The reason I didn’t.

Yesterday, everyone I knew was celebrating one of the many overly-commercialized holidays that fictionalized, crotchety old people usually complain about. That’s right- it was Father’s day; the day that invites the general populace to bust out their telephonic devices and buy last minute gifts for the men who brought them up. There was a constant flood of reminders for me- I was with my boyfriend when he called his Dad, I saw the obligatory social media posts- hell, even Snapchat got in on the action and sent me well-wishes (despite my lack of children and male-identifiers).

For once, I was less festive than Snapchat.
(On an unrelated note, Dogs are already covered in fur, Snapchat- you don’t need to give one whiskers to make it more butch.)

I know some of you reading this are looking suspiciously at the tone this post has taken; some of you are frowning deeply at your screens thinking ‘here comes another ungrateful millennial’, while others could be filled with second-hand pre-emptive guilt/regret as you don’t have a father to call today. You’re hoping that this is one of those sentimental posts that declare a solidarity with all partial/full-parental orphans out there- the posts that always pop up on those holidays or the days following. Maybe your last ditch hope is that it slipped my mind despite the aforementioned reminders.

It didn’t.
My biological father is very much still alive.
I still identify him as ‘Dad’ in conversation…
but I did not call him.

Before you being ostracizing me from this society- a society run purely on festive action and tradition- let me explain. I have a complicated relationship with my father- I always have. My Mum used to laugh uncomfortably while I asked questions children should never feel like they have to ask, and insist that he and I were too similar- that ‘he tells [her] all the time that he’s proud of [me]’. She used to assure me that he loves me.

It’s because of that assurance that I tried So Hard to be a kid he could be proud of, despite our ‘similarities’.

When I was little, I’d watch my Mum’s chiropractor closely when she was getting her back fixed because I knew my Dad had back problems too. I learnt what the Doctor did to manipulate shoulders, spines, and ribs- after all, my Dad worked often, for a time exclusively in a manual-labour-based job, and refused to seek help when he wasn’t working- maybe due to money constraints, maybe due to machismo.
I’d been tagging along with my Mum to this office since I was about 2 years old. I asked the Doctor questions, and watched everything he did with eagle-eyes (I didn’t need glasses until I was in grade 10). In hind-sight this was probably approaching a malpractice case, but I was eager to learn and un-endorsed by an insurance company. Lawsuit-free since ’93.

I was about 4 when I started giving my dad back rubs. I’d spend hours pressing my small thumbs into the stiff muscles of his shoulders, asking him questions about whatever came to my mind (if he wasn’t reading). This was one of the only times he’d be relaxed enough to listen to what I had to say. When I was helping him, he wouldn’t be yelling at me. Don’t get me wrong, my thumbs would ache (I was never a physically strong kid, and I’m only a little stronger now- my sister calls me noodle-arms) but I wouldn’t stop. Why? Because he cared when I helped- because when I was done, he’d say I did a good job.

“Doctor Mont!” he’d beam, rolling his shoulders back. I would mask the pain I was feeling in my hands and asked how he felt, which usually got me another smile and a “That’s much better!”

But that’s not why I didn’t call.
It wasn’t because he failed to acknowledge me in the same way he saw my sister. It wasn’t because he’d only listen to me if I made myself someone he would like- it wasn’t because I tried so hard and hurt myself along the way.

It’s because I wanted a Dad.
It’s because I didn’t get one.

I’d always ask my Mum he liked me, or even loved me. I would say I love you to him to make sure he would say it back. I would get up early every father’s day and try to make him a breakfast and a coffee before he got up. I would make him cards telling him I loved him so he would know I was there for him whenever he wanted to finally show me he was there for me.

I’d always get a cut-out answer. I would always be told we didn’t have the money for the smallest favours I would ask (a ride down the street to my job in the middle of winter, for example). I would always be told that the father’s day meal ‘was good’ before the ‘but there’s a bit too much…’. I would always be there when he threw out my cards and pictures as he cleaned his desk for his guns. I would always tell myself I did something wrong- that’s why he wasn’t there for me the same way he was for my sister.

I don’t want this to sound like I’m pleading for approval- I’m not. I’m not that lonely kid anymore. I have a boyfriend who loves me, and a far more stable life… I think this is just my way of trying to heal- trying to realize that my Dad was right last year when he told me ‘all of [his] ties to Ontario are gone’ after my Gran died.

