Saturday, 21 November 2015

I Didn't Learn How to Breathe Until I Was Sixteen

I have an anxiety problem. To some people that might not mean a lot, others might understand. Everyone has anxiety, that is just a fact. Anxiety keeps us from walking into busy streets. It pushes us to prepare for the future and protect ourselves. In nature, anxiety is what keeps prey animals from being eaten. The deer hears a rustle in the bushes and lifts its head slowly. Its heart pounds faster and faster, ready to sprint away in a burst of panicked uncertainty. We were once prey animals, that impulse stuck.

It is so hard to describe a feeling. Like describing a colour to a blind man, feelings transcend our language. John Green once said, "I think the reason humans first invented metaphors is to describe our pain. It's the only way we possibly can." I will try my best.

There are really two kinds of anxiety, at least in my experience. The first kind lives in the body. In the chest. In the throat. Pinpricks behind the eyes. Pounding through a beating heart. Seeping through veins until it inhabits every inch of your being. It is the white hot creeping feeling that festers inside the lungs, reaching its greedy hands around your neck. Tighter and tighter. This kind of anxiety is manageable. The second kind lives in the mind.

I wrote this post for a reason. Not to explain these feelings, or to cling to some shred of empathy. I know that life is hard for everyone and we all face character-defining problems. Attention is not the point, I would rather just keep this to myself. The reason I wrote this post is to explain the most misunderstood part of my identity: Drama.

"Matthew Beard, that try-hard drama kid. He's always so into everything, like sometimes he just needs to relax. Dude this is a high school drama class, honestly just stop. He's so stuck-up in his own little world, sooo pretentious. What a drama nerd."

The truth is, drama is the most therapeutic thing in the world for me. It dulls the pain. It lets me stop thinking for a few moments. My brain stops latching on for dear life and just lets go. One moment in the drama room is worth a year of anxiety therapy. It is more effective than all of the deep breathing, calming exercises. More relaxing than meditation, or mindfulness, or any other "coping strategy". Imagine if you found a place that made your most crippling problems go away. Wouldn't you cling to it?

Improvisation taught me to get out of my head. It gives me permission to turn off anxiety and live in the moment. For some people that is an expression. I mean it literally. My brain has an really hard time existing in the present, grounded moment. Character work taught me that everyone is guided by something. Everyone has their own story, the reasons that they became the person they are today. I found humility in my problems and understanding of others. Clown taught me how to experience the world like brand new. I could exist without any judgement, insecurity or ego. Those are the most peaceful moments of my life.

To anyone else who suffers from anxiety problems, I hope you find your place of peace. It will get better, even if it doesn't seem like it now.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Daily Dose of Stupid: Parabolas

The interview ends very well. I was polite and charming, yet confident with all my answers. The man on the other side of the desk smiles, puts down my resume, and says "Well Mr. Beard, this is quite impressive. Your resume shows you're a hard worker, your references were all fantastic, and quite frankly you've been a delight to talk to. But there is one more thing..." An ominous smirk grows over his face.

He hands me a small piece of paper.

I panic. My heart begins to pound and sweat drips down from my face. What? Why is he asking me this? I stammer out an awkward "umm, uhh.." as my future unemployer grins devilishly. He knows that I'm stuck. He can see the desperation in my eyes. I stumble to spit out some kind of an answer and hope that it's close enough. "Well, I would assume based on that, that umm.. k = 7?"

His grin turns to a dark, somber frown. With a look of disgust he stands up, hands me my resume, and sighs a heavy breath. "I'm sorry to say this Matthew, but there's no place for you at this company. Quite frankly this is just sad. Everybody knows that understanding mathematical functions is important for real life. You should've listened to your high school math teachers."
This is the only insane situation I could ever imagine where that could ever be true. I mean seriously, how many adults have ever needed to plot the points of an exponential function or solve for the vertex of a parabola? And if they did, how many would've just used a god damn computer to do it?!

Teachers and schools teach students how to get around irrelevant, self-constructed walls. Every math problem is preparing kids for the real world. For their view of "employment". An unlimited number of insignificant problems that must be completed or else ______. If they want to train future employees to be mindless drones, that's their prerogative. But it doesn't have to be that way. I see an economy driven by creative thinkers. I see a question with more than one answer. I see that one day, all social classes might love their jobs and feel passionate about what they do. That has to start at the bottom. With young people using their brains and their passions fully.

Parabolas are stupid. Think about that.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Daily Dose of Stupid: Fire Drills

Now don't get me wrong, fires are bad. I'm sure most people would agree that being trapped inside a burning building would be just no fun. I would not join the "stop drop and roll" fan club, and I do not spend my Saturday nights gasping for air as my lungs fill with deadly smoke (anymore). Being consumed by a hellish blaze of death and destruction is simply not on my bucket list.

That being said, aren't fire drills almost as frustrating?

