1. Sometimes we wish we could hit the rewind button. Talk about an experience that you would do over if you could.
2. Write about spending time with a baby or child under the age of two. The challenge: if you’re a parent, do not talk about your own child.
— The Scintilla Project’s Day 10 prompts
I did not handle things well with girls at all when I was young. I always kept insanely busy and sucked at letting anyone in, so relationships were kept pretty low-tier on my list of priorities. It all ended well after those years of screw-ups, but if I could have do-overs, I’d:
not have ditched that girl on her prom just because I’d broken the garage door and was broke; I’d have found a way to make it work;
have asked that girl out; especially after later discovering she would’ve said yes;
kissed that girl when the perfect opportunity arose, but I chose logic over feelings;
have kept talking to that girl despite my friends thinking she was weird; and
taken more chances with the girls who made it obvious that they were interested.
1. Talk about where you were going the day you got lost. Were you alone? Did you ever get to where you meant to go?
2. What is the longest thing you know by heart (for example, a prayer, speech, commercial jingle, etc.)? Why did you learn it?
— The Scintilla Project’s Day 9 prompts
I’ve been blessed to have a pretty solid sense of direction—I’ll go somewhere and orient myself with the sun’s placement in the sky, landmarks, where the moss is growing on trees (yeah right—I’m a city boy; no way I know that)—generally, I tend to know where I’m going.
But my internal GPS isn’t perfect. There have been times that I’ve gotten ridiculously lost, either due to my ignorance or just rotten luck.
2. What have been the event horizons of your life—the moments from which there is no turning back?
— The Scintilla Project’s Day 7 prompts
I had to do some real soul-searching to write this one.
16 was a hell of a year for me. So much was going on in my head, and so much was spiralling out of control. Everything I’d worked at for years was unravelling, and it started to become clear that I couldn’t continue what I was doing for very long. Something had to give, and I didn’t know it then, but 16 would mark the death of Casey Palmer as I knew him, and creating something new altogether.
Showing promise from a young age, my parents would do whatever they could to develop the skills they saw within me. My parents raised me to always strive for my best performance but didn’t teach me as much about balance. I’m a child of the ’80s—a child of 20% interest rates on mortgages and two parents working their butts off to make ends meet. My first 16 years were spent cramming as much into my head as possible.
In hindsight, it all makes sense. Dad would work 70-80 hours a week tending to the restaurant, Mom had to balance 40-50 hours a week at a corporation that ultimately didn’t value her efforts, and come home to keep three rowdy boys in line that sometimes didn’t either. They indirectly raised me believing that the stress, working to the bone in the quest for success and never being satisfied were all just part of life.
And it wasn’t until well into my life as a 16-year old that I’d come to appreciate just how dangerous a combination that could be.
Case in point, the first 16 years of my life were always busy. To give you a brief summary of just how busy that was, this list gives you a quick overview of what I remember from those days.
Casey’s Teenage Life: An Overview
5-6 years old: Kindergarten—Grade 1, French immersion; piano lessons
7-11 years old: Grades 2-6, Mode 3 education (aka “the gifted program” or “the brainers”), showing an aptitude for language, problem-solving and math
It might sound impressive, but a whole heap of accomplishments can bring its own set of problems:
I never slept. I remember the first time I had to code a website on my family’s 386 when I was 14 years old—and going 5 days straight on almost no sleep to get it done. (We’re talking surviving from Coke and 15-minute cat naps, here….)
I was always broke. I was never home to eat and you don’t make a heckuva lot as a take-out cashier. Looking at my bank statements from this time years down the road, I was appalled at how much I spent on fast food and comic books!
It was never good enough. Despite having many people who cared about my well-being, a number of accomplishments under my belt and knowing that I was making a difference in my world, I was never satisfied. I could never focus on the victory at hand—I was always looking ahead to the next one. What could I improve? What was still on the to-do list? Why aren’t I at their level?
And when you’re not sleeping, always stressed about how much you’ve got left until the next paycheque and never happy enough to change the habits breaking you down, all that pressure adds up, and the mind can only take so much. For me, it only led to one thing—me, huddled with my head between my knees in the Grade 12 hallway, tired. So tired. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I couldn’t be the son my parents wanted, and I was in too deep to find a way out of the mess I’d gotten myself into.
It was a full-blown mental breakdown.
There’s a Light at the End of Every Tunnel
It would take years to rebuild myself from the low I’d hit, but I’d eventually learn the skills I needed to find my place in this world. I learned that I didn’t need to bend over backwards to get everyone to like me. That it was okay if people didn’t like me. I learned that I didn’t need to meet my parents’ every whim to be a valuable human being. I learned that I could pour out every effort within me to make others happy, but if I burned myself out in the process, I was no good to anybody.
But most of all—I learned that there are no second chances for those who give up, and that’s what’s kept me fighting since that day—another shot at finding a path that makes Casey Palmer… Casey Palmer.
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands: