Adult-ish

For context, I’m writing this while eating Fruit Gushers.

Adulting is a verb that isn’t really a word that a lot of my friends use now. It’s a weird one, because there is no real context around it. Lots of things can count as “adulting.”

Buying a piece of furniture instead of having it donated from a family friend? Adulting.

Remembering tax season before a concerned call from your parents? Definitely adulting.

Being in bed by 11 pm on a Friday? Textbook adulting.

At least, that’s what I understand from my friends. At the same time, we’re all still adjusting to the “real world” after college and university. We’re finding our bearings, pursuing our callings and doing big things.

That’s why it’s okay to be adult-ish. Yes, keep making those strides living independently. But it’s okay to still be a kid, or make a mistake. We’re all going through it at the same time, which makes for a great support network.

It’s a lot more fun to celebrate the successes of your friends than to compare where you are with them. I have friends who are now managers, married, kids on the way, houses bought, dream vacations accomplished, and goals well on the way to being realized. Just because I’m not there in some of those aspects, doesn’t mean I’m failing in the “real world.”

It means I’m still learning this whole thing. I’m forging my own path and trying my best. Sometimes that’s a path that has entire nights of playing video games, or eating an impossibly high number of chicken nuggets. But it’s okay, because the path keeps going. And I keep getting better at being adult-ish.

One Year With My Bracelet

In honour of #BellLetsTalk

It’s been a year since I started wearing a #BellLetsTalk bracelet. I got it from my friend’s brother, and he probably didn’t think twice about it. He happened to have extras, and I got one. I put it on and now haven’t taken it off for a year.

Originally, the bracelet was just for me. A reminder of my own mental health struggles. A reminder to strive to recognize them and challenge myself to work on taking care of myself. In the words of Aziz Ansari: a reminder to treat yo’ self.

I love #BellLetsTalk day. The energy, the tweets, the social media posts. The best part might be seeing everyone talk about mental health and the importance of those conversations. The real conversations about how we perceive, treat, and understand mental health in our every day life.

Typically I tweet A LOT on this day. Because tweeting and puns and raising money all seem like a wonderful combination that I can do pretty well. Each year, people more well versed than me in mental health have the same refrain coming out of this day:

Keep the conversation going.

While I have some people in my life that I would regularly go to for conversations around mental health (and I am SO thankful for them), something new happened. The bracelet provided a conversation starter with people that I don’t think I would have been able to previously.

My stepdad asked me about the bracelet, which led to a conversation about how much mental health has changed since his time growing up. He was taught to “suck it up” and that showing emotion was weakness. It made me more thankful for the way I was raised by my mom, where it was okay to not be okay.

I had a conversation with some military personnel recently. They brought  up an area of mental health I didn’t frequently think of: PTSD. Seeing others suffer from it, they were nervous to feel the same effects potentially down the line.

Other students, staff, and friends that I would not think to have conversations with around mental health reached out. The conversations kept happening, and it was tremendous.

This year, I’m working on being more authentic. This blog is part of that, and speaking more openly about when I’m not doing okay is also a part of it. That’s why I’ll keep the bracelet on, keep the conversations going, and keep learning. The more I can learn and understand myself, the better I can support those around me.

Another reference. High School Musical – We’re all in this together. *cue the dance break*

If you’re reading this and ever want to chat, drop me a line. I’d love to listen.

Bell Let’s Talk page – http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

Canadian Mental Health Association – http://www.cmha.ca

The Wedding Dancefloor

If you watch the dancefloor at a wedding, you’ll find love actually is all around us.

The opening to one of my favourite holiday movies, Love Actually, talks about how messages of love can be found all through Heathrow Airport. Not necessarily grand in nature, but pure forms of love between partners, friends, families and the like.

I find something similar on the dancefloor at a wedding.

So many different versions of love all sharing the same space. Weddings get me every single time. The sight of the love between two people being celebrated in the way they want just lightens the spirit. The first dance between newlyweds is an incredible sight to see.