And yet at midnight (about 10pm in Saskatchewan- where he lives), when he messaged me asking about a job I’ve had for weeks- I felt sad. I hadn’t talked to him in weeks- haven’t seen him in years. I knew he was planning a trip to Ontario, but he had said nothing to me about a visit or meeting up.
And again… I felt sad.

But I didn’t message him back.
Because I don’t want to hope things can be different.

I know he is damaged in a way that makes him incapable of caring for me- I know because he’s given me that damage since I was a child. I want to feel good about not calling him. I want to feel bad about not calling him.
I just feel sad.

In any case, I don’t want to end this post on such a low note so- Happy Father’s day to those special Pops! I hope that everyone was able to get together and exchange ties or whatever else the holiday approves of.

I hope I don’t become a crotchety stereotype.

-Jessica Dixon

Movie Problems…

Growing up within the millennial generation, there were certain fads and films that everyone was involved in during my childhood. From the bell-bottom jeans and chokers of the late 90’s, to the crimped hair and Lizzie McGuire films of the early 2000’s, my generation has seen a series of styles fade in and out of mainstream fashion. Yes, even the tiny South-Western Ontario town in which I grew up in, the fads were impossible to escape.

My childhood was spent in a town that still can proudly claim to be a ‘blink-and-you-miss’ it place. When people ask me where I grew up, I always give the municipality’s name instead of the specific town from that conglomeration of residences because sometimes people recognize the general area (although, even that’s rare for Chatham Kent).

Despite the small-town theme of my childhood, mainstream pop-culture (like ‘life’ in Jurassic Park) always found a way to mold the brains of my peers and I.  Some of my fondest memories include making my childhood friend Noah be ‘Short Round’ from the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (while I, of course, pretended to be the head-lining character).
Sadly, Harrison Ford is not the focus of this blog post.

Do you remember that Disney film Spirit
I do.
My mother knew the significance that horses seemed to play on my generation from the moment that film was released. My peers loved horses. They loved them so much that, despite my otherwise indifference to the beasts,  a ripple effect made its way through the town. The children loved horses, which meant that all houses within in the horse ‘splash-zone’ had to love horses.

My Mum bought us the VHS.
From the get-go of owning that film, there were a few things I came to realize…

One– movies where action is narrated only by horse-thoughts held way less appeal to me than lions being able to talk to each other (see- The Lion King).
and
Two– VHS copies can have flaws on them that can change the way you see a movie forever.

Our tape of Spirit had a flaw that messed up the visuals to an entire scene; a scene that was very important to the movie’s plot.

There is a sequence in the film where the protagonist horse is separated from his horse-love by falling into a river. Note, I have never actually seen a copy of the film where there isn’t a flaw so I can only assume that’s what happens before the static sets in.

When I was young, I assumed all copies were like this- that no one had the ability to see the scene because that’s how the creators intended it to be. Now? I know there are copies out there where the horses fall into water without sudden visual interruptions; I refuse to watch them.

That (most-likely) pre-broken VHS was a part of my childhood and I am not about to let a non-broken version of the film change that. My lot in life is to live out my days, never really knowing what happened in that scene. I am okay with this- I want this.
This is how you keep the world MAGICAL.

-Jessica Dixon

It’s been a while…

As the title suggests, it has been quite some time since I last updated this blog. Let’s begin where we left off…

First thing’s first; I graduated.
Last June, I officially obtained that long-sought-after BA in English language and literature. The day came all too quickly after my exams, yet it also came with my sister and her girlfriend (who decided to visit from Alberta). Accompanied by those two and my mother, I ascended into my current life as a ‘University Graduate’. Was I excited? You bet. Was I terrified?

Beyond the limits of comprehension.

You see, something I had anticipated happening occurred as I graduated; I remained unemployed in my field. I had originally hoped that I’d slide right into the master’s program at Brock after graduation- after all, a PhD was everything I wanted. And then… it didn’t happen. My application was rejected and I was- in a word- devastated. Imagine this: you find a path that you’re finally excited about. You dream about teaching hundreds of students- about presenting ideas in a variety of colourful ways- about being something… only to have it ripped from your grasp in one, unapologetic email.

It took me quite some time to realize that it wasn’t the end of the world.
Still, as I scoured the jobs that Toronto seemed to hesitantly offer, I began to realize that being a student was far easier than being a graduate. That may sound pretty obvious to most of you, but it was a daunting realization for me. I had no direction- I was Dustin Hoffman in the year 2016 (minus Mrs Robinson). I wanted to work at something other than my minimum-wage job in retail… but there was nothing waiting for me ‘just around the river-bend’. I had no offers, and as the summer continued my anxiety only worsened.
That was until a friend of mine asked me the question that tempts many graduates: why don’t you go back to school?
I applied to Niagara College for their Brodcasting, Radio, Television, and Film program.

