Friday, June 27, 2014

Without Regrets

I know you love cookies, but I'm still mad that you smashed my sand castle last summer that you know meant so much to me, so I'm delivering my famous chocolate chip cookies to you one ingredient at a time.

I've been trying to teach my cat Morse code as a potentially new source of income for the family.

I am desperately in need of some money in order to purchase a new porcelain ballerina. I thought briefly about robbing a bank, or putting together a resume and getting a job, but have instead settled on whining.

I have decided to use deductive reasoning on a regular basis. This is all well and good once I am at out of the house in the morning, but breakfast lasts for hours as I play detective trying to figure out who drank the rest of the milk.

I have become more and more frustrated and have decided to have a family meeting. When everyone is seated, and after some opening remarks, the approval of last month's minutes and an obligatory joke, I hurl jello at all of them and immediately feel less frustrated.

I often sit on the beach at night, close my eyes and listen to the waves. I find that if any one of these things are missing from the experience I'd rather be chopping zucchini. I keep my fridge stocked with zucchini at all times just in case.

It must be a Pavlovian response, but whenever I hear the phone ring, I start to bark like a dog.

I feel a perverse pleasure when I am gouging out the eyes of potatoes.

I've been asking around gathering opinions on whether exacting revenge is an okay motivation for getting involved with humanitarian aid projects. 

I often slice bananas into my cereal at breakfast time. What I'm not telling you is how much I am crying on the inside while doing this.

I feel like I need to come clean. Despite what you think you've heard, I have no desire to dress up like a princess today. Maybe tomorrow, but I'm not making any promises.

I went to sleep hungry last night and that explains the feather residue around my mouth this morning. I prefer not to explain the feather residue you witnessed yesterday.

I can't stop coughing this morning. It's true, you don't know how much you'll miss it till it's gone.

I proudly wear my reversible jersey. Yes it is comfortable and stylish, but I mostly wear it for inspirational reasons.

I'd love to perm my beard. Just seems like it would be ridiculously hilarious at first and possibly trendsetting and a flotation device afterwards.

I have decided to start knitting my own clothes. I will be the only tennis player at the club with thick woolen clothes.

I love spreading peanut butter. Know this -  while you'll be lying, scared in your little bed while the thunder cracks and roars and the lightening flashes in the sky and the rain lands like bullets on your roof, I'll be in my kitchen cackling like an evil genius spreading my peanut butter.

I am trying to learn how to speak Spanish. Often I do something first and come up with a reason for doing it afterwards.

I answer the door and am staring at this incredibly handsome man. The sort of man you either want to be seen with or to pour a bowl of ice water on. Unfortunately I was currently occupied counting grains of rice and the ice tray was empty. Fortunately, he was very understanding and had a free afternoon, so he sat in my front area waiting until I was either ready to go out or the water had frozen into cubes.

I've chosen to live my life without regrets! Ha ha ha!

I Thought I Couldn't Care Less

I am attempting to be more thinly veiled in my comments, but am finding this very difficult as all of my veils are quite thick.

You stand outside at midnight basking in the moonlight, aside from the moments when clouds pass in front of the moon, then you look completely lost.

I hope to one day be worthy of someone else's attempts at sabotage.

You always refer to your skin as bark and your arms and legs as branches. This is all well and good, but what is most confusing is your overwhelming desire to chop down any tree you see.

I believe there is a cookie for every occasion, except for some types of brain surgery.

You clean your bathroom floor so it is "so clean you could eat off it". We are all a big fan of your cleanliness and your use of expressions, but this has us a bit worried.

I love the smell of pine as much as the next guy, but I believe in experiencing a diversity of odors and aromas in life. It's how I was raised.

You told me that you'd have to draw the line somewhere, I just wish you hadn't used permanent marker.

I am washing my hair and it feels great and then I start to wonder if it should feel so great.

You have always gone by the nickname The Big Cheese and only recently decided to make the moniker less-ironic.

