On being vulnerable

This is a cop out post because I’m really just posting a TED Talk, but I’ll give it a bit of a preface:

I suck at being vulnerable. I can handle pain and stress and grief. I can be perky even when I’m tired and I can talk to just about anyone. But what I didn’t really realize until watching this is that what I really struggle with is allowing people to see me with all of my faults. I spend a lot of time putting on facades. I guess we all do to some degree. The difference is that I don’t know how to go without them. I like people to see me as this sunshiny, smart, determined, witty, put together girl. Even my close friends and family. Maybe especially them. The idea of the people I care about seeing all of my fears and insecurities scares me so much. I know they’ll love me anyway, but I still don’t want them to think of me that way. I guess mostly I don’t want their pity.

Brene Brown says that we need to be vulnerable in order to connect with people, and I can feel intuitively that she’s right. I just don’t know if I can do it. Being with Nob is amazing, but also terrifying because he sees through my facade. He just has this way of knowing when I’m nervous or scared or worried even when my smile fools everyone else. It’s one of the things I like about him, but it also freaks me out. Part of me just wants to push him away when he gets too close to knowing the real me.

Anyway, check out this video. Even if it doesn’t reveal deep-seeded issues the way it did for me, it’s also just really entertaining and informative.

 

But seriously what is with St. Patrick’s Day?

I was so not prepared for yesterday.

I was not prepared for all of the people drunk at 8am. I’m not even conscious at 8am. Why would I drink alcohol that early? It’s a depressant for goodness sakes.

I was certainly not prepared for all the tacky green dollar store St. Patrick’s Day gear everyone was wearing. It’s the kind of junk you would never be caught with sober, but apparently drunk people this it’s the best thing ever. My green t shirt is not enough, they think (I’m assuming). I also need six strings of green plastic beads, a green hat that keeps falling off due to my drunken stumbling, and green sunglasses I keep trying to put on other people’s faces but I actually just poke them in the eye.

I mean, I live in a university dorm. I’m pretty used to people drinking a lot, and to be honest, I drink pretty damn often. I’ve definitely gotten drunk on a Monday night before. But I still don’t get the mass hysteria around St. Patrick’s Day. Why is it so important to drink that exact night? And why so much? Because the thing is that no one got fun drunk last night. Everyone got where-are-my-pants blackout worst-hangover-of-your-life how-did-I-even-get-home drunk. Everyone. On the same night. Half of my friend’s Spanish class took their midterm while sipping green beer out of their water bottles. A different friend has band aids all over her hands from a fall she doesn’t remember. When I was walking down the stairs of my dorm last night I ran into a guy who was unzipping his pants to pee over the railing. I politely asked him to wait until I was gone before he did it.

And what did I do last night? I studied. Yep, nerd alert. Then my friend texted me that she had just broken up with her boyfriend, so I went over with an armload of candy. Honestly, even spending the night with my econ textbook and my sobbing friend still seems more appealing than making poor decisions wearing a lot of plastic green things.

God, I sound really old.

What every student should know about university residence

-It will be loud. All the time. “Quiet hours” are a lie, so if doors slamming, yelling, or drunken yodelling bother you, invest in earplugs

-People on your floor know everything about your life. Even if you’ve never talked to them. A girl from down the hall once came up to me and was like, “Who’s that guy you always have over? He’s really cute. Are you dating him? You should date him.” That was the first conversation I’d ever had with her.

-Everything will smell like weed always

-Don’t try to get anything done on Thursday nights

-There will always be someone drinking. Even on a Tuesday afternoon, and even during finals. Okay, especially during finals.

-Everyone’s fridges really only end up containing alcohol and maybe some hummus. Hummus makes really good drunk food.

-There will always be someone drinking their seventh cup of coffee

-There will always be that person who never gets out of their pyjamas, and as far as you know, never goes to class. Is there a degree in playing video games I don’t know about?