Now, I know this may sound like an odd choice. After all, although I do love these aspects of the media (and frequently quote them in casual conversation- yes, I’m that person), what business did I have in this field? I had just spent the last 4 years studying something completely different. What was I doing? In all honesty?

I was actively panicking.
I acted on impulse. I chose a program just so I could escape the daunting realization that for the rest of my life I would be grasping at opportunities that would seemingly always be out of my reach. But hey, I liked the media, right?

September 2016- I was a first year again.
It was weird… I was around teenagers going into their first post-secondary experience. Sure, I look young, but I was painfully aware that I was significantly older than all of my peers. The only 22 year old, in a sea of 17 and 18-year-olds. I often asked myself, what I was doing… of course, this only lasted three days.
The joys of a BA…
I was advanced quickly into second year; which meant I had to choose which stream I wanted to go into rather quickly out of the gate. The options? Film (movie people), TV production (the technical persons), or Presentation (the on-screen egomaniacs). I chose to be an egomaniac. Still, advancing into a pre-established, 13-person class was stressful. Everyone knew everyone, everyone was a friend to everyone else- and then there was me: the adult sitting quietly in the corner, attempting to catch up on everything. 

Let’s fast-forward.
I caught up on everything.
I found I liked the program; I found friends in my classmates and professors; I found a position as the Production Director on the school’s radio station…
I found happiness in one of the darkest times of my life.

At the end of this ‘second’ year, I am now able reflect on the steps I’ve taken to get where I am today. I have become far more ambitious than I thought I could ever be- I’ve worked harder than I thought I ever could. I won an award for something I worked on. An award. 
Still, some of my classmates have asked me if I regret not just starting in College…

Honestly? When I look back on my four years at Brock, and my first year at Niagara College… At the tragedies I’ve had to overcome, the all-nighters, the love, the hate, the fear of constant failure… the devastation of failing to achieve my initial dream…

It has all been worth it.

I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for everything I’ve gone through. I am eternally grateful for every bruise I’ve earned and every person I’ve met- I’ll wear my scars as badges of honour as I advance into the career I truly want. I understand that sometimes failure, rejection… it’s meant to shape you, not break you.

But guess what?
I’m graduating again next year…
Maybe terror is a part of life?

-Jessica Dixon

Delegating Tasks and Due Dates.

I must apologize for my continued silence.
As I am in the homestretch of my University Courses, I have so many things due that I’m delegating tasks this week (such as blog posts) in favour of completing course work.
I will be back to my regularly programmed anal-retentive personality after a few essays are sorted out.
Until then, please enjoy our studio music.

Freudian Bits.

Everyone has a little voice in their head that narrates constantly. It gives different voices to characters in novels, remembers the sound of your parents, and can even mimic the voices of celebrities at your leisure. That inner voice is always speaking to you, and for these reasons, it is very impressive. Can you imagine life without that semi-understandable monologue? It would be terrible.

That being said, I think mine is broken.

I’m not saying that I don’t have a constant commentary of thought; quite the opposite. Sometimes my mind-voice becomes my actual voice, in fact… unfortunately, this usually happens when I’m on the bus or walking in a densely-populated area. I am frequently muttering something to myself as a reminder, or singing along to the tune stuck in my head. This usually results in a few concerned looks and the occasional someone crossing the street to avoid what they assume to be an asylum escapee. What I am trying to say is that occasionally the ‘inner voice’ that we all know, love, and trust decides to betray us worse than Lando Calrissian. This treachery happened to me today.

Whilst at a coffee place with my dear friend Solitaire (and yes, that is her name), our conversation shifted towards the psychoanalytic approach to a character that we are co-writing. Yet like the ghost of Christmas past, Sigmund Freud arose, rattling his chains whilst demanding that we make him the subject of conversation through a ‘brain fart’. I should state that I find most of Freud’s work to be outdated and ridiculous, and so when I say ‘Christmas Past’, I am referring to the worst Christmas pasts of your life. The Christmases where all of your gifts were out-dated socks, and your sexist/racist/distant relative (who no one remembers inviting to dinner, yet they seem to have found their way inside) arrived only to replace the turkey your parents worked so hard to make with a picture of a turkey. Subsequently, when you asked them about it, they replied “same difference”. Yes; that is how I feel about Sigmund Freud.