Imagine a place where you are completely at peace. Inhale, and imagine a healing white light moving through you. Exhale, and let all your problems release out of your being. Hear the soothing melodies of your inner thoughts and simply relax. You are safe. You are in control. Now I want you to-EUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

You jolt out of your seat as an explosion of sound bursts out from the hallways. An endless monotone howl rings through your ears as you scramble to get your senses back. All around you, people are grabbing priceless belongings and rushing out of the room. You realize that you have to move, now. This is it.

You dart out into the hall and are quickly pushed into the herd. Like a package on a conveyor belt, you are pulled closer and closer to the blaring siren. The ear-splitting booming gets louder and louder until finally you make it past. The alarm is quiet but it still leaves a piercing ringing in your ears. Now you are completely surrounded by other escapees from this simulated tinderbox. Cramped tightly into such a confined space, you desperately try not to bump into anyone. The very air itself feels cramped and fleeting with each breath.

Finally, after four grueling and vertigo-inducing flights of stairs, you reach your destination. The gurgling mass of bodies has digested you and spits you out. Just a few feet away, the front door leads to outside. A shining white light glistens through them, promising freedom and safety outside. Your heart leaps. You're almost there. Imagine walking out that door and running into the wide open spaces. Feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you escape from the claustrophobic nightmare behind you. Soon, you will be an eagle soaring freely through the skies, going wherever your heart takes you.

 As you reach the front doors, and step out into your brand you life. it hits you. It's cold. It's freezing cold. You probably should've thought to bring a sweater.

Fire drills? Pretty stupid.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Daily Dose of Stupid: Note Taking

At synapses, the homologous chromosomes may exchange genetic information. Pairs of homologous chromosomes line up along the equatorial plate of the cell. Homologous chromosomes separate and move to opposite poles of the cell. Cyctokenisis meoiotic divisngions prophzeae meatjlakdfkanvjdlaghsjdfadakljflkhfa.ntjgsm vm,kalfdho...

What the hell?! Are those even words? What was I writing? My page is a chaotic mess of pointless scribbles and useless doodles. I drew a tornado, a few happy faces, and a cube. Perfect, this will help me pass the test. What was I thinking...

So there I was, sitting in biology, ready to face the day. It was 8:10, and at this point my brain was still in a comatose state that no amount of shitty coffee could shake. Not that Mrs. Bell allowed coffee in her class anyways. To make matters worse, I have the worst seat in the room. Dead centre in the middle column of the middle row, surrounded completely by the most wonderful acquaintances. This class couldn't get by sooner. I have drama next.

Mrs. Bell cheerfully bursts into the room and chimes out a question about how great we're all doing this morning. "Amazing Mrs. Bell! Happy to be here!!" Says no one, ever. She strolls on up to her black Acer laptop projected onto the smartboard and boots up our lesson for the day. Her desktop wallpaper today is a creepy neon green bug, glaring back at everyone with it's beating eyes. So it's gonna be one of those days.

Human Karyotypes in Cellular Meiosis

Perfect. My slim, plastic ballpoint pen slides across the page. It smoothly skims along with each letter, rising and falling as I race to scratch down the information. I can already smell the ink seeping into the page. The next slide pops up, and it's a big one. The class lets out a heavy groan as Mrs. Bell leads us through a slide filled to the brim with plain black text. Come on, at least throw a little colour in there.

At this point I can't even hear what she's saying. She's going on about the effects of blah blah onto the blah blah, but my mind has one goal. Write. This. Note. Just get the information down as fast as you can and be done with it. Faster and faster my hand jitters across the page, scribing out these thoughts like Shakespeare with ink and parchment. Faster. I am the hare, I will win this race. I am an artist, and this page is my canvas. So help me god, I will get this note written down before anyone else in this room! Part of me is still processing Bell's insistent chattering, but my task is clear. I'm so close. Just one more sentence to go... I'm almost free... DONE!

In an act of true triumph and glory, I unclick my pen and hurl it back onto my desk. I am flooded with feelings of success and power, as if I just climbed Mount Everest with nothing but a ball point pen to guide me. This must be how the CEOs of Google feel all the time. I am commander and king, destroyer and creator! This note is finally finished.

To be honest, this happens everyday. Why do we have to go through this? Just make a photocopy of the information, it's not that hard. I refuse to believe that students learn more by taking notes, I know I don't.

Note taking? Pretty stupid.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Daily Dose of Stupid: Breaking the Streak

Humans are silly. We love to get attached to things, no matter how small or stupid. It's the reason we like cute little puppies, have a favourite mug to drink coffee out of, and why we all fell in love with a stuffed animal when we were young. We are so desperate for love and connection in this world that we can become best friends with an inanimate object if we try. Human beings will get attached to pretty much anything. And sometimes, that's just stupid.

