

At 9:54 p.m., she got tired of typing and looked at the fruits of her labours. It was a mess of words - hundreds of words - coupled and uncoupled, in sentences and not, meaningful and less so. She began by trying to assimilate each individual idea, but there were too many. Individual ideas ranged from that of “living dangerously” to “the meaningfulness of conviction”. There were dozens. Next she tried to group ideas into themes, but they were too equally balanced: none pervasive, all equal in value to her (or so it seemed) so none worth incorporating into her story. She had considered incorporating all of the themes, but then she would certainly exceed the word maximum, not to mention how the work and time involved in incorporating dozens of themes was something she wouldn’t dare expend. She wanted to write a story, but it wasn’t worth that much effort.

It was hitting 10:00 p.m., and she was officially beginning to panic. She decided to take a Facebook break: login, look at her home page, see what her friends are up to – the usual. "When troubled by something, it’s best to get it out of your mind completely and revisit it with a clear mind!" Well, that’s what she would tell herself when she was just on the verge of completing something. She just never managed to fight the distraction that she never realized that this was always a critical moment for her: this was when she would likely find success. But she never learned this lesson. These thoughts always interrupted her concentration, and they always gave her a rationalization for her inaction. "But at what point did awareness of one’s mental state become synonymous with procrastination?" She was convinced she was doing what was best for her writing – clearing her mind so that ideas could flow. It was most likely a hindrance. After all, how much was her mind genuinely “cleared”? Perhaps she never knew what it really meant to have a “clear mind”. Or perhaps she knew, and preferred the comfort one gets out of lying to herself to avoid a reality that required effort.

“10:09 p.m.?” she wondered to herself. “How could that be? I only checked my notifications and Inbox, popped open my gmail, replied to a couple people, and here we are – nearly ten minutes later.” She decided to have some coffee. She tended to view coffee as a miracle drug that was made available to the general public. But it wasn’t. It hardly had any effect on her, really, besides increasing her heart rate, inducing increased and frequent urination, dehydration, and forecast the highly probable uncomfortable night’s sleep she was going to have if she were to have it after 5:00 p.m. which she was about to do. It was about 10:12 p.m. But she sat and thought about the coffee, and thought about how she would have the coffee, how enjoyable the coffee would be, about how the coffee would help her. And somehow during sitting and thinking of the volumes of nothingness about coffee just described, she wasted six minutes – it was 10:18 p.m. - and she hadn’t even yet made the coffee, let alone drunk it.

Minutes later, while sipping at the delicious coffee, the thought crossed her mind of potentially recycling an old idea that she had previously used in a one of her stories: “Coffee: It’s the bitter tastes we take sometimes just for a reason to sit.” It was about a girl who hated her life. She would go far out of her way every morning to have her coffee – neither because she liked coffee, nor because she enjoyed the cafĂ©, but rather because the act of sitting and savouring her coffee gave her a few moments of clarity while alone with her thoughts, all before embarking on yet another miserable day. And for just a few seconds, while sipping at her sweet, dessert-like home-made coffee, into which she had added vanilla flavouring, Bailey’s, and topped with whipped cream, she thought she could incorporate the idea. And just as quickly, she changed her mind. Perhaps it was the fact that she was enjoying every tasty sip of the coffee. Perhaps it was that she saw the unfairness to the other contestants that exists in the act of recycling her own work for a competition. But more than likely, it was the fact that she could no longer relate to such an ungrateful, morbid creature that was the inspiration of her former protagonist - “that bitter coffee drinker” (ambiguity intended). The last thing she could do was be dishonest. "At what point does honesty with oneself become synonymous with procrastination? If I continued in this fashion, and incorporated this idea, ripped off my own writing, and pretended to currently relate to this character, I’d be lying. I can’t do that.” She had an answer for any insinuation that she was procrastinating. Not that anyone besides herself made the accusation.

