I’ll be honest, when I first started, I didn’t think it would be so hard. I know I needed it, but knowing something and doing something are two completely different things.
I have this bad habit, I’m constantly checking the clock hoping that my staring will intimidate the hands to move faster.
I thought, in 30 minutes, I’ll be a free man. In 30 minutes, I’ll be released from these shackles, in 30 minutes I’ll be let loose in the world.
In 30 minutes I’ll be off work and on my vacation. Well, it was more of a staycation actually.
I’m in dire need of a break. Combine one part working overtime and one part early morning conference calls and it equals a very stressed out and overworked human.
The fun starts tonight. My favorite restaurant has wine half price on Tuesdays and I managed to convince some of my friends to come along.
“Are you working tomorrow?” Ajay asked.
“No, I’m taking the rest of the week off”
“What are you going to do with all your free time?”
“Sketch, learn how to rollerblade, take a hike. They’re so many things to do besides work, I feel like every day I’m cramped up in that office, life is passing right before me, I’m gonna live a little.”
The first day of my vacation was the hardest to adjust too. I woke up in a panic thinking I had somewhere to be.
Since all my friends are at work, I had to meticulously plan out the things I would try to do by myself for the next few days.
The first thing I wanted to do was to sketch. When I was younger I would sketch and doddle all the time. I haven’t in years but dust is easy to wipe away.
To get artistically motivated I planned to sketch at a park near my apartment. On the way to this park, there are these cavernous redwood trees that make up a dirt path. As soon as you escape the trees, you get introduced to a magnificent view of the city and the inlet that surrounds it. There are shared bike and walking paths that are very popular with the locals. On a regular day it is usually congested with people, but being the middle of a work day it’s serene. Well, almost.
I was just about to start my first piece — I decided, what better thing to draw then the scenery in front of me — when I was startled by a loud, annoying, nonsensical yell. There was a group of elementary kids having their class outside. Not wanting any unnecessary distractions, I found another spot further down.
Being the first time I seriously drew in a long time, I was nervous that the dust might actually be rust, but I was impressed by how good I was. I guess you could call it natural talent. My lines were sharp while also being fluid, my proportions were relatively equal and I was able to add a lot of detail to my sketch.
This is what life is really about. Finding what you’re good at and making it your passion.
I didn’t want to get to hung up too much on the idea but who knows, if I can keep this up maybe I could quit my job and become a full-time artist.
In awe of how good my sketch was, I didn’t notice the wind picking up and a gust of wind stole my artwork from my hands. Knowing that, after my tortured life as an artist capped off by a tragic death, this piece of work could potentially be sold for millions to a private collector or end up in Le Louvre or the Smithsonian. Losing it was not an option.
After hurdling a few baby strollers and knocking a few elderly people off balance I was able to catch up to my sketch which landed right next to a student in that Elementary art class. Trying to walk up, as least threatening as possible — not wanting to be confused with the other men in the park — I noticed the class was doing their own landscape sketches as well.
“Excuse me, sir! Can I help you?” said the student’s teacher.
“My painting flew out of my hands and landed here,” I said pointing towards my sketch. “I was hoping to retrieve it and be on my way”
“Hmm. You can stay right here. I’ll get it for you.”
Fearing that the kid might have ruined my masterpiece — at that age, you don’t truly understand what art is — I was relieved to see that my work actually looked better. The lines were sharper and more fluid, the detail was hyperrealistic; I think I saw the water ripple.
“I’m so sorry sir, it looked like one of my students was drawing on your work. She was adamant that it was hers but you know, this is the age where they start lying, no way she could sketch in this much detail.”
Looking at the sketch closer, this clearly wasn’t my artwork, it was the little girls. The sketch was 10 times, no, 100 times better than what I did.
“How old are these kids?”
“Yes, yes, this age is the worst, these buggers can’t stop lying.”
“Yes indeed, a very bad habit that I will break.” the teacher stated, “She is going to give you an apology.”
Swallowing my pride, I did what any mature adult would do. I accepted the little girl’s apology and briskly walked away.
Even with the previous day being as disastrous as it was, I was hoping for a rebound on the second day of my vacation and hopefully, regain back some of my confidence. What better way than trying something new.
When I was a wee little boy my dad and I would spend our Saturday mornings at the roller rink and watch our favorite roller derby team, The Rushing Rhinos. My dad always “encouraged” me to play but due to some minor deficiencies, like my coordination and my balance, I didn’t take roller derby any further than my imagination. But, 20 years on, what better time than now to learn how to rollerblade.
It was a pain in the ass to get to the rental shop, the shop was located in downtown and there was no parking in close proximity near the shop. To make matters worse, the road was on a steep incline which tired me out before I even started to rollerblade.
“Just one pair please.”
“It will be $17.50 for two and a half hours with a $75 dollar deductible for unreturned gear. And, if you would like, for an extra $20 you can get lessons from an instructor.”
“Lessons? No no no no, I should be okay, I have… experience with this”
“Are you sure? Your laces aren’t tied tight enough”
“Oh. No, I prefer them looser, gives me uh… more mobility.”
My plan was to skate to Stanley Park and take in the scenery. The only problem was, the way to get there was in the direction I parked. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t afraid of the decline, I just, wanted a little bit of a warm up first.