It's 10:57 right now on a Saturday night. I'm tired, and quite frankly ready for bed. I don't expect more than a few people to read this at all. Those kind supporters reading out of respectful pity or caring sympathy. I'm lying in bed ready to fall asleep, but still here I am! Why? It's not for those lovely people, and it's not for the possibility of getting more. Honestly, it's because I named this stupid segment "Daily Dose of Stupid" and I intend to keep the streak going.

Because I'm human. I've formed a connection to this arbitrary rule, and if it were broken it would lose all of it's imaginary meaning. That would be a disaster! So, to anyone who might have made it through these midnight ramblings, goodnight and thank you.

Breaking the streak? Stupid enough to keep me awake. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Daily Dose of Stupid: Hallway Traffic Jam

You would think that after two hundred thousand years, humans would have learned how to walk in groups to different places. We put a man on the moon, revolutionized communication through the internet, we even invented the Dorito Taco for god's sake! But we still haven't figured out how to walk from math class to biology without being uncomfortably awkward. I'm sure that when humanity took its first step, it was in the way of someone else, and was met with "oh, sorry.."

Lets take a walk together through a typical day at a typical high school. It's 12:54, and I'm standing by the door of my math class, along with twenty four other kids just dying to escape. I've sat through ninety minutes of relentless repetitive drone work and I'm impatient to leave. Actually scratch that, eighty nine minutes. The bell rings and the floodgates open, releasing swarms of bumbling teenagers into the narrow hallways. We are all quivering gladiators thrown into the arena.

I turn to the right and take a few steps before I meet the slow march of grade nines from Mr Hughes applied math class. Ughhhhhhhhhh. I trudge behind them, trying to dart in and out of the ones heading the opposite direction. Left, right, sideways, seemingly randomly they fill as much space in the hallway as possible. Each interaction is an uncoordinated nightmare. I haven't even made it to the stairs...

One of them heads straight for me, apparently unaware of the frustrating game of chicken he just signed us both up for. Did he think he could pass right through me? What was his goal here? Once he gets closer, I step to the left. Like a half-witted mirror, he so politely does the exact same thing in the same direction. Time seems to stop. We make eye contact. "Sorry." Can you guess what happens next? I step to the right to get out of the way, and Mr Helpful here does the same. God damn it. Back and fourth, this dance goes on. Left, right, left, right, twice to the right, back to the left. An eloquent ballet of social anxiety.

We are hundreds of airplanes, circling over the landing strip just waiting for our chance to escape, desperately trying not to collide with anyone else. We are a hive of angry bees buzzing around our self-made prisons. We are an unsafe, unstable fifteen car pileup on the highway, because one "nice guy" held the door for someone else who just had to let him go first! We have a clear set of rules for driving, why doesn't that apply here? I think half of these people should have their walking licence revoked! THIS SHOULD NOT BE THIS DIFFICULT.

... I don't enjoy walking through the halls at school. Nobody really knows what they're doing, it's just plain awkward. There really could be a better way of doing this if we all just agreed to cut the crap and get to where we need to go.

Hallway traffic jams? Pretty stupid.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Daily Dose of Stupid: The Automatic Fan

In my bathroom, in the top left corner of my shower, there is a small black hole in the wall. It's about a foot long, it's maybe six feet high up, and was no doubt designed by Satan himself.

It's mid October now, and it's getting cold outside. My apartment's heat isn't working, and apparently neither does the concept of "indoors". Every morning I wake up to the buzzing of my alarm and one step closer to hypothermia. For about ten minutes before I get up, I lie in bed shivering under the blankets, trying to convince myself that anything is worth facing that stinging chill. Yet somehow everyday my brain defrosts and I roll out of bed and towards the bathroom.

Somehow, if it were even possible, it is colder inside the bathroom. Maybe it's not as well insulated. Maybe it's closer to the outside of the apartment. Maybe I just imagine that it's colder, because my frigid, frozen heart can't stand the sight of that automatic fan. I despise that malicious mechanical monster that lives in my home.

But still everyday, every morning, I turn the metal knob on my shower almost all the way towards the H. Getting it to that perfect hot temperature. In that moment, I am free. My bleak, bitter feelings are washed away, and replaced with a blast of warm tropical ecstasy. The cold is gone, and time seems to stop as the steaming water washes away life's problems. If heaven is real, it exists at 6:54 on weekday mornings. But like any moment of happiness in this godless world, it wasn't meant to last.


The last sound I hear before my entire world comes crashing down around me, and everything I once loved turns to a frozen hellish nightmare. It comes without warning, sucking the joy out of the room and taunting me with it's sickening wailing.


Have I mentioned I don't like this automatic fan? It's design is really stupid. Basically it has a built in tool that measures humidity in the air. Once it reaches a certain point, it turns on the fan and cycles in fresh air. The thing is, it only works when it shouldn't. When it's cold, humidity isn't a problem. Not only does it fail at the one thing a fan should do, but it manages to ruin the entire process of showering.

Automatic fan? Pretty stupid.

The Art of Procrastination

Ahh screw it, I'll write this blog tomorrow...

No one is gonna read this anyways.