Wrapped Up In Books

Small town, small minds

Last night I met up with an old friend for drinks. He’s a grad student at Queen’s (are you shocked we’re still friends considering the U of T/Queen’s rivalry? y/y?) and spent the summer in Winnipeg working for and studying at the Manitoba Metis Federation. When I asked why he’s researching the Metis, he informed me that he is actually half Metis; we have known each other since approximately first grade and I was ignorant to this fact. He, however, told me that growing up in our WASPy small town of Ancaster, he was not exactly willing or comfortable to be forthcoming with this information. Although not first-handedly, I can understand where he’s coming from.

We talked about the degeneration of people we’ve grown up with. We have seen people overflowing with potential become burnouts, and the opposite become true as well. I was in my first year of university when my friends were still in OAC (an Ontario equivalent of a university prep year, also known as grade 13). I knew well ahead of time that I wanted out of the bullshit that was known as high school, albeit I worked hard to get ahead only to go to U of T and work even harder, sooner.

When I was in high school, the drugs that abounded were seemingly benevolent. Nothing that would screw anyone up too badly, and nothing with long-term negative effects. Pot and alcohol were prolific (as I’d suspect in any high school in North America), and I guess I knew people doing ecstasy and Ritalin, too (anyone who suggests other drugs on the market at the Pharmacy was probably spending more time skipping school than going to their honours classes). However, after I’d left (or perhaps I was ignorant to its existence before), there appeared a void that imposed itself upon the upper-middle class peers of mine, in a town that was very affluent yet too boring for its own good.

Enter cocaine. People I knew well were very into this, and I think I was only aware of the drug impinging upon my friends’ lives around Thanksgiving. My friend and I were discussing how the drug made its appearance at all – was it a total vacuum of culture in Ancaster, or even, however small, a loss of culture? Or something else entirely? Certainly they were enabled if only because of the sheer money they had at their disposal.

Anyone who has also been raised in a small town will attest to the boredom that runs rampant therein. Though only an hour long bus ride separated us from Toronto, this was not on the horizon for underaged teens, and so we were rendered to party in our parents’ basements and backyards, and otherwise in forests.

I’m not sure when the blow craze fizzled out, and now I’m not in touch with these people frequently enough to know that it’s even gone for sure. I never thought that my hometown would begin to resemble an episode of Intervention, but perhaps that was my own naivety at work.

Regardless, I still love Ancaster, though differently now than when I was growing up here. Now it’s an oasis of tranquility from the life I led in perpetually busy Toronto. It’s where I can go hiking in lush, non-man made forests that are fraught with valleys carved out by glaciers long ago. It’s where I can say ‘hello’ to neighbours and passers-by on a walk and not be perceived as some strange threat. It’s where I can see wildlife beyond impossibly large raccoons and rats. And it’s where I can step back and enjoy life because I know there is something more out there.

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