Sunday Rambles

With all the LotSF stuff I’ve been doing the past few days, I had pretty much zero time to think of what I was going to write today. I mean, I spent the afternoon trying to come up with a suitable subject, and I did eventually settle on one that I like, but it’s a topic I want to invest a couple days’ worth of work into. So I shall save it for Wednesday’s post, and use this post to wrap up a few thoughts.

Firstly, I’m glad I did that LotSF chapter. I believe the story is an important one that I would like to continue telling, and it’s really good for me to have something like that to work on that I know I can really see progress with. I have lots of stories that I’m working hard on, but LotSF is special in that I am able to share it as I go along. It makes it feel more tangible, something I can say, “Look how much I’ve done,” and it’s great motivation to keep working hard and keep getting words on the page.

Secondly, I am so glad that spring finally seems to be arriving (knock on wood). This weekend was lovely, sunny and something resembling warmish, and it’s such a wonderful mood-booster. Despite spring signalling the start of the crazy stressful heartworm season at work, it also means that soon I’ll be able to spend more time outside without freezing my butt off. That means more LotSF inspiration and more opportunity to feel like myself.

Thirdly, I’ve been looking through old photos and drowning in happy nostalgia (more on that in my next post) and I am so grateful for the people I’ve met in my life. Especially my elementary school friends–people I’ve grown up with who are still so close to my heart. I’m very fortunate to know them and get to spend time with them, and it’s such an amazing thing to see them out there living their lives and figuring out what makes them happy.

And while I’m at it, I’m also grateful for people I’ve met through WordPress. I need to get a bit better at keeping in touch with all my digital friends, but I’m still so happy for the opportunity to have met them and gotten to know them. There are a few in particular who have influenced my life in all the best ways.

I dunno, I’m feeling so sappy tonight. I hope you guys had a good weekend.

Talk soon.

-Alex

Old Book, New Book… and Doubts

So at the end of June, I graduated from high school (yay me). There was the painful 3-hour ceremony, the silly gowns and even sillier hats, and the enormously endless line of graduates. There was a girl who passed out and a girl who screamed, “I did it mom!” on stage, as one might expect at such an event.

I hated it quite cheerily, to be honest, and was happy to just go home and devour an absurd amount of food. Did the ceremony mean anything to me? Not really. Besides making it official, I couldn’t have cared less whether I had a ceremony or not. As far as I was concerned, I had graduated at the end of my last exam. The grad night was superfluous.

But holy crap, I survived.

I didn’t punch a single person, either (though there were both teachers and students who I think fully deserved it). And I didn’t lose my individuality, or my creativity, or my friends–or any of the things my grade nine self was worried about. Okay, so the first two years were full of kicking and screaming, but I got used to it, realized it couldn’t define me, and managed to endure my way through it. There were moments when I perhaps didn’t try very hard on homework or didn’t study enough for tests, and maybe I could’ve gotten a better grade in chem this year if I’d really applied myself, but after the stress and the tears and the resentment, I’m just glad I’m done.

And hey, grade 12 wasn’t even that bad. It was kind of fun.

Will I miss high school? Not likely. I’ll keep in touch with the people there who mean most to me. I’ll keep close to my heart all the experiences that truly influenced me. But there was so much about high school that I didn’t agree with, I think I can safely say that leaving it behind will be no problem.

Except that university comes next.

With the closing of one book comes the opening of another, right? Which is fine and dandy. I closed the book on elementary school and opened the book on high school. I closed the book on high school and am now opening the book on university. But…

See, this is where I don’t know what to say. The frustration I mentioned earlier, yeah, that’s still here. It’s probably been here since the summer started. I feel so tired, so frustrated, so done. Why? What the heck’s wrong with me?

I keep trying to get over it, to figure out what’s wrong, to do something to feel better, but the summer just keeps slipping away and I just keep letting it go. This is not okay. This is not okay. But I don’t know how to make it okay.

And I’m realizing that it’s only getting worse the longer I let it go because I feel like I’m running out of time until the end. Instead of university being the start of a new book, it’s becoming the end of my freedom. I keep thinking of it as the time when all the torment I went through in high school is going to kick up again, only ten times worse, and I have just a bit more than a month to enjoy what freedom I have left.

I’m not getting cold feet, no–I’m still going to go through with university (seven years to be a vet, woo), and I’m going to take it head-on, aggressively, like any warrior would. But I guess I’m just worried about myself. The way my soul feels, right now… this is not okay. This is not an acceptable way to feel for seven long years.

But getting back on track–one Saturday following grad, I had nearly all my family together for a BBQ, celebrating my graduation. Having both my mom and dad’s relatives in one place, seeing them come together as a single community, was wonderful. And when my mom gave a speech, thanking my family for their support, for helping me become who I am today, I couldn’t have agreed with her more.