-In spite of the fact that you all live a few feet away from each other, people play online video games together in separate rooms

-At any given second someone is always saying “I should be doing school work right now” while watching youtube videos, playing video games, or just lying in bed doing absolutely nothing

-Half the floor is always sick. I swear, we just pass the same cold back and forth over and over

-No one knows where the library is

-Like three people on the floor know how to do laundry and they have to teach everyone else. Scratch that. All of the girls know how to do laundry and like three of the guys do. Not sexist if it’s true.

-No one has ever attempted to clean their bathroom

-The vacuum has been used maybe four times. Two out of four times were to vacuum up puke.

On debating

I really never wanted to join the university debate club. I just wanted to go to IKEA. No, actually, that’s how it happened.

And yet, I’ve spent three of the last four weekends at debate tournaments, and almost all of my friends in university belong to debate. We literally go to other universities, stand in rooms, and talk for hours. And then we do it again the next day. With this in mind, I think it’s very valid to ask, how the hell did this happen? What the hell am I doing with my life? Let me explain.

I met Lena (I asked her which character she related with in the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and she picked Lena, so that’s now her name) because she lived down the hall from me in residence. My first impression of her was that she was a bit too much a try hard, with her tailored blazers and little pencil skirts. Like geez, this is a dorm, not the UN. She was fun to talk to  though, and frankly, I had met very few people on my floor who I actually wanted to hang out with. Most of the rest were engineering students who alternated between doing physics, playing video games, and watching hockey, which are basically my three least favourite things.

So when Lena invited me to go on this special student shuttle to IKEA one night a couple weeks into school, I was down. I figured it would at least be something to do. The hitch was that Lena had to make a detour before we left. She promised it wouldn’t take more than an hour, she just had to go to this meeting thing.

Sure, I thought. I didn’t really have anything better to do. It was the second week of university so I didn’t really even have homework yet.

The “meeting thing” turned out to be a debate club meeting, and Lena, it turned out, was on the Canadian national team for high school debate. In other words, she was kind of a big deal in the debate community. When she showed up at the meeting members of the club already knew who she was.

I found all of this news mildly bemusing. I thought it was funny that there was a “debate community” and a national team and everything. I mean seriously, it’s just people arguing. How intense could it really be?

Super intense, as it turned out. At the meeting, the senior members did a demo round to show what debate was like in university. Not only was it intense, but it was also really interesting, and smart and…entertaining. I never would have seen that coming. What honestly drew me in was that all the debaters just looked like they were having such a good time. There they were, standing up talking about smart things, but also adding in jokes and good natured teasing. The debate I saw was about whether a total surveillance state was a good idea, and the debaters made jokes about their rights to watch BDSM porn in the privacy of their own home. They actually had the whole room laughing by the end.

When we left to go to IKEA, Lena told me straight up that she wouldn’t be offended if I told her I thought it was stupid. She said she new debating was kind of a ridiculous use of her time, but that it was something she had done for a really long time and she personally enjoyed it. I think I shocked her when I said that I was interested in going to the next meeting.

It just kind of snowballed from there. I went to the next meeting, then to a full day training session for beginners, then to one tournament, then another. At this point I think I’ve spent about a quarter of my weekends in university at debate tournaments.

It’s worth noting that not only am I not very good at debating, but I also don’t particularly care about becoming any good. For me it’s just about being around people who want to talk about important issues. The way one debate friend described it was that debaters don’t just talk about the “whats” in life-what you want to do, what you like, what you want to be-but also the “whys.” Debate is about calling your beliefs into question; you have to justify your choices and your reasoning. We don’t just talk like that in debates, but outside of them too.

I think the idea of thinking “whys” appeals to me because I’ve always thought like that. It’s a characteristic that shows in my writing, especially in this blog. I tend to write about something that happened, then how I feel about it, then speculate as to why I feel that way. What’s cool is that now I have a group of friends to talk like this with, instead of just turning over these thoughts in my own brain.

I’ve become close with four girls in debate, all first years.  What’s funny is even though I’ve only known them for a few months, I already feel as close to them as I do with friends I’ve known for years. Maybe it’s because residence forces people to become close. Maybe it’s because we’ve already spent so many weekends together for debate. Maybe it’s just the massive amount of wine we consume together. Whatever the reason, I’ve found people I belong with here. That’s a pretty special thing.

