Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Winds of Change

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”The ability to be happy is nothing other than the ability to come to terms with how things change.” My favourite blogger, David, writes this in a post entitled “88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life” (#87)

It’s a simple formula, and if it’s true then it’s encouraging. No veil of mystery: We each hold the key to our own happiness and it lies in our outlook. Accept that life is cyclical; good stuff will happen and not-so-good stuff will happen. Roll with the punches as much as you are able and happiness will be within your grasp. Expect life to behave in a linear fashion, constantly heading upward at a 45-degree angle towards only the good and the positive, and instead of being happy you will be disillusioned and disappointed. You might even be angry.

I’ve had a summer full of change, spearheaded by a fire in my neighbour’s apartment that has barred me from my home for close to 3 months now. I haven’t had access to any of my things and I’ve invented as many outfits as I am able to from the few items of clothing I brought with me. These were changes I was not expecting.

People often say, “poor you.”

Nah.

Because of that disaster, I’ve spent the entire summer hanging out in an incredible condo with an awe-inspiring view, in one of the most beautiful (and expensive) parts of the city (see previous post re: “It pays to have lots of insurance”). I’ve thrived in the bustling energy of urban life. I’ve enjoyed the novelties of underground parking and central air and strolling to get my morning coffee. I’ve re-joined the swim team and cleaned up my eating habits. Work-wise I am the busiest I have been since I first started this business, one year ago this month.

My old apartment has been painted a happy new colour and the hardwood floors have been refinished. Every item I own - clothing, furniture, everything – has been professionally cleaned and repaired where necessary.

Things keep shifting, life does whatever it wants, and that can be energizing and inspiring if we so choose. It's been the happiest summer I can recall.

As the wind alters its mood and the mornings go dark in response, change is upon me once again. My time in this urban oasis has come to an end; it’s time to go back to my humble old homestead with the sloping floors.

I’m not sad. I’ve come to appreciate its warm character, welcoming balconies and the friendly, down-to-earth neighbours – all of which I missed this summer. There is good in everything.

And I have come to terms with yet another change: This blog has reached the end of its natural life. The name, “I’m Fired”, doesn’t speak to me anymore. That person has said all that she needed to say underneath that banner. To all who followed along, thank you. But I am a different person today, with different things to say.

I’ve been on this extraordinary journey of discovery for more than 2 years now. The adventure continues, but my thoughts, language and behaviour have changed and they don’t fit the shape of this little window anymore.

I will be back, in one form or another, and whether anyone reads along or not.

One thing I am certain will never change: I will always write.

And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Fired...Take Two.

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There’s nothing like a near-disaster to spur us to push the reset button on what really matters in life.

When fire struck the apartment next to mine two weeks ago and I was ousted from my pad with no more than a moment’s notice, I put myself and a few others through days of bedlam, stress and upset. Now that I’m neatly installed in my sleek, furnished condo for the summer and the dust has begun to settle, I can see a little more clearly. I learned a ton of things from the experience, but here are my top ten:

1. What stuff is really important.

Upon realizing that the fire was sneaking from the guy’s apartment next door towards mine, I yelled down to a fireman to ask if I had time to grab my cat. He looked at the plumes of smoke billowing out from between the bricks above my window and said, “Not really.” I did, of course, dragging her from under the bed by one leg and stuffing her into her cage while speaking in that fake hysterical-soothing voice that one tends to use on children and pets when all’s gone to hell yet one is trying to convince them that Everything’s Fine, We’re Just Playing a Game.

I scooped up my purse and left. That was it. A) Fur-child, B) purse with credit cards and other ID-ish stuff. It’s amazing what we put in priority when the chips are down and the smoke’s pouring in. I don’t know if it’s normal but I didn’t think about all the photos (everyone says they do; I didn’t), nor my computer, which is maybe odd since that’s how I make my living. A pair of shoes would have been a convenient thing to pick up. I very secretly hoped all the clothing would go up in smoke. It didn’t, and I was allowed back in later to gather some more stuff before evacuating for good and so grabbed my laptop, a few shorts and tees and toiletries and my insurance papers. And a pair of flip flops. In the 2 minutes I had, I couldn’t think of anything else that really mattered.

I had clothing; I knew I’d have shelter and food (thanks to insurance). My friends were at the ready to support me. And that’s the sum of all I really, truly need. The rest is just stuff.

2.Sometimes, drama increases in direct proportion to how much energy you dedicate to it.

