I’d put down a few foundational blocks for the House of Dust (my fundamental character) in 2001/02, and in ’03 I added a few more – for better and for worse. Objectively speaking not too much happened, but I did make some significant personal choices that led to this being a pivotal year for me.
One of these choices was to start keeping a journal about halfway through the year. It was less a diary and more a log (or a MAN-log, as I referred to it to make it seem more cool…). Instead of writing about how I felt about days and the events that happened, I simply took note of what happened and rated each day on a scale from 1 to 5.
1 = Nothing interesting happened, regular uneventful day
2 = Something slightly out of the ordinary happened
3 = Something that was substantially different from the usual happened
4 = A good day with good things
5 = Exceptional day where something monumental happened
And if a day was especially terrible I just drew a lot of minus signs and frowny faces beside the write-up.
I’ve always had a pretty good memory, but this improved it exponentially. I don’t know how many GB of storage I’ve got up there now, but it’s gotta be at least five elephants’ worth. It’s not really the coolest superpower, and a lot of the time it just gets me scornful looks and “you’re soooo weird/random” from people, but it has helped me look at trends in my life’s path and forced me to realize when I was in a rut. It’s also been kind of a burden, because every single sad day still resides with me. I’m very susceptible to being crippled by crystal clear nostalgia.
For example, I could tell you that I began my habit of running on February 8th, 2003. I’d run the same route nearly every single night for twelve years before finally switching it up.
I could also tell you that on May 15th, 2003, I headed over to the wilderness area I now lived near and found a clearing filled with soft, reedy grass. Listening to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” on my Discman, I looked up at the sky and wondered if Gabrielle, the girl I’d been talking to a lot on MSN, could possibly like me. Or would I be alone forever? Then an older couple walking their golden retriever walked by and I rushed off, embarrassed.
Gabrielle was the third major crush of my life, and she was one of the major players of 2003. A starring role, a main character, with top billing. There was also Raj, who I had several classes with over the course of the year, and Fenris, a grade school acquaintance.
I mention Raj and Fenris because they helped me understand something about myself- I’m not good with groups of friends. I’ve always been a one-on-one kind of guy, and even though I did have some semblance of a “squad” in high school, I never really felt like I fully belonged. Part of that was because I was a late addition to the crew. Throughout nearly all of grade school I’d had one central best friend, with a few short-lived additional good friends who all moved away after a year or two. The group I glommed onto in high school had been together for that entire time, and I was an ancillary figure to them.
Raj became my de facto new best friend in 2003, bonding with me over nu metal and not doing drugs. Also I ate all the sandwiches he couldn’t eat during Ramadan (I’m not sure why he had them…)
The rest of the friend group started to dabble in pot that year, but me being the contrarian refused to partake in it. I was like some sort of reverse-rebel. Typically teenagers want to experiment and take risks to be cool, but because I absolutely had to be different from everyone else I stayed excessively straight-edge. No smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no swearing.
Raj and I instead did things like climb rooftops and talk about existentialism and true love as only grade 10s can. Kierkegaard would be proud.
Then there was Fenris, an outsider with dubious personal hygiene who legitimately didn’t have any friends. I maintained as much contact with him as possible, talking mostly about writing and narratives. With both him and Raj I had the freedom to talk more about esoteric and personal theories the main friend group would write off as “random”.
Fenris had a habit of walking around with a chaotic stack of papers holding his various ideas for novels. That inspired me to start writing as well, albeit in a more orderly fashion. I took to Microsoft Word that spring and began writing my Young Adult Series About Chosen Teenagers. It was blatantly about my life and friends, cloaked in anime cliches and wish fulfillment.
The basic premise was that an evil corporation was looking to resurrect the seven deadly sins as cool fighting spirits that would take over the world for them. So they went to a high school where all the energy signatures just happened to be located and did a skills test that would weed out the chosen few souls for transformation. They found all of them, but ooooooooooh then there was another, mysterious spirit that they didn’t account for. There was one brooding young man with no soul, a vigilante anti-hero who was 100% me.
I’d sketch out ideas for these novels in my school agenda in science class, which caught the eye of the school’s punk queen, Allaura Fathoms. The resident cool girl, if you will. She’d tease my lightheartedly about them and my self-perceived dark bad boy image, but was impressed with my music knowledge. Where at first I appeared to her as just some grunt who loved Papa Roach and Disturbed, I managed to show a little breadth when I recommended her songs by Daniel Lanois and Kula Shaker.
But just like I kept somewhat of a distance from Fenris, Allaura did the same to me. We talked every night on MSN as friends, but would barely interact in the hallways at school.
The same went for me and Gabrielle, who I spent all summer talking with online but never actually meeting. The heartbreak came when one night I checked her MSN profile and saw that I was not mentioned in a long paragraph listing all her friends.
Oh, what a tragedy.
I say that semi-facetiously because for a young teenager who had spent months thinking he was growing closer to someone only to find out he didn’t matter at all, this was a dagger to the heart. “Not listed as a friend on someone’s MSN profile” is a ridiculous phrase, but it’s not that much different from seeing “In a Relationship” pop up on Facebook or any other number of modern ways of getting your feelings hurt browsing social media nowadays.
I was really dramatic about it though, lying on the floor in my basement for about two hours before seeing an old guitar in the corner and yes deciding to learn how to play guitar. Another foundational block added to the House of Dust that night.
Inspiration also came to me from my very first concert ever- Summer Sanitarium at the SkyDome featuring Metallica, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Deftones, and Mudvayne.
Basically, summer of 2003 was when I became the quintessential moody teenager stereotype. An all-black wearing pseudo-goth with dog chains around the neck and everything.
I got over Gabrielle fairly quickly, going on a camping trip with Raj up to Algonquin Park and talking it out with him there. A few weeks later I went on a family vacation to the Maritimes, and when I came back I was ready to move on.
Allaura invited me to her house, which was a pretty big deal for me. My very first time inside a girl’s house?? Raj was pretty jealous, as were a couple other guys in the crew. None of them had gotten to sit in a den and go through a girl’s Windows Media Player library song by song before. Neither had they played Coldplay’s “Clocks” for a girl on a keyboard. Very risque stuff.
It was a really nice afternoon though, and as I made the trek back home in the glow of the blazing orange sun listening to my angsty playlist I felt OK.
School started back up and Allaura and I continued to talk online and also continued not to talk offline. It was the most high school thing you can imagine and resulted in many poorly written ballads from my new band Giant Killer Bees, formed with bassist Ayden, lead guitarist Finn, and a drum machine.
More generic tumultuous teenage drama followed in the fall of 2003. I started to like Allaura; Allaura got some anarchist punk boyfriend in Newmarket. I got more and more immature and started writing super deep dark poetry on a brand new website called LiveJournal. And gradually I became the absolute worst possible version of myself I have ever been. Not so much because of the angst, but because I wholly lacked all self-awareness. Over the course of the next year I turned into a big dumb baby with no redeeming qualities. None.
I was just bad and sucked at life for all of 2004, every day, in every way.