When I was a kid, I always tried to imagine what I would be like as an adult. I could never pinpoint the details but I always told myself that when I was older, I would probably be a completely different person. Because when you’re a kid, adults seem like an entirely different species. They’re so tall, and smart, and always blow up balloons when you ask them to.
Now that I’m an adult, I can tell you they aren’t that tall and many don’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re. Thankfully, they still blow up balloons on command.
This is the part where I mention that I find it difficult to tie a balloon. Laugh it up. Personally, I think deflated balloons look “good enough” for any occasion.
As an adult, I feel like a different person. But at the same time, I still feel like my mom’s little boy who gets excited over pizza, sports, and watering the grass.
What? Cycling through the different spray options on a hose nozzle is what I live for!
My mom tells me that I have been the same person ever since I was a baby. Not in the sense that I fill up my pants or wet the bed before reaching the promise land (toilet), but in terms of personality and appetite.
I threw “appetite” in there on my own volition.
“You were eating cheese with one tooth on the top of your mouth. We thought you were going to choke.”
Cheese is good, what do you want me to say?
I look back on the first 25 years of my life and realize that I can recall specific moments when I knew my life was changing, or that it was going in a different direction.
And that’s what life is, right? A series of moments that lead us down an undiscovered path.
Here are moments when I knew my life was changing:
September 1991: Birth
I was born. You’re welcome. I don’t really remember the first four years of my life; I just know they happened.
I’ve been told that at my baptism I drank a lot of milk from my bottle and when I was at the front of the church, I let out a huge burp. The whole place went into hysterics.
September 1995, Age 4: First Day of Kindergarten
It was a normal first day of school. I put on my backpack, stood by the staircase for a picture, and went off to school. The first bell rang, I ran to line up, and then I tripped over a hula hoop. I scraped both of my knees, started to cry, and got two huge square bandages.
It was a normal first day of school.
September 1997, Age 6: First Day of Grade 2
Grade 2 was monumental. Why? Because the Grade 2 classrooms were on the second floor of the school. In Kindergarten, we were released to our parents at the end of the day from a gated pen. We were animals, I tell ya!
In Grade 1, my classroom was in the first hallway of the school, so parents came in and picked up their kids.
In Grade 2, the bell rang at the end of the day and everyone went downstairs. I stayed in the hallway outside of my classroom. The minutes passed and little Paul got bored and wondered where his mommy was.
I finally went downstairs and outside – there she was. Why didn’t she come upstairs to get me? Because I was in Grade 2. I was now old enough to walk downstairs and outside on my own. I could’ve signed up to be a daredevil right then and there.
2001 – 2002, Age 10: Grade 5
My Grade 5 classroom was in a portable outside. We weren’t connected to the school. If you had to go to the washroom in the winter, you had to put on a coat
and then your snow shoes because, duh, Canada, walk outside, and then go inside the school.
When I was younger, I always looked at those portables and thought to myself, “That’s where the big kids learn.” Then I got there and realized I was a big kid now.
Yes, that last line was a nod to the Huggies commercial.
June 2005, Age 13: Grade 8 Graduation
I’ll never forget it. I had to wear a suit to school and sit in a gym that could probably boil water that day, if you let it. It was hot. There were three measly fans positioned around the gym. And I’m not talking about the kind that cheer, either.
After the ceremony, we headed to a banquet hall to eat dinner and stand on the dance floor.
At the end of the night, everyone was hugging each other. I thought it was weird. We had all been classmates for about a decade and this was the first time we had a mass “everyone hug everyone” ordeal.
That’s when I knew elementary school was officially over.
September 2005, Age 14: First Day of High School
The first day of high school is always the worst. You don’t know where to go. You don’t know what to do. And you get poor advice from older siblings. The whole day is spent looking at the clock and wondering why it’s not moving faster.
My first class was gym. I showed up with a pencil case and binder. I knew the first day wouldn’t require physical activity or gym clothes, but I felt stupid
and naked without my backpack.
“Everyone just leaves their backpack in their locker and walks around with their books.”
What was that I said about advice from older siblings?
This wasn’t elementary school anymore. Recess was cancelled…forever.
March 2008, Age 16: Sport Management is a Subject?
It was March Break and I was sitting at my computer. I stared at the Google logo; the Google logo made googly eyes at me.
To be fair, I was leading it on by going to it’s website….WHAT AM I SAYING?
I started looking up programs for university. I was only in Grade 11, but why not be early to the party?
There would be deflated balloons, after all.
I couldn’t find anything, so I was honest with myself. What did I like? Sports. Hmm, maybe I can go to school for that.
A few searches later, I had found the school I wanted to go to.
My mom was vacuuming, so I told her to stop and come upstairs. I didn’t say anything except, “Sit down and read this”.
“Paul, this is you! This is exactly you!”
Bam, life changing moment.
September 2009, Age 18: First Day of University
I still remember giving my mom a goodbye hug after her and my dad helped move me into residence. It was a “I’ll miss you, but you can go now” kind of hug. And I mean that in the most sincerest way.
I think anyone who moves away from home for university or college, has to come to grips with the whole “you can go now” mindset.
I wasn’t scared for my first day at all. Looking back, I don’t know why that was. I guess I was excited about going to a place where I knew no one. Not because I hated high school or my friends there, but I was excited to see new people and make new friends.