Drama can be like a fire: The more you stoke it, the bigger it gets. When we put a lot of time and energy into recounting / augmenting / building our stories of personal tragedy and hardship, either to ourselves or to others or both, the stories and issues become seemingly more real and more difficult and more insurmountable, and that serves no purpose. The flames become visible from outer space and everyone feels the heat.

Turns out I’m a great fire-stoker (figuratively speaking of course); which is not news to those who know me well, but which is a big realization for me personally. I tend to make situations pretty dramatic.

It’s important to try to keep things in perspective, especially when they’re going awry; and that even when we think we’re doing just that, to look again with a different lens and see if the stories we’re telling ourselves about a given situation are really true, or just that – stories. Flames can get out of control quickly, so be mindful of how much you throw on there.

3.Get over it.

Goes hand in hand with the fire-stoking. Yes it’s stressful and upsetting when stuff goes wrong but once we’ve confirmed nobody’s been hurt, it’s important to try to look at the bigger picture. Things could be a lot worse. I could have been the guy next door, whose fault the fire was and who escaped his burning apartment with only the shorts he was wearing and nothing else. His two cats perished in the blaze.

Lots of us need to throw ourselves a pity party from time to time. Let’s make sure it’s got a short shelf-life, and then move on.

It took good, honest friends to remind me of this. My best mentor for this is my friend D, who has been through a crapload of hardship in recent years but who doesn’t subscribe to self-appointed pity parties, ever.

4.I still have too much stuff.

Since I quit my corporate job and sold my house over 2 years ago I’ve done at least 3 full edits (“edit” is a soft way of saying “sell / donate / toss out”) of all my belongings, if not a few more. Watching the movers pack everything into a billion boxes after the fire, all I could think was Holy crap, who owns all this sh*t? Surely not me?

My things and clothing are now all either in storage or being de-smoked. The condo I’m in for the summer (hopefully longer...it’s so beautiful here!) is furnished with the basics (plus a bit more) of the essentials one needs for daily living. I’ve got jeans and a coffee pot and a desk and music and a wine glass and a bed.

I feel the same now as I did when I first got back from traveling and the contents of my house were still in storage: I don’t really want to see it all again.

A frequent and hard look at what we really need as opposed to what we just want, or perhaps even don’t want but accumulate anyway because we’re scared or bored, is as freeing as it is essential.

When I move back into my apartment, it’s time to purge again.

5.Who your real friends are.

Despite my exaggerated drama, there were those few friends who stood steadfastly by my side for whatever I might need during the ordeal and who continue to do so today. It’s reassuring and grounding to know that they are there.

Who are your real friends, who will be there for you without question, even if you’re standing in a pile of poo? It’s a good thing to know.

6.We are resilient.

As long as we have our health, we can endure a tremendous amount of stress and hardship. Whatever’s gone screwy, we’ll always be ok eventually. Important (but difficult) to remember when we’re mired in the thick of it.

7.Change is hard but builds character.

Being uprooted again was the last thing I had planned right now, but it’s also been an awesome reminder: I’m still mobile. Instead of feeling weighed down by a lease and bills and belongings, I can choose to remember instead that I can still pick up and do what I want, go where I want; life is fluid. Maybe it’s a message from the universe that everything has ended up back in storage.

I’ve had to get used to a new neighbourhood and start to figure out a new routine. There’s always a tremendous amount to be learned from how we react to new situations and new surroundings. If you’ve experienced a sudden unforeseen change in your life, watch and observe your reactions and see what new discoveries you can make.

8.How nice people can be.

People from every relationship level (friend, business, acquaintance, almost-stranger) materialized to offer whatever they could to help out after the fire, from furniture to a place to sleep and lots of things in between. I didn’t need any of it, fortunately, but it was great to feel supported and cared about anyway. People like to help when someone is in need and it’s refreshing to have that reminder. It makes me want to pay it forward.

It won’t hurt any of us to be a little nicer and as my friend Sarah reminded me once, we can all be a little more generous.

9.People have their own crap to deal with (see points 2 and 3 above)

It’s not that people don’t care about what’s happening to you, but everyone’s got their own problems and daily life to tackle. As my friend Deb reminded me, if you could throw your problems into a hat with everyone else’s and then pick out any ones you wanted, chances are very good you’d take back your own.

We shouldn’t expect anyone to feel sorry for us, step in, help, worry, call, text, or visit. Just do what you need to do, keep calm and carry on. Some of my clients barely batted an eye when I told them my story (which perhaps I shouldn’t have done, I realize now); pausing only briefly before saying, “So does this mean I won’t get my document today?”

Life and business go on. Don’t feel wounded or wronged by peoples' lack of sympathy or reactions to your situation. Just get on with it.

10.Life is precious and things can turn on a dime.

Not news to anyone, but it’s always brought into stark relief in these situations. Watching the man from the burned-out apartment sit on the grass, smudged with soot and crying like a baby, repeating over and over, “I would have never imagined. I would have never believed it could happen,” as he mourned the loss of his two cats and everything else he owned, I realized it just as easily could have been - could one day be -me. Everything was fine at 5:45 am. By 6:00 am it was all up in flames. I would never imagine it either. Seize the day.

11.(Bonus) It pays to have lots of home insurance.

I cannot fathom having gone through such an ordeal with no access to extra funds or without any special services to fall back on. Thanks to what some might think is way-too-much-insurance considering what I have and how I live, I’ve barely had to lift a finger throughout this whole process. The insurance people mobilized a veritable task force to pack me and move me and send me emergency money and clean my clothes and furniture and find me a place to live.

Insurance is like a parachute: Better to have and not need, than to need and not have.

“You should treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.” Quentin Crisp

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Shuffle I.D.

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I love my iPod Shuffle.

It’s not one of the teeny new metallic ones that seemingly have no controls on them; it’s not even one of the ones before that, or before that. It’s first-generation. You know – the white plastic ones that came with their own Handy Neck Lanyard.


The Shuffle was a pretty revolutionary concept for its time; at least in my very-late-adopter’s mind it was. It was the perfect accessory for the gym; much more convenient than the bulky CD Walkman I had been hauling around in a hip sack up until that point. With the Sleek New iPod Shuffle proudly displayed around my neck, I imagined myself to be cool as I listened to the same 50 songs being randomized over and over again. You could even use it as a USB key!

Despite reports of the eventual demise of the FGIS (First-generation iPod Shuffle) of almost every other owner I knew, mine was a true workhorse. Through years of use and abuse and days of being bullied into service in all kinds of nasty weather and sweaty conditions, it never so much as threw a single hissy-fit on me. Why upgrade to a newer, fancier one, when this one served me perfectly well?
That was, until a few weeks ago.

One day as I was gearing up to go for a nice long run, I pressed the “play” button on my FGIS and....nothing. After all these years of trusty performance and reliability it had quietly decided to launch a first, final and fatal protest. I was devastated.

FGIS forced me to make my first-ever visit to the Apple Store in downtown Montreal. As I glided through the giant glass doors and past the security guard I was immediately surrounded by buzzing hives of high-tech activity on all sides, while beads of We’re-Way-Cooler-Than-You’ll-Ever-Be dripped down onto me from the steel beams high above. Self-consciously I pushed the FGIS deep down into my pocket and tucked away my suddenly-very-antique-feeling Blackberry smartphone (though it was but a week old).

Eventually, of course, I bit the bullet and displayed the source of my anguish. FGIS had fallen ill, and was there anything to be done? The rumply teenaged salesperson stood agape, staring at FGIS. “Thatisthecoolest. Shuffledesign. Ever.” He’d never seen one of the antique ones before and was magnetically drawn to its retro style. I puffed a little with pride.

I was spirited upstairs to meet with a Genuis (an under-twenty Genuis! Right here in front of me!) who, after a quick and efficient diagnosis, reported that FGIS was indeed dead and nothing could be done to revive it. He was very smart.

It was time for a new Shuffle. I trudged back downstairs, stumbling over one of the gigantic acrylic-slab steps on the way. Cool.

As I perused the rainbow selection of New and Improved Teenytiny Shuffles, I felt deflated. I liked my big old plastic retro Shuffle (and so did at least one other person in Apple Mecca). The controls were right there on the Shuffle where I could see them (and not on the cord of the earphones, like the new ones? Puzzlement?) True, it didn’t have so much memory; but to date I’d never once run far or long enough to make it through all the songs it held. Did I need more?

Suddenly I was Charlie Brown at the Christmas tree lot. Sure, the new Shuffles made sense. Smaller size; more memory. Updated design. Cheap. So why did buying one feel like a sell-out?

Rumply sensed my hesitation and approached me to let me in on a secret. “You know,” he whispered, “There is one other option: Apple keeps a supply of the original Shuffle in stock for situations just like this. I could order you one. It will cost you the same as the new one that has twice the memory, though.”

