It Was 4-1

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It was 4-1.

It doesn’t feel any better this morning than it did the night before.

It was 4-1.

I knew going in that beating the Ducks was a long shot. I would have felt more comfortable facing anybody else – Edmonton, San Jose, even Chicago – anybody but the Ducks. The Ducks are not the best team in the NHL by any stretch of the imagination, but they have this effect on the Flames that can’t really be described. Other teams can beat Anaheim – Calgary cannot. It defies all logic. It just is what it is. So I knew our chances going in. I tried not to get my hopes up. My only wish was that the Flames didn’t embarrass themselves and get swept 4 games to none. Well, what can I say other than

It was 4-1.

It hasn’t been all bad. For 40-50 minutes each game, the Flames weren’t an embarrassment. Elliott has made some great saves. The Flames have become more disciplined as the series has gone on. They’ve shown more composure and made fewer mistakes. Monahan, Versteeg, Bennett, and Ferland have really stepped it up. They’ve hung in there with the Ducks in a way I think very few people were expecting. They’ve shown that they’re good enough to compete and honestly, they should be winning this series 2-1 right now. But they’re not. Because for all of the good things they’ve shown, for all of the positive takeaways, there’s the fact that

It was 4-1.

In Game 1, they played great, apart from an inexcusably awful line-change that lead to a 3-0 rush for Anaheim and the fact that they took 7 penalties. In Game 2, they played great again, apart from, once more, stupid penalties. In Game 3, they played great and controlled the game for 50 minutes before allowing a bunch of soft goals to let Anaheim tie the game and win it in overtime. Has the reffing in this series been awful? Yes, for both sides. Has every penalty that has been called been a good penalty? Absolutely not. Have the refs missed a ton of blatant infractions? Of course. Has a goal review gone the Flames way all season? Nope. But guess what? It’s not the refs fault we’re losing. It’s not the fault of Hockey Operations in Toronto, or Gary Bettman, or the NHL. It’s not Anaheim’s fault, or the curse of the Honda Center. It is the Calgary Flames’ fault they are down 3-0. They made the line-change that lead to the 3-0. They took stupid penalties when they knew the refs were calling all kinds of bullshit. They let their foot off the gas when they were up by 3 goals. They didn’t push back. Elliott has played poorly. Gaudreau has been invisible. Hamilton has been a liability. Tkachuk hasn’t been the force people were expecting, nor have Backlund and Frolik. It would be generous to say that even half the team is playing to their potential. They’ve shown that they have the talent to win, but not the experience, the drive, or the maturity. Blame the refs, blame the NHL, blame the Ponda curse and the hockey gods, but blame the Flames most of all, because

It was 4-1.

And now it’s 3-0. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

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Let’s Keep Talking

Every January, Bell Canada hosts “Bell Let’s Talk Day” – a day to raise awareness for mental illness in an effort to end the stigma surrounding it. This is done through the use of the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on various social media networks, which is meant to facilitate conversation. For every mention or interaction with this hashtag, Bell donates 5 cents to mental health initiatives across Canada. Yesterday, with 131,705,010 interactions, Bell and the people who participated in Bell Let’s Talk Day raised $6,585,250 for mental health in Canada. It’s a great day in which people come together to share their own stories and spread awareness of mental health issues. While Bell Let’s Talk Day is undoubtedly a force for good, it’s not without its problems. Some see it as a cynical publicity stunt, and while they’re not wrong, I see it as more of a win-win: it’s a brilliant PR move for Bell, and it’s also great cause. The way I see it, there’s a bigger problem with Bell Let’s Talk Day – it’s only a day. As I said, it’s a great day, where people feel more free to talk about these issues, but it’s still just a day. We talk for 24 hours, and then we stop.

So let’s put an end to that.

I’ve been miserable for a very long time. I can’t tell you exactly how long, but I remember feeling this way as far back as Grade 10 (that was 2003, for those trying to do the math). I remember one night, where I was talking to one of my friends on the phone. It was late, and I was in my basement, and I was explaining to her everything I had been feeling at school that year. I remember feeling lonely and lost. I remember feeling like there was this darkness that just followed me around. She asked me if I had considered talking to a counsellor about the way I was feeling. I said no. I wasn’t “depressed”, I was just sad. It would go away on its own. That was the start of a trend. Every few years, I would be talking to someone else, and they’d make the same suggestion – “You should talk to a professional about this”. I brushed it off, continuously. I often used the word “depressed”, but I don’t think I really understood what it meant to be “depressed”. The way I saw it, I was just sad. Sad that I was out of shape. Sad that I wasn’t particularly good at anything. Sad that I had no friends. Sad that everything always seemed to get worse instead of better.