I am approaching university, something I am prematurely and subconsciously dreading, without any idea of what to expect in reality. But behind and around me are all of the words of support and love that my family has given me, and beyond that, the words of my friends. They have indeed helped me get to where I am, and I know they will continue to do so.

I don’t know where I’m headed, but I know that I will need them, friends and family alike. I will need their words, their love, their belief.

I sincerely hope that university doesn’t start the same as high school did, and I don’t let the same resentment and loathing build up. Even if I do, though, I’ll have to cling to the faith that I can do this. I somehow survived high school, so I can survive university, right?

To all my family and all my friends who have been with me this far, thank you. Thank you for all your support and love, both in past and in future. I will try to lend the same to you in return.

This is what heroes do, isn’t it? When they are afraid, they reach out their hands to the ones they love most. They reach out for help.

What new book has scared you the most?

May you always have support to lift you when you fear that you may fall.

-Alex

PS: I should introduce you to my Aunt Catherine. She is my, em, eccentric aunt who’s been dying to make an appearance in my blog. She likes to dye her own wool (she’s got sheep) with bark (apparently?) and play the tin whistle. Aunt Catherine–I’m still waiting for you to learn to skip across the yard while playing your tin whistle. I’d give you a whole blog post to yourself if you did that ;)

When There Is No Good Decision

I read the book The Sower of Tales quite a while ago, and when I saw it again recently, I decided to take it out from the library to reread it out of interest. I remembered that it was a good story–and I still hold that opinion now–but something I didn’t remember was one particularly interesting moment between the protagonist, Calantha, and her companion, Phelan, at the hands of an evil sorcerer:

“I wonder how long you’d hold out if you had to watch your companion being… shall we say, corrected by me? He’s a flute player, isn’t he? Now… how would he play with broken fingers?”

The Sower of Tales

How many times has it happened before–the hero of the story refuses to help the villain and so someone he or she cares about is put under the threat of torture. It’s a pretty commonly used tactic, and rightfully so. No one wants to see their best friend suffer or hear the sound of their agonized screams. Logically, it’s a sound strategy to use in a story. Still, it sometimes feels to me like it’s a little too convenient and overused. The friend is threatened, the hero surrenders, the plot goes on.

So when Calantha didn’t surrender when she saw Phelan’s fingers being broken, it took me by surprise.

Even as Phelan screamed with pain, he begged Calantha not to give in, to stay strong no matter what happens. And believe it or not, she did. She felt horrible about it, tormented by the enormity of his pain, but she didn’t give in. Did she not care about Phelan? Did she not care that his music was everything he had? Of course she cared. She felt her fingers breaking too. But she is an incredibly strong hero to realize that the pain of her friend might not be the most terrible thing to happen.

Wow, I thought, Could I do that?

What a question. If one of my best friends was being tortured, screaming in agony even as she begged me not to surrender, I really don’t know if I could hold out. I love my friends so much, it feels like there’s nothing in my life that could be more important than them. But there are so many different scenarios and so many different consequences, I don’t think there is a clear-cut yes or no answer as to whether I would risk their pain.

I think there are three main factors:

  • The Threat: how badly will your friend be hurt? Would you be okay if it was just physical torture, pain that would eventually fade? What if the threat was death?
  • The Stakes: what are you fighting for? Is it the end of the world, or just a “this could possibly turn bad if you didn’t succeed” scenario? Would you take the risk if there was a chance the situation could be mended later on?
  • The Trust: how does your friend feel about this? Does he or she understand that success is more important than his/her well-being or survival? Is there enough trust between you that you know your friend would want you to do whatever you have to, no matter the cost?

They’re huge questions. And trickily complex. For example, the threat may be enormous, like death, but maybe the stakes are truly the end of the world. Either situation is horrible, and the trust between you becomes the deciding factor. I don’t think I would be able to tell what I would do in this kind of a situation until I was actually in it.

This is a huge test of morality. How far are you willing to go to save the world, or defend your friends? What means the most to you? Calantha’s example shows that a hero can never, ever be black or white. There has to be grey. To save the world, she chose to let her friend be harmed. On one hand, she was a saviour, on the other, a monster.

It’s tough, but a hero’s journey is never easy. There are difficult decisions, moral tests, and nightmarish situations that haunt you for a very long time. And there’s no right or wrong.

Calantha is born from valour in her determination and courage. She had the strength to make a difficult decision, and that teaches me that sometimes as a hero, you can’t save everybody. But you have to be brave. You have to keep fighting. You have to follow your gut and trust your companions, your closest friends.

Sometimes, you have to break a few bones to save a thousand lives.

Do you know any friend-or-surrender situations?

May you always have the strength, courage, and trust to endure the grey decisions.

-Alex