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Word on the Street: The psychology of change

Steve Campbell

I covered a lot of territory in the last column, but now I’d like to cut into the County Brain and pull out all those ugly demons that lurk in the corners of your mind.

I am not a certified behavioural psychologist, but I watch people, study people and listen to people, and have determined that we are all really weird, including me, so we just have to thrash about trying to make our separate weirdnesses align.

The County is unique. That’s not a sales pitch. It’s true.

Some people only see the changes in the County. And the changes are big, no doubt about it. A lot of long-timers, like me, furrow our brows and ask, “Is this good?”

This is where my fake certificate as a certified professional comes in handy. If you want one just like mine, photocopies are only 15¢. Another 10¢ if you want your name inserted instead of mine.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you hate change. Maybe your day runs the same every day. Finish work, eat, watch three episodes of NCIS and two Big Bang Theories, even though you’ve seen all of them before, but they’re like family to you. Sleep.

That’s nice. It’s a way to instill comfort into your life. Everything is the same, and it feels good. But the world doesn’t work that way. Forget about the Social Media and cellphones, and the frenetic need to be connected to inane sudden-thoughts, while standing next to a person you could actually talk to!

Yes, the world is changing. And it’s inevitable. The world is a frenzy. The more we reach out into the now-global world, the more depressed we get. I happened to enjoy a self-imposed one-month ‘Trump-free’ zone, during which I started to believe that the world was not literally going to hell, and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse were just getting dusted down and enjoying a grain/corn feed mix.

The point, if I can get to it, is that we need to get back to the Big Picture. We are as reactive as the kids who can’t ignore a Tweet without responding.

We need to mellow out, and sort out the things that are truly important to us, as a County, as a community, as neighbours.

We were born to support each other, from the time of the earliest settlers to today. We don’t work, as a local society, unless we work together. The screamingly ancient, “If you weren’t born here, you ain’t County,” is a myth perpetuated by late Picton Gazette editor Phil Dodds.

My Gazette editor, Al Capon, discovered that Phil actually arrived in the County at the age of five, and so – despite decades of being the voice of the County – was not ‘County’. As Al said: “I can’t wait to write his obituary … ‘Phil Dodds, not a County native…’.” I thought this was hilarious.

And it shows up the things that we actually value as ‘County’. To me, as you know, if you choose to be County, you are. If your reasons are good. That’s not clean and simple, because some people choose the County because they think this is a great atmosphere to arrive on a cloud of superior breeding, and love to be in a place in which they can tell everybody they used to be a big hot-shot in the city, as if we care.

This is the way it is. People are different. (I’m whipping out my fake degree now.) Some people have a concept of how they perceive themselves, and how they want other people to view them. The poor buggers who think it takes an off-the-cuff remark about their involvement with the Metropolitan Opera to impress the crap out of a County boy … well, you’re just choosing the wrong audience.

The key to this is simple: People are people. Some people crave adoration, some people will tell you their whole life history, and then tell it again if you run into them later. And then again unless you fake getting a text that your house is on fire.

Yes, not everybody fits in right away. As a friend of mine once said, “He needs to get a little more County under his feet before he opens his mouth.”

If you’ve read The County Handbook, you know that I also analyze the attitude of my County brethren. This is required by my fake psychologist certificate, which I ordered on Amazon and which arrived in a surprisingly short time.

It’s not completely about them. It’s also about us.

Let’s go back to that ‘change’ thing. I – like most of us long-timers – long for the days before we were ‘discovered’. Life was simple, but I was also 16 years old, and my parental unit pretty much made sure I was alive and fed and clothed and had a place to sleep. I miss those days, because it became harder after that.

We all have fond memories, but we can’t be locked in time. We are now the centre of The Place I Want To Be, for other people. And this is good.

Locking yourself in your room, and wishing no-one could find you? That’s a teenage dream. For a County wiped off the map with the arrival of the 401, we were indeed comfortable. For most of us, this was comfort. And everyone fended for themselves, and everyone who needed help, got it. This is the way we have lived for centuries.

And now? Change. Hard to take, most times. But, as I’ve learned from friends along the line, change isn’t a destruction of what you are, it’s just simply a step forward.

To the point, I’ll tell two stories.

A friend of mine refers to new arrivals as “those people.” This is an old-style reaction to newcomers. I get that. But we need to (remember, I have a fake degree) break down the barriers. County people, surprisingly, have embraced the gay community. What? What the hell? The County known for electing a fencepost if it ran under the Conservative banner? Have we changed?

The answer is simple, and it has always been the County Way. We judge people by their character. Period.

I don’t care about religion, gender, race, colour, sexual preference – but then I’m a child of the 60s. I only care about character. Are you real? Are you genuine? That’s all that counts.

The second story may upset you a bit, but give it some thought.

Everyone looks for generalities. (I’m waving my fake certificate up high now.)

When you come home from work and your loving spouse (who has not yet realized you washed a dish and moved your underwear, and should deserve a Medal of Honour) asks you how your day went? Guaranteed you’re going to say: “I had this complete a**h*** in the shop.”

Never mind that you had dozens of great customers that day. The one thing you pull out of your ‘day bag’ is that one jerk. It’s human nature. And so it is with our relationships in the County.

You meet one jerk ‘from away’ and that colours your whole perception of the day. That’s generalization at work. But it’s not necessarily real. As a Bloomfield business owner, I hear ‘Tourist Horror Stories’ (©Stephen King) every day. But do the a**h*** run our lives? No. Throw them away. The act of some drunk bachelorette or some self-empowered corporate dick is not representative of the whole.

Sometimes (and this may cost you money if you check into my website: Stevedoesn’treallyknowwhathe’stalkingaboutbut wouldliketomakemoney.com) people are just dicks. Not everybody. Just the dicks.

By the same token, I talked to a County ‘newcomer’ who said, “Oh, we’ve been here for two years, and we finally met a TRUE County person!”

It was at a Halloween dance, and the ‘true County person’ was dressed in overalls, rubber boots and a straw hat. Wow. Two years, and you finally found someone who dresses like County folk.

Perception. Generalities. Can we ever be just One? Not likely. But, if you think like me – the fun is in the journey.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Angela says:

    The county got him young and raised him right.

  2. gilles says:

    My illusions have been shattered. What? You say Mr County was not born in The County? Oh no! So, you don’t need to have three generations in the ground to be rightfully considered “County folk”? The truth is: you never needed that history. If you decided to move here because you love The County, then in my book(unpublished) you are genuine County.

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