I was always a nostalgic child. The past was where my mind resided. Terrified of the future and never fully able to appreciate the present. The problem with living in the past is that it’s gone. By the time I came around to appreciating something, it was out of my grasp. This isn’t a great state of mind for someone who’s already sad all the time, because it just makes things sadder. All I ever wanted was to go back in time – to live in the past, because everything was better in the past. So it was all throughout my childhood, and so it was when I graduated. While everyone else rejoiced to be finished with school, I cried in my room. By my Grade 12 year, I finally felt like I was making progress – I had stepped outside of my bubble and started to flourish. Things began to look up, and just as soon as they did, they were gone. Once again, the present had passed me by and all I had left was the past.

Life continued. I continued to live, never really content with the way things were. Life was merely serviceable. I moved through different jobs, completely indifferent to them all (except for my belief that whatever job I currently had wasn’t as good as any that I had previously left). I spent a year at university, taking random courses and accomplishing nothing. I applied to Ryerson University and got put on a waitlist. I ended up attending Trinity Western for no real reason other than that they actually accepted me.

As much as I dreaded going to Trinity, there was a small part of me that felt hopeful – my life had been in a holding pattern for 3 years, but it felt like there was finally some momentum. I was moving forward. And that hope was rewarded with brief moments of happiness over the next 4 years, but those moments were fleeting, to the point where I’m convinced that happiness only exists in those brief moments. I fell into many a dark hole over those 4 years – some that were pretty obvious to those around me and some that I did a better job of hiding. I’d whine and complain for hours on end to my closest friends, but I’d put on a happy face for everyone else. I became “friends” with everyone I met, laughing and joking and hugging and high fiving. I created this loveable character that everybody knew and I felt completely alone. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been more lonely in life than I was at Trinity, despite being constantly surrounded by people.

It got worse as time went on. I found these periods of darkness began lasting longer and longer. No matter my circumstances, I was never happy. I drove many a friend away, and losing friends is not something that comes easy to me. I tend to hold onto people, and even now, it still hurts to think about people I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.

By my fourth year, I felt more lost than ever. I had already given up on my education and I told myself that I was just at Trinity to have a good time. I roamed the halls day and night, looking for people to spend time with. Whenever I found people, I felt alright about myself. Whenever I didn’t, I was convinced it was because nobody liked me. I’d spend entire days wandering the campus, searching for people to distract me from my thoughts. When I failed, my mind would swirl down into a pit of self-loathing and hate. I knew everybody hated me and I hated myself. I had hated myself for a very, very long time.

Things got pretty bad towards the end of the semester. Exams were ending. Graduation loomed. The mood on campus was jubilant. I felt only despair. One night, I reached out to one friend and met her in the recording studio. I unloaded on her – everything that I had been feeling all year came tumbling out. Whenever I had tried to talk to any of my other friends about how I felt, they were dismissive. I don’t blame them for that – I’m a negative person. I’m draining to be around. I complain constantly, and I don’t listen to any advice that people provide. I tire people out. I exhaust their goodwill. I’m like a parasite, moving from one well-meaning person to another until they’re too tired to listen anymore. They’d heard it all a thousand times before. But this person hadn’t, and when I spoke with them, I didn’t see dismissal – I saw recognition. She nodded as I explained the way I felt. She knew. She had felt it all too. The relief I felt in that moment was incredible. To talk to someone else and to have them understand. It was freeing. She told me that I should look into getting professional help. She wasn’t the first person who had told me that, but I decided that it was finally time to listen.

On my last day in BC, I made an appointment with one of the counsellors at Trinity. It was a silly thing to do, because counselling is not a one-day process, but it felt like a step in the right direction, and it was free (counselling is very expensive). We spoke for an hour. He told me that I might suffer from dysthymia, which is a persistent, mild form of depression. I could finally put a name to it. Things were finally beginning to look up.

LOL

I didn’t see a counsellor again that year. I spent the summer working at a job I hated, and in the fall I went to the Laurentian Leadership Center in Ottawa. That was probably a mistake. I didn’t actually want to attend, it was simply a last ditch effort to regain some of what I felt I lost when I left Trinity. Remember that whole nostalgia thing? Despite being miserable for most of my 4 years at Trinity, by the end, it felt like home. I didn’t want to leave the campus or my friends. I didn’t want to face the real world, so I prolonged my schooling for no other reason than to prolong my schooling. I strived for a way to remain in the past, as I had my entire life.

