Anger prisoner.

Tammy is good at noticing things in trees.

On Monday, she took me to Cuthbert Holmes Park. There, I saw my first great horned owl in the wild. My favorite thing about great horned owls is how they look perpetually offended: this one was no exception. Tammy also pointed out the camouflaged hummingbird nests in the trees along the trails. Upon dropping me off at my place, she remarked that my landlords had an apple tree–which I knew about–and a plum tree, which I hadn’t noticed. And a pear tree that had somehow eluded me. 

To be fair, even if she hadn’t pointed out the pear tree, I would’ve noticed it today as I collected two pears off the ground when I went outside to re-pot one of my houseplants. While lining the container with potting soil, I realized that doing so directly underneath said pear tree probably wasn’t wise. Isaac Newton had beat me to the notion of gravity more than 300 years ago. Had a pear bonked me on the head, the discovery would have been one of my landlords to make: me unconscious under their pear tree.

The landlords’ daughter is in town. She was the one who introduced me to her parents via email, but it’s her partner who I know as I worked with him in Montréal. For this reason, we haven’t hung out, but that didn’t stop her from sharing on WhatsApp what her parents had to say about me. They inadvertently complimented my cycling prowess when they mentioned to her how fast I go up the hill on our street on my e-bike.

I do not have an e-bike.

Not to worry, the rest of this post isn’t going to be about how amazing I am.

My current thing is reminding people my age how antiquated and irrelevant we’ve become! I’m sure they find this endearing!

Rumours had it my colleague Andrew was planning on performing the Napoleon Dynamite dance at the upcoming staff party. I asked him today if we could consider Napoleon Dynamite a classic movie as many of our colleagues were likely toddlers when it came out.

Andrew was like:

Fellow crusty Millennial, Will, disagreed. “Breakfast Club is a classic. Napoleon Dynamite? That’s a cult film.”

Nonetheless, I wasn’t planning on gracing the staff party with my dusty presence, but if Andrew performs the Napoleon Dynamite dance? Heck yes!

Because I am a smidgen older, if I were to re-enact any dance routine from a movie, it would be the Sparkle Motion choreography from the 2001 cult film Donnie Darko.

Do not doubt my commitment to Sparkle Motion!

While my film and tv references may be dated, I feel old enough to share some life lessons. Much like my pop culture references, this particular one dates back to the 90s.

Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story: Being the Worst in the Quest to be the Best.

For the first three years of elementary school, I was the only deaf kid in my class. I don’t remember feeling isolated as popular activities at that age included going down slides, playing freeze tag, throwing sand at each other, and such. Apparently kids at that age do a lot of nonsensical yelling, so my deafness was not a hindrance.

In the first and second grades, my best friend at school was Tiffany, whose trademark was the side ponytail. She mastered the manual alphabet, and we’d spend recesses conversing almost entirely by fingerspelling. I also had deaf schoolmates to hang out with outside of class time.

Then, just before entering third grade, a boarding school for the deaf in Vancouver, Jericho Hill, shut down. Many Jericho Hill students transferred to a primary and a secondary school in Burnaby. A few trickled deep into the suburbs where I lived, into Langley’s Uplands Elementary.

That year, I was no longer the only deaf student in my class. There was also Erin, whom I loved immediately. Forget Tiffany: Erin was my new best friend! Everyone loved Erin too, which was also a problem because everyone preferred Erin to me. She was prettier, had nicer clothing, and was more athletic. My eight-year-old mind determined that these were the reasons why people liked her best.

I was a better artist, though. Even Erin recognized that and regularly praised my sketching skills. Somehow, when the other students wanted help with their drawings, they would ask Erin, not me.

Do they not have eyes, I wondered. I’m the one who understands that the ears sit at nose-level, not eye-level when drawing portraits!

One day in PE class, the teacher hosted tryouts for the annual district track and field meet. We were to run through the forest that bordered the field, and the top students to emerge from the woods would get to go to the meet. Erin, Alana (another deaf friend who was also athletically superior), and I ran the first half of this course together before Alana tripped and fell. When Erin noticed that Alana fell, she turned around to make sure Alana was okay.

Me? I saw this as an opportunity to prove that I was a faster runner than Erin, and therefore better. Sure enough, I made it on the track and field team. I quickly learned after practicing outside of school hours that I didn’t care for running. I recall doing alright at the meet. What it did not do was make me more popular. What was Erin’s secret?

It wasn’t until years later when I realized why people liked Erin so much: Erin was the kind of person who made others feel good about themselves. If she had more friends because she was athletic, it was due to having a social network extending outside of school. Not because she was a gifted swimmer or softball player. I foolishly thought that by asserting my superiority, people would come to admire me.

I remember telling Erin, after one of the girls in our class asked her to help with a drawing, “You shouldn’t be doing her homework.” I said this not because I cared that this classmate was dumping her work on Erin but because I was jealous about not getting chosen.

That was the kind of shithead I was. We should all try to uplift the people we call friends. We should focus on being our best rather than being better than a friend’s best. Otherwise, we don’t deserve to call ourselves a friend. And when we inevitably fuck up, it’s best to own up to our mistakes and apologize. That’s the secret!

In case anyone cares: I’m not even that good at drawing anymore. However, I like to think I’m now kinder and more compassionate than my 90s self.

Good god, if I get any wiser, I’ll need a rocking chair.

5 thoughts on “Anger prisoner.

  1. I grew up in an angry household. I didn’t realize it was angry until I got older and spent more time with my friends’ families but by then the only real tool I had developed for getting through life was anger. Anger is not a good tool for making friends but somehow the ones I had were understanding of why I was angry even though I didn’t understand it myself and they were patient when my anger was directed at them though they probably didn’t deserve it. When my family eventually blew up I was flung into the wild with a lot of anger, a lot of loneliness, and not a lot of guidance.