As I deliberated my next move out in front of the shop’s glass windows, I could feel the employee’s penetrative gaze mocking my indecision. Not wanting to expose my veil of being an amateur, I took off towards the decline.
At first, it wasn’t bad, there weren’t many people on the sidewalk which meant I didn’t have to maneuver around much.
I was already picturing the sly smirk I was going to give the cashier when I came back unscathed.
That was until I started picking up speed.
I tried to lift up my toe to engage the heel brake but all that made me do was lose my balance. To make matters worse, ahead, the traffic light just turned green.
I was less than 100M away and everything I tried made me lose my balance and didn’t help much in slowing me down. Just beyond the traffic lights, the sidewalk had less of an incline and there were patches of grass on both sides that I could safely dismount on. But with the light not looking like it was changing colors any time soon I was in a fearful panic.
Out of options, I did the only thing I could do. I ragdolled. I went completely limp and let my body collapse to the ground. This was the only way that would stop my nonstop forward momentum.
Upon gingerly getting up off the pavement and wincing at every slight movement, I was grateful that I prevented what could have been terrible.
Being only meters away from the curb I could see the road ahead of me clearer. In front were two blatantly put construction signs prohibiting cars from driving onto that road.
Not being able to face the cashier lady I walked the rest of the way to my car.
The third day of my vacation didn’t bring me much hope.
After being outdrawn by a nine year old and utterly embarrassed and badly bruised from my rollerblading incident I wasn’t expecting much from Friday’s venture.
My vacation felt like it was going by fast and I didn’t feel accomplished at all.
When I first moved to this city, I would always go on hikes in the mountains. I had a girlfriend at that time and we would always keep each other accountable about going regularly and would push each other to get faster and faster times, I fell in love with hiking then. After we broke up, going for hikes reminded me too much of her. I also gradually lost all my fitness and gained a beer belly which isn’t ideal.
In my prime, I did this hike a bunch of time and got some of my best time here. I always loved coming to this one. The way up is dreamlike, it’s as if I am Alice first entering Wonderland. As soon as you begin you are swallowed by the trees and become instantly immersed in natures alluring orchestra; the harping of the birds, the whistling of the wind, the soft, consistent drum of the streams.
Being the first time in a while attempting to hike I planned to take it slow.
That was until I noticed someone stretching. She was petite but her body packed a punch; her thighs were bulging every time she pulsated in and out of her stretches, her arms were toned, her ass was even better, she definitely looked in way better shape than me.
Trying to look as if I do this often I started stretching more intensely. I began to flap my arms around and added some outrageously flamboyant leg kicks. For good measure, I made sure my sound effects were loud enough for her to hear.
I was doing my leg kicks while holding onto one of the map signs for balance when she started walking towards me. After failing to achieve any success during the last two days I thought maybe, just maybe, something good might happen to me.
“Excuse me. Can you move you’re blocking the map?” she said.
“Oh yeah, sorry about that.”
A little butthurt for not being the reason she walked over, I was still determined to create my own luck.
“You hike often,” I said but regretting it immediately worried I sounded too cliche.
“Ya, I’ve been going once a week for the past year, I love it. What about you?”
“Yea I love hiking, I’ve been doing it twice a week for the past two… no three years, it’s by far my favorite pastime.”
“Oh wow that’s amazing, you’re an expert compared to me, maybe we could go up the hill together and push each other.”
Grinning from cheek to cheek, I would have been satisfied by just getting her number but that interaction turning into a first date was a miracle beyond belief, and a miracle I couldn’t turn down. This could be the start of a budding romance and maybe a story to tell our kids.
She had one of those fitness watches on and before I could make more conversation, she started her timer and took off into the path.
I actually surprised myself at how well I did keeping up with her. There wasn’t much conversation but I could feel mutual respect being built between us. I would pass her for a little bit then she would pass me, then we would be running side by side. It was all very romantic to me, It started to bring back old memories of how my ex and I would do the same thing. Lost in thought I didn’t realize I was slowing my pace and falling behind. Trying to make up the distance I attempted to take longer strides.
That was a bad idea.
Before I could process anything I was on the ground. In my attempt to make up the distance I misplaced my foot and rolled my ankle.
I didn’t feel as much pain as I felt disappointment. How could I be so bad at everything? Out of everything I attempted this week, this was by far the most fun I had and this is how I get repaid.
The only positive I could take from this was that she didn’t notice my accident and ran up ahead without me.
Being three-quarters of the way up, I thought I might as well get to the top and catch the view.
Limping the rest of the way up the mountain, I was positive that the girl must of went down another way, but no, there she was stretching waiting for me. I walked up to her putting on a brave face, I didn’t want to show the excruciating pain I was in, but she saw right through it.
Seeing how there was no point of keeping my charade up any longer I disclosed to her everything, about my staycation, about my attempts to reinvent myself and my efforts to try to reignite old flames.
Thinking this would be the last time I would see her anyways, I didn’t have any problem telling her everything. When I finished a wave of fresh air plastered against my skin. I haven’t gone into that much detail with anyone about my existential crisis. And to top it off she related with me, she said she felt the same a year ago. She attempted a bunch of different activities before falling in love with hiking.
Her alarm on her watch rang, which meant that her break was done. Expecting her to burst down the mountain, I was surprised when she said I should accompany her down.
“Are you sure? I’ll just hold you back, I won’t be able to keep up”
“That’s okay, we’ll take it slow.”