Friends

Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.

-Alan Cohen

School and stuff

Previous to this, my only experiences with educational institutions were lukewarm to say the least. Of high school, the less said the better. Indifferent (for the most part, there are always a few diamonds in the rough) instructors, a leave-no-child-behind attitude (don’t fail anyone, you’ll fuck up the bell curve), and the en-masse discovery of the magic of drugs, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity made for an interesting but not really effective learning environment. Franky, I don’t remember most of my Grade 12 year, and am not entirely sure how I managed to pass with decent grades… but I can play Egyptian Ratfuck like nobody’s business. (Except York, that sneaky motherfucker has wicked fast reflexes.)

Culinary school was a little better, in that everyone who was there was paying to be there (or had parents who signed the cheques and were holding the proverbial axe over their kid’s heads). But lets face it, culinary school would be better described as “Drunken boys with fire, knives, and a total lack of self control.”

This is a whole ‘nother world and it’s fucking weird.

Everywhere I look there are people who don’t have a dead jaded look in their eyes. I have been informed that this is not a sign that they are killer robots who must be exterminated, (Thanks Jules, but I really could have used that heads up a few hours earlier. It’s a little odd seeing posters up with that poor kids face on them.) but rather people who have not yet had their idealism and dreams forcefully and violently beaten out of them by just-to-pay-the-bills or corporate jobs.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my instructors not only enjoy the subjects that they teach and for the most part have a good time at work, but that they also *GASP!* truly want us to succeed. Everyone in every staff-type position that I have encountered on campus seems excessively happy to help you out or answer questions. The vast majority of the students are attentive, relatively interested in being there, and have that whole “everything is shiny and new” thing going on.

It’s still fun to laugh at the business students though. “What are you going to do with your business degree?” ‘Uh, I dunno, something do with business I guess?’ “Good call.”

This morning, some people from the student union (Including one guy whose job it was to just shout FREE at anyone who wandered near the table. We had fun shouting it back and forth at each other for a bit until the other people in the booth got annoyed.) had a table set up handing out free (yes, gratis. seriously.) day planners, coffee, giant costco muffins, and an assortment of apples, oranges & bananas. Because apparently in the first few weeks in school most people don’t have their shit together enough to eat breakfast before school. That shit is fucking crazy! Seriously, if you told me most people didn’t eat breakfast and thus were less likely to do well in school I’d say “too fucking bad, besides they should look into the research on the boosts in mental acuity from short-term fasting.” (I’ve read the research, but I still took a muffin. Goddamn costco muffins are tasty.) Not something along the lines of “well, let’s help these guys as much as we can!”

There was also a free book in the financial aid office today. “The Debt-Free Graduate.” A whole stack of them, with a little post-it note that said “Free Books!” on it with a little happy face. I still felt a small twinge of guilt (one I never feel for downloading music or movies for some reason) when I took one off the pile. It’s actually a pretty good book, and should be required reading for anyone planning on enjoying the benefits of a post-secondary education.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I guess, the shoe dropped for most people when they had to shell out $4-15k for tuition, books, registration fees, and other assorted whatnots. But hey, free muffins and books is still pretty frigging awesome.

Homework still kinda sucks. Probably always will. But I’ve pretty much accepted it at this point, I’ve got at least four years of seriously difficult courses in front of me. This is just the warm up… but I don’t find myself hating it nearly as much as I used to. I don’t know if that says something about me or what. But I actually find most of it kinda interesting, and I actually find myself wishing chemistry was longer than an hour per day. And no matter what, homework is at least two metric shit-tons better than working a shitty job for minimum wage, with no benefits and no chance of advancement.

Parking is a serious bitch. Like, show up before 830 or good luck finding a space. I might hire some young kid from the school across the street to camp in a spot close to the main buildings for me every morning just so I don’t have to hunt for a spot.

But other than those two things, I’m kinda liking this whole school thing, so far anyways. I’m not so much liking the whole “having to borrow money to pay bills and rent” thing, but it’s either that or dig ditches for the rest of my life. I’m sure by the time I get into my third or fourth year it won’t seem quite so awesome, but I’m also sure that my innate awesomeness will make up for it.

Also, young single adventurous women. There’s a time and place for everything, that time and place is college. All in all, life is good.

Staring Out Over the Bridge

When you were a kid and wanted to do something your parents or teachers didn’t like, you may have heard the question, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” The idea is that it’s not good to do something stupid, even if everyone else is doing it. The logic is think for yourself instead of following the crowd.

It’s good advice, regardless of the motivations of the authority figure giving it to you. But one day, you grow up and suddenly the tables are turned. People start expecting you to behave very much like they do. If you disagree and don’t conform to their expectations, some of them get confused or irritated. It’s almost as if they are asking: “Hey, everyone else is jumping off the bridge. Why aren’t you?”

Every day, you’ll encounter the bridge in countless decisions and conversations—but the choice of whether to jump or not is completely up to you. How can you back away and make your own choices?

Try this:

1. Ask why. A powerful, annoying question, why is frequently used by three-year-olds but usually abandoned by adults. Support the why revolution. Start asking why of everyone, including yourself.

2. Clarify. What’s it all about? What do you really want to do, and how can you make that the priority?

3. Simplify. That’s what minimalism is all about—letting go and living the dream. But the best part of simplicity has nothing to do with how many socks you own; it lies in being clear about your intentions and motivations.

4. Do … more. That’s right, do more, not less. When you don’t know your core passions and are staring out over the bridge, it’s good to back off and strip everything down. But when you’re crafting a remarkable life, why wouldn’t you want more of it?

Here are a few options for step four: learn a language. Write a book. Take a trip. Learn to walk on hot coals. Enroll in trapeze school. Volunteer.

Or do something else—it’s a big world out there. The main question is: How can you wake up tomorrow and live the life you want, while also connecting with the world around you?

Most of us don’t really want the simplest possible life. We want a life that is free from clutter, yes—but we need to connect our lives with a greater purpose. We don’t need to own things we don’t use, but we should spend freely on meaningful experiences. We should invest in ourselves and invest in others.

Take a hard look at the life before you. Are you staring out over the bridge? Take a step back. Decide for yourself what’s best.

The rest is entirely up to you.

Chris Gillebeau

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye