Family Nature

Me and the CNE. (Or, how my crazy mind works.)

As many of you know, I was an official CNE blogger this year. You can read my blog posts here.

It was a pretty cool experience. My prize package included parking and admission passes for every day the CNE was open, food vouchers, a Samsung Galaxy Note, two VIA rail passes for the Quebec-Windsor corridor and a few other little things. I got to go to the CNE as many times as I wanted (minimum three) and all I had to do was blog about my experiences.

When I first saw the CNE blogger contest, I figured there was no harm in entering. I don’t really know how many people read my blog and I don’t know how “good” it is (whatever that means) so I had no idea if I would appeal to the CNE. I was shocked, really shocked, when I found out that I’d won. Me. Little old me. Someone thought I’d be a good CNE blogger. I was quite chuffed to have been picked.

It was unlike writing on my own blog. Writing for someone else and writing short posts (maximum 250 words!) is very different from writing longer posts that have been on my mind for ages, years sometimes. To me, writing on my own blog feels natural. I tend to think about many of my posts for a long time before I start writing. I usually start with some words and sentences in bullet point form. Then I spend (what seems to me) a long time writing, going back and editing, moving paragraphs around, correcting grammatical errors (I have this bad habit of going back and forth between tenses), shortening run-on sentences, agonizing over my words. When I do this with things that are particularly emotional for me, or that have been bothering me or on my mind for a long time, I feel a tremendous release. I’ve thought and thought about it, barfed it out on my computer, and worked it into something that feels exactly right.

Blogging for the CNE was different. Go to The Ex, come home, and write a blog post. Weird. But fun. Different than what I’m used to.

In the crazy way that my mind works, being chosen to blog for the CNE out of many entries (I don’t know how many exactly, but we were told there were piles and piles of entries) brought up old memories.

I am a high school drop-out. I always felt like I was smart enough, but I hated high school. I never did homework, rarely completed assignments, and skimmed through books that were required reading. I was your classic does-not-work-to-her-potential student. I managed to squeak by with Cs and Ds. The only A I ever got in high school was in gym class. As I approached the end of my high school years realizing that I was two credits short I knew there was no fucking way I was going back for another whole year for two credits.

And I didn’t. While my friends went off to college and university I started working full-time at a mindless job, having no idea what I wanted to “be” and having no idea how to figure that out. College was too specific (I didn’t know how the frack I was supposed to choose something that I would do for the rest of my life) and I at the time I believed that I just wasn’t smart enough to go to university.

To this day, I thank my BFF for helping me realize how wrong I was. We worked our mindless jobs together and one day she said to me, “We should apply to university as mature students.” I said, “I’m not smart enough for university.” And at the time I believed this with all my heart. University was for Smart People. I was kinda smart, but not one of the Smart People.

With conviction, my BFF said to me, “Amanda, you ARE smart enough for university.” And in that moment, a light bulb went off in my head. I paused. Yes, I am smart enough. I can do this.

(Side note to my BFF: I don’t know if you even know this, but among the millions of memories I have of you and me, this is one of the ones that stands out, and this is something for which I will be eternally grateful. Thank you for giving me a shake that day. Thank you for having faith in me. Thank you for telling me exactly what I needed to hear. I love you so much. xoxo)

Off we went, my BFF and me: saved our money, enrolled in a pre-university course, and both of us got the required B- that gained us entry to U of T as mature students.

We were part-time students, working full time and going to class in the evenings. It was pretty tough. Not many people thought me going to university was a good idea. My then-fiancé (now my ex-husband) wasn’t supportive. He was completely disinterested. Others thought I’d come out of university overqualified (seriously, people said this to me) and one guy I knew even said to me “you’re not smart enough for university”. Fuck you, buddy.

My BFF was my rock. She believed in me. She knew I could do it. I think we only ever had one class together but I will always think of university as something we did as a team.

We carried on, slowly but surely earning credits. I felt more and more confident as time passed. I loved it. I mean, really, really loved it. I had always hated school but this was so different. I studied Anthropology (more specifically Archaeology and Biological Anthropology). My grades were decent. With each paper I became a better and more confident writer.

One moment I remember clearly is a paper I’d written for a Human Biology and Evolution class. Science had never been a strong subject for me so at times during this class I felt like I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Anyway, the TA had made us all line up outside her room. She called us in one by one to give us our papers. She’d done this, she said, because overall the grades for this paper had been very poor, and she wanted to go over the papers with each student individually. I waited in line, watching each person ahead of me go in, spend a few minutes talking, then leave. Finally it was my turn and I headed in. The TA searched through her stack for my paper. She pulled it out and handed it to me with a big smile and said “great work”. I got an A. It was the first A I’d ever received on a paper. I walked out of that room beaming.

A couple of months ago I was looking for a file on my computer and found that A paper. I don’t even know how I managed to transfer it from computer to computer but somehow I have it. For fun, here it is.

About half-way through my degree I found out I was pregnant. I wrote my final exams in my first trimester. I was so exhausted I just couldn’t image continuing to work full time and go to school. So I stopped, thinking that I’d pick up again in a couple of years. Four kids later, it just never happened.

I’m a little disappointed with myself that I never finished that degree. Every once in a while I think about going back. But the truth is the thought is so overwhelming to me. The cost, how much work it would be, juggling kids, home, school … I just don’t know if I could do it. So for now, it’s something that is on my list of things to do one day. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the experience.

So what does all this have to do with the CNE? Well, like that day my BFF told me I was smart enough, and like my A paper, being chosen to blog for the CNE was just a little confidence boost. And everyone can use a little boost once in a while, don’t you think? I don’t feel like I particularly need it. I no longer think there are things I’m not smart enough for. I don’t really care as much as I used to about what other people think about me. I blog because I love it; because writing about things that are on my mind helps me process things. Even when I go back and find grammatical errors, or wish I’d worded something a little bit differently, the sense of accomplishment I feel after writing is not diminished. I think I’m a decent writer, but still, every once in a while it’s nice to know that other people think that too.

One thought on “Me and the CNE. (Or, how my crazy mind works.)

  1. shirley

    Thanks for sharing this – sounds something like me, only I left school after grade 9 to pay for my parents first home by working in a sewing factory. Eventually, if u keep plugging at it, u get to where u want to go but u have to do it because its good for u and not to prove u can do it because its obvious u can. I don’t think I have any more confidence now with a PhD than what I had after finishing grade 9. What does give me confidence is feeling that I have control over some aspect of my life, even mundane mediocre things. But, then there’s other things that do give me a deep thrill like realizing a dream I had of owning a piece of land I liked when I was 15. I do have it now. There’s something about soil, the smell and feel of it, and knowing when life stops, it will stay, that and what our ideas communicated to others and nothing more.