I love the idea of being micro-managed, it just sounds like so much fun, but it is highly probable that I am not quite sure of the true definition of the term.

You love noodles and would seemingly eat them everyday, so I decided to test that by only cooking you noodles until it either drives you crazy or makes you extremely satisfied. It just doesn't feel normal unless you are one or the other. 

I am addicted to the feeling I get whenever I give into one of my long list of addictions, but after the initial thrill, it really really sucks.

You insist on wearing large googly-eyed glasses and accompanying it with a ridiculously large smile and a somewhat worrisome, yet completely infectious, laugh whenever you buy groceries.

I am torn between exercise to show off my newly muscular body, exercise for my health and well-being, or exercise as part of a long, drawn-out, so-meandering-as-to-render-it-almost-totally-confusing-and-meaningless act of 
vengeance. I know I should choose the second, but the other two are just so tempting.

You have chosen to go into business for yourself and, in your first act as owner, named me as both president and CEO and then, in a shady backroom-deal, wined and dined me and convinced me to squeeze you out and buy all of your shares at triple the market value. Now, here I am running this crappy little corner store that sells gum, stamps and fireworks, while you are off living it up in Hawaii.

I thought I couldn't care less about people's opinion that I am uncaring and then, recently, I was happily surprised to discover a whole new depth to my ability to care less. 

You appreciate the opportunity but completely disagree on principle alone with having to dance for your life.

I have decided to live my life more in accordance with the beliefs of the people of Papua New Guinea. Okay, if you must know, I spun the globe and randomly tapped my finger on that country. Let's just hope the rites and rituals I discover don't involve too much actual human or animal sacrifice (unlike last time I spun the globe, but I'm trying to forget that horrible, horrible week).

You repeatedly make me laugh, and though we both know why, we promised that neither of us will ever speak of this to anyone as we both know how scary that will be for all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I Feel

I feel happy.
Things that usually make me angry or vengeful are putting me over the moon with glee and even that doesn't concern me at all (and it should - aren't you concerned about someone who is happy and vengeful?).
I want to skip through the flowers in my neighbour's yard and am not worried I the least about trampling or ruining them as I will re-plant twice as many tomorrow all the while beaming.
Even when it rains, my spirits are a mile high - It will take a whole lot more than some drops of rain to dampen my elation - nice try weather!
Nothing can bring me down - so stop wasting your energy planning my demise - when I'm happy.

I feel confused.
What? Red? Who? Penguins? Where? Quantum Physics? When? Gwak? Why? Love?
Everything that everyone says about anything makes no sense at all to me all the time - which is totally contradictory to what my horoscope predicted last month.
I would love to be the "go-to guy" for my friends and family on topics from antiquity to zilch, but...I...just...can'
Nothing makes any sense at all - quit laughing at me while I try to...what was I doing again?...when I'm confused.

I feel excited.
After spending the morning literally jumping for joy, the afternoon actually sitting on the edge of my seat continually bouncing my legs up and down, and the evening dancing, I still have loads and loads of energy in reserve so when the clock strikes midnight I am seen running down the middle of the road screaming "Wheeeeeeee!!!!!!" Clothing is, apparently, optional.
It is hard to my finger exactly on what is amping my enthusiasm-levels to near worrisome levels, but I don't care - I'm living large and I'm loving it!
I wonder if my excitement is infectious and plan to find out after I grow tired of smiling and waving at myself in the mirror.
Nothing is boring to me - not even you, Martha - life is electric when I'm excited.

I feel scared.
Sitting alone in the dark on a creaky rocking chair during a thunder and lightening storm is freaking me out - not just a cliche after all; good to know.
I hear creepy noises and voices that are sending chills up my spine alternating with near-golf ball-sized goosebumps - I need to know if the voices are real or if they are figments of my imagination as the techno party my heart is at right now can't go on for much longer.
Laughing in the face of fear would be great right now but my teeth are either chattering non-stop or my jaw is clenched to the point that I think I have punctured my inner-cheek in at least 5 spots.
Nothing is comforting right now, I need my mommy - I am so scared.