Ottawa was a terrible experience. Every negative emotion that I had felt at Trinity was amplified in Ottawa. I felt like an outcast. I was an outcast. The nature of my internship kept me from keeping the same schedule as everyone else. I was around during the day while everyone else was gone. I was gone evenings and weekends. I missed dinners and social gatherings. Things got worse and worse, and for a number of reasons I won’t get into here, I fell into a deep depression. I spent whole days sitting in the same spot, not talking to anyone. I’d spend hours sitting in the dark by myself. Life just piled on and by the time December rolled around, I couldn’t wait to leave. The one positive thing that happened in Ottawa was I opened up about my depression. Despite feeling it for years, I had never labeled it as depression, so this was the first time I was able to talk about it with anyone other than my closest friends. Later that month, before returning home for Christmas, I did one of the hardest things I had had to do – I told my family about it for the first time. They were supportive, and the next year I got on medication and started counselling.

The end.

LOL

There was a part of me that was relieved that I was officially “depressed”. For years and years, I felt like there was something wrong with me. And not in a “depression is a sickness” way. I mean, I felt like there was something wrong with ME. As a person. In my soul or in my heart. No matter what I did, I felt like I couldn’t change. I could never make any progress. Things only ever got worse (or at least it felt that way). To know that all of this was false? It was incredibly freeing. And then I went to see the doctor. I explained how I felt. I explained my thought processes. I told him that I thought I might have dysthymia. And he smirked. He told me that I didn’t have dysthymia. He told me that I wasn’t depressed. He told me that there was nothing medically wrong with me. What he said was that everything I had described was normal. He feels the way I do. Everyone feels the way I do. I just wasn’t good at coping with the small things that everyone else copes with on a day-to-day basis. He told me that counselling might help with that, but other than a lack of coping mechanisms, I was perfectly fine.

After years and years of feeling lost, and hurt, and hopeless, I had finally found an answer. I wasn’t a broken person. I was sick. I had finally found an answer, and then in one moment, that answer was taken away from me. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t depressed. I was just bad at living. You see, the problem was that if I wasn’t sick, then it meant that I felt the way I did… for no reason. If it wasn’t mental illness, then it was just… me. And that meant that there was no solution. That meant that this was just the way that I was, and this is the way that I would always be. That stuck with me. It still sticks with me. I don’t agree with that doctor’s diagnosis, but I can’t shake the feeling that he was right.

I eventually found a doctor who would prescribe me medication. I stayed on it for about 3 months. I never felt any different. I took blood tests, but nothing in them indicated that I was clinically depressed. I saw a counsellor for 6 weeks, up until I made the decision to move to Langley (another mistake). I convinced myself that I was moving forward, taking a step in the right direction, but all I was doing was taking a step backwards. I didn’t actually want to live in Langley, I just wanted to be near Trinity again, surrounded by my friends (who, for the most part, have moved on). It may have been the worst thing for me. It furthered this delusion that the past was within my reach. I was unable to give up on this dream I had of returning to Langley and having everything be the way it was when I left. Even after I failed to find work and moved home with my tail between my legs, I kept thinking of returning to Langley. I eventually did. It’s where I’m writing this right now. I’d like to say that I moved back here for a better reason this time, but that would be a lie.

I never saw another doctor. I never tried another medication. I never saw another counsellor. I honestly don’t know if I’m depressed. If I have dysthymia or if I’m just broken. I sometimes go a long time without feeling depressed, at least in the way that I did when I went through really dark times, but I’m rarely ever happy. I know that I’ve developed crippling anxiety when it comes to issues relating to finances and employment. I know that sometimes I can’t sleep because of how stressed out and anxious I am about every single thing. I know that sometimes I lay in bed for hours after waking up. I know that sometimes I go days without leaving the house. I know that I’m terrified of meeting new people. I know that I’m incapable of making even the simplest decisions. I know that I am able to “defeat” any advice that anyone provides. I know that I’m able to talk myself out of doing literally anything. I know that I have self-destructive tendencies that perpetuate, even though I know they’re destructive. Does that make me sick? Or am I just a screw up? I genuinely don’t know.

What I know is that I FEEL depressed, but I don’t know that I feel as depressed as people who are actually clinically depressed. Using the word “depression” makes me feel like a fraud, like I’m simply making up an excuse as to why I am the way I am, because it’s easier than facing the truth. I talk about mental illness as if I have some sort of personal experience with it, but I don’t know that that’s true. Surely many, many others have it much, much worse. So who am I to sit here and write thousands of words about my “struggle”?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if I ever will. But maybe something in this mess of text will resonant with someone, and maybe they’ll seek their own answers, and maybe they’ll actually find some. That’s a lot of maybes, but maybe is all I can provide right now.