A few days later another Genius called me (I think they just like me) to let me know that my clunky new-old Shuffle had arrived in-store. Back down at Cool Central, a cashier with tattoos and designer eyewear informed me that he had to ask me something before he could hand over my purchase: Why would I buy this old Shuffle when for the same money, I could have the new-and-improved model? I reminded him that the real question is this: Why is Apple charging the same money for an older, inferior product as they are for a new, superior one? He didn’t ask me anything else after that.

I left the store with my overpriced, unwarrantied, unboxed, plain old-new FGIS. And I was happy.

Marching to the beat of your own drum takes moxie. You won’t always feel cool. You’ll most likely feel insecure at times; left behind and a tad out-of-step with what’s going on in the more mainstream sectors of society. You will question your choices and decisions and so will others. Your friends may not understand what that jig is you’re doing and in fact may even move on from you, embarrassed by your funky moves and bewildered by your unorthodox life choices.


If I may give you a piece of advice: Stick to it, warrior. Always go with your gut. It’s never wrong. Keep on marching, even if that kooky drum beat is being piped into your ears via the big foamy headphones of a Sony Walkman.

The only one who truly has to “get it” is you; and while some days it will feel like it takes balls of steel just to put one foot in front of the other on this precarious path of unknowns, keep calm and carry on. Have faith and know that the road you’re shuffling down is full of awesome treasures the likes of which the world has never seen.

You’re a genius.

"What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Static Interference. We're Breaking Up.

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Dear Blog: I’m beginning to wonder if you and I are truly meant for each other. I want us to be together, but the fact is we don’t really have that much in common.

Good blog updates are supposed to be brief and posted frequently; mine appear once in a blue moon and, as anyone who’s actually taken the time to read all the way through knows, very long.

They’re also supposed to be informative/funny/interesting, so that people want to stick around and read them and then come back later to read more. A huge spike in the graph on the Google Analytics report means that seven people visited my blog on that particular day instead of the usual three, and generally half of those arrived there by accident. Suffice it to say I’m not ranking up there with TMZ just yet.

Still, they do say opposites can attract, and I don’t feel ready to totally give up on you just yet, Blog. I’d like to think I still have something worthwhile to say and that I can still find an effective way to use you. I’m just going to try to be quicker about it.

It’s now officially been a year since I returned from my world travels. I know I use those benchmarks frequently; marking off events based on points in time leading up to, during, or after my Big Adventure. It was a huge turning point in my life, so it’s normal. I’m amazed and grateful that I’m still afloat somehow and that business is starting to pick up. I even had to go out and buy file folders to keep my clients’ projects organized. Very grown-up.

It’s also car jockeying season again, which means the occasional 11-hour, no-break marathon day spent swaying to the soothing sound of impact guns and either laughing at or pretending not to hear the mechanics’ dirty jokes. I’m thinner and exhausted. It held more novelty the first time around, back in the fall. Still, the cash keeps me away from the ATM and I can eat more cookies without gaining weight. You can never be too “rich” or too “thin”. Quotation marks essential there.

Any remaining free time I have is being spent investigating ways to tune out the noise and static that has steadily, stealthily wormed its way back into my life over the last 12 months. I’m so easily distracted and often derailed by all that’s going on around me; not the least being other peoples’ successes, choices and seemingly winning situations, that it’s hard to stay on track towards all that I need to be accomplishing. But, more on that another time.

For now, it’s time to consider a full reboot. Perhaps a visit to my little island paradise? No electricity there, so no static.



“After all this kind of fanfare, and even more, I came to a point where I needed solitude and just stop the machine of 'thinking' and 'enjoying' what they call 'living,' I just wanted to lie in the grass and look at the clouds....” Unknown

Saturday, March 27, 2010

All Fired Up

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I launched this blog on May 29, 2008, with these words: “My name is Cara. One month ago today, I fired myself.”

There I was, hammering out a (pretty good, in my opinion, for a first try) blog post about being all fired up with the energy, optimism and fear of having taken a gigantic, parachute-free leap into the sweeping canyon of changing my life: Worried I didn’t have the courage to quit my long-time career, I instead sort of handed myself a pink slip.

Despite the end result, firing oneself differs from the act of getting fired by someone else in some pretty significant ways – one of which is the impact on the fired person’s ego. When you quit, it’s your choice. You leave on your own terms and move on for your own reasons, often feeling rather triumphant and maybe leaving others scrambling to pick up the pieces. Getting fired isn’t like that.