I feel anxious.
I'm very concerned that bad things will either happen today or that good things will occur that will just make me highly worried about my luck running out tomorrow or sometime in the near future.
No part of this is fun - my legs are jumpy, my nails are bitten, my eye keeps twitching so much that even the lonely girl at the coffee shop knows I'm not hitting on her this time - I find myself worrying about worrying and then being stressed about all of that and then returning to more worrying.
People are pleading with me to relax and to stop incessantly pacing everywhere and I would, except that I am too nervously busy focusing on my inner turmoil to take a break.
Nothing is peaceful and easy, I am one large ball of stress and nerves - I wish an actual legal, over-the-counter, non-addictive "chill pill" existed when I'm anxious.

I feel hungry.
I'm so famished that, if given the opportunity, the correct cutlery and if I could be promised that I wouldn't be shunned, I would possibly eat an entire horse or failing that a soy-horse.
Extreme situations like this aren't all that much fun - I'm grumpy, I'm agitated  - I just finished yelling at myself in the mirror for the past 45 minutes.
I have almost passed into the phase where my stomach starts eating itself - if I leave it long enough will I collapse upon myself not unlike a black hole?
Nothing is enjoyable when you are this starving and everything that moves has now officially been warned - you are all food when I'm hungry.

I feel beautiful.
I could spend all morning gazing upon my reflection in the mirror like a modern-day Narcissus if I wasn't so busy parading around the town enriching everyone's lives with my extreme attractiveness and still needing to replace my old mirror that I cracked when trying to hug the beautiful image I saw in it.
My beauty, which is equally enjoyed by members of both genders and at least three different animal species, is so incredibly stunning that it is almost too beautiful and is being used as proof of the existence of aliens in a local, very low-budget, public-access TV program.
Speeding tickets are forgiven, long lines at the grocery store part as if I were Moses, and I am like a magnet for other attractive people (I am unsure whether I actually have a magnet implanted in me as my father used to say).
Nothing comes easy for a person who is so awe-inspiring...actually, who am I kidding, of course it does when I'm beautiful.

I feel important.
If there are shots to be called, I call them; if a coin needs flipping, I flip it; and if someone needs to be slapped silly, I am both the slapper and the remover of the silly.
People respect my opinion so much, that I often walk down a busy street handing out little slips of paper with random quotes I thought of, just saying to the somewhat surprised passersby "you're welcome".
I am doing a good job of never allowing myself to be both corrupt and egotistical at the same time, and on the rare occasion that it does happen, I always tip big.
Nothing is more empowering than power, aside from a really good back rub while lying on a big pile of money when I'm important.

I feel empathetic.
People speak to me about their sad and depressing lives and I truly understand how they feel (I usually keep quite about my role in making their lives sad and depressing, it just isn't the right time).
Occasionally my feelings and reactions deviate from empathy and verge on either sympathy or pity mostly as a result of something I ate and how relatively cute the person speaking is.
I just care so much about so many people so much of the time except when I randomly decide to feel disrespected (a fun game I play to provide a break from the monotony of caring).
Nothing feels better than really being there to support others in times of need, although maybe something should, but that's more my problem that theirs, when I'm empathetic.

I feel morose.
Everything sucks, nothing is going my way, and all day long there is an omnipresent doom and gloom (or possibly I should clean my glasses more than once a week).
I find myself listening to dramatic operas, reading poems of death and love lost, wearing lots of black eye-liner and eating nothing but toast with butter and jam (I happen to enjoy my buttered and jammed toast, thank you very much).
No offense, but you can take your sad and your depressed and you can...oh, how I miss the days when I was only sad or depressed! To be just sad or depressed, what a luxury.
Nothing is exciting, pleasing or satisfying, except for the sight of fluffy bunny rabbits (I'm only human), when you are morose.

