On being ... an anniversary of sorts

By Ingrid Sapona

Port Dover is a small Ontario town on the shores of Lake Erie, about 100 miles from Toronto. Over the years it has become known as the place hundreds of motorcyclists gather every Friday the 13th -- spring, summer, fall, and winter. I first heard about the Port Dover, Friday the 13th tradition from Ian (not his real name), one of the guys I race with at my sail club.

Ian’s an avid biker. I know this because he has a collection of t-shirts from different bike events that he wears proudly all summer. One of the most noticeable things about the t-shirts (besides the fact that they’re all black and adorned with kind of stereotypical biker images) is the fact that they all conspicuously proclaim the date and location of the event.

A few weeks ago Ian had on a new t-shirt. Unlike the others, this one was surprisingly understated -- it simply read: Port Dover, 50th Anniversary, August 13, 2010. When I read it, I commented that I was surprised that the event has been going on since 1960. He gave me an odd look (perhaps he was surprised I could do the math) and said it hasn’t been.

When I pointed out that that’s what his shirt said, he explained. In fact, August 13, 2010 was the 50th Friday the 13th they’d been meeting, not the 50th year. Clever of them to market it as the 50th Anniversary, don’t you think? Well, I did, but that could be because marking things like anniversaries has been on my mind since earlier this year when I realized this is the 200th On being….

I know it’s clichéd to say this, but I don’t know where the time has gone. Though I’d be lying if I said it feels like just yesterday that I started the column, it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s been over eight years that I’ve been sharing experiences, thoughts, and feelings with all of you in hopes of connecting in some small way to your life and your experiences.

Writing the column’s been a fantastic experience for me in many respects. From a writer’s perspective, I feel I’ve progressed. I’ve learned a lot about the craft of writing and about the art of editing. (The fact that I actually do edit them down, always aiming for 800-1000 words, will come as a surprise to my mother, who often mentions she finds them too long.) Writing about my foibles and frustrations has also helped me grow as a person. And finally, I have been gratified, and often quite amused, by readers’ comments.

When I started the column, friends mentioned they thought I’d run out of ideas. I was never concerned about that because, as long as you’re breathing, thinking, and feeling, there’s new On being… material every day.

That said, more than one 14th or 29th has rolled around where friends have heard me complain: “tomorrow is On being… day, and I don’t have an idea yet”. But such whining isn’t because I’m idea-less. Most of the time there are a few things on my mind but my struggle is in identifying an underlying behaviour or truth I think others will be able to relate to on some level. Indeed, the real challenge is in finding a way of conveying an idea in an anecdote I think readers might react to – whether it’s a situation they can picture themselves in, or just something that makes them laugh.

Of course, there have been times I’ve nixed a topic because it’s something I think I’ve already written about. In fact, that concern is what made me realize my 200th column was coming up. This spring I had an idea, but when I sat down to write it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d written something like it before. (On being … déjà vu?)

I couldn’t remember exactly when (On being … a mind like a sieve), so I started looking back at previous columns. When I still didn’t find it, I realized I should have a list of all the titles to date. I had never bothered keeping one (On being … lazy), so I set about creating a chronological master list. And, for no particular reason, I decided to number it. I’m sure glad I did, as I wouldn’t have wanted to let this milestone go without somehow marking it.

One last bit of trivia about the first 199 columns. Turns out -- and this was totally accidental -- there is one title that I have used more than once. Any guesses? Ok -- I’ll tell you: On being… inspired. I used that title in 2002 and 2008, and then a variation of it this summer (On being … oddly inspiring). At first I thought it was just a funny coincidence, but the more I thought about it, the more I realize that really, in some ways, every column could be titled On being… inspired. After all, that’s the way I feel when I write them and that’s my hope for my readers.

This milestone of 200 columns snuck up on me, but that’s because I’ve enjoyed the journey I’ve taken to get to it. And, like all milestones in life, ultimately it only tells me how far I’ve come -- it doesn’t tell what lies ahead -- but that’s what makes life interesting.

I look forward to future milestones for On being… and I’d be honoured if you’d continue with me on this journey of self-discovery.

© 2010 Ingrid Sapona


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