Friday, April 27, 2012

The Right Place at the Right Time

Have you ever felt like you were destined to be in a particular place at a particular time? That feeling is a rare occasion in life.

I haven't felt that way in a long, long time. I've spent a large portion of the past year brewing with bitterness over how royally screwed over I was in terms of my living situation. I could be in Chicago, meeting new people and opening myself up to new experiences. I could be in Washington D.C., where a couple of my best friends live, having a good time with those guys. For better or for worse, though, I'm in my hometown for the time being. Most of my college friends have moved away and the social scene is lacking around these parts.

But the other day, I got that feeling that I was meant to be here, in this exact spot at an exact time. I've developed a routine of falling asleep to a television show every night just so I can avoid those thoughts that plague your mind late at night. I had just finished all of the seasons of How I Met Your Mother and was embarking upon the first episode of Frasier. The closing line of that first episode is Frasier, a talk-show host psychiatrist, giving this bit of advice to a woman still mourning the loss of a boyfriend 8 months after the fact:

"But you're not mourning the loss of your boyfriend. You're mourning the loss of what you thought your life would be. Let it go. Things don't always work out how you planned: that's not necessarily bad. Things have a way of working out, anyway."

Laying in bed, I couldn't help but think that quote was written specifically for me. It describes the last 8 months of my life to a tee. More importantly, it was what I needed to hear.

With summer fast approaching, it's time to finally leave the pessimism behind. I may never be able to forgive what happened to me, but dwelling on it isn't going to make things any better. I always used to cringe when people optimistically spurted off the motivational line, "Attitude determines everything". But I've come to embrace it. This summer, I'm going to dive head first into life with a positive attitude. I'm going to drive to Lake Michigan on a spur of the moment just to admire the lake, I'm going to take a drive down a country road and enjoy the scenery, I'm going to savor the moments with my my best friends - the friends I grew up with.

Attitude determines everything.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Daydreams of Hockey in Small-town Ontario

As the famed, and overused, Robert Frost poem goes:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Outside the pub window, the cold Canadian winter blows through the slushy streets on a small town Ontario night. Small groups of locals, huddling closely to the warmth of their overcoats, march down the streets on their way home from the rinky-dink stadium that resembles a steel mill moreso than a hockey arena. In the distance, a large smokestack puffs gray clouds into the vast Canadian sky. Inside the pub window, comforted by the warmth of the pub heating, I glance over my notes from that night's game while the waitress sets a mug of Labatt onto the cedar tabletop. I begin to jot down a story on my yellow legal pad, as the midnight deadline for the local newspaper rapidly approaches. The loneliness of the bar, empty save for two isolated old men watching the Maple Leafs game on the bar television sets, starts to fade as my story takes shape.

Sometimes when I'm stuck inside the law library, surrounded by thousands of old legal books, as I am now, my mind begins to wander to that small town Ontario town where I might be trying to cut a name for myself as a beat writer for the local OHL club. I think about the forks in the roads I have faced in my lifetime, the path I respectively chose, and where that path has led me. Not to say that I'm unhappy with the career path I've chosen, (I actually am content with it for the first time in a long time) but sometimes I find myself deep into reading a lengthy hockey article - my mind lost in the magic of that unique sport and reminiscent for times up at the schoolhouse in Canada - and wonder how amazing that other career might be.

As Frost said: "Two roads diverged in a wood". Sometimes I feel like we get so far down one of those roads that it's not possible to turn back. Then again, sometimes I feel like I'm still young, and maybe the road I'm going down is just a precursor to another, much bigger, fork in the road.

Carpe Diem.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Post-Grad Drudgery

Man, the past two years have been tough. Being graduated from college has been the hardest transition of my life without question. This is in large part because nobody ever tells you what to expect after college. So I present to you my lessons for post-grad life:

1. Your friends will change. For those four years of college, I had the best friends a guy could ask for. We did everything together. I lived with my best friends, partied with my best friends, sat out hangovers with my best friends, and everything else in between. It's essentially like having a family when you live with your friends. In short, it was awesome.

Now, I see those people that I literally once would call my family only a couple of times a year. Once we graduated, everyone moved away. My friends reside all over the country from New York to Washington D.C. to Seattle. It's pretty tough going from seeing those people every waking minute to basically never seeing them.

Quite honestly, it's pretty lonely without them. When I come home from class, there's no one to joke around with or just watch a TV show with before bed. There's no one to go grocery shopping with. It's just not the same.

2. Hangovers get worse. During my freshman year of college, my hallmates (2nd Elliot at Mary Markley Hall - probably the drunkest hall in the history of dorms) and I drank pretty much Tuesday through Saturday, causing all sorts of ruckuses and having all sorts of fun. I could drink 12 beers on any given night and wake up and make it to an 8:30 class no problem. Those days are long gone. Nowadays if I go to the bar and drink 12 beers I have to fully plan on zero productivity the next day and I have to purchase at least 2 32 ounce Gatorades for the morning.

I also think the worse hangovers are a symptom of the first bullet-point on this list, friends. When I lived at BOX the Sunday hangover was a ritual. Everyone would stumble out of bed and meet in the BOX living room, where we would plop ourselves onto our beer-stained couches for about 12 hours of television and joke-telling that would make the hangover feel a little bit better. Those were some of the best times I ever had, and it was while I felt like absolute trash.

I don't have those friends around to sit around and joke with every Sunday anymore. Now it's pretty much just me and my hungover self sitting around feeling miserable. When your by yourself during a hangover, the depressing feeling induced by the hangover is increased tenfold.

3. It's much harder to meet girls. I in no way mean this to be disrespectful to girls, but in college girls just have very little inhibitions. Girls get drunk and make horrible decisions in college, making it much easier for guys at the bars.

In the post-grad world, (most) girls tire of the getting-hammered-at-the-bar-and-sloppily-making-out with guys scene. Instead, post-college girls want you to take them on dates and actually put in some effort and maybe even iron your shirt for a date.

Moving back home certainly doesn't help anything. The bars that I frequent in my hometown largely feature middle-aged married couples drinking wine who probably already had 401k's when I was born. Even when I do meet girls my age around my hometown, we most likely have nothing in common because those girls have never left home and are probably in community college. Don't get me wrong, there are girls to be met and the process is fun, but it's just not as easy as it once was.

4. You don't automatically feel like an adult after graduation. This has been the toughest lesson that I've learned. I guess I always thought that once I graduated college I would just feel like a dad or something and be completely settled down. That's just not the case. I've had too much to drink on plenty of occasions, made some dumb mistakes, and generally acted like an 18 year old my fair share of times in post-grad life. That's because, quite frankly, I'm not that much different from my 21 year old college self. Growing up simply doesn't happen overnight.

Being single in your mid-twenties can be a weird situation. You want to be settled down and maybe just have a lemonade and watch a movie on some Friday nights, but the ultimate goal is to have someone to be able to stay in with you on those nights, so you feel compelled to go out and meet new people. I guess when I was a little kid I always pictured myself being married and doing yard work and paying bills and being really content at age 24, but life doesn't always agree with the grand plans you've made for yourself.