I feel smart.
Answers to questions just seem to magically appear in my head and, when spoken, dazzle and amaze all present.
I am able to both avoid repeating past mistakes as well making the past mistakes seem brilliant in retrospect.
When alone I rub special ointments on my head, eat a solid diet of oily fish, blueberries and almonds and I have purchased the finest pillow filled with the rarest and softest feathers all in an effort to show my brain the love it deserves.
No problem is too hard, no puzzle too challenging, no riddle too perplexing and all pickles are both dilly and delicious when you are smart.

I feel tired.
My head keeps dropping backwards resulting in my neck snapping forward, my eye lids keep closing providing a warm moist blanket for my sleepy eyes, and my face constantly has the imprint of my computer keyboard on it when I leave my office.
I know I should go to bed earlier, but I just don't want to give up on all of the perks of being sleep deprived.
Afternoon meetings just drag on, seconds feel like minutes, minutes feel like hours, and hours still feel like hours (as hours are actually quite long in the first place) just slightly longer hours.
Nothing would feel better than a really great sleep as I (yawn) just (yawn) can't (yawn) stop (yawn)...zzzzz

Friday, June 13, 2014

My Message for the Yearbook

So I was sitting around at home watching High School Musical for like the thousandth time (I know, right?) and I was promising to teach my cat Morse code only if he explained to me what that look he always gives me actually means, and I realized that I had to complete this write-up for the yearbook. I know I could have written “blah, blah blah it was a great five years…blah blah blah thanks for the memories…blah blah blah good luck in the future…blah blah blah don’t forget me”, but we all know how boring and predictable that is, and I think you all know me by now I am many things but not boring. Smart? Yes. Handsome?  Of course. HI-larious? You know it! A lover of European ducks? Naturally. Someone you were always a little worried about sanity-wise? Why not! Caveman-rugged? Very very rarely if the light hit me at the right angle – BUT not boring! To finally come clean I do like boring into various inanimate objects on weekends with my Disney Princess drill set, until I get bored. I mean bored with the activity not by it. Can I bore myself? Am I doing it right now? Ouch?

I just couldn’t complete that sort of write-up not even out of spite or revenge or hunger. I mean I could go on and on about how great you all were and how much we all remember the events – like the Bison-inspired yogurt sculpture building, the 24-hour debate all conducted with interpretive dance, the cheese string “relay” followed the next day by the “cheese string” relay which naturally led to the “cheese” string “relay” (after that week we were all exhausted and completely confused), and of course (my personal favourite) the event where everyone wore entirely black clothes, painted their skin all black, and were blindfolded and then came to the gym and stood there, in silence, for 10 hours with the lights completely off – that event was “freaky!” and I heard from myself that it was “quite possibly the night of my life” and “an event not to be missed, if, somehow, you could travel back in time and do that night again and then not miss it” (strangely, I didn’t bump into anyone else that evening and whenever I talk to others about it, everyone “pretends” that they don’t know what I’m talking about…everyone else was there…right?...Oh no!...I feel so alone and not so smart. What’s that? You want to do it again next Monday! I should wear my blindfold and you’ll meet me there? Yes!!!).

Now that this is all over I can’t stop thinking about all of the great students I was…what’s the word for it again?…(fortunate/fated/spent money begging to work with/pleaded them not to leave me/bribed them with frosting/bought them olives)…qualified to counsel.. I’ll never forget that guy who was always “like this and like that and like this” and that girl with “the hair” and that group who always was hanging by the place by that other place close to “you know where” and those others who were always “all up in there” except when they weren’t or someone else got there first and I know we’ll never forget “The Big Cheese” and “The Willow Tree” – I know we all agree, their spirit and their quiet and mysterious leadership was an inspiration to us all. This was always about the students for me. I thought for a while about making it all about something else. And I did think about that for quite a while, but had no ideas that day. I know? Can you believe it? Zero creative ideas? (or I should say, one really great idea, but it was way too expensive and involved tons and tons of purple glitter and I was too lazy) So, it became (and stayed) all about the students. Gotta love those students!