After sipping at her caffeinated beverage for some time, all the while dreaming of being hundreds of miles away, walking on white sand beaches at sunset under a colourful sky, she snapped out of it. She jerked her head toward the clock so she could see the time. She’d gotten carried away with her fantasy of being in a situation of not having anything to do, and envisioning what it is that would be a perfect way to pass the time. “10:47 p.m.? What the heck?!” She hurriedly returned herself to her desk. It was too late for panic; she just acted purely out of adrenalin. She threw out the crumpled sheets of paper, closed the curtains to the window, turned on both the room and the desk lamp, closed OneNote, and opened Word - as if these were all indications that she would now focus and stop wasting time thinking about things that were at the moment absolutely inconsequential. It was useless to try to adopt a new routine for writing, or to search high and low in an attempt to incorporate every possible idea. It was pointless now to daydream. She began to do what she always did when she buckled down to write: she began typing in Outline View, created a basic outline for the document with headings, chose the ideas that happened to currently reside in her mind precisely for that reason, added points under each heading, and began to type, effortlessly stringing together points as if she were playing connect the dots. She began to relax. The discomfort from the caffeine began to take full effect. Her hands were shaking, her heart was racing, and her thoughts ran amok. She convinced herself that the caffeine had given her the energy she needed to persevere past the physical roadblocks, and power through to the glorious end that would be a completed story. The only theme that ran in her mind was one she’d thought up the other day, and had been hoping since for an epiphany on how to present it in an inspirational way:

To live by one’s convictions: at the very least, you were honest with yourself, in the best scenario your way of life inspired others to live similarly. That is, others saw success in what you deemed valuable. When Nietzsche challenges us to “live dangerously”, this will be how I do it.

Granted, it was some deviation of all existential themes, but the particular wording was hers. And maybe tonight would not be the night that she methodically determined how to exploit it, but that was ok. It was now 11:34 p.m., and she knew she had to let go of that aspiration. Her hands and her thoughts were flowing as if they were controlling her - as though she were a spout pouring the current of ideas forth without there being any way of slowing it, or any reason to alter it. It was beautiful just as it was. The ideas were pure, honest and true. They were illustrations of a girl who doubted herself, and the descriptions of her means of frustrating herself. It was about a girl who could not tell if she was on track, or lost; a girl who did not know if she was rationalizing her actions, or if they were legitimate. This was a girl who had success in questionable methods, but never acknowledged them as such; a girl who fought all instinct with failing attempts to find new methods. It was a story about the unnecessary worry that accompanies self-inflicted torture. To Joelle, no one could ever be more honest with him/herself than when his/her thoughts flowed freely - uninterruptedly and unguided. In writing, she was honest to herself. She stopped trying to do all of things that she was told or read that successful people do. In continued wreckless abandon, she wrote - without intention, decidedly curious to see the values that would surface at the end of this process. Perhaps, after all and in a roundabout way, her story was an illustration of her theme.

Review of goals

I re-read my first post. I should have done that before the second post, and perhaps anytime before any subsequent post so that I may have realized sooner that I fell off track so quickly. Perhaps this is not quite a chronology of my life, but I certainly do use this forum to complain about personal issues.

I feel I should mention that I changed the name of my laptop from Ophelia to Desdemona shortly after writing that post.

I had hoped that this would evolve into a repository for my social opinions, but it has become a private junk yard of my unhappiest thoughts. I never seem to invest time in typing when I am happy. And whenever I feel like discussing current affairs, I find I do that face-to-face. So it is that my opinions can never be captured, and perhaps then neither will they be fleshed out. It makes me sad to think that a lot of views I`ve purported myself to have adopted are inconsistent.

So, today I re-read my first post, and have decided to abandon the plan. After all, it left me with less than 10 posts in one year. Not that anyone cares. I care at the moment.

I also re-read my old MSN Blog posts. I feel ill when I read them. They bring me back to such unhappy times. I want to delete them, but the part of me that wants a reminder that I've actually grown and changed in the last 3 years just can't let them go. So for now, I don't and instead consider posting my current thoughts on old topics. After all, in some spots, I asked myself how I'd feel about a dilemma when I was older. Well, here I am!

Working on this post makes me want to type more, and record more. I want to remember more of my life. I find it unfortunate that I tend not to record pleasant memories. Nowhere have I mentioned the new jobs I took on in the last year, what I've learned, the people I've met, the relationships I've built. I want to describe it all, but I don't feel passionately enough about it, and that usually results in me not liking reading about it months from now when I look back at previous posts.

I feel I should say something on atheism, but I have nothing more than a request to all to read Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene. The irrationality behind the existence of an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent being was enough for me to dismiss it as the lesser likely possibility when I was eight, but since that didn't work for everyone, I'm just going to start recommending literature.
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