There are no words for this

I’m never at a loss for words. It’s one of those things that I’ve always been sure of, the same way my eyes have always been blue and so has the sky. I’ve never had this “writer’s block” thing I hear about. In fact, I have always had the opposite problem; I have too much to write. I have so many words bubbling over in my head that I often can’t write fast enough to catch them all. Maybe this explains why I have such cramped, scrawly writing instead of the round bubble kind I see other girls use.

So yeah. Words are usually my friend. Except for right now.

I have never ever felt like this. I keep trying to describe it and I just can’t without using awful clichés like “It feels like a dream.” I kind of make myself want to vomit. Except that I’m also too happy to be upset with myself.

This is the short form of what happened. There were more events leading up to it, and I will probably fill them in at some point, but basically I spent last weekend at Nob’s university at a debate tournament. I actually have a lot of friends who go there; Lyd, Drew and Andy go there too, but I instead stayed with people I knew from debate. I hadn’t planned to visit any of my friends from home; I didn’t even tell them I was coming. Schedules for debate tournaments are usually packed, between the debating itself and the after parties, so I figured there was no point, especially since I had seen everyone over Christmas holidays. I would just have a fun weekend with my debate friends, I figured.

Except the thought of Nob was constantly at the back of my mind. This new tension had developed between us over the holidays and I couldn’t quite figure out why it had happened or what it meant. In Grade 12 we had always clearly defined ourselves as friends, and he was dating someone else for a large amount of it. I think that’s when we became so comfortable together; we became closer and closer over the course of the year. The best part of our friendship was the fact that we could speak so honestly and frankly with each other. We talked about our families and our futures and we always called each other on our bullshit. In August he asked me if he should try to make long distance work with his girlfriend when he went away for school, and I told him I thought it was a really bad idea. I swear I didn’t have any ulterior motives for that advice; I just had his best interests in mind. I knew that Nob is the type to pour everything into a relationship, and it would take away from his first year and he would end up being miserable.

In December there were no deep life talks though. We talked about safe things, our friends and politics and parties. I could feel us avoiding anything that might force into honesty. We sat in his house on opposite sides of the couch, always leaving a few feet between each other. I was scared to look him in the eye and instead found myself staring at my hands in my lap as we talked. When I left we hugged, which was normal enough, but we both held on a second too long. That was it though, a second. Then there were some jokes and see you laters, even though later meant months and we both knew it. As I drove away I was shaking a little.

Which brings me to Saturday night. It was 3am and I was sitting in an all night restaurant sharing a poutine with my friend as we discussed the party we had just left. I was trying to listen to her, but I just kept thinking about where Nob was, wondering if he might walk past the restaurant window at any moment. Occasionally a tall guy in an engineering jacket would walk by and for a second I would think it was him and my hands would start to shake again. Finally I decided that I was being stupid. Of course I should see my friend. I was in his city; it just made sense.

I texted him and told him I was in town and that we should hang out Sunday. He agreed. We tried to pretend it was no big deal, just friends hanging out.

And it was, at first. We went out for burgers. I told him some funny anecdotes about debate and he told me about crazy things his floor mates had done the night before. There were signals that this lunch was different than others though. For one, he was supposed to meet up with friends to go looking at houses to rent for next year and he cancelled on them. I told him that I understood if he had to go, but he said it was fine so I didn’t push it. I tried not to over think why he might do that.

Then we went back to his dorm room. When I say it like that it sounds like he had a plan to hook up with me all along, but I don’t think he did. It didn’t feel weird at the time, anyway. In residence your dorm room is your bedroom, yes, but it’s also your living room and your kitchen. It seemed like a natural place to go.

We talked some more. We looked up stuff on the internet, political things and memes and whatever. Then I spotted a Lego set on top of his dresser. It was the same set we had built together over the holidays when he had a bunch of people over. We’re playing with this, I told him. At first he scoffed at the idea, but I know Nob and I knew he wanted to play. Sure enough, he picked up the space ship and I launched catapults at it and we both made explosion sounds and narrated a dramatic battle which ended with total destruction and a single survivor.

