Managing Expectations

Hello everyone,

Hope you all had a great weekend. I know I did. Stretches of productivity, but also got to catch up on some reading, tv and video games. The best of both worlds.

I’m still stalled on working on my second book at the moment, but I am nearly ready to re-submit my Master’s Paper to the Howard Journal of Communications. Hopefully it will be published. I am also working on creating my own social media business, which you’ll hear more about in by the end of September.

Looking ahead to september reminded me of an event I tried out for, Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOMS). I did some modelling training in my final year of high school, but I never continued with it since I was going to be moving out of town to go to the University of Ottawa, and it would have been impossible to work with a Toronto agency from 5 hours away. My best friend was going to the audition for TOMS and his mom was kind enough to send an invite to me as well. The audition was going to take place on a friday night, so we all planned to meet up afterwards for drinks.

I left for the audition straight from work, clean cut and dressed in ironed and form-fitting clothes. I tried to get back into modelling when I moved back to Brampton but I was rejected by many agencies for being too tall or for having a “similar look” to a lot of other models on their rosters. I saw this audition as my way to possibly get back into modelling. I wasn’t deluding myself of having a career as a supermodel, but I figured that I could aim to secure a part-time job that could bring in some much needed money.

The audition was held in a lounge that had been reserved for the event. There was a desk set up where patrons would normally pay cover. After registering there, I made my way down a set of stairs to the main lounge area. Wooden floors and leather chairs were set up in the center. All around the central area, there were different stations. One for physical inspection of candidates, where two women met and greeted each person one by one. The next was an area with a box light set up, where the photographer guided each model through a set of poses. The final station was the one for measurements.

I was nervous at first, but other people in the waiting area broke the ice. By the time I was called up, I felt loose again. I got positive feedback on my body and my runway walk. So did my friend. I walked out of there thinking that we were both going to be accepted.

The generic rejection email arrived two weeks later.

I am used to generic rejection letters e.g. “we regret to inform you…” from my pursuit of publication, but I wasn’t used to receiving one after getting nothing but positive feedback. I realized that maybe I was being naive. It wouldn’t make sense for the judge to list all the things she didn’t like when she sees someone in person. That would only serve to make them miserable for the rest of the audition, starting a self-fulfilling cycle. Focusing on positives was a tactful move. I let go of my pride and figured this out about ten minutes before I started writing this post.

Once I got the email I did what I always do when I feel down, called my mom. Yes, I am that type of person. I wasn’t in tears but I was disappointed. I began to worry that maybe my stomach wasn’t toned enough. I do stay in pretty good shape but I was worried that my lack of an eight pack was what led to my rejection. My mom was able to talk sense in me, telling me not to think about it too much. Modelling shows and agencies always want something very specific: a specific height, body type, skin tone etc. Not fitting the bill is not always a sign of unattractiveness or inadequacy.

That was an important lesson for me, and one that I think applies to many walks of life. It applies to my attempts to get published: my book may be good but it isn’t what agents are looking for. You may be a good candidate for a job but you may not be exactly what the employer had in mind. Sometimes they might make an exception if you stand out enough. Sometimes an ideal, or the closest thing to it, is the only option for some people.

I always try to put a positive spin on failures. I don’t just follow this idea because I read it in a book, I follow it because it is the only option that makes sense. What is the alternative? Moping, accepting defeat and giving up. We’re better than that.

Anger

I reacted poorly to a client at work today and the situation got me thinking about why I reacted the way I did. I originally didn’t want to discuss this online because it is public and my employer could see it. However, I recanted that decision and hope I don’t regret it.

While helping a customer today, I asked if I could put them on hold while I checked something on my end. Before I put the caller on hold, I heard her whisper to a co-worker that she couldn’t understand me. As a child, I had a lot of problems projecting my voice. I was even seeing a speech therapist at one point. I have improved, but to this day I do often hear that I talk fast and that my words can come out jumbled. I think it is my long history of struggling to be understood that makes me very sensitive to criticism of my volume or diction when I speak. I hate being told to repeat myself, to speak slower or to speak up. I think this insecurity was what led me to immediately call the client out on not letting me know directly that she couldn’t hear me. I criticized her for whispering to a colleague instead of letting me know and once the call was over I felt terrible for doing so. I could tell that the client was genuinely taken aback and didn’t mean to be rude with her comment.

Thinking of the experience got me thinking of a poem I wrote for my wmoviegrapevine Instagram. I don’t mean to post this as self-promotion or as a lazy repost. I feel like the words truly summed up what happened today, and it makes me think of what I need to do to become a happier, less insecure person.

******

I could feel it coming again,

Crashing through my body and slowly taking over my brain,

It contained all the worst things in me,

Bitterness, envy, insecurity,

It built up slowly and now it would come crashing out,

My body was the dam,

It needed to break me to break free

 

 

The Funeral

Sorry for the delay with this blog post. I have added apartment hunting to my to-do list so I’ve been busier than normal. This is in addition to work, the gym, guitar and writing my second book.