    Thankfully, due to cycling, I eventually met some good people and many, many moons later I eventually met my wife. I could tell if I married her I was also marrying her family and I was all for it: they are the nicest, most sincere group of people I have ever met and I knew I could learn a few things from them.

    Now, after becoming a dad, I worry about what kind of tools I’ll impart on my kids – they are always observing, and imitating; The best way to teach is to set the example you want. My dad was one of the angriest individuals in my life when I was growing up. He has softened in his old age and I have come to understand why he was such an angry man. Understanding his anger has softened my own. With this and the example set by my very loving wife, I hope I can give my kids a much broader toolset for them to use when they make their way through life.

    “We should all try to uplift the people we call friends. We should focus on being our best rather than being better than a friend’s best.”

    I agree with this except on our rides. I expect you to twist the knife and attack when you see me fading, but this will make us both stronger haha!

    Also, I watched Trixie and Katya’s recap and had a few chuckles -“I wan’t to look like I’ve been mutilated, BUT gay!” haha!


    1. Oh, I’ve got a short temper. Zack and Will noticed my ragefest at the end of the day on Tuesday. I ended up apologizing because I realized I should have handled my situation at work better.

      It’s good that you have an example in your inlaws of what a loving family looks like and that you strive to give your kids that.

      My mom was the angry parent. She had a rough upbringing and was likely also bipolar. My siblings left home early, and Dad worked late, which made me her primary outlet for anger. So, I also moved out when I was young.

      While not the reason I don’t want children, I imagine it’d be challenging for me to keep my cool in front of kids. Unlike with a friend or a partner, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to go, “Ok, I need some time to myself,” and walk it off. Nope. Butts need wiping, and crustless sandwiches need to be made.

      Parents admitting their mistakes to their children shouldn’t be perceived as showing weakness.

      Maybe I wouldn’t have been such a dick to my friends if I had learned that making them feel bad about themselves wasn’t the way to boost my ego. As it turns out, I picked up that behaviour from Dad.

      After years of having a superficial relationship with Dad, I finally got to know him as an adult when I moved here. During my visits to the mainland, where I’d stay at his place, I noticed how he would constantly make disparaging comments about his friends, their spouses, and children. He was using other people’s failures as an example of how wonderful he was. He’d straight up tell me how lucky I was to have a dad like him. He’d order me how to think and feel: “You’ll like this.” “You’re happy.”

      People with good motives allow others to form their own opinions based on honest interactions!

      My dad is a narcissist. Rather than continue to model my behaviour after his, I think about how friends like Erin made me feel. So, if a friend were to take one of my QOMs, I will congratulate them (and train harder to get it back). I’m not going to be bitter about it nor try sabotaging them by dumping sand down their seat tube.


      1. Hah! I’m sure Zack and Will can attest to my temper but that shop needs at least one person with some attitude.

        Sounds like our families were very similar in many ways.

        I’ve gone through a few different periods where I cut each or both parents out of my life for a few years. It was tough but it got to a point where I just couldn’t handle them anymore. They were having such a negative impact on my life that removing them was the only option.

        “Parents admitting their mistakes to their children shouldn’t be perceived as showing weakness.”

        I agree. Neither of my parents apologized for anything for years (my dad never will). They felt we weren’t owed one because we were their kids and this has alway bothered me. It shows a lack of respect.

        The first time I apologized to my son was the first time he punched his brother. It was right in the face! We were all hanging out having a good time then out of nowhere: BAM! I snapped. He ran and jumped under his covers. He was laughing until I ripped the blanket off and he saw the anger on my face. I gave him his timeout and his lecture (we don’t spank in this house but I yelled in this instance). After time outs we typically hug the boys and tell them we love them but loving them also means being stern when they break the rules. This time Remi hid in the corner from me then ran to his mom when he saw her. He was so upset he peed himself which is a pretty bad sign.

        I felt pretty terrible and spoke to Sophie about it. We spoke about why I reacted the way I did and whether it was acceptable (it was not and she is aware of my upbringing). I took a few days to think about the situation and to find the right words. When the time was right I pulled Remi to the side. I asked him if he remembered the event (he did), and I explained to him that I overreacted and that it wasn’t acceptable. I explained how I let my anger get the better of me and he should not have to worry about that but should always feel safe around me. I told him what I did was wrong and that I was sorry. I then asked for his forgiveness. It was a very humbling experience for me.

        I wanted him to see that I make mistakes but that I’m not afraid to own up to them and apologize. Not only that, but also that he deserves to be respected and treated as a person. Though he is a child, people will end up acting the way you treat them and I wanted him to know that being my son doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be treated with respect from me.

        I can’t speak on your relationship with your parents as there’s only so much I can read on this blog and I assume most of the dynamic is unwritten. However, I can say from experience that it is tough not speaking to parents. I think a parent’s betrayal to their kids is probably one of the worst feelings in adulthood. I found it weighed on me but it was still the right thing to do at the time. However, it certainly made the chip on my shoulder a bit bigger.

        All this to say anger and Strava do not mix. It can give you a special kind of drive to go harder but it can also make you the unfun weirdo who takes video games too seriously (though I’ve definitely been guilty of it!). You go out, do your effort, and hopefully you get the win, but there is always going to be someone faster some other day. However, you can respect their efforts because they felt the same pain you did and you both have something in common. Though pretty sure they probably had a tailwind that day 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Self-reflection can be painful but it’s needed for personal improvement. If you have a change of heart we can track Erin down and beat her up.


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