In any case, my intention had been to quote Freud’s famous saying “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” (for a reason that escapes me) with the best darned Austrian accent I could muster. Unfortunately, what came out of my mouth was not an Austrian accent. It wasn’t even a German one.

I’m sure you are asking your screens ‘what came out? Stop prattling, you damn-ed narrator and tell me’. Well, dear reader, what came out instead of the accent our good pal Sigmund possessed can only way be described as ‘a 1930’s Jersey/New York stereo-type newscaster, looking for his next break so that he can join the mob’.

Book-talk forgotten, the other patrons of the establishment (most of whom were students, as finals are coming up and sleep has become but a myth) were forced to listen to two idiots call for ‘gum-shoes’ and refer to each other as ‘doll face’ for the next half an hour. This is not the first time that my accents have misfired, and I doubt it will be the last.

I suppose that living without these inner voices would be hard. Language would be less concise and we would be constantly forgetting the voices of our loved ones, only to be startled in the middle of the night by said subjects and their voices. Therefore, dear reader, I conclude not with the wish to eliminate the voice all-together. Instead, I conclude with a wish for someone to change Sigmund Freud’s Wiki.

-J. Dixon-damn kids

Stay Cool, Pony Boy.

Mental illness has always played a part within my life. Whereas most people remember spending their childhood days running around like mad/semi-drunken fools, kicking their friends into the dirt as they ate as much junk-food their grubby baby hands could carry, I remember mine as being far more stressful. Admittedly, I probably ate enough raw sugar to drown a small herd of cows, and kicked my friends so many times that it is a wonder they weren’t permanently crippled, yet it is the style with which I accomplished said tasks that was strange. My behaviour could be described with one word: nervous.

My mother’s stories surrounding the attitudes and behaviours of my siblings and I usually follow a specific pattern; my brother was a kid who deserved more credit than he got, my sister was “tough, big-hearted, and stubborn”, and I, the youngest of the three, was “easy to raise”. The reason for this comment makes that less of a compliment, and more of a case-study.

I was a child who was so terrified of breaking the rules that if I were to break any house rule, I would find a punishment for myself. For example: if I were to swear, I would wash my own mouth out with soap. Why? Because my mother had once told me that this was what happened to her as a child. I would take the punishments she described as having been inflicted upon her, and assume that it had bridged the generational divide like a regal title.

Not only had I a constant fear of parental law, but I was horrifically indecisive. When my Father would ask me to choose (out of 2 places) where I wanted to get coffee, I would take quite some time to decide. Wrapped in abysmal indecision, sweat shining upon my pre-pubescent brow, I would finally plead for him to choose instead. When I talk about these trips now, he laughs. Apparently he had once asked me why I had such a hard time making a choice and I replied, “if we [went] to Macs, the doughnuts at Tim Hortons [would] know and get mad.”

This feeling of dread has remained constant throughout my life in one form or another. I remember staying up most of the night before my first day of grade 9 worrying about what I wanted to major in for University, and thinking that if I didn’t figure it out that night I would fail in life. I was in a constant state of anxiety throughout high school, and oftentimes found my mind obsessing over the ‘what ifs’ of my day-to-day. It was only when I got to University that I realized perhaps this had gone a bit too far.

In 2013, about the time I was diagnosed with ‘General Anxiety Disorder’, an estimated 3 million Canadians (11.6%) aged 18 years or older reported having a mood and/or anxiety disorder (Government of Canada). Although I had always known that having a mental breakdown over what to choose on a menu, or crying for seemingly ‘no reason’ was not normal, it had taken me until I was almost 20 years old to get help.

Mental illness is invisible, and because of this it is highly stigmatized. When someone has a broken limb they are given treatment and compassion. When someone has a ‘broken’ mind they are given the cold shoulder, and told to “calm down”. I will not speak for everyone, but when I am told to “just relax” in the midst of a panic attack, an inner beast awakens (an inner beast that is frequently just two steps away from clawing out the eyes of the well-intentioned speaker). Sadly, people have been left in the dark  as to how they can help those experiencing mental illness. It is not necessarily the public’s fault either; our entire culture is based on the “Conceal, Don’t Feel” format of interactions. If someone is able to discover your inner ice-queen, you are seen as already having lost. That is why it is so important to talk about mental illness; if we talk about it, then the mystery is gone.