Before you get worried: the below piece is fiction.

****

Her pictures were hung all over the church,

In her best dresses, with her best makeup,

 

I stood on the podium,

I was supposed to talk about how great my sister was,

How sad I was that she was gone,

How empty my life was without her,

Yet I couldn’t,

 

My sister was nothing more than a person I had the misfortune of sharing blood with,

She was rude, insecure, ungrateful and manipulative,

There is nothing to mourn with her passing,

She wasn’t murdered,

She didn’t commit suicide,

She just passed away in her sleep,

 

Why do we feel the need to not only downplay someone’s faults when they die,

But also try to paint them as a perfect human being,

Not a single speaker talked about her issues,

Saying that she had problems, but that she was still family,

They all tried to make her look like Mother Teresa,

She is far from it,

She was more than flawed,

She wasn’t even decent,

She was my sister,

She is dead,

And I’m celebrating.

 

Injustice: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Good morning everyone, have another blog post up on comicommand. Feel free to check it out there, but I’ve also copied it below. As I’ve mentioned before, comicommand is always looking for new writers so feel free to reach out for a chance to share any original comic-book related articles.

 

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Written By Cadeem Lalor

In 2013, NetherRealm Studios (best known for Mortal Kombat) released Injustice: Gods Among Us. In an alternate universe, The Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and his unborn child. The Joker uses scarecrow’s fear toxin to make Superman think he sees Doomsday. Superman responds by pushing Doomsday into space, and it is too late by the time he killed a pregnant Lois Lane.  Superman kills The Joker and then establishes a new world order. Five years later, Batman summons the Justice League from the mainstream continuity in order to defeat his Superman.

The game also had a related comic book tie-in that details the five years leading up to the game. When I first heard about the series I thought it would be a cheap cash-in, but a friend recommended the comics and I was soon hooked. The comics are currently in year five, but the writing has been weaker since writer Tom Taylor left the project mid-way through year three. Taylor’s work is sorely missed and I want to take a look back at what made his work on the series so great, namely the characterization of Superman and Batman.

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Firstly, the writing itself was amazing.  Like The Walking Dead, I found that the artwork took a little getting used to, but it was this line that convinced me I should give the comic a chance: “Our world is now ruled by the iron fist of a Man of Steel.” Maybe it’s simple, but it’s also an eloquent way to introduce a version of Superman that is so far removed from the one we are used to.

The strength of the prequel hinged on the believability of Superman’s transformation into a murdering dictator, and Taylor’s work captures it well. I remember watching Batman: Under The Red Hood and hearing Batman say why he chooses not to kill The Joker. Batman knows that if he allows himself to kill just one person, even someone as despicable as The Joker, it becomes too easy to justify making the same decision for every other criminal: “If I go down that road, I’m never coming back.”

I never really understood Batman’s point at the time. I thought it would be easy to make an exception but I see the moral of the story play out with Superman. The Joker had been playing games with Batman for much longer, trying to get Batman to snap. Superman was “easy mode”.  While Superman has faced loss, it is implied that Batman may be mentally tougher. In the comics, Superman has lost his biological parents, his adoptive father, his cousin and an entire planet, but he does not have memories of those people to mourn. Meanwhile, Batman was a witness to his parent’s murder from a younger and highly impressionable age.

Taylor’s work also demonstrates how Superman doesn’t initially become a dictator due to the desire for power. Ultimately, he feels betrayed by Batman. He blames Batman for not killing The Joker earlier and even accuses Batman of loving The Joker. Superman feels as if his best friend cares about a psychopath more than him. Even when the two come to blows over Batman’s attempts to bring the regime down, Superman can’t bring himself to kill Batman, opting to paralyze him instead.

In this fight, we also see Superman resort to torture to get information out of Batman. This was always one of the biggest differences between the characters, and Batman is quick to point out how far Superman has fallen.

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Superman and Batman have always differed in their methods of crime fighting, with Batman being the morally grey figure who was open to torturing criminals. This conflict between the two characters also seems to imply that while Batman may embrace his anger and vengeful side more often, that is what prevented him from truly becoming like the criminals they fight against. Batman had his outlet for his issues, while Superman held himself to a higher standard that only made it easier for him to fall.

As the series progresses, we see that Wonder Woman is eager to step in to replace Lois Lane. She is a key figure that whispers in his ear and guides him to embrace his violent tendencies. Her ancient military background makes her more open to the idea of a dictatorship and her admiration for Superman, as a warrior and friend, makes her more likely to support him. Overtime, we see Superman’s unresolved grief for Lois, and his anger towards Batman transform him into a fearsome dictator.

