Chaos in Print

Remember the compliments. Forget the insults. And if you ever figure out how to do this, tell me how. — From the song Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Recently, my self-esteem has suffered a few blows, and I’ve been thrown into one of those introspective funks usually reserved for my birthday. Let me explain to you what’s going on.

As you may remember, way back in November I decided to enter MuchMusic’s VJ search. With my extensive background at the college radio station and my winning personality, I had fooled myself into thinking I was a shoo-in. But, I wasn’t, and when that punk-ass Bradford won back in February, I was deeply hurt, and somewhat bitter. I started plotting intricate revenge schemes, the best one involving the best piece of ambush journalism ever devised. But time, as they say, heals all wounds. I started feeling better about myself, and, quite frankly, I was over it by April. To quote Jar Jar Binks, “Meesa feelin pretty okie-dokie.” But something happened today that slashed open that old wound like a lightsaber across a taumtaum’s belly.

Just a few days ago, I got an official rejection letter. The letter consisted of three items: the actual rejection letter, signed by all the VJs, an article xeroxed out of the Winnipeg Sun all about the new guy, and an official MuchMusic patch (or, as Weird Al said in one of his songs, “a lousy copy of our home game.”) Suddenly, all my bitterness started coming back to me. I was mad again.

I started wondering why they would wait so long to send a rejection letter. Upon reading the xeroxed article, it said that the winner would go through a three-month trial period to see if it would work out. Obviously, the three months are now up, they’ve decided to keep the lucky winner, and the big brass at Much thought it was finally time to officially close it up. But I was pissed off again. But I was OK. This bounced off me, and I was fine by the end of the day.

Just as I was feeling better, I checked the mail to find my latest issue of the Augustana alumni magazine. I started flipping through it and what did I find? A great big column detailing the latest in the life of my old competitor, Rob Nichols.

Now, most of you, my long-time readers, are thinking to yourself “Isn’t Brad Goertz your old competitor?” No. Brad Goertz was someone I disagreed with. A competitor is someone against you for the same goal. Way back in the fall of 1998, when I decided to run for VP External of the Students’ Union, it was Rob Nichols who was my primary opponent. He won, and was quite good at being ineffectual. When the spring elections came around, and I ran my vote-no campaign against Brad Goertz, I had a vote-no campaign all planned for Rob Nichols as well, who was running uncontested for Executive VP. But, it was the vote-no posters for Brad Goertz that went up first, and based on the negative response they got, the CRO of the election nixed my vote-no-for-Rob-Nichols campaign before it got off the ground. (You know, Brad Goertz and his “goons” will never know how hard the CRO tried to shut down my vote-no campaign when he saw the reaction it was generating, but I digress.) So, Rob Nichols did absolutely no campaigning whatsoever, and got in courtesy of voters blindly voting “yes.” Back when we were running against each other, Rob Nichols himself did no campaigning. It was the newspaper editor, Lucas Warren, who ran the whole campaign. Lucas put up the posters, Lucas made the banners, and I’m fairly certain Lucas wrote Rob’s speech at the candidates’ forum. Halfway through the campaign, I accused Lucas of endorsing an “invisible candidate,” because no one knew who Rob Nichols was, and he made no public appearances at all. Rob Nichols is a man who achieved power by doing nothing, and I always lost to him despite the fact that I did everything. And that’s why the name of Rob Nichols leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Continuing on in the alumni magazine, I wanted to know what was Rob doing that warranted so much space. It seems that he has been accepted to the Masters of Social Sciences program at the University of Wales. Yup, Wales, as in over in the United Kingdom. Oh, if that’s not enough, he’s also been offered an internship in Ottawa, where he’d be a parliamentary speech writer, and working for all the various MP’s. So poor ol’ Mr. Nichols has a tough decision to make about his future. As if to rub it in to me, the article starts with the line “At 20 years old, Rob Nichols has a better idea of where his life is headed than many people twice his age.”

So, MuchMusic took extra effort to tell me that I suck, and Rob Nichols was once again kicking my ass by going on to be much more successful than I’ll ever be. This was going to turn into my worst week ever. It was my darkest hour. And in our darkest hour, a chosen one will arise and unleash the power of the matrix.

My chosen one is a humble web-surfer, going by the online name of “Mickey.” After reading all about the exploits of Mr. Nichols, I went online to check my e-mail. There, I discovered a message from this Mickey, and I opened it up to read these words:

“Well I must say you are one of the best writers I have read in a long time. Please keep the writing coming I find it very enjoyable to see into your real not so real adventures:)”

A new reader. Someone who liked my writing. Lately, with the Student Loans having come due, being only to get a job bagging groceries and being a 22-year old virgin, my writing has become somewhat of an escape. Since, by my best estimates, I only have about four readers a week, I tend to forget that this is the Internet, and there’s always the chance that someone from outside the circle might actually read my works. Well, someone did, and liked it.

My mind starting flashing back. There are two compliments about my writing that forever stick out in my mind. The first happened way back when I was in high school, Grade 12 to be precise. It was awards night, when I was picking up my plaque for honors with distinction in my Grade 11 year. My high school English teacher, Mr. Eric Johnson, was there, and we started making small-talk about the event. The subject soon turned to the recent essays on MacBeth that my class had turned in. I did a highly bizarre one, likening Shakespear’s tale of ambition and murder to the then-current O.J. Simpson trial. Mr. Johnson then said something I’ve never forgotten: “I like your writing, Mark. You have a unique perspective. Whenever I’m marking a lot of essays, I’ll often stick yours in the middle of the pile. Then, after reading incredibly dull essay after dull essay, I’ll come to yours. It’ll make me laugh, and give me the energy to keep going though the dull ones.” Mr. Johnson was a great teacher. He recently transferred to a big-city high school, and is having trouble adjusting to larger classes, but he is one of the best.

The second came near the end of my second year of University. It was from Kenten Bowick, who was then the editor of the Dagligtale, Augustana’s student paper. We were still new friends, and I casually mentioned that I was thinking about doing an opinion column full-time in the paper next year. Kenten then turned to me and said “That’d be a good idea. I like your writing, Mark. Your style matches what you want to say. These other guys who submit stuff, they have good ideas, but they have no idea how to say it. You, on the other hand, you know.” Kenten and I were in the same graduating class, and we still keep in constant contact. I don’t know if I’m his best friend, but he is certainly mine.

And now, I have a third to add to this list. This Mickey, whoever he/she may be, or wherever he/she may be in the world, just seemed to know the exact right thing to say at the exact right time. And I thank him/her for that. It just seems that, right now, at this stage in my life, there is so much I should be, but I’m not. Some have thought that I should be pursuing a career in broadcasting, going on to be a VJ someday. Others have thought that I should have kept up the hard work I did in high school and my early years of university, and be well on my way to making scientific achievements as great as Rob Nichols’ political ones. I even thought that I should be finishing my first movie by now. But I’m not doing any of that. I’m writing. And I don’t know why, but people seem to like that I’m doing it. I swore at one time that I’d never be a starving artist because I don’t like starving. And I would hardly call what I’m doing here art. But I like doing it. And people seem to like reading it.

Can I whether the storm? As long as I’m, well, human, I will always have these blows to my self-esteem whenever I lose a contest, or see that the other guy is doing just a little bit better than me. But it’s the good things that keep us going. We shouldn’t concern ourselves with our failures, but with our victories. When that other guy does better, we should congratulate him/her, and work just a little harder to get there ourselves. We will all have our time in the sun, someday. But until then, it’s the kind words we should hold on to.

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