What does the future hold? Are you in fact the leaders of tomorrow? (or at least good at sweeping up after the leaders?) One can only hope or else this has all been a colossal waste of time. Got you! Ha ha ha! It was! (Actually it wasn’t a waste of time. We considered it, but then we all agreed after some deliberation that it should not be solely a waste of time, only partially…like right now as you read this…) But seriously, the world is your oyster. That’s right! – think about that for a while……And we’re back! Anyone hungry for oysters? Whether you decide to go to school (Great choice! More School!), work (Work? Now, THAT’S what I’m talking about!), travel (oh? You went there! Or are going there next year. Then next year you can call me up and I’ll say “Oh, snap! You went there!” Or Would I say “you are there?”) or something else (Yeah, “something else!” I love me some “something else!” I just can’t stop talking about “something else” – I’m always like “something else?” and everyone is like “yes, weirdo” probably just to get me to stop talking). I can’t wait to hear about everything you do in the future. I’d also like to use my other senses to. Just sayin’.

Collectively you all kept it real. I really appreciated that from all of you. You served me up a big bowl of realness every other Thursday with the best garlic croutons a counsellor could expect. The reality of your realness kept me going through the hard times and all of the sweat and tears and all of the sand…so much sand, hot and dry – my eyes still burn from all of that sand. Also the stove. That also burns me. “Watch out for the hot stove” my mom used to tell me. How I miss those days – being a young boy, hanging out with my mom and that stove, it was like a brother to me…Anyhoo…The realness you brought was sweeeeeeet. Sort of like a very sweet chocolate fondue only much much less sweet and much much less tasty and not actually edible now that I think about it. WHERE IS MY CHOCOLATE FONDUE!!!

My Speech to the Graduates

A few weeks ago I sat down and wrote my speech and it was good. Traditional, but solid. The next day, I was talking to the grad committee execs and I mentioned I was struggling between writing a traditional speech or a very creative one and Asha said "I can't imagine you doing a traditional speech". She was right, so I went home and scrapped the first one and wrote a new speech in typical-Paley style. My wife read it and said they will think something is wrong with you or that you've taken too many frisbees to the head. I said "they probably already think that", but then sat down to strike a happy medium between the boring and traditional and the creative and silly. This is that speech. I wanted a speech that would sound like it is coming out of my mouth and now it will.

It all started in 2009.

In the spring of your grade 7 year my first memories include meeting Chris Bandura in Money Sandhu's class at Cunningham, having Tessa embarrass Theo in Ms. Wallace's class at Beaconsfield, being greeted by Jessica Saligumba the office monitor at Norquay, getting questioned by Daina Baker in Mr. Rudd's class at Selkirk, having Gerald Soriano introduce me to his brother Gordon at McBride and having Mr. McNichol (my grade 5 teacher) introduce me to Mashal and Ronny Shalala at Tecumseh.

I remember meeting all of you and you were all like small and I was all like "sup?" and you were all like not talking and I was all like "look at me, I'm a counsellor" and you were all like "whatever" and I was all nodding my head and stuff. Grade 8 feels like a long long time ago but also like it was last week.

I remember the first assembly of grade 8 and talking to you all. I told you all about myself and how I loved purple, ultimate frisbee and Glee. Five years later two of those things are still true. At the time, I was really missing my previous grade 12s from the spring and wondering if I would grow similarly attached to this new, much shorter and younger group of students. I was excited to meet you, but I honestly, I wasn't that impressed with what I first saw. Kidding! You were awesome, I mean are awesome, I mean you smack of awesomeness and if I could make you into a really great smoothie, it would be the most awesome smoothie ever. That's right. That awesome.