Even if you don’t like your job, being relieved of your post unexpectedly is generally a little tough to swallow. I figure it’s akin to never getting a call back from the guy you didn’t like anyway (cue Stanford Blatch in “Sex and the City”, Season 4, Episode 2, upon realizing that bitchy Anthony had taken off after they were introduced: “I’ve been rejected by someone I wasn’t interested in. I hate when that happens!”) Of course if you actually liked your job - or the guy - it can be exponentially harder to take.

We all want to be in control of our destiny to some extent, especially when it comes to things like saying no instead of being told no; but we learn from a very young age that life doesn’t always work like that. This is where many tantrums originate. The ego is denied its spotlight, and it doesn’t like it one bit.

Through all of life’s seemingly negative experiences that I can recall (I’m excluding anything that induced a tantrum prior to the age of 4), I’ve come to believe very strongly that everything happens for a reason. I know lots of people who believe this and lots of others who subscribe to the exact opposite philosophy (including my best friend B) - that it’s all just random; nothing is written in the stars.

For me, adopting the belief that things are part of a bigger plan reduces my need or desire to spazz-out when stuff goes awry: Somehow it was just meant to be and will no doubt result in a better experience somewhere down the road. So when I got fired from my very new job a week or so ago, even though I liked said job, my reaction was for the most part kind of neutral. I won’t say I didn’t find myself against the rails for a bit (B can vouch for this, as he talked me through part of the 8-km-long, foot-blistering walk home); but in the end I am taking it for what I believe it to be: the universe pushing me back towards my destiny – this beautiful, mysterious, frustrating thing called writing.

I might have been rejected by someone I like, but thanks to that, I’m back to courting the one I truly love.

“Getting fired is nature's way to telling you that you had the wrong job in the first place.” Hal Lancaster

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Directions

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February 1994: It was the dead of a cold, snowbound winter that was a precursor to what I would later discover to be an even colder referendum year. I had been transferred from Toronto to cosmopolitan Montreal to work at my company’s head office. This was my first (and - who could have known then! – only!) corporate job. I had less than an inkling of what it would entail (the person responsible for my transfer, when pressed as to what I might be responsible for in my new role replied, “I have absolutely no idea”), but I was pretty sure it was considered some form of promotion. A basic hotel room served as my temporary address as I waited for the moving van to rumble across the Ontario-Quebec border with my bits of pressboard- and chipped-melamine furniture. It would arrive three weeks later. I had little money, less French, no local friends and no idea of what I was in for.

To date it was the second-biggest adventure that I had ever embarked on, coming in slightly behind the move out of my birth city and the protective nest of my parents’ home just a year before and quite on parallel with the out-of-control stale-dinner-roll fight I found myself and two of my closest comrades in the middle of on the slope of the Big Hill at the King’s College residences back in ’76, at the ripe age of seven.

Adventure often necessitates survival of the fittest. In the midst of such uncertainty there is only one sure plan of attack: protect ones’ buns, stand ones’ ground and duck only when fired upon.

J (head honcho at The Company and the man who plucked me from my life of retail management) was brilliant and funny and he loved to share jokes, anecdotes and books he thought to be interesting. One day, after I had been working at the office for a while and when I assume J could no longer suffer through my unending attempts to assimilate myself into the corporate world and this new life, he passed by my desk and handed me a sheet of paper with a short passage typed on it in plain black font. The title of the passage was “New Directions” and its no-nonsense insights into how to approach life changes grounded me and restored some clarity of purpose.

I didn’t know who had written the bold little paragraph (did he? Impressive!), but I pinned the paper to the bulletin board next to my desk and read it every day.

Years passed, things got more complicated; the responsibility and the stress level grew in tandem with the job title. Cubicle walls shifted, salaries grew and colleagues came and went, including J. Always on my bulletin board was the paper he had given me, now gunshot with push-pin holes. The words didn’t hit home all the time, but I read them faithfully. The tattered paper came with me when I eventually quit that job, and the one after it, and through myriad changes that have surprised themselves upon my life along the way. Its sage message was included in my address to the graduating class of my alma mater almost 20 years after my graduation. New Directions.