I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be anywhere else. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be with anyone else. I remember wondering how I had gotten so lucky as to meet a boy who would sit in his bedroom and play Lego with me.

We kissed. I’m not sure who started it to be honest and I like that. He had this brazen look in his eyes and he looked so certain that when our lips touched, I was certain. I was certain that I wanted to be with this boy, and that changed everything.

I don’t really need to explain what happened next, but I will say it was amazing. I found myself wondering why I had ever even bothered kissing other guys before this. All of those other kisses, all of those other guys, they didn’t even compare to this. You can’t even plot it on the same spectrum.

All of that built up tension evaporated instantly. I don’t know how long we just laid nose to nose, breathing in the moment.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” I finally said.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen,” he replied. “I had pretty much given up hope.”

“Classic us,” I said, laughing. “We finally figure our shit out once we live in different cities.”

I eventually had to go; I had a bus to catch back to school. We didn’t exchange any promises or make any attempt to make sense of what had happened. There was this unspoken feeling that it wasn’t over though. Before I left he kissed my smile one more time with that brazen look on his face. On the elevator and down the street and packing my things and in the taxi and at the Greyhound station I smiled and smiled. My lips were still tingling to remind me that it really happened.

I feel like all the clichés, even now. I’m walking on air and the whole world looks beautiful and different. I always thought those clichés could never apply to me, and yet here I am. I must have been smiling as I daydreamed while I waited for my omelet at the cafeteria this morning, because the omelet guy just grinned at me like he knew exactly what I was thinking about. I found myself wondering if I look as different as I feel.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop smiling.

Coming home

I was so excited to come home from university for the holidays that I forgot to think about what it would be like when I got here. I was so focused on the idea of eating home cooked meals and sleeping in an actually comfortable bed and seeing my friends and family that I forgot that coming back after four months might be a little weird.

For starters, I think that my cats took a day or two to remember who I was, which was sad. They used to mob me whenever I walked through the door after school. There was other little stuff too, like the way my cereals are missing from the pantry and replaced with strange granola mixes that I assume belong to my dad’s new girlfriend. My car barely started because it had gone undriven for so long, and driving itself felt really strange after spending all semester travelling in buses and on foot.

Visiting my high school was the weirdest experience. I went with a bunch of friends, and we all agreed that we felt distinctly like we shouldn’t have come. The students all looked so young and the school felt so small. Our old teachers seemed mostly surprised and weirded out that we had come.

That being said, I had a nice time talking to my English teacher, who now tells me she is studying to get her PhD so that she can become a university prof. She says that her new AP class is not as good as ours was; she misses the noise and how I would always argue with her. English was a big part of my high school experience; I had the same teacher for three years and almost all of my friends were in that class. It was certainly a rowdy class. We had some intense debates about everything from Shakespeare to dystopias.

Ms. R: Kay they agree with everything I say! I keep trying to provoke them to argue but they don’t even react. One time I told them I thought we should drug everyone the way they do in Brave New World, and they wrote it down.

Kay: What? No one had a problem with that? Plus, I don’t think any of us ever took notes in your class.

Ms. R: Exactly!!

So that was nice. Also, seeing my friends was wonderful. I thought we would have nothing to talk about because we’re all doing different things this year and we haven’t seen each other in four months, but if anything we have more to talk about. I love hearing about everyone’s respective university experiences. I have a bunch of friends in engineering at Queen’s University, and from what I understand it’s basically a cult. They have these purple jackets and they get badges for them by doing stupid stunts like drinking their height in beer and jumping into freezing Lake Ontario in the middle of the winter. They have some great stories to tell.

I think it’s hard for the friends who stayed at home for university. It’s really different than residence, where there’s always a party going on and it’s really easy to meet people. I feel bad talking about it too much with people like Jan because she gets this wistful look on her face and I worry that I’m making her wish she had gone away this year. She says it’s been hard to meet new friends when she’s only at school a few hours a day.

It was nice seeing everyone, but it also made me realize that an era of my life is over. It’s hitting me now what presumably we were supposed to realize at graduation, that high school is really over and there’s no going back. Sure, I intend to stay close with some of my high school friends, but it will never be the same as it was. Never again will I drive the half hour to school in the city every morning. Never again will we hang out in the hallways by our lockers, or in the journalism room. Never again will we have all be doing the same things in the same place. Will we even have anything to talk about years from now?