I remember you were all so cute and now you are slightly less cute. Or just differently cute. It depends on the lighting in the room and how clean my glasses are. I once contemplated planting 253 flowers, one to represent each of you, but then I thought about how the flowers would eventually wilt and die. Then I thought I could dry the petals and make beautiful artwork with them, but then the art would eventually fade and look old. Then I remembered that old art often goes up in value and I could potentially make millions, but when I thought about it, I realized that I didn't have room to plan all of those flowers in the first place, so I decided to go out for ice cream instead.

I remember going into your English 8 classes and we did an exercise where you had to choose 10 words from a long list of values and write one on each of 10 slips of paper and we narrowed it down until you only had one left. This word was supposed to describe the most important thing in the world to you. Some people selected family, others had love, some of you had money. We also worked on your grade 8 letter and I told you all about what a counsellor does and what confidentially means. Many of you were super quiet and shy and unsure of who I was and whether I could be trusted. It was as if I was carrying a huge colourful flag that said "trust me!" and you all were part of some exclusive and mostly silent club that refused to acknowledge flags of any type, especially mine. My office had just been so busy the previous spring with grade 12s in and around my office all day long and now it was so quiet. I read files, I looked at notes, I asked teachers for referrals and I dreamed a crazy dream that one day I may be fortunate enough to have my own creative writing blog and that maybe, just maybe I'd meet a group of roughly 250 people, let's call them students, who may or may not read or roll their eyes at such blog. I know, it was crazy. But a man can dream, and dream I did. And I waited for students to start coming down to see me. And little by little you came. And the word must have spread that that counsellor guy was okay to talk to, maybe a little bit funny and had some good advice and loved to listen and help and as time went on it got pretty busy all up in there. As I like to say, we all done chill all up in my crib.

I remember one of the things I first told you when I met you back in grade 7 - that's it. I forget everything else. Its probably better that way. Anyways, I said to you that I wanted to be your adult friend in the building, someone who always would be there for you and someone who would always be wanting the best for all of you. I hope that you feel like I was and I hope that didn't sound too desperate! I just wanted a friend. When I look around the room tonight, I just feel so proud or all of you. Except for the following people...Anyways, it is strange to say, but I feel like some combination of your father, your older brother, a good friend and your own personal cheerleader minus the Pom poms and dress. Don't push me or I'll wear them! I have seen you all grow and change and mature, thankfully not all at once - that would be scary. I have seen many of you make mistakes and learn from them. I have seen friendships grow, fall apart and come together again. I have tried my best to help you learn to better communicate with each other and I have attemped to resolve so many disagreements. I have seen a lot of tears and an even greater amount of laughs and smiles and a few times people laughed and cried at the same time - I sat there waiting for the rainbow, that never came. I always dove in driven by my desire to help. You have all taught me so much and helped me become better at what I love to do. Cha-ching!

I remember students wanting to talk just to miss the run in PE, or because they had math or something else they didn't mind missing. How many times have I been used as an excuse to miss part of class? And why do people say to their teacher I'm just going to the washroom and then come see me - what does that mean? Don't answer!

I remember the wooden penis when Condomania came to school. And I remember the advice - if this happens to you, go directly to the hospital.

I remember when the girls took off their glasses, moved from straight bangs to side bangs and started wearing fake eyelashes (I'm still waiting for my pair - I did ask and I was promised. I wanted a pair and frankly I feel pretty annoyed about this still).

I remember the boys in their PE outfits in grade 8 and seeing them run up and down the stairs. Somehow the boys went from quiet and small to mature (or at least more mature) and tall.

I remember walking into classes early in the year with a stack of new schedules and seeing the panic on people's faces.

I remember the anonymous questions people wrote for the school nurse about sex.

I will always remember the long detailed emails with tons of personal stuff that many if you sent me.

I will always remember walking down the hallways this year and being greeted in a positive manner by almost everyone.