Bell Let’s Talk Day will come around again next January, but let’s make sure that in the meantime, we don’t stop talking. Keep the conversation going 365 days a year, because you never know who needs to talk.

The Mourning After

I don’t really know what to say right now.

I usually don’t write this kind of stuff. I like to write about Marvel movies, and TV pilots, and Big Brother. People come to me for entertainment news and Twitter memes, and I am very good at those two things. I am not good at political discourse. I am not good at being emotionally honest online. But here we are.

Donald Trump is the President Elect of the United States of America. Even now, I can’t believe I’m typing that. It feels like a dream. I had prepared myself for this early on, but the sheer confidence of the Democrats in the last couple months assuaged any fears I might have had. I watched Hillary Clinton win 3 debates while Trump dug himself into a deeper hole. I believe that at one point, I actually made a Facebook post along the lines of “I’m so glad Donald Trump will never be President.” I woke up this morning curious as to whether or not Trump would ultimately concede. I never saw it coming. The Democrats never saw it coming. The media never saw it coming. I’m almost convinced that even Trump himself didn’t see it coming. We were all so wrong. I’ve never seen such a large group of people be so wrong about anything this significant in my entire life.

It dawned on me tonight that Donald Trump was always going to win this election. Despite what all of the polls said, despite what everyone anticipated, this election had been decided months ago. There is nothing the Clinton campaign could have done. The white, American public was done with politicians, and they were never going to elect one. If only the Democrats had anticipated that years ago. Alas, what’s done is done. Trump is the President now, and no amount of looking back and wondering what went wrong is going to change that. It’s time to look forward, but what do we look forward to?

I grew up in a very conservative, evangelical home. I have blindly voted for the Conservative Party in almost all Canadian elections in which I was eligible to do so (full disclosure – I did not vote in 2015 as I did not get my absentee ballot submitted in time, although I don’t know who I would have voted for even if I had). I’m not a great citizen. I am woefully uninformed and uninvolved. I’m not a great person. I was unaware of my privilege and my own prejudice and intolerance for most of my life. I’m not a great Christian either. I regularly question my faith – arguably too much – but nothing has made me question my faith more than seeing the amount of bigotry and hatred spewed by those who claim to be followers of Christ. I’m pretty sure it’s always been there, I was just blind to it, convinced that what I believed was right – it had to be right. I was taught that the Bible was black and white and that there was no wiggle room. I’ve come to question that belief. I’ve come to question a lot of beliefs. Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you what I believe anymore, but the one Christian principle I’ve clung to is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Does anything else really matter? Jesus said “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The Bible tells us that “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” Why then is there so much judgement and hate, particularly among Christians, who are called to love their neighbors? “Love your enemies”! Repeatedly, all throughout scripture, we are told again and again that we are not here to judge, that we are here to love, and yet – AND YET – 80% of white Evangelicals voted for someone who ran a platform built on hate, fear, and judgement. How can you reconcile that? What does that say about us?

I’ve already established that I’m not a great person, but I honestly want to offer up an apology to anyone of another gender, orientation, or ethnicity who I have hurt, either directly or indirectly (ignorance can hurt just as much as hate). I’m sorry that it took me so long to realize that I need to be a better man, one who stands up for the marginalized in my life. I’m sorry if I haven’t been there for you when you needed someone. I’m sorry if I never believed or understood your struggles because they are so different from mine. I’m sorry if I ever discounted your opinion or made you feel unsafe or unwanted in any way. This may not mean much, but I’m trying to be better.

Tonight, my heart goes out to everybody in America who will be affected negatively by a Trump presidency.

I think of the women; the survivors of sexual abuse who see their abusers walk free and the overqualified who are overlooked because of their sex.

I think of the LGBTQ community, who want to be seen and recognized, and who want to love one another while enjoying the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

I think of the religious minorities; the Muslims and the Jewish people who fear deportation, discrimination, and violence.

I think of the African American communities who are afraid of their nation’s police forces, who now must live under a president endorsed by the KKK

I think of the Latin American community, who are perceived as criminals and rapists and told to go home to a country they aren’t even from.

I think of the immigrants and the refugees who just want a safe place to call home and not be branded terrorists.

I think of all the marginalized; the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.