I’ve always liked  new things, but giving up the old things is hard. I wish that having all of the new friends and experiences at university didn’t mean giving up getting to see my high school friends all the time. I guess it’s part of growing up though.

I think that the most important thing I’ve realized this week is the importance of home. I get what all of those Christmas songs are about now and why Christmas traditions are so important. It was so wonderful to just be at home with my family and putting up the Christmas tree and drinking hot chocolate. My first day at home Pal and I spent the whole day baking Christmas cookies. We were determined to make them exactly like our mom did for years. All those years I remember being annoyed that she made us help, but now I’m glad that she left us a tradition to share.

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope yours is full of friends and family and food and laughter. Most of all, I hope you get to be home for the holidays, because it is the best feeling in the world.

The weight room

I’m weight training again. That’s not something I really expected to say three months into university. I always knew that I would keep playing soccer after I left home because I still love it, and also because after thirteen years of playing constantly I don’t really know how to stop.

Soccer is fun though; weight training is not. In the kind of training we did for soccer, our trainer would run us on treadmills at a sprint thirty seconds on, thirty seconds off, until our legs felt like jello and our stomachs felt queasy. Then came lunges with twenty-five pounds in each hand, and as the season progressed twenty-five would turn to thirty which would turn to thirty five. Then there were some squats with more weights, and then some jumping between sets just to make sure that you could fully appreciate the pain coursing through your muscles. Then came ab workouts if we were lucky, arms if we weren’t. Our trainer liked to end each session with this sadistic game involving a deck of cards. He would draw a card and one of us would guess the number. He would show us the number and we would do the amount of pushups equal to the difference between it and our guess. We went through the whole deck before we got to leave.

So yes, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I never enjoyed weight training. The only good part was doing it with my teammates. We would help each other get through the reps by catching up on gossip. Yeah, that’s right, we talked about boys while we bench pressed. Some of the best talks I’ve had with my teammates happened in the weight room  while lugging barbells.

Without my team and a season to train for, I figured that I had no reason to continue lifting once I arrived at university. I signed up for an intramural soccer team that plays once a week and figured that would be all I’d feel up for. I don’t know what I thought; I guess that  I’d be busy studying and partying. I didn’t think I’d miss soccer practice four and five times a week, and I certainly didn’t think I’d miss the weight room.

I was wrong.

For the last few weeks I’ve been wondering why my sleep cycle is so screwed up. In the first month of school I stayed up late a lot partying, and the month after that was midterms so then I was staying up studying. So it wasn’t until November that I realized that I actually can’t go to sleep before 2am even if I want to. I guess this is partially just a habit now, but I also realized that when I go to bed at night I still have so much energy left. I mean, really all I do in a day is sit in class, eat, and then sit some more in my dorm room studying. Sometimes I switch it up and also go to debate club and sit there. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep.

That’s why I decided to go to the gym today. Just to run, I told myself. It’s too cold to run outside, so I’ll use a treadmill at the gym on campus.

Except the thing is that old habits die hard. Even though I’m really out of shape, I couldn’t just jog on the treadmill. I kept upping my speed and my incline to keep myself challenged. I wasn’t content, it seemed, until my legs and my lungs were both burning. Then (and this is where it gets stranger) I strolled over to the free weights and started doing lunges. I have no idea why. I don’t train on a competitive soccer team anymore. There is no logical reason at all for me to need leg muscles the size of bowling balls just to sit around and write history papers and econ assignments. The treadmill made sense; cardio is important for healthy living and whatever. Weights, however, are just pointless pain.

The only explaination isn’t really a logical one. As far as I can tell all this shows is that working out, pushing my body, putting myself through pain, are all hardwired into my psyche. I don’t know if I was born like this or if was something trained into me over that thirteen years, but I do know that it’s a part of myself that I can’t get away with ignoring anymore. I guess I’ll have to add “gym rat” to strange hodgepodge of labels that seem to make me who I am.