Since leaving Injustice, Taylor has worked on Superior: Iron Man and several independent titles. The current state of the comics makes it clear that DC suffered a big loss, especially since Taylor could have also transitioned into working on other titles. Fortunately, the first two years of Injustice will always be there as a testament to his work.

 

Half Full

There are many institutions meant to prepare us for the shift from childhood to adulthood,

They herd children in, and in their minds, send adults back out,

Many of these institutions fail, and I think universities are the most glaring example,

I am one of millions of people who worked hard to graduate with good grades and a degree I hoped would ensure employment in my field,

It’s been half a year and I have yet to secure that goal despite actively pursuing it,

 

However, I don’t want to delve into more negativity,

For the past decade,

I feel as if negativity has drowned out rationality and optimism in my life,

My life has not been perfect, but no one’s life is, and I believe I have a lot to be thankful for,

It has been too easy for me to forget this,

My bad experiences overshadow all the privileges and opportunities I have had,

I constantly compare myself to others, never being happy with myself,

Sometimes I spread my misery to others,

Lashing out at people who help me and driving them away,

It is a vicious cycle where my attitude leads to rejection, which then leads to more negativity,
It is easy for me to remember friends I’ve lost,

It is easy to remember those who betrayed me,

The people who made me feel unwanted, used, stupid, ugly,

The people who only paid attention to me to tear me down,

 

It is so easy to forget the people all around me who are always trying to clear the negativity from my mind,

The family that can’t stand to see me doubting myself and want nothing more than to see me happy,

The friends who always make time, not excuses, when they want to see you,

The co-workers, bosses who always go out of their way to praise your contributions,

 

I do not normally feel optimistic, and my writing reflects that,

Writing has always been my catharsis, my way to release my negativity,

Yet I have come to realize that my writing is not enough to combat the negative thoughts that my mind harbours,

My writing is merely another engine of negativity,

I cherish every piece I have written,

I don’t think my mindset makes them any less true but I now understand that my pursuit of happiness must be a proactive one,

I cannot wait for it to come to me,

I must create it.

The Chamber

The snakes weren’t really surrounding me,

I could hear them hissing,

I could feel their leathery skin,

Feel their weight on my arms and legs,

Feel my breath become shorter as they constricted my chest,

 

Yet they didn’t really exist,

The person standing in front of me was feeding me images of my greatest fears,

The torture started with beatings, then water boarding,

Once those failed, he decided to get more creative,

 

Someone must have told him what I feared,

There was a mole in our organization,

It would take a while to narrow down the suspects,

Which is why I started going through the list,

I needed my mind to drift away from the hallucinations around me,

 

My eyes were still closed,

If I opened them it would be too easy to give into the images,

I felt the snake’s grip on my chest lighten as I deprived it of attention,

My captor wanted me to plead, to beg,

But he would have to keep waiting,

He had already deprived me of my family,

If there is one thing I’ll bring to my grave, it will be my dignity.

I am one step closer to getting published…

400,000 books published in 2007,

A small percentage of those made a profit, an even smaller percentage became best-sellers,

This is what one of the speakers at the Writer’s Digest Conference tells me, and about 100 other people seated in front of her,

She is there to educate us, to support us,

But part of giving guidance is helping us manage expectations,

There are millions of people trying to get published every year,

Motivated by support from their family and friends, and by the success of those who became before them,

We all believe that it is our destiny to share our story with the world, and become a best-seller,

Yet that can’t happen for everyone trying to get published,

The sad truth is that some people will be destined to keep writing only as a hobby,

Or to try the self-publishing route, where they will assume the role of agent, editor and marketer,

I am hoping that I can become one of the people who gets to see his greatest goal achieved,

I now have agents interested in seeing my work, which I want to edit thoroughly before I send to them,

Even if they do ask for the full manuscript, then they may still not want to represent me,

Even if they choose to represent me, it will be difficult getting a publisher,

Even if I get a publisher, there is no guarantee book stores will want to stock it,

Even with all the aforementioned guarantees, there is never any guarantee of a book selling well,

Although there is a myth of agents taking care of all the marketing and promotion, the truth is that I will need to be very involved in the process in order for my book to have any chance of success,

Despite all the potential obstacles, I am grateful enough to realize that I am taking a step in the right direction by sending my work to these agents,

I can honestly say that while I know a lot of work is ahead, I am looking forward to it.