March, 2010: I’m going back to work this week after essentially being on vacation for the last two years. For two years, I’ve traveled and met, explored, learned and rested and pretty much done whatever I’ve wanted. All of this, as well as working from home and for myself, writing, doing what I love, collectively has been a dream come true; but it’s also not necessarily sustainable, and the writing part is lonely and it’s not really paying enough just yet. This job opportunity came to me; it found me when I was feeling lost and lethargic and unsure of what my next move would be. It came to me from someone whom I have admired and sort of adored a little bit through the years, and who is brilliant and who will be my boss and whom I cannot wait to learn from. I also cannot wait to shoot him with a Nerf gun, which my office comes supplied with.

The adventure continues, but the vacation is over. I had no intention of this. It’s not how I envisioned things for myself. But we must be careful of that, of the story we tell ourselves about what we should and shouldn’t be doing, about where we should and shouldn’t be at any given moment in our lives, and especially about comparing. There is no right way or wrong way. We are not the story we tell ourselves. I am not a character in a blog or a book. I am just me, doing what I need to do to get by. (Thank you to a different J for reminding me often of this.) It’s painful to think of how far back my next visit to my island will be pushed by this, like in those dreams where the hallway gets longer as you’re running down it. On a more day-to-day level it’s both a little nauseating and humbling to have to dig out all my old Tupperware and make dull lunches again and to have to be somewhere at a certain time every day from Monday to Friday. But if I so choose it to be it’s also another part of my adventure, by which I am charged with excitement and optimism and giddiness at the seeming randomness of life. It is a new direction.

As for the passage typed on that scrap of paper...

New Directions

“Each of us has the right and the responsibility to assess the roads which lie ahead, and those over which we have traveled, and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, then without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”

Maya Angelou

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winners and Losers

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While I was watching the breathtaking Olympic men’s moguls competition last night my television screen almost cracked. Not from all the fist-pumping and arm-flailing I was engaging in as Alex Bilodeau finally took Canada to solid gold status on our home turf with his mesmerizing performance, but from the stinking, miserable, sourpuss expression on Dale Begg-Smith’s mug as he stood on the second-highest podium, sulking about the hunk of silver he had to choke on. I could have sharpened a set of chef’s knives on that face, it was so stony. Nothing says “Olympic Spirit” like showing millions of viewers, spectators, judges and other athletes just how badly you want to shove a bouquet of flowers down the throat of the Best Men’s Mogul Skier in the World, just before you stab him through the heart with your ski pole.

In sharp contrast, Bryan Wilson, a complete unknown from the US, exuded a visible joy over his bronze medal win that was endearing and infectious. He didn’t care that he was on the symbolic lowest of the three podiums. To him, it was a purely golden moment.

Begg-Smith, the undisputed champion going into the race, was the favourite for gold again at this event. Bilodeau snatching it from him was what they call an “upset”. I get that. I can’t fathom how crushed, both in spirit and in ego, the Canadian-Aussie must have felt at the moment of realization that the grandeur that goes with being Number One would no longer be his. Bilodeau and Wilson experienced the thrill of glory. Begg-Smith, the agony of defeat. Part of those experiences is just choice.

There are endless nuances to the emotions tied up in an Olympic experience that I will never be privy to; infinite physical, physiological and psychological factors that come into play for these competitors that I will never know a single thing about. But I, who has not and will never have one bit of the DNA that it takes to be anything even close to an Olympic athlete, do know one thing: Whether you’re a millionaire standing in front of the world at the almost-top of an Olympic podium in the very country that raised you and that you then ditched or you’re Joe Anyone winning a second-place ribbon in the local track and field meet in Nowheresville USA, a little sportsmanship goes a long way.

In the privacy of your own home, knock yourself out. Cry, scream, rave on about how unfair it all is, string together any chain of expletives you want in reference to the person or people who outperformed you; they probably cheated or got favoured by the judges anyway, right? Do, say, think what you want. Nobody’s looking.

But for the six minutes that the cameras are rolling, your character is on full display for millions of people around the world to size up and you just delivered a near-perfect performance and a silver medal to your country (your other country, that is), for crap’s sake at least try to crack a half of a freaking smile. Just fake it. You won a silver medal, dude. The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner.

You think Heil was happy with her silver-medal finish? She thought, we all thought, she had the gold in the bag. Canadians were counting on her for it and she knew it. But she took second place and was still full of grace and toothy grin for us all the way through - at least when everyone was looking.

How well you perform is only one part of what defines you as an athlete, a sportsman and a winner. The other part is how you carry yourself through it all.

Your silver medal performance didn’t shame your countrymen, Dale. Your crappy attitude did.