I think of all these and more and I am afraid of what might happen to them in a country that doesn’t seem to want them. I think of the great divide that exists in America today and I honestly do not see a path to reconciliation. Maybe that’s a failing on my part. Maybe I give up too easily. I certainly give up too easily. That’s a personal weakness of mine. I’m negative. I’m pessimistic. I’m depressed. Hope feels like an evanescent dream, always fluttering just out of reach.

I see my largely Democratic Twitter feed in mourning tonight, as people of all races and religions fear for what tomorrow will bring, but alongside the mourners, I see those who continue to hope. Yes, they mourn, but they are stronger than their grief. I see their calls to stand strong, to support and uplift one another, to remember that people are stronger together than they are apart. I envy them their strength. I envy them their resolve. I envy their desire to do better, to see good done in the world, and to enact positive change in their country. I envy them because right now, I’m not there. I am tired. I am scared. I am angry. I see their grace and their strength and I envy it, because it’s grace and strength that I lack. Grace and strength that I, an evangelical white male, lack. I’m negative. I’m pessimistic. I’m depressed. Hope feels like an evanescent dream, always fluttering just out of reach, but if the broken-hearted, weary minorities of America can find hope, then maybe there’s hope for me as well.

Keep struggling. Keep fighting. Keep loving one another. Don’t lose hope, even when everyone else has. You’re the strength that America needs right now. You’re the strength that we all need right now. God bless you. And God bless America.

The Calgary Flames and a City Ignited

The LA net is empty. The clock ticks down slowly. 60 seconds. 59 seconds. Agony. 58 seconds. Gaudreau has the puck. 57 seconds. Gaudreau passes to Monahan. 56 seconds. Monahan passes to Hudler. 55 seconds. Hudler shoots. The puck is in. The stadium goes wild. Flames. Sirens. Lights. Screams. 3-1. The Calgary Flames have done it. They’ve eliminated the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings. They’ve clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 6 years. Finally. The Calgary Flames are returning to the playoffs.

Calgary Flames Playoffs Hartley Celebrates

I remember how the city felt in 2004. It was electric. There was this energy in the air, this jubilant belief that anything could happen, that miracles were real. It carried on for weeks, until that final, fateful game that sealed the Flames’ fate. Tampa Bay had won. The Flames had lost. After weeks and weeks of excruciating defeats and breathtaking wins, the magic was over. And yet we still celebrated. We knew our team were champions, even though they had no cup to lift. They had done the impossible. They had surpassed every single expectation. They had made their city proud, even in defeat.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this past season has felt a lot like that. This was a Flames club that nobody expected anything of. Everyone pegged us as a bottom dweller, a team that would sit at the bottom of the standings, vying for the right to draft Connor McDavid. Who could blame them? This was a team that finished 27th overall in the first year of their rebuild after losing franchise mainstays Jarome Iginla and Miikka Kiprusoff. To make matters worse, shortly before the season began, the Flames found out that their star draft pick, Sam Bennett, would need to undergo shoulder surgery and would be unable to play this season. Despite the fact that the Flames had a surprisingly decent season the year before (even though they finished near the bottom of the league), things were looking bleak. We all thought that they’d get worse before they got better. How wrong we were.

The Flames went 17-8-2 in the first 27 games of the season. They survived a potentially season-ending road trip at the start of the year against teams like the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks. They went 6-2-0 against divisional rivals. They were in a playoff spot. The fans were in nirvana. And then December happened, and the Flames spiralled down with an 8-game losing streak. All of the hope, all of the optimism, vanished. The pundits reminded us that they knew the Flames momentum was unsustainable. It had been a fun ride, but it had to end sometime. At least, that’s what they said.

Calgary Flames Never Quit

When you’re playing a divisional rival like the Vancouver Canucks and you score upon yourself during a delayed penalty call because your own net is empty, it’s hard to imagine things getting any worse. Two days later, the Flames found themselves down 3-0 to another divisional rival, the Los Angeles Kings. The Flames hadn’t seen a win in over two weeks. I had given up on them. Thankfully, the team hadn’t given up on itself. Inexplicably, Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau got his first NHL-career hat trick, scoring 3 times to tie the game 3-3. What’s more surprising is that 2 of those goals came in the last few minutes of play with the Calgary goalie pulled. The 3rd goal came with mere seconds left on the clock. My friends and I went crazy. The Flames would go on to take the game in overtime, snagging their first win in 9 games. It has become known as the Christmas Miracle. Suddenly, the city began to believe in miracles again.

