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.