I will always remember the amazingly nice comments in my yearbooks and my birthday cards.

I will always remember all of you.

I just can't believe we are here right now.

Look at you all, so dressed up.

It is the freaking dinner dance people! What is going on? How could it be that time already - wasn't I just watching the first dance show back in grade 8? Weren't a bunch of you hanging out in my office during those exam days back in grade 9 after finishing Safe Teen? Wasn't I just in the computer lab with all of you doing those personality and career tests in grade 10? Wasn't I just showing you, what I thought was, my funny and super long opening to my course planning power point in grade 11? And doesn't it feel like the grad BBQ and all of those popping balloons was last week?

Look around for a second. Great neck stretch, wasn't it. That's good. All of the people here shared this experience with you. Whether they were your best friend, someone you talked to in class or someone you don't know at all, you all share this bond and you always will. We all went through this great Gladstone experience together and I hope you are able to look back on these 5 years with a lot of great memories.

I have really enjoyed this year. I love that students just pop in to say hi and hang out (even when it's mostly an excuse to miss class) – I love when students just come by and chat about things and I can be loose and funny – it will be so different with younger students next year. I have wondered a bit about what I did to get you from being too shy to talk to me to where we are now. Was it mind-control? Did it come out of pity or absolute boredom? Did you think I had candy?Was it because I looked like I was interested in what you had to say? Wait a second- that one. I think that is the answer! Did I get it right?

I can’t state strongly enough how much it has meant to me to work with all of you – I don’t just show up to work and do my work and go home (actually, I do that BUT that’s not the point - I mean, of course I go home) – this has always been all about you, the students – I really care about each of you as people and human beings and I have tried to support you and be there for you as best I could.

I am so lucky that I can wake up every morning and be happy to come to work. My job is challenging, enjoyable and satisfying and I get to talk and help people, two things I love to do. Plus I can be a bit silly and creative from time to time as well which is a bonus. The other part of my job which is great for me is that I feel like I'm making a difference and having an impact.

What I hope for all of you is that you can find something like this for yourself. The challenge, if you want to except it, is to keep searching for your passions in life and don't settle for something you don't love or enjoy. So many people are stuck in jobs, places or relationships that don't work for them. Don't let this happen to you! Everything you start next year or the year after should either be really great or be an obvious step towards something really great. If at any point in the next few years you find yourself hating or being bored with what you are doing, then stop! If at any point you aren't working towards something you are passionate about and excited to do - stop! Just because your family or friends or someone else thinks something is right for you, doesn't mean it is. And just because you start down a certain path doesn't mean you have to stay on that path. I switched paths many times and only by experiencing some wrong paths did I find the right one. Everyone here has tons of skills and talents and all of you have the potential to do a lot in life - my hope for all of you is that when I see you in the future that you are pumped about what is going on (just not too pumped, or I may run away) or that you have a plan to work towards something exciting. This is true about post-secondary studies, jobs and relationships - don't settle!

I envy you and not just because of your clothes and your social networking savvy. You are at, what I think, is the most exciting time of your life and also one of the most stressful - you are about to enter the real world. All of sudden you are going from having one choice, school, to having unlimited choices about school, what school, what program, travelling, work etc etc. Choice is awesome but it can also make you worry about making the correct choice. I remember being in your shoes and how exciting it was to start post-secondary and to start working longer hours to save up for a backpacking trip in Europe. I remember moving out of my parents home and having more freedom. I remember thinking "woah, I'm an adult now" and "damn, now that's an afro!" and "what happens if I just use scissors to cut off that pimple?" Don't be consumed by worrying about making the right choices - live in the moment, work hard and be a good person and I have always believed that everything will work out in the end. And just enjoy having graduated! I can't wait to see and hear what you all do next and in the future (I'm also prepared to use my other three senses - hard to taste what you will do in the future, but I am willing to try). Who will get married? Who will travel? Who will become a nurse, a teacher, an engineer, a chef, a stand-up comic? Who will do something that no one here could predict? Who will make choices that lead directly towards their own happiness and personal satisfaction?

