There’s a neat conceit Zack Snyder & Co. use in the movie Man of Steel to get around the issue of Kryptonite: instead of being weakened by the radiation from the fragments of his homeworld, the cause is more environmental: General Zod and his crew maintain Kryptonian atmospheric and gravitational settings on their ship, which Kal-El is unaccustomed to, so when he ends up a hostage on there, it diminishes the powers that make him exceptional on Earth. It’s also a two-way street: when Zod gets his “breather” knocked off during battle, the sensory onslaught he receives from his superior abilities leaves him harmless as a puppy.
I spent ten days back home last week in an attempt to try and bash out the draft for my book. While it wasn’t a totally fruitless exercise, it left me feeling like both Kal-El and Zod: at times sapped of strength, overwhelmed at others.
It’s always been strange to me, going home. So much of my ‘second period,’ was defined by my seeming unwillingness or inability to leave the nest that every time I go back, I feel like the same trapped 25-year-old whose contrarian nature only left him more isolated as the people around him accepted the rules of the environment. This isn’t to say one approach was superior to the other, I could just never see any other way for myself.
Having been gone for almost seven years, not just from the nest but from the only place I’d known up to that point, there’s a cognitive disconnect there between me and my friends who never left, or left and came back. Again, I’m not saying one way is better than the other, it’s just that I was more acutely aware this trip than ever before that theirs is a lifestyle I stopped being accustomed to some time ago. I’d been seriously considering moving back there in the next couple of years [for reasons fiduciary and personal], but left there unsure if I ever could go back. There are definitely reasons that could entice me to return, and I know I would make a good life for myself there; but somewhere in the local news reports about iguanas on the loose and stolen prosthetic limbs I got that old nagging feeling of being a man out-of-place.
This is probably wholly my issue, and is something people usually chalk up to OoooOOOooh, Mr. Toronto’s too fancy for us, now! Which I would hope is obviously not the case. Most of the time when I’m in a room full of my friends who are now married and parents, I feel totally inferior, because I have not lived my life “according to plan,” and regretful that I’m usually pretty okay with that. My parents would like grandchildren, and while I always retain hope they might get them, I wouldn’t advise playing the over/under on that. And while my stance on children has gotten somewhat more fluid in recent years, my stance on marriage likely never will, as in, if she wants to, I’ll go along with it. But I don’t need any of that. And this is still an alarmingly rare position in small town Ontario.
I’m certainly not alone among people of my demo who find they have to click ‘remove from feed’ on Facebook with growing frequency to soothe the barrage of photos to children they have no connection to, but the sad fact is that you’re left with nothing but Game of Thrones memes and Zoosk ads as a result.
What’s all this mean, then? I don’t know friends. Toronto can feel painfully lonely, so much so that I often spook like a feral cat when friends back home call to say ‘what’s up?’, that’s how fully I’ve thrown myself into anonymity. But still, as I dragged my suitcase along Bay St, up to King to catch a streetcar, weaving through tourists and folks headed to the Jays game and bankers on their way home, I immediately felt more relaxed than I did that morning. Seated at my chair in my shitty apartment that I spend too much of my money to live in, I already feel more accomplished today than I did at my parents’ kitchen table.
Still. I once heard it said that a great life in a mediocre place is superior to a mediocre life in a great place. It’s always stuck with me. I would still love to force my will onto the culture of the Rose City. I just want a reason to go back.