Throwing Love Away?

So I’ve been thinking a lot about love, the ridiculous paradox that is love (more on that later), the ridiculous complexity of romantic relationships.

Remember when we were in high school what we though was “love,” “relationships,” and “commitment” were? I laugh looking at the level of emotional investment and outrage I displayed at that time, some of those things still annoy me, but as ridiculous as my concept of affection may seem in retrospect, I owe a lot of my understanding to those early experiments in coupledom. At that time though you think you’re being an adult-ish, you sometimes think that this is forever and thus is serious.

pretty much high school love.

pretty much high school love.

Then you grew up. You left the land of combo locks and beautiful 8-2:30 days, and realized that maybe you didn’t have it right and there was a difference between love and LOVEandwanttospendmyentirelifewith.


But as you grow up you start to realize that other things might matter and maybe finding the love of your life is no longer your primary objective (though for some maybe it still is), or perhaps sex matters more than anything and all of these options are fine. We all live different lives and make different choices – we find what’s right for us and we do that. Sometimes we figure out we made the wrong choice and we make another one.

But what gets me is that a lot of middle aged and older adults – I’m talking REAL adults with jobs and kids and mortgage payments who may or may not have difficulties with certain modern technologies but are much more adept at rotary dial telephones than I will ever be – complain that my generation is too quick to throw love (among other things) away.
That we don’t know how to work at relationships.
The instant our ship springs a slight leak we jump out without trying to bail it out or patch the hole.
And it really annoys me. Because let’s not forget whose generation raised the divorce rate so high. My generation is still working on an excessive amount of overpriced education and facing slim job pickings. For me the idea of a house and a husband and all that adulty responsibility is daunting. I’m freaked out about the fact that I may need to get a new car in the next year. Committing to a house and hubby is scary. But we’re looking at marriage and kids and minivans and saying “Hey, maybe I should focus on me, maybe I should get a job first” or “Hey, I have no money, I need to secure a job to pay off the student debt I incurred getting an education I was told was necessary for the job I still cannot get.”
We’ve got other things on our minds than rushing to find a partner. Maybe it’s selfish and maybe it might seem like we’re throwing things away, but I think there’s nothing wrong with getting your life in order first and saying that you as an individual matter more than you as a partner and parent, at least for now. Before we’ve settled into these roles, and heck even after. There’s nothing selfish about saying that you matter.

When we do find love, I think a large number of us are aware of the divorce rate – we don’t want to end up a statistic, or at least we want to be the non-divorced side of the statistic. We’ve got time, so we figure why rush – I am going to get this right. Which isn’t always possible, but being aware of potential issues and how we will react long-term, is not throwing something away – it’s saying I want US to be happy and WE won’t be long term, so let’s save everyone some money and be honest now.

Some problems can be fixed. Some can’t really. Some are just too tough, some fights will just keep happening. And I think there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that. Especially since the relationships that most often get this are the ones that have lasted long enough to know.

Til Death Do Us PartTo be fair my grandparents have been married for close to 50 years, and I don’t believe divorce ever crossed their minds. Maybe it did. But to be fair until 1968 here in Canada it was pretty tricky to get a divorce (proven adultery was the only allowable reason, and before 1867 you had to also prove additional harm such as rape, incest, or abuse; but in some provinces before the national divorce laws took over you had to go to parliament, which you can imagine is an expensive endeavor). When divorce isn’t an option except when your partner cheats or physically abuses you, of course you’re going to stick it out. Might not be happy but you’ll stick it out. Probably where the expression “argues like an old married couple” came from.
And therein lies the issue. Sometimes there just isn’t a way to resolve conflicts.
And it’s easy to criticize the other options when you never really had them. But cultures are constantly evolving. The dating culture has changed hugely over the last 60 years. We didn’t even used to “date” 100 years ago – it was more of an arranged marriage type set up (not saying anything bad about the cultures that still use this paradigm – it is exactly that – a different culture than my own) where you hoped for the best because those who loved you made choices for you based on your best interests. And it sort of worked. Sometimes it REALLY worked, sometimes it REALLY DIDN’T work.
But everything changes. Technology, how we make money, how we spend money, what we spend it on. How we learn, how we love, how we deal with problems. And it is great. It can sometimes look ridiculous at the beginning, but in the end it becomes accepted practice.
While slightly hyperbolic, the argument that we give up too easily  is like arguing that by choosing to shop at grocery stores we gave up too easily on farming. No, we chose to make our lives easier.