My hope when I first met you was to help support you from the beginning of grade 8 to the end of grade 12. And here we are. But, in my mind, it doesn't end now. As I said in my card I will always be your counsellor. That isn't meant to sound scary! Don't leave now! I promise I will not stalk you...much. So, whether you ever talked to me in the past 5 years or whether you saw me all the time, I will always be there to help you whether it is over the summer, next year or in 10 years. I really really mean that and I'm not just saying it and sometimes I do just say things. Last week I did it a few times. I am your counsellor and, if you'll have me, your friend and I will always be interested in what is happening with you. You all have ways to reach me and I will be happy to help.

At the beginning of the year I talked about having mixed emotions about this whole graduation thing. I mean I wish I was consulted about you all graduating - I may have said no. Let's do another 5 years! Who's in? But seriously, I feel a mixture of pride, happiness and a bit of sadness. Honestly, I've been thinking about this moment since the middle of grade 10 and while I couldn't wait to see you cross the stage (I have been getting goosebumps thinking about it for a long time now. While we are on the subject, do geese get goosebumps? I hope so, for their sakes), I've also just wanted time to slow down and almost stop. I feel like this with my own kids all the time too and I know many of you have felt this way about this year as well. There has been a lot of unspoken stress and unease recently as the end draws near. You won't just see all of your friends every day any more. You won't be in a school where a whole bunch of adults really care about you again. Maybe there is someone who you always wished to talk to, to get to know better, to say how you really feel. I have seen so many friendships drift apart when people have left school. Friendships will require more work once you are not at Gladstone any longer and if you care about your friends, don't let that happen!

While this is a super exiting time for all of you, it is also so tough to say goodbye and to leave a place you have spent so much valuable time. I have not been looking forward to saying goodbye and while I hope many of you will either visit or send me messages, this is the last time (aside from the provincial exam) that we will all be together and that is tough. This is both a celebration and a farewell.

I want to thank you for introducing me to shipping, the word ratchet, SOs, twerking, flipping tables, facepalming, lolling and of course, Yolo.

I need to thank you all for allowing me to be myself and for all of the positive feedback on my writing. And a huge thank you to that small group of you who encouraged me to start a blog in the first place - you know who you are and I thank you for your help.

I will really miss all of you. I guess it is a sign that I really care and I really got involved, but it also feels sort of like having a whole bunch of you breaking up with me all at the same time and sort of enjoying it. Almost like you are celebrating while doing it. Actually maybe I won't miss you. How does that feel? I wish you all the best, you know how to find me. Thank you again for trusting me and making me laugh and for making me feel so appreciated every day – thank you for everything!

Enjoy the party and congrats on graduating!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Message To The Parents

This is a message for the parents, guardians and families of the grads from Mr. Paley.

It is amazing that it is now June of 2014 and we are at the end of the five year secondary school experience for these students. It has been the most profound educational experience of my career seeing these kids grow from young grade 8s to mature grade 12s. The past five years have been filled with hard work, challenges, growth and fun and I have been constantly impressed and excited to see these talented students change over time. The future is bright for all of them and for our society- in this room right now we have bright and enthusiastic future teachers, engineers, nurses, lawyers, graphic designers, musicians, and social workers to name a few. I love what we do at Gladstone and the way we shape and direct young students - I see in front of me great citizens and leaders who really care about how they treat each other and who have learned the value of giving back. I have worked closely with so many of you in the past five years and I feel like I have been a part of your families. The trust that you have given me to work with your children was not taken lightly and I have done my very best to support them and you. This is a day of celebration and you have done such a good job raising these kids - well done!

One final note - the cards you received tonight were all handmade and include an original piece of art by Mr. Paley's father who is a professional artist.