Tag Archives: life

The Official Soundtrack of My Life

By Jason Menard

Back when I was younger, the mixed tape was all the rage. It was your way to express your feelings through song, because you just couldn’t find the right words. I’m embarrassed to say in my past I may have given out a couple of them to certain people in my life.

Earlier today, in another spurt of time-killing and/or self-reflection, I started playing around with a song list on Grooveshark trying to define The Soundtrack of My Life. I asked others to share their songs, so I thought it only fair to put mine down in ‘print.’

Remember, these are not my favourite songs (though, some are), but rather songs that represent key moments in my life and/or songs that held a specific importance to myself and someone else.

It was fun. It was enlightening. And it mixed equal parts fromage and gravitas. Continue reading

The Great Middle-Class Doughnut

By Jason Menard

Why is it that in our attempts to find the best that life has to offer, we often ignore the most important aspect of our existence – our soul?

I’m referring to the underlying societal gravitational force that begets the Great Middle-Class Doughnut. No, I’m not referring to spreading waistlines. The insidious force to which I’m referring is the gravitational force that draws many of us to an inertial point somewhere between urban and rural life – the suburbs.

We have heard countless stories about how many of today’s rural dwellers are abandoning their environment and conglomerating towards urban environments. But, as our basic physics lessons taught us, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Just as people are being drawn to the cities, a significant number are being repelled from its core in search for a better life.

Just as the planets and satellites are held in their orbits by opposing fields of gravity, so do suburbanites congregate in a swath of land that’s not “downtown” but that’s certainly not to be considered as “The Boonies.” For many of us, our aspirations are to find that patch of land, in our quite community, with our fenced-in yard, 2.3 kids, and the family pet. It’s a good life and it’s certainly not to be begrudged for those that have chosen it – but there seems to be something missing.

But that same bourgeois magnetism that draws us to these areas is the same that confines us to the four walls of our home. We reject interaction with our neighbours, we travel to the same Big Box stores, to buy our same value-sized products to return quickly to our Home Depot-inspired family rooms to gather around the TV to watch television.

And I’m no different. My wife and I have often spoken as to where we’re going to settle, and the idea of a place that’s safe for the kids is first and foremost in our minds. But, in embracing the security and uniformity that the suburbs represent, are we denying our children the opportunity to experience the beating heart of the city they live in?

As long-time Montrealers who now live out-of-province, we are afforded the opportunity to visit the city on a regular basis and look at it with a perspective that enjoys both an insider view and an outsider’s freshness of sight. We’ve watches as our friends have spread to the far corners of the island and beyond, while other remain in a more central location.

And, at every available opportunity, I try to walk the streets of the city. While I’m instantly at home in the suburbs – a place that’s eerily reminiscent of my current city of residence, London, ON, it’s the vibrancy of the core that strikes me. The streets are painted with a variety of brushstrokes, each colour overlapping and crafting an image that’s stunning for its raw beauty.

I’m instantly transported into a world that I imagine existed in much the same manner a half-century ago. While the storefronts may change, the essential ebb and flow of the streets remain the same. From the people sitting on their balcony to the animated conversations on the street, the very soul of a city manifests itself in all its glory. Instead of radiating from a TV screen, life presents itself in live action, with each of us as an active participant.

What most of us forget is that the true soul of a city – the reason why we were drawn to a location in the first place, is at its heart. It’s not a coincidence that the music that moves us to our very souls comes from the inner city. Motown, the Liverpool-fueled British Invasion, the Mississippi Blues all come from experiences forged at the heart of a city. New York City, the symbolic pinnacle of success and dreams, is represented not by the commute from Connecticut, but rather the vibrancy and excitement that resides right on the paved streets of Manhattan.

Yet, what I may be most guilt of here is romanticizing. While I can appreciate this tapestry of life, I’m not privy to the hardships that go into weaving it on a day-to-day basis. The same sense of community that I romanticize is forged not from any sense of communal support, but rather out of necessity.

So that’s why, in every step of life, it’s important to appreciate what we have and where we have it. Although often vilified, the suburbs are not soulless. They are, in fact, a place where dreams are realized. And, while the sense of community may not be as prevalent, the essential bonds of family are as taut in the suburbs as they are in the city.

Whether you choose to experience the Great Middle-Class Doughnut or sample the fare from the city’s breadbasket, the most important thing is that you take a bite out of life and savour every moment.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Appreciating Our Passengers Along the Road of Life

By Jason Menard

In rushing through our everyday lives, we often are so focused on getting ahead that we forget to look around and appreciate those who have joined us for a ride down the road of life.

I recently attended a funeral, and the adult daughter of the deceased got up and read from a letter that she wrote to her father on the occasion of his 80 th birthday. In it, she stated that she didn’t want to wait for a funeral to express her feelings, when it would be more appropriate to share them while he was still alive. And I was struck as to what a profound yet simple concept that was.

Why do we wait for eulogies to express our feelings? Why is it that we are constantly doomed to repeat the mistake of not appreciating what we’ve got until its gone? Why do we take for granted those that are with us while they’re here, and not appreciate them fully until after their gone?

The game of life can be cruel. Anyone of us, young or old, healthy or frail, can shuffle off this mortal coil at any time, with or without warning. And it’s partly because of that fact that we dwell upon our own self-reflection. Our candle could be snuffed at any time, so we’re bound and determined to make that flame burn as brightly as it can!

There is a reason why important starts with an I – because that is the person we generally put first and foremost in our lives. From our hedonistic, world-revolves-around-us youth to our budding adulthood, we are possessed with the idea of being better, experiencing more, and exploring the world around us. We live, learn, and work to satisfy our Id.

Yet, often when it’s too late, we feel the loss of a loved one. We regret the words unspoken, the harsh feelings, or the wasted time arguing over petty issues. We look back on friends left behind as we’ve moved on.

But why should we wait? The old saying says that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is a mantra we all repeat without taking it to heart.

But how do we remedy this situation? Personally, despite being a man of many words, I find it hard to express my true feelings. My parents, who I love and care for deeply, don’t hear that enough. I have friendships that I cherished in my youth that have been worn away by the eroding forces of time and distance. Even in this digital age, when communication is as simple as sending an e-mail, we rationalize our distance and attribute our lack of interaction to “being too busy” and “life.” But what good is life without friends and family to share it with?

So what do we do? We can do our best. Even if we can’t say “I love you,” we can show it through our interactions with our friends and family. We can cherish old memories and strive to make new ones. We can reach out for long-lost acquaintances and catch up on old times. The fact of the matter is that the bonds that hold us tight never truly break. They may slacken through neglect and they may be covered in cobwebs, but it only takes a quick dusting off to rediscover what brings us together.

There are some people in the world who are naturally mushy. They emote and empathize with the best of them. They cry at long-distance telephone commercials. Their eyes well up with tears when someone is telling an emotional story. I’m not one of those people and probably never will be. That doesn’t mean that people like me don’t feel. Don’t care. We’re just not as adept at expressing it.

The important thing is that deep down inside, whether you’re an emotional cripple or a blubbering fool, we all have attachments, we all have those we hold dear to us, and we all need to do a better job letting those we love know it.

Because once they’re in that pine box, it’s too late. And all the would haves, should haves, and could haves in the world won’t make up for those lost moments.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved