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

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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