Word-doodle of the day
When I was a child of eight, my father would read to me. The book he chose was The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein. I often prefer the alternate title, Bilbo’s title for the book, There and Back Again. I would have to say that this book has had a huge influence on my life. Many of my friends, past and present, know that I love a good adventure. What not too many people know is that I rarely instigate the adventure myself.
The same year that we read the adventures of Bilbo and Thorin’s Company, my dad took a sabbatical at Queen’s University for his Masters. We relocated to Kingston and I was forced into my first real adventure. I attended a new city school. It was not an altogether unpleasant experience, but I did get bullied almost everyday for the first while.
I would arrive at school and we would shortly thereafter be called into our entry lines. Invariably Jimmy would get behind or in front of me. He would then torment me with a few questions and a well-placed jab to my stomach. I took these taunts with a laugh and the punch with a big shit-eating grin that only left Jimmy unsatisfied. That is how I drew the notice of Big John.
After a few months of this daily ritual, Big John stepped in one day and proceeded to dictate that I was “alright.” That was code for Jimmy to stop, forever, lest Big John take offence. The rest of the year proceeded swimmingly with Big John watching my back. Big John and I became pretty inseparable on the playground; we played war and I was quick with a snowball, especially if I was stone-cold angry.
Another thing that happened that year was my introduction to the comic book, “The Phantom.” My teacher, Mrs. VanDoerser, had a raft of old comics at the back of the classroom. I was reading light years ahead of everyone in the classroom almost from the first day of school and so reading class consisted of me spending my time in the reading nook pouring over these gems. I don’t think I had a single reading assignment that year that didn’t end with me spending time in the reading nook. I read and read and read. In fact, during the first three months, the treasure of the reading nook is what kept me going to school.
Now, if you’ve never seen The Phantom comics, they were fantastic: pet panthers, a skull ring, skull cave, and adventures galore. It was brilliant! However, like all good heroes, The Phantom never started anything. The adventures always came knocking at his door. Kind of like what happened to me in having to move schools. I really identified with this hero.
This same year, I started swimming lessons, which were another trial. Drown-proofing the Red Cross way of the 1970s was not a fun experience. However, it tested our mettle. It also allowed us to experiment with the sauna, unsupervised, at the end of the lesson. “Steam,” I say. “More steam!” Swimming lessons would become a ritual adventure every summer from that point forward.
We can fast forward to high school: I was a pretty adventurous type. I never turned my head away from an opportunity to see the world. At McDonald’s in Owen Sound, the guys would see some girls that they were interested in, and I would be the one who would walk over and make the introduction. If there was a chance to go anywhere, I took it.
When I was seventeen, I did something completely off the wall. I was bored, unable to lifeguard, and didn’t have a job. I didn’t want to work in town. I seriously didn’t know what I was going to do for the summer. I was reading an article in a magazine and I came across a piece on Junior Agriculturalists. It was a program that placed urban kids in rural environments; basically, you worked as a hired hand.
I don’t know what I was thinking, but I ended-up on the Webster Dairy Farm outside Blyth. I got charged by a cow on my very first day in the field. What I learned is that some adventures involve a lot of hard work. More importantly, I learned that hard labour was something I could do if I had to. And that somehow, you always come home from an adventure.
My Grandfather is responsible for planting the seed to attend Military College. I joined the army with the Grey & Simcoe Foresters at the first opportunity and then applied to Royal Roads Military College. I was fortunate to have been accepted there.
Basic Training is an intense adventure. You see the movies, but until you actually have to live it; well, it is different when it is you doing the push-ups. Military College, on the other hand, is an exercise in chicken-shit from day one. It did not take me very long to realize I was in the wrong place at the wrong time in my life. I very much liked the army in the field and very much disliked the drudgery of Military College. It certainly did not help that my section commander did not like me. Not one iota. People started to stay away from me because no matter how low I tried to fly, I could not escape his radar. My real adventure became the Escape from Roads.
It was my dad who put me back in University after I exited Roads. I was moping around writing my first unpublished novel (it was a horrible thing; well-lost to the annals of time). He couldn’t stand that I was working minimum-wage and living at home. So I signed the papers and he mailed them off. My career as a student recommenced at the University of Guelph.
It was a debauchery of five years. I studied everything, partied pretty hard, and had a few adventures along the way. However, I am going to skip this section of my adventuring career to step forward in time.
I graduated from Guelph in 1995. I was sitting in a cafe with my girlfriend of the time when an old buddy I hadn’t seen in a while came in. I started chatting with him and discovered that he was going to Korea to teach English. He gave me a number and the next thing you know, I had signed-up, too. And that’s how the next decade happened in my life. I’d go, stay-awhile, come-back, stay-awhile, go, stay-awhile, come-back, stay-awhile, go… you get the idea. Always, someone would recommend the next stop in the adventure and there I’d be.
This is how my life has been. Adventure comes knocking with some wizard banging his staff on my door, and off I go. I’ll even admit that that’s why I got married (why not?) and had kids. Ultimately, when offered my new job at the new school, I was also prompted. I am very happy that I have said yes to these opportunities.
Who knows what the future will hold? More adventure, I am sure. Of course, with a teenage boy in my life, not to mention the one with autism, there are going to be a lot fewer dull days. Actually, I find myself alternating between being the Wizard and being Bilbo as a parent. I am an enabler of dreams some days and, on other days, I play passenger to those dreams.
My next adventure? I do not know. But I am listening for the knock at my door.