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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Year Twenty: Glengarry Glen Gone

Well, if my nineteenth year was considered the ultimate high of my life so far, year twenty was the year in which everything came crashing down.

And, really...I can only blame myself for it.

I have to say, I turned twenty years old at a rather turbulent time in the world.  This was the year that 9/11 happened, the year in which people became afraid to open up their mail due to anthrax concerns, and the year in which the world that I knew was completely changed forever.  And, was also the year that I learned the hard way that sometimes things happen for a reason.

Before we get to that though, we'll take a look at what was big in pop culture.  Sorry that I don't have any photos of me to share.  I was pretty camera shy in 2001.  But I have other things to show you.

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/2001

The second of two Janet Jackson songs to hit #1 the week of my birthday, and this one is okay...but it's not my favourite.  Though, some would say that her 2001 album was the last great album Jackson recorded before her career derailed due to "Nipplegate" three years later.  Though she does have a new album coming out later this year, so time will tell.


This movie was released on my actual 20th birthday, and it didn't take long for it to reach the top of the box office.  But, I have a confession to make.  As awesome as this movie was...I liked the second one the best!


Well, it only took eight years for the show "Friends" to become the most watched television show of the season, but I will say this.  "Friends" was one of those shows that actually got better with age, and certainly the ratings reflected that. 

Okay, so when we last left off in this retrospective, nineteen was great, nineteen was good, nineteen was the year that I finally found happiness, friends who liked me for me, and where I enjoyed what I was studying.  I had high expectations that as I turned 20, things would be even better.

My expectations were crushed.

Yes, my friends and I had a brilliant year together, but the following year saw all of us go our separate ways.  Thaila and Dominic lived in a different dorm, and Tasha had transferred to a different school closer to her hometown.  Kitty and I still hung out together every chance we got, but it just didn't feel the same.  It was different without the others.  I still thought the world of Kitty (and still do even though we haven't seen each other in about twelve years or so), but I guess I was feeling a bit lonely.

You see, I opted to stay in residence again (after staying with the family of the twins that I befriended the year before while I waited for a place to open up in residence - thanks again, girls, and I still think the world of you even today), and I ended up in Glengarry House - the disgusting, overheated, original residence building where the elevator got stuck, flies died all over the place, and where my roommate was some protein shake addicted narcissist who was more in love with himself than anybody else.  Needless to say, I shed no tears when he moved to a different dorm.  It was times like this that I missed having Grant around, even though he opted to live off-campus with Kris and Gabby.

I mean, I tried to make the most of my stay on the fifth floor of Glengarry House - and the fact that I was in a suite made it a lot easier to deal with - but the truth was that I was on a floor with a bunch of freshmen who I had nothing in common with.  It's not that any of them were bad people, it was just...different.  It was the exact opposite of the joy that I went through when I was at Stormont House.

But I suppose I should be lucky that I even got a spot in residence in the first place.  You see, residence living was designed mainly for first year students, and the school basically encouraged off-campus living for second year students and up.  But with rent in Ottawa being extremely expensive (even for 2001 standards), I couldn't afford to live off-campus, so I had to re-enroll in residence.  But there was a waiting list for second year students, and those with high GPA's were given first choice.  It makes sense, you know.  Providing incentives for keeping grades up.  I totally understood that.

It's just that my grade point average was just a couple of points off of being 80% - which meant that my name was at the bottom of that list.  If it wasn't for the fact that a first year student dropped out of school before he even began, I would have still been on that waiting list.

But even though I had gotten into residence, I soon discovered that my 79 point whatever average was not enough to keep me in the program that I had enrolled in.  Turns out that you needed an 80% to stay in the class.  And with a 79 point whatever average, it wasn't enough for me to continue learning about mass communications.

I appealed it.  Oh, you better believe that I appealed it.  I offered to do extra credit assignments, and I even begged them to reconsider, as if you technically rounded my grade up, it would be eighty per cent anyway.  No dice.  They told me to either change my major, or repeat the entire course again.

And, since I didn't have the money to redo the class (I was already $14,000 in debt and couldn't afford to add any more to that), I decided to change my major.  I briefly considered changing my major to film studies, but when I discovered that there was no part in the curriculum where we actually got to make our own movies, I opted not to pursue it any further.  Instead, I kept film studies as a minor, and chose to major in English.  I always liked English, and I thought if anything, I could go through to be an English teacher.

But the longer I tried to go through second year as an English major, the sooner that I came to a conclusion. 

I made a huge mistake.

I didn't want to admit it at first, but I think that it was a mistake to even enroll at Carleton University in the first place - at least at the time that I began as a student.

Yes, the first year I was a student was fun and I will always treasure it.  But I was also 19 years old, and I thought I knew it all.  I thought that I would just leave home, graduate in four years, find the perfect job, and life would just be perfect.

Did I mention that I was a little bit naive at 19?

Ideally what I should have done was waited to go to university.  Stay back and work for a year or two to save up some money, and then applied.  I probably would have had the motivation to stay with the program if I knew that it was my own money that I was investing, and not the student loans that I had taken out.  Truth be told, if I could do it all over again, I never would have taken out student loans to begin with.  The second year that I was in school, they didn't give me enough to even buy textbooks.  I was photocopying materials from the library to even attempt to catch up!

In fact, if I had to do it all over again, I would have gone to a community college, or a trades college - places that didn't seem like such an obvious money grab.  Granted, I know that all post-secondary schools seem like this, but college would have been a lot more affordable.  Plus, having taken a couple of classes at a community college over the last few years, I like the way that they are set up.  You actually learn by doing, not by listening to a middle-aged guy in a bowtie and tweed jacket enjoy hearing the sound of his own voice for three hours every Tuesday afternoon.

I guess that could explain why I ended up dropping out of university at the end of my second year.  It was just as well though.  I had become so disenchanted with the university system that I never really bothered going to many classes towards the end.  By the end of my second year, I was already on academic probation, and honestly, it was my own fault.  But, I suppose you could at least say that I never got kicked out of school.  I made the decision to leave before that happened because I simply wasn't enjoying it.

And I suppose looking back on it, that was because of my own immaturity and a lack of being prepared for the major commitment of being a university student.  As much as I told myself that I was old enough and responsible enough to handle the responsibility of being a post-secondary student at that age, I wasn't.

But it took me YEARS to make peace with that.  Nobody wants to ever admit that they were a failure at anything, and I certainly didn't want to admit that I couldn't cut it as a university student.  But the truth is that there are millions of people who came to the same conclusion that I did.  Just because it is encouraged to go to the top-ranked universities in the country doesn't mean that it is a perfect fit for everybody involved.  Believe me, I learned that lesson the hard way.

I also learned that just because I don't have a university degree that it doesn't make me any less of a person.  I know that my guidance counselors were trying to make me apply to universities because they told me that I wouldn't be happy at a college, but I wonder why I even took stock in their opinions at all.  I should have listened to my heart and waited before making a huge commitment like a post-secondary education.  It would have made things a lot easier in the long run.

In the end, I was left without a degree and a $14,000 debt.  Not exactly the parting gifts that a contestant would ever want on "Wheel of Fortune".  And while it would take me forever to pay off that debt, I did over a twelve year period, and as of now, I'm currently debt free.  And who knows?  Maybe the opportunity will come again that I get a chance to go back to school.  But this time, I'm going to do it my way and stick with it.  I have the maturity and the drive now.  More than I did when I was twenty.

And, in the continuation of this retrospective, I spent my twenty-first year doing a lot of reflecting about life...and what the hell I was going to do with it.

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