 

 

 

D-Day

The beach was swarming with tourists,

People who travelled from other countries and continents to walk along a once-great battlefield,

Some took pictures, and even more took selfies,

Making the moment all about them,

Showing that they weren’t truly there to commemorate other people’s sacrifices

 

I could not ignore the real reason I came here,

I saw it all around me,

My shoes were already stained with blood,

The sand was soaked with it,

Every step I took made it squelch beneath me,

While others took a leisurely stroll, trying to picture what happened,

I rushed through, wanting to free myself from all the images and sounds that were assaulting me,

 

Arms, legs, fingers,

Some were still moving, only a few seconds removed from their previous owners

The tourists all around me obscured my view of the entire beach, saving me from even more images,

But the tourists would also be witnesses if I succumbed to the uneasy feeling in stomach,

 

I was almost off the beach now,

Sidestepping, pushing, whatever it took to make clear path for myself,

I passed the bulk of the tourists, with only a few stragglers ahead of me,

As I prepared to sidestep someone ahead,

They turned towards me,

In my haste I never noticed the tattered uniform they wore,

But now I could see the face, torn apart by shrapnel,

Skin hanging loose from the cheeks, exposing flesh and nerves beneath,

Eyes reduced to red craters,

 

As I looked away, I saw another uniformed man making his way towards me,

His intestines were hanging from a gash in his stomach,

Reaching down and staining the sand as he walked towards me,

His face was intact, but I could see the shrapnel embedded in the top of his skull,

 

They said nothing as they approached,

I didn’t know what would happen if they reached their target,

I ran around them, making my way for freedom,

As I did, hands began to spring from the ground beneath me,

Bloodied, lacerated, dismembered,

All gripping me with immeasurable strength,

I fell, I screamed,

But my screams were quickly muffled,

The ground beneath me seemed to sink, and I was sinking with it,

Soon I no longer felt the sunlight above,

Only darkness.

 

 

Hazard

The grass that once covered the field was long gone,
Beaten earth and stones were the ground’s only occupants,
Hundreds of feet now made their mark on the soil,
Belonging to hundreds of people gathered for one purpose,

Stone walls surrounded the field and blocked the group in,
Forcing them to form rows of twenty that stretched back to the horizon,
The oldest were at the back, with the crowd generally getting younger towards the front,
There was only one elder at the front, flanked by four young women
Although the elder would oversee what happened next,
The women were the ones that were truly vital for what came next,

As the elder walked towards the center of the field, the women followed,
Everyone else stayed in place,
The elder stopped directly above the center, not due to instinct,
But due to the circular red marker in the soil,
The soil was stained over fifty years ago, but the mark was still as vivid as the day it was laid,
It almost seemed to glow under the night sky

The elder motioned for the woman to form a circle, so that their feet touched the outer rim of the red stain,
They did as instructed, but the elder could tell they were nervous, reluctant even,
He couldn’t blame them,
They barely fit around the circle, and their toes nearly touched,
That was a good thing, it ensured that only one strike would be needed,
The ritual wouldn’t work with two

The elder turned towards the crowd, feeling their eyes piercing him
They had all travelled days to see this, and their journey would be over in a few minutes,
Without further hesitation, the elder withdrew the sword from his coat,
Four feet long, bloodstained, relentlessly sharpened over the past few days,
He didn’t want the woman to feel any pain,

He raised the dagger above his head,
“He rises!” The crowd shouted,
As the crowd shouted the woman made sure to straighten their necks,
The elder stood behind one of the women, with his back facing the crowd,
“He rises!” They shouted again,
He raised the sword to his right, using both hands to steady it,
It lined up perfectly with the girl’s necks,
Same height, same blood,
Four siblings, who were bred for this sole purpose,

The woman to his right died first as the knife cleaved her head from her neck,
As his arm continued its arch, the two in the center fell next,
Then finally the one to the elder’s left,

Their was one distinctive impact as the four heads hit the ground, directly in the center of the red marker,
The women’s legs acted as a cage, keeping the heads in place for those crucial first seconds where they may have rolled out,
As the heads came to a standstill, the women’s bodies collapsed,

Fresh blood poured from the severed heads,
Dampening the red marker,
Soaking it,

The elder could hear the deprived soil taking in the moisture,
It wouldn’t be long,

The elder retreated to the crowd,
Reuniting with the first row,
As he fell in line, he felt the ground shaking beneath him,
Small fragments began to break off from the stone walls around them,
Too small to do any harm,
Yet serving as confirmation that the ritual was working,

The elder didn’t hear any breathing beside him,
Everyone was still,
Muscles tensed, waiting for the culmination of their journey,
Everyone’s eyes were on the red marker when the ground erupted,

While the group remained untouched,
The center of the field became a geyser of soil and stone,
Ascending upwards and showering the entire field,
The elder shielded his face and the rest of the group followed suit,
When the rain ended,
Many of them were bloodied, especially those at the front,
There were lacerations to arms, legs and clothing
But nothing serious,

No one paid attention to their injuries,
Their gaze stayed fixed on the center of the field,
Much of the soil returned to its home,
But the explosion turned the solid mass into a series of uneven patches,,
He would be able to break through easily,

The hand shot out of the grave,
It was barely able to clutch the soil on the grave’s edge,
That didn’t concern the crowd,
They knew his strength would return with time.

Their savior was reborn.