What the hell was wrong with me?
I remember going to sleep the first night and thinking, “This isn’t my bed.”
But that was my new home. And a few glorious naps later, it was my bed. My life had changed.
June 2010, Age 18: The Mirror at Camp
I got a summer job at a day camp. Did I know what I was getting myself into? Absolutely not.
I remember texting one of my university friends, telling them I was working at a camp that summer. Their reply was, “I can’t picture you in a camp setting at all. You’re not that kind of person.”
For some reason, I was offended by that. I felt like I was being doubted. I don’t like being doubted. That’s when I try to prove people wrong.
And then the first day of camp hit me right in the face. I was out of my element. It was one of the hardest days of my life. I remember staring in the mirror in the washroom and saying to myself, “If you can get through today, you can get through anything.”
My life changed right then and there in front of that mirror. Even after completing a year of university, that moment was the first time I didn’t feel like I was in high school.
That friend who doubted me? I proved them wrong. So wrong. Our friendship was done by Christmas.
Nothing bad happened, we just grew apart. But it’s more dramatic when I say it the way I did.
September 2010, Age 19: The Knock
Everything always happens in September, doesn’t it?
It was the first week of school. I was back living in residence. I moved in on Monday and had almost zero interaction with anyone living on my floor, until Friday.
I was never one to throw myself in the middle of a crowd and proclaim my existence. Give me a name tag and I’ll stand to the side, thank you.
After four days, I was feeling quite lonely. I had my friends from first year, but none of them lived on campus anymore.
And then I got a knock on my door that changed everything. It might be the best moment of my life. I opened the door and there were a dozen people there asking me if I wanted to go to dinner with them.
We went to dinner. We went to a comedy show. We became friends for life. All in one night.
Before that knock on my door, I never felt like I was living a full university experience. Something was always missing.
April 2013, Age 21: Last Day of University
I walked out of my last exam and felt like I was floating on the clouds. It was a strange feeling. My body felt like it was on autopilot.
The entire day was filled with goodbyes to friends I knew I’d see again, but never in the same context. It was a bittersweet day. On one hand, I was thankful for all of these friendships. On the other hand, I didn’t want to leave them behind.
I walked around campus by myself at 2 AM and cried my eyes out.
Remember when I said I cried on my first day of Kindergarten? Poetic, ain’t it?
It was over, my life was changing.
June 2013, Age 21: I Started This Blog
I never wanted to start a blog. The thought never crossed my mind. But when it did, it seemed like the right thing to do.
To say this blog has changed my life, would be an understatement. It has done more than that. It has opened me up to a world I had never seen before and people I never thought I could become friends with.
I’ve learned so much about myself just by writing my thoughts down. Try this at home, kids!
I write poems. I write poems. I write freakin’ poems. I write letters to strangers. I write letters to strangers. I write letters to freakin’ strangers.
Sorry, I couldn’t believe any of those things the first time I wrote them.
It took me three years of blogging to realize that when I say, “The Captain’s Speech” out loud, the “s” in “Captain’s” rubs together with the “s” in “Speech” and makes a whistling noise, like a tea kettle.
I like it.
The Years After
This is the part of the post that I have been dreading because I don’t have a specific moment over the last three years that stand out to me as a moment that has changed the direction of my life.
Sure, I can talk about how my blog has been featured and how I’ve had a couple of jobs (including a return to camp), but it just doesn’t feel like enough.
I graduated school and told myself that I knew exactly who I was and exactly what I wanted. It turns out I was lying to myself. I don’t have a definitive answer to either of those things.
The transition out of school into the real world is harder than they tell you it is. As I was writing this post, I realized that my whole life was built around school, and first and last days.
And when I didn’t have school, I found myself lost. And still do, to an extent. It’s easy for others to say to me what they think I should do, or what they think I should pursue. But for some reason, it’s been hard for me to tell myself that. Maybe I don’t fully believe it.
I can’t fake it till I make it. I’m too honest.
Over the last few years I’ve started to pray more. I was talking to a friend and she recommended that I try it. I hadn’t prayed since I was in high school – they made us do it at the beginning and end of each day.
So that’s what I’ve been doing every night before bed, for the last few years. Just me talking to God. I don’t care if you find that lame, or if you’re not religious. It’s helpful to me; that’s what matters.
Some of you have probably noticed in the footnotes of my blog, it reads: “Psalm 56:3”. That passage helps me with so much, especially with writing the words I share on this blog.
I look back on my life and all the moments when God was present and I didn’t even realize it. I look at the list of moments I just wrote out and a lot of them are just a fluke – a Hail Mary, if you will. And that gives me hope. Hope that my life has not run out of moments and that the next one is right around the corner.
I know that I’ve grown over the last three years. I’m a different person than I was. I have new hobbies – I love to read, write, and interact with bloggers who I’m 99% sure aren’t serial killers.
Maybe I can’t put as many accomplishments on paper as others around me, but internally, I feel like I’ve grown.
When I graduated from school, I felt smart…yet stupid. I knew textbooks, but not the world. I feel like I’ve gotten to know the world over the last three years (not because of travelling) and in doing so, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever knew before.
I don’t know what today holds. I always wondered what my life would be like as an adult. Now that I’m here, I’m still wondering.
And I think that’s the point. If I had all the answers, I’d be dead.
What I do know, though, is one moment can change everything. It always has.