The rest of the season played out a lot like that game. Time and time again, against all odds, the Calgary Flames found ways to win. When Flames captain and potential Norris Trophy-candidate Mark Giordano was injured on February 25th, many, myself included, thought that was the end. 20 games later, the Flames have gone 12-5-3. Unbelievable. Statistically, they should be a bad team. Analysts will tell you again and again that on paper, this Flames team should not have made the playoffs. That’s because there’s no real way to quantify things like “heart” and “hard work”. Sometimes the victory just goes to the team that wants it more, the team that fights harder, the team that believes. I don’t say this to discredit the amazing accomplishments the players have had this season – Monahan and Gaudreau are shining young stars, some of the best the franchise has seen since Jarome Iginla joined the team; the Norris-worthy defensive pairing of Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie are a huge part of the reason why the Flames are where they are; Jiri Hudler was the NHL’s second star for the month of March and has arguably become one of the most underrated players in the league; goaltenders Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo have stood on their heads throughout the season, ensuring that the Flames always had a chance to win every night; unsung heroes like Lance Bouma, Mikael Backlund, Josh Jooris, David Jones, Matt Stajan, Dennis Wideman, Kris Russell, and others ensured that even when the Flames’ stars weren’t at their best, the team still had a chance to win. My point is that despite all of this talent, the Flames still shouldn’t have been as good as they’ve been. What separates the Flames from other teams in the league is that they never gave up. They never stopped working. They never quit. They never stopped believing. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the obstacles, they always fought. That’s why the Flames are in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That old feeling is back again. I felt it last Thursday, even before the game began. That energy. That belief that anything could happen. That’s how I knew that the Flames would win. I could feel that playoff hockey had returned to Calgary. I had bet against the Flames too many times this season and been proven wrong. I wasn’t going to let it happen again. Sure enough, the Flames did not disappoint, and here we are, on the brink of another incredibly improbable playoff run. We face Vancouver tonight in the first round. We’ve struggled against Vancouver in the past. Maybe, statistically speaking, we don’t have much of a chance. Maybe the Flames aren’t the smart pick to win. But I’ve been here before, and so have the Flames. We beat them in 2004, and we can do it again this year. I’ve learned my lesson about doubting this team. I’ve seen them do the impossible time and time again. In the words of Jay-Z, “difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week”. Or, in this case, 7 games. I believe they can do it, I believe that anything is possible, and I think that the rest of Calgary would agree with me.

GO FLAMES GO!

Calgary Flames Playoffs 2015

Halfway Out of the Dark

And with that, 2012 is over.

You’ll have to forgive me for not updating this blog these last few months. I was distracted by my duties and my experience at the LLC and I had more pressing concerns. If I’m being completely truthful, it was a very difficult semester for me.

Those who really know me will tell you that I’m not a very happy person. I’ve grown accustomed to putting on a happy face and joking around all of the time, but that very rarely reflects how I feel on the inside. I’ve been struggling with depression for quite some time now. I’ve left it unchecked for years, but it has never affected me as greatly as it has in the last 24 months. 2013 is a very dark prospect for me, because I’ve lost hope. At least it feels that way. I think that 2013 is a very dark prospect for me because I haven’t lost all hope, at least not yet. As Bane explains in The Dark Knight Rises:

“There’s a reason why this prison is the worst hell on earth… Hope. Every man who has ventured here over the centuries has looked up to the light and imagined climbing to freedom. So easy… So simple… […] I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope.”

I’m miserable most of the time, and while I tell myself that I don’t really see any way that that will change, I know that it can. Every morning, however, it’s a struggle just to wake up, and every night I feel like I’m losing the fight.

There’s a long-running British show called Doctor Who that I’m quite fond of. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Every year they release a Christmas special, and in 2010, they released a Doctor Who version of A Christmas Carol. The episode described Christmas in this way:

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark’.”

Halfway Out of the Dark

Later in the episode, The Doctor is speaking to Kazran Sardick, who is this Christmas carol’s stand in for “Scrooge”. Kazran has just stopped himself from slapping a child, and the following exchange occurs:

The Doctor: Merry Christmas, Mr. Sardick.
Kazran Sardick: I despise Christmas!
The Doctor: You shouldn’t. It’s very you.
Kazran Sardick: It’s what? What do you mean?
The Doctor: Halfway out of the dark.

Halfway out of the dark. I love this description of Christmas. This description encapsulates not only the natural occurrences of the season, but also the true, Christian meaning behind the holiday. I love the idea that Christmas is the celebration that occurs once the darkness begins to recede, both literally and metaphorically. Our lives are filled with darkness, but at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came as a light unto that darkness; Jesus came into the world to bring it halfway out of the dark. To be halfway out of the dark is to have hope that the darkness is fading and that you’re emerging into the light. It was my wish this season that Christmas would be able to describe me – “Halfway out of the dark”. I so badly wanted that to be me. I so badly wanted people to say “It’s very you”. It’s not though. From where I’m sitting, the darkness is thicker than ever, and hope is in short supply.