Maybe giving up is giving up regardless of the reasons.
Maybe we quit jobs, love, goals, and broken things too easily.
But maybe there’s nothing wrong with recognizing something as broken.
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with choosing what will make you and everyone else happier.

Doesn’t mean we don’t believe in marriage and happily ever after. And maybe breaking up before the wedding, rather than a sign of giving up, is a sign of taking marriage seriously.

The Human Mind: Unfiltered and Infinite

So a few nights ago I was watching TED talks before bed (#nerdlife) and there was a really interesting talk by  Ray Kurzweil who talked about the evolution of the human brain. In his talk he talked about how as Google moves towards more and more intelligent searching and our technologies for imaging the brain become more and more advanced, we will move towards adding these neurotechnologies to our brain so that one day we will truly have an infinite source of knowledge by inserting nanobots into our brain that connect to a cloud service.

Ultimate point – we will put Google in our brain.

And Google will learn to understand what webpages are saying. So when we ask Google it won’t bring up search results, it will have read and can deliver responses to complex questions (it can already tell you the answers to a large number of simple questions, and yet can’t tell me why the chicken crossed the road).

And I thought oh good God.
I mean can we just go back to Google – who already knows far too much about my existence thanks to my laziness with telling it not to track me – being in my brain and possibly searching based on my thoughts.
My mind will be Google’s.
Google already owns my digital data. It’s like the Miranda Rights of the internet. “Anything you search or post can be used to sell things to you. If you do not want us to do this, too bad. Do you understand these rights?”
But Google may one day have access to my subconscious thoughts?! Google will own my consciousness. Which means Google will own me?
Remind me to opt out of this nanobot thing. I would rather be the dumb old lady.

But this all got me thinking about what this means for the human species.

Google was added to the dictionary in 2006. True Story. It replaced a previous definition from 1907 that had something to do with cricket (the sport not the insect)...

Google was added to the dictionary in 2006. True Story. It replaced a previous definition from 1907 that had something to do with cricket (the sport not the insect)…

The big thing for me is that it already kind of bothers me, is that we live in a “Google it” world. And in full disclosure of my hypocrisy, I was overjoyed when they updated Google Now so that Google checked for my responses. (Hallelujah I don’t have to hit send anymore when I tell Google to text people! She ASKS me if I want to send the message and then turns the mike back on.) When my mom asks me what she should wear, I ask Google what the weather is. She commented “I wonder if it’ll be nice in Ottawa this weekend…” and I asked Google. Before I leave the house, Google tells me how long it will take to get to work. Google knows my habits, my appointments, my interests and concerns. And it’s terrifying.

But back to the issues at hand:

  1. To be useful, Google needs to know our needs. Like how Google noticed that I had a recurring appointment every Tuesday and started automatically giving me departure times and directions. So Google needs full access. It needs to know everything about us to know what we would need. If Google is in our brain, how do we clear browser history?
    If Google knows everything about our existence, then the access to our thoughts thing that I feared a few weeks ago when I talked about Mark Zuckerburg’s outrageous claim that one day our thoughts would be uploaded to Facebook, might actually be something we should be concerned about
  2. If we all have access to this vast array of knowledge – what does this mean about experts and intelligence tests? No one likes a know-it-all. And knowing and understanding are two vastly different concepts.

So Issue #1A: By wanting to know it all, are we essentially exposing every fiber of our existence to the world? Are we uploading our private thoughts to the internet in a quest for unlimited knowledge and smooth, hands-free access to the knowledge contained in the internet?

Issue #1B: We’re creepy enough with the internet as is… I think this may allow us to hit creepy level 1000. What happened to getting to know someone the old fashioned way?

Issue #2: Are we going to be smarter? Or dumber with more declarative/factual knowledge?

Potential bonus: If Google indeed monitors our consciousness, perhaps this technology could be used to flag individuals in need of mental health aid – for example, if Google noticed cognitive markers for an eating disorder or noticed that you were suicidal, perhaps Google could connect you to services or at least make recommendations. But this may not be enough – telling someone they have depression won’t make them get help, so at what point does Google become responsible for safeguarding our lives and sanity, and at what point is it reasonable to breach the privacy of the human mind?

But I mean the real question on everyone’s mind I’m sure (no pun intended) is will this be like smart phones and we’ll just use these nanobots to search more pictures of cats. Pictures that can be uploaded directly to our visual cortex?

the truth right there.

the truth right there.

The Journey Is the Best Part.

The most important clichéd and stereotypical moment ever is coming soon!
The most important clichéd and stereotypical moment ever is coming soon!

“The most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what’s in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.”

― Norton JusterThe Phantom Tollbooth

Less than week from now I will cross the stage at the National Arts Centre, pick up my $40 000 piece of paper and politely return to my seat and wait while the other new grads do the same. I’ll then pose for some cheesy photos, get yelled at by my mom for making silly faces in 80% of the photos, return my gown and my university career will be at lease temporarily over.

That’s it four years of my life summed up in a painfully long 4 hour ceremony. Full of pomp and circumstance. A grand celebration of a series of ordinary life moments.
The moment I realized I was going into an exam semi-high on cold meds because I had accidentally double dosed.
The moment my printer died at 12:34am the night before the 8:30am deadline for my 25 page paper (a standard university experience as far as I’m concerned).
The moment I got the first failing grade of my life, and the moment I got my first 10.
The moment I crossed the half-marathon finish line for the first time, and the 4 times after that.
The first time I had poutine (yes, I waited until university for that treat).
Moments on the canal, in Starbucks, busing around the city, reading textbooks on the bus because I had no time to waste.
Moments that somehow got me to the moment I stumbled across the stage for that overpriced piece of paper that told the world I didn’t waste the last four years of my life.
Something I really didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me. Though my Facebook log probably begs to differ.

Congrats Starbucks. You're doing it right. It's cool, give me an extra star and we're good. If only.

Congrats Starbucks. You’re doing it right. It’s cool, give me an extra star and we’re good. If only. This cup tells the story of my undergraduate degree. 

But sitting back here thinking about all the incredible moments I’ve had over the last 4 years brings me back to a conversation and the reaction I had to this conversation about 4 months ago on a cold winter’s morning on OC Transpo.

I heard two gentlemen talking about the most mundane of things about their lives. The routines – how one of the men had to take the day before off because his son was sick and his wife had to be at work and how the other was exhausted from a dizzying number of early mornings taking his son to hockey practice. And my gut reaction (despite the fact that 98% of the time I am pretty sure I don’t want offspring) was that I wanted that.
The mundane and ordinary.
The routines of a thriving family.
Even if they were a little bubonically plaguey that day or if they made me get up earlier than currently I get up to run. In that moment if someone had allowed me to simply fast forward to soccer vans and hockey practice, I might have said yes.

But something struck me the last few months. Especially in the weeks before I ran my second half-marathon – in the average training season for a half-marathon I run more than 26 half marathons in preparation for this one race. Race day always gets me excited, I spend the week before ramping myself up, there are a lot of excited squeals and bouncing up and down as I try to not focus on how much taper week sucks, but I realized this time – the race was just another run. Not in a “whatever I’m not even excited” sort of way, but I realized that what I enjoyed was the season. You are able to run the half-marathon because you remember all the kilometers you ran to get there. I enjoyed the early morning runs with my friends at the Running Room, through sleet, wind, snow, freezing rain – whatever – we ran. I laughed on the days I watched the weather forecast and ran when I was told it would be the warmest, knowing that the difference between -22C and -20C was more psychological than anything. I enjoyed challenging myself every run to be better. Race day was just recognition that I did all that for a reason beyond I enjoy suffering on Sunday mornings.

And this graduation thing is the same way. I could care less about the ceremony. I’m really only going because mom says I have to. I can’t help it. I don’t get graduation ceremonies. What matters to me isn’t where I ended up necessarily – it’s how I got there. It’s all the moments I collected along the way. The coffees with friends and between classes, because let’s face it, now way I got enough sleep the last 8 months of my degree. The chats with professors and the moment I realized that I had intelligent things to say and professors knew it too. The essays that suddenly fell into place after 12 hours glaring at the screen on my laptop. The bus rides I got up for; the books I read, the books I wanted to read, and the books I really should have read.

It sounds cheesy, but truly, the best part is the journey.

True story.

True story.

After I caught myself thinking “I just want that… ” I thought, “I want what? …well suburban life with whiny bratty children demanding to consume my me time and cover me with snot and attitude….” and took it back (I know my outlook on suburb life is dismal given how well I fit in with the suburbanites). But really I also thought about how I didn’t want to skip all the good stuff in between. Or the bad stuff. Because there would be bad stuff. Eventually I would meet my husband, I may have children, and there may be fights with both. Eventually I would have the job of my dreams and a semi-stable life with less of the uncertainty that clouds my life as I wait in limbo for grad school next year.  But in the meantime, I wanted to enjoy all the moments. Collect them and photographs and revel in the experience, because it’s that experience that would shape where I ended up.

The future is exciting, it’s normal to want to zip ahead to whatever you’re aiming for, but really, truly, the most fun is what happens at the pit stops.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

― Ernest Hemingway