I encourage you, dear reader, to go from this humble blog post and talk about that which should not be the ‘Dark Lord’ of our society (Voldemort, not Trump). If you are suffering from a mental illness, know that you are not alone. More and more people are coming out of the fold to speak about their own experiences with mental illness, and we are slowly eliminating the stigma associated with getting help. You do not have to to be alone in this. The more we talk about mental illness, the closer we are to sending the Mystery Gang back to unmasking ghosts instead of complacently patting Shaggy on the shoulder and telling him that he should “just stop worrying”.

For information on how to help someone you know who is suffering from mental illness, go here. If you are suffering from a mental illness yourself and do not know where to turn, call 1-866-531-2600 (if you are in Ontario), or find a number that can help you here.

-J. Dixon-

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The Case of the Pay Phone Pimp.

With new technology busting forth from the minds of companies (and an eager market’s voracious appetite for all things new and shiny) pay phones seem to be a useless reminder of a time without portable devices. In my experience, pay phones are used for two things: 1- to find in an emergency when your phone is dead/are suddenly the main character of a horror film, and 2- to discover what 1-800 name-to-number combinations produce (for those of you wondering, my name can be linked to a sex-line). Pay phones are frequently considered as useless relics of times gone by…

But if that were true, I would not have started writing this post.

Downtown bus terminals of most metropolises have an array of things to offer. For example, Saint Catharines’ has a few vending machines, a sandwich station, and (of course) the aforementioned pay phones. On this particular day that my story takes place, I was waiting for the bus to work. Dressed in my casual uniform I watched as a man clutched onto one of said pay-phones for dear life. This man, presumably within his late 20s or early 30s, was speaking to whom I can only guess was (for if she still is, I worry) his girlfriend. The nature of their conversation pulled me from my music.

Teary-eyed and sharp-toned, the man began to talk about a variety of things. From what I could surmise, the main focus was that he had money and was leaving town for Alberta to avoid being arrested (again, he said loudly). His voice choked up as he counted down the minutes left that his conversational partner had to speak with him before his Greyhound bus arrived. Calling his ‘beloved’ a series of derogatory names, he confessed to possessing a large amount of some illicit drug at his home and having “over $5000.00 cash on [him]”. This connoisseur of pay phones was beginning to attract quite a bit of attention as he lamented over how his “other girls” had provided him with more cash flow for specific (here unnamed) acts. It was at this time that I realized the private investigators of the pre-cell phone era probably had it easier than those of today. The Pimp (who everyone was now watching) again burst into a fit of tears, expressing a loud remorse at the caller’s reluctance to see him ‘one last time’ before he left in spite of his threats of violence.

I have known an array of colourful people; having grown up in a small-town with an even smaller-town feel I have seen quite a lot, and heard quite a bit more. Yet the experience of seeing this man arrange a meeting with a woman whom he simultaneously threatened and confessed his love for was entirely new. Pimp-man arranged to meet this person in front of a local tattoo parlour (which will remain nameless), exclaiming that he would wait there far beyond the time advisable for him to meet his count-down bus. He bravely asserted that she could call the cops if she wanted, and the scene ended to the sounds of his snuffles and shuffling away.

Pan to my alert and worried reaction.

I am from the school of thought that hesitates to support full on fist-fights, even between two consenting adults. I had a cell phone however, and so decided to call the place where the meet up was to occur. Sadly, after my strained and awkward description of a ‘white man in a hood with his face mostly covered’ (which prompted an “… alright… thanks.” from the establishment’s call-taker), I was forced to put the events from my thoughts to catch my bus. In the end, I was off to work and the stranger was off to a potentially MMA-themed meet-and-greet.

Is this the new direction for pay phones in our cell phone saturated society? Maybe the TV shows that depict an assortment of criminally charged conversations held on such devices are not so far off. Perhaps the days of Steve Martin-like business men calling their loved ones to complain about the interruption of services to their Planes, Trains, or Automobiles is over. Then again, I have a cell phone, and so it could be that Mr. Strange Pimp is an entirely new manifestation of pay-phone users. I may always be left wondering what happened after my inspired transition into the lamest rendition of Batman. Perhaps even now that stranger is drifting from pay phone to pay phone, guaranteeing the relevance of this older technology and calling an assortment of people to threaten… or perhaps he used some of his $5000.00 to buy himself a phone. Either way, he will always live on as a story story of mine, and a devoted customer of our nation’s pay phone industry.

-J. Dixon-