2012 was the 50th anniversary of the character of Spider-Man, whose first appearance came in August 1962. Along with the 50th anniversary, everyone’s favorite wall-crawler saw another milestone – the 700th (and final) issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. The 104-page issue contained not only a fantastic story, but also a moving letters page in which Spider-Man fans wrote in sharing what the character of Spider-Man had meant to them over the last 50 years. The character has been an inspiration to many, and for good reason. Peter Parker is relatable. He’s the everyman. He’s awkward, poor, and bad with women. His life is full of hardships, more so than most. There are times when it feels like he has it all together, whether he’s working at a dream job or married to a supermodel wife, but it never lasts. Things fall apart. Life is full of ups and downs, and Peter Parker’s downs are lower than most. But there is something that sets him apart. You see it in every Spider-Man story worth it’s webs – Spider-Man, despite all of the odds stacked against him, never gives up. He doesn’t always win, but he never gives up. In the face of literally every darkness imaginable – failure, misfortune, hopelessness, anger, death, pain, loss, heartbreak – he perseveres. Without spoiling the issue, there is a moment in Amazing Spider-Man #700 when another character experiences what it’s like to have Peter Parker’s life. His words are “Please. No more. It’s too much. I can’t… can’t go on.” Peter replies “Yes, you can. You’d be surprised how much you can do. How many things are worth fighting for.”

Amazing Spider-Man 655

We don’t all have great power like Spider-Man’s, but we DO have a choice – we can give up or we can continue to fight. Even if it hurts. Even if it feels like we’ll never win. There is always a choice. Sometimes it’s the hardest choice in the world. Sometimes we lose sight of it. Sometimes we become blinded by the darkness, the seeming hopelessness, the pain. Yet the choice remains. It waits for us. We can choose to remain in the darkness, or we can choose to fight for the light. We can fight for Christmas, to be halfway out of the dark. It’s not an easy choice. It never will be. But the choice is ours.

I’ve realized that halfway out of the dark isn’t something that you can just be – it is a choice. No one is going to come up to me and say “It’s very you – halfway out of the dark”. If I’m going to be halfway out of the dark, then I need to choose to be halfway out of the dark. It’s not an easy choice to make. You’d think it would be, but it’s not. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve felt like giving up. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve actually given up. I can’t count the number of times I’ve prayed the words “Please. No more.. It’s too much. I can’t… can’t go on.” When you live every day in despair, it becomes easy to give up. Hope is hard. Halfway out of the dark is hard.

I worry that this message will come off as disingenuous. This isn’t meant to be my grand declaration that I’m done with living in darkness. I can say with certainty right now that I don’t want to fight. I want to give up. Fighting is hard. Giving up is easy. This is how I feel right now. And yet… I think of the Doctor, the eternal optimist who has never, in 900 years of time and space, met someone who wasn’t important. I think of Spider-Man, who, against every conceivable odd, never gave up. They’re just characters in stories, but it’s amazing the power that stories have. I guess that’s why I’ve always been so drawn to them. Stories are meaningful. They can inspire you to make a choice. They can give you the strength to fight another day. And maybe, just maybe, they can even restore your hope.

It didn’t happen for me in 2012…

But maybe in 2013.

A Little Housekeeping…

I know that there hasn’t been any new content since Blog Brother ended, and for that I apologize. It’s not that I don’t want to write or that I don’t have anything to write about, I think I just needed a bit of a break. That being said, I’ve got a lot of stuff cooking for October, some of which you might actually care about, so here’s a little preview of what I’m going to be working on.

Most importantly are two new features I’ll be adding as soon as I possibly can: “The Pilot Project” and “Premiere Primers”. The goal of The Pilot Project is to watch and write about every new series premiere of the 2012-2013 television season. This fall, that consists of about 21 shows. Premiere Primers, on the other hand, will be my impressions on the new season premieres of every show that I watch. That’s going to be another 22 new shows. Why am I doing this? Well, because I want to. I’m going to be watching them anyways, so I may as well write about them. I attempted to do this last fall, but I quickly became overwhelmed. In order to avoid this, I’m going to try to keep my thoughts on each show as concise as I can. It’ll be easier for me and easier for you.

