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Saturday, September 25, 2004 

How am I? You sure you want to know?

College Street between Spadina and Bathurst was crowded at two in the morning, at least by my standards.

The stale Toronto air was filled with the sound of traffic and merriment. Saturday had barely begun and the sidewalks were filled with weaving drunks of all ages. They all smiled the relaxed grins of the inebriated. I walked straight through it all, my face feeling chiseled from stone.

I was angry.

Not at anybody at the party I had just left. And I'm pretty sure not at myself. I was just angry and I didn't know why.

This mood has been building in the seas of my mind for weeks and has just reached hurricane status.

In the last month I've moved to a new city, started a new school and built the beginnings of a new social network. In short, I've built a new life.

But somehow, the whole seems to be less than the sum of its parts.

At home, the convenience and energy of the city grows on me by the day. At school, I love the classes and even the assignments. My classmates are great people that will become good friends.

But this new life feels like it belongs to someone else.

After a brief wait at a bus stop on Bathurst, I was on a bus filled with people. The guy beside me was dozing. The teenagers on my other side were loud and obnoxious. I was fuming and thinking like crazy. This mood was wrecking my night and I was determined to be rid of it by the time I reached the apartment.

The party was a catalyst. This much was obvious to me. I'd had a distinct sense of apartness all night. Like I couldn't relate to the group. Like I didn't belong.

I realized that was at least partly true. I didn't belong. In fact, I never do. Not to any group of more than four people, even when the group is made up of friends or people who are becoming friends.

The reason that sociology was a good match for me is that I'm hardwired to be an observer of large groups. Put me in one, and I find it extraordinarily difficult not to take the observer role. I have to be engaged in intense conversation with one or two other people to avoid doing that. Unfortunately, intense conversations tend to become the focus of a large group's attention. Being a Taoist, making myself the centre of attention is less than appealing.

Which leaves me an observer. An outsider.

This was all very fascinating, but figuring it out wasn't exactly putting a smile on my face.

So I said fuck it and forced my face into something resembling a smile. There's a theory that facial expressions may influence our moods. I don't remember the science behind it. Doesn't much matter either because it didn't work.

Having failed at trickery, I turned back to slow, plodding reason to drag myself from the mood. The teenagers beside me babbled on about how some boy was a nice guy, but apparently not boyfriend material.

The problem was that I was creating a set of standards based on the group at the party, judging myself against those standards and finding myself wanting. They could almost all speak intelligently about music and bands. At least four of them can play or are learning to play the guitar. Some of them were smoking hash. All of them were drinking.

That's about as far as I got when the bus got to my stop. I let myself into the empty apartment, fixed myself a snack and sat down to watch a couple episodes of Roswell. I'd gotten a DVD box set for my birthday. I went to bed, slept in and spent some time reading news before opening up this blog again after nearly a month.

In writing what I have so far, I've realized that I'm not living on my terms anymore.

I'm not a loner, but my pursuits are primarily solitary. I read, I exercise, I think, I write, I cook. I spend time with one or two close friends at a time.

Or at least I did. I've been doing very little of any of that since moving here. I've settled into a routine that excludes exercise, doesn't leave much time for cooking, and confines my reading to news. I spend a lot of time with a lot of people that I like, but don't know well yet.

So the fact that this new life feels like someone else's is unsurprising. It is. And it will be until I start living it on my own terms again.

Better start now.