August 19, 2015
You know, morning television isn't what it used to be. I remember when I was a kid, it used to be a treat to watch it. For starters, you were at school during most weekdays, so you always felt as though you were missing something special by not being home. On the rare occasions in which I was off sick with a flu, or if there was a P.A. or P.E. Day on the schedule, it was always a treat to be able to watch game shows, trashy talk shows, cartoons, and yes, even the occasional workout program. Though, admittedly I never did do any stretches or bends to the cheesy 1980s synthesizer music. I was either playing with toys or puking my guts out in a bucket - well, depending on whether or not I was sick that day.
Of course, now that I am an adult, and I am usually working evening shifts, morning television seems to be not as exciting as it once was. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are still game shows, trashy talk shows, and the occasional fitness program...but it just seems so boring now.
For instance, I woke up around 8:00 this morning, and the only thing on television that even seemed remotely interesting was "Degrassi: The Next Generation". I know, I know. Shoot me now, right.
Well, this particular episode (obviously a rerun as it was filmed in 2007), was one that actually grabbed my interest, and it all had to do with the star of this particular episode.
Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the episode "Free Fallin'", but luckily most of the episodes of this show are available to watch online, so after watching both parts of this episode, I can sort of understand what kind of pressure the character of Paige Michalchuk (played by Lauren Collins) was going through.
So, here's a little bit of background on the character of Paige, just based on what I've researched. Paige started off on the show as the "Queen Bee" of Degrassi Community School. Or, in other words, she's a complete bitch to everybody who doesn't fit inside of her circle. And sure enough, during the first season of the show, she walks that fine line between being popular and being despised. But Paige also goes through a lot of turmoil while she is a student at Degrassi. She is raped by a student from a rival high school. She falls in love with a student-teacher and causes a scandal within the school. And later on in the series, she comes to terms with the fact that she is bisexual as she starts having feelings for her friend Alexandra "Alex" Nunez.
By the time she graduates high school, she is more than ready to leave Degrassi behind. She moves three hours away to a fictional university called "Banting University", and she has the dream that she will graduate from the school with honours, land a dream career, and live happily ever after.
The reality? She finds the highly competitive nature of Banting University to be a real challenge. She can't keep up with the rest of the class, her grades have nosedived from her high school days, and she finds herself stressing out because of it. In fact, she is so stressed out by Banting life that she begins to suffer full-blown panic attacks because of it.
You see, prior to enrolling at Banting, Paige had always lived a life of...shall we say...perfection. She always had to have the perfect hair, the perfect clothes, the perfect friends...the perfect life. And here she was at Banting and nothing was perfect. Now some who watched the show from the very beginning might have thought that karma had bitch slapped Paige and that it was more than deserved. But truth is, I sort of understood what Paige was going through because I was feeling the same way when I went off to university.
The only difference between Paige and I (well, other than gender) was that Paige had extremely high self-esteem, and I had too little of it. You see, my whole goal of going to university was to get as far away from my hometown as humanly possible because at that time I was thinking that there was nothing good about it. I had no friends, and no community presence, and I felt as though I was doing anybody any favours by continuing to live there. When the opportunity came to go to school in Ottawa, I jumped at the chance thinking that I could reinvent myself, get my degree, and prove to everyone in town that I made it even though they never believed in me.
Well, as you all know, I found that I had jumped in too hastily when it came to university life. Had I stayed back a couple of years and figured out what I wanted to do instead of leapt in blindly just to get away from my hometown, I think I'd have been better off. Instead I got there, managed to stay a couple of years, decided that I made a huge mistake, and returned home with my tail between my legs. Thirteen years later, I'm still here. But hey, at least my loans are paid off and I've got a place to live. Career prospects could be better, but I'm working on that. I mean, sure, it would have been nice to have gotten that degree, but you know what? I don't need it to prove that I have made it. I'm doing it a lot slower than most people, mind you, but I'll get there.
Of course, in my case, I left school because I found it a lot harder than I expected and I wasn't prepared for it emotionally. But I did so quietly. In Paige's case, she left school by having panic attacks in class, setting her dorm room on fire, and plagiarizing class assignments. She too fled Banting with her tail between her legs, and when she came back to Toronto, she continued to have panic attacks and couldn't understand why.
Well, let's see. Paige wanted to make something of herself, so she chose the most competitive school in the province of Ontario even though she was warned ahead of time that the course was going to be tough. But she went anyway because she wanted to prove to everybody that she could handle it. After all, she was Paige Michalchuk, captain of the cheerleaders, social butterfly, and one of the most beautiful people to grace the halls of Degrassi. There are a lot of adjectives that her friends like Spinner, Jimmy, Alex, Ellie, Marco, and Ashley could have used to describe her, but not one of the was "failure".
Of course, it didn't help matters much that the weekend in which she set her dorm room on fire was Thanksgiving weekend, and she had to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for her family and friends as well which featured an exploding turkey as the grand finale. That would make anybody have a huge panic attack right there, and I think that turkey was the catalyst that caused Paige to realize that she too had made a mistake by enrolling at Banting. Though, it's a wonder that she left on her own accord and that she wasn't thrown out for causing property damage. And, last time I checked, we weren't allowed to have candles in our dorm rooms. Then again, Banting is a fictional university, so I suppose they have the right to make up their own rules.
Look, the point is that I completely understand what Paige was going through...and to tell you the truth, I actually respect her for it. Okay, so the fire was a bit much. But it takes a lot of guts to admit to people that something isn't working in your life, and I respect people to can bounce back after the fact. I'm doing it. And, as far as I know, Paige did exactly that, as she settled back into life in Toronto with ease - with help from her friends.
I don't consider myself a failure (anymore) for not getting a university degree. For some people, university just isn't for them. I think that had I enrolled in a community college or trade school, I would have liked it much better. But there's still time. And though it was a rough go for Paige at first, she ended her time on Degrassi by becoming an assistant to a Hollywood producer.