That doesn’t mean I won’t ever be going more in depth, however. I’ll also be introducing “Fringe Files”, in which I chronicle my thoughts on Fringe’s fifth and final season. I thought it fitting, considering the fact that Fringe is my favorite show since Lost (remember how much I wrote about Lost? If you don’t know me, then the answer to that is probably no). And there is still, of course, the ever-continuing saga of “True Blog”, which will make a return at some point. It was initially my goal in the summer to blog about The X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Freaks & Geeks (I’ve even got unused sections of my blog dedicated to them). This may still happen at some point, but “Freaks, Peaks, and Geeks” is on the backburner for now. Of course, there may be some more surprises on the way. I don’t want to spoil EVERYTHING for you.

As you’ve probably noticed, my current slate is heavily television focused. That’s because I know a lot about it and there’s a lot to write about. I do, however, want to break away from that a little bit and attempt to write about other mediums, so don’t be surprised if you see posts about movies, games, comics, and books. Actually, my plate’s already pretty full. If it happens, do be surprised – be pleasantly surprised.

So that’s it. It may not sound like much (or maybe it does), but I promise you that it’s going to be a huge challenge for me to actually do everything I’m setting out to do. Hopefully it’s not all for nothing (PLEASE READ MY BLOG IF YOU WANT!). Thanks for reading!

My Series Finale

Good series finales are difficult to come by. As viewers, we have certain expectations of what endings should be. We expect them to be grand. We expect to see familiar faces return. We expect things to come full circle thematically. We expect tears of sadness and joy. We expect answers. Most importantly, we expect closure. Think of how many shows have botched the ending (and no, I do not consider Lost to be among them). I’ve heard it from other writers and as a writer myself, I’d have to agree – endings are hard.

Friday Night Lights – one of those rare shows with a perfect ending

One of the things that I’ve discovered through my years of TV watching is that the best endings are ones that end in hope. The best endings don’t just end the story, they begin new ones. Nobody wants to leave their favorite characters with the thought that there’s nothing left. Good stories, and by extension good TV shows, allow us the opportunity to see into the life of a character (or characters) for a time and follow them through the trials and tribulations of life. We see them at their best and their worst. We see them fall, and hopefully, rise back up again. The best stories show us a character who triumphs over adversity and comes out the other side better than they were before. The best stories then show us that there’s more to come for that character and leave us with the knowledge (or at least the hope) that they’ll be able to face whatever may come their way next. The best stories indicate to us that life doesn’t end simply because the story has reached its conclusion—these stories are just snapshots, windows into the life of a character that last for a finite amount of time. These are the best stories, the best endings, the best finales.

I always saw my time at Trinity Western University as a television show (I’m ashamed to admit that in the past, I’ve accidentally referred to the years as seasons). I suppose this will sound silly to some, but it’s sometimes hard not to see things in this way when television is as big a part of my life as it is. My degree was conveniently split into four “seasons”, which, in the current television landscape, is a decent amount of time for any show to run. There was a setting and a premise (and there was most certainly a soundtrack), but most importantly, there was the thing that makes a television show possible – a large and varied cast of characters. Just like with any good television show, the characters are what stuck with me. The characters are what kept me coming back, season after season, anxious to see how things would turn out. I was also a character – the main character of my very own television show.

Just like with any television show, things changed from season to season. Settings differed, characters came and went, relationships faded, new ones were born, conflicts arose, mistakes were made, and victories were achieved. When I reached my graduation in April, I considered that my series finale. Now I’m not so sure, because it wasn’t a good ending.

Looking back on it, my graduation from Trinity Western University was a good season finale, but it wasn’t a good series finale. Graduation was grand, to be sure, and things did come full circle in ways. There was certainly a parade of familiar faces and tears were shed, though mostly of the sadness variety. What there wasn’t, however, was closure. If a character is supposed to be better at the ending than they were at the start, then how come I feel no different? How come, after these four season, I feel as if I’m just as lost, confused, and broken as I was when I began?

As much as my life circumstances have changed, I can’t accept that my series finale occurred back in April because my journey as this character hasn’t reached its conclusion yet. There are still challenges that I have to overcome. Settings will continue to change, characters will continue to come and go, existing relationships will evolve, conflicts will arise, mistakes will be made, and hopefully victories will be achieved.

Endings are hard. They’re hard on television. They’re even harder in real life. But maybe my ending hasn’t happened yet. Maybe this chapter of my life isn’t over yet. I still have lessons to learn, I still have questions that need answers, and hopefully I still have that large and varied cast of characters.

I look forward to that day when I can close this chapter of my life, better off than when I began it. Until then however, I’ve got a fifth season to experience and it’s about to premiere.