But there are so many other shows of love and affection on that dancefloor. The father-daughter dance, the mother-son dance, and any combination of those kinds of dances. To witness the connection of a parent and child on one of the happiest days of their lives is precious.

There are old couples out there, risking busting a hip as they bust a move, reminiscing on their own wedding days and falling more in love with the person they’re dancing with. There are the young kids, out past their bedtime, just loving the sugar rush they get from the wedding cake.

The dancefloor is full of new couples and old friends, and all of them becoming new friends as they gather to boogey down and share in laughter and celebrate the newly married couple.

Wedding ceremonies are usually the tearjerkers. For me, I will always see the love on the dancefloor.

And I’ll probably be dancing, too.

 

Sometimes I Write.

Thoughts on writing.

I write.
Sometimes I write for me.
Sometimes I write for you.
Sometimes I write just to make sure my brain remembers how to make the right shapes on the page in the right order.

But I write.
Sometimes I write for me.
Because for me, writing helps me understand me.
Who the hell am I?
What the hell do I stand for?
Why is this getting so dramatic suddenly?
That’s just who I am.

Sometimes I write for me to find my voice.
Then I remember I have plenty of voices.
Indoor voice, outside voice.
Performing voice, serious-talk voice.
I’ve been making other voices for years.
All for a laugh, and because I can.
My voice is always there, but sometimes it sounds like other voices.
No matter how loud or soft, my voice is still there.

Sometimes I write for me.
But other times, I write for you.
You, the invisible you.
The future crowd of people waiting to hear me speak.
The imaginary crowd at a comedy club, wanting to be entertained.
The person reading this on your iPhone, iPad, laptop.
The friends who helped mould me, I in turn write to amuse you.
The family who raised me, I write to make you proud.
I write because I can, a privilege given to me by my upbringing, class, and societal status.

I write to remind myself that I’m still learning.
It took me three tries to spell “privilege” correctly up there.
Thanks, computer.

Sometimes I write for me.
Sometimes I write for you.
Sometimes I write nonsense. Sentences that no one has ever constructed before.
“John Kennedy sure looked good in that tutu out on the rugby field.”
“No, I think the only thing I want from Thanksgiving dinner is the brussel sprouts”
You know, things like that.

Sometimes I write for me.
Sometimes I write for you.
But still, I will write.
Right?

We Laugh Because It Helps

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we can laugh. That may be when we need it most.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel okay to laugh. After a difficult time, it can be a long time until things make you laugh.

A conversation with my best friend recently had us reflecting on where we turn to when things don’t make sense. Saturday Night Live, hosted by Dave Chapelle, was the first time both of us had laughed hard in that week.

Actually, on the Wednesday I watched an 18-minute compilation of Vines of toddlers doing dumb things. I laughed at that. But SNL was the first time I had laughed at what had happened. Time had passed, and some of the brightest minds in comedy made it all make sense.

If you don’t know me well, comedy is one of my “things.” You know how people have things? Like knitting, or curling, or making macaroons? Mine is comedy, same as my best friend. So we know something is off when it’s hard to laugh.

So in times of need, we look to the best. (You may have different bests. Please tell me who they are, I love learning more comedians. But these are some of mine)

George Carlin, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Louis C.K., Robin Williams, John Mulaney, Hannibal Burress, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock. In another medium, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Fallon. All different, all geniuses, and all able to do something wonderful: cut through the noise of every day life and explain what is happening in the world around us, and why it’s still okay to laugh.

Dave Chapelle reminded me it’s okay to laugh. He managed, through skits and his monologue, remove a lot of the noise. Chapelle used his voice, ideas, and humour to make things clearer. He didn’t fix anything. He just reminded us that we’re people, and it’s okay to laugh when we’re scared.

We laugh because if we don’t, this world will eat us, spit us back out, and go for seconds.

I like comedy. It is to me, one of the weirdest and most pure things imaginable. Take a microphone, your brain, your body and your words, and go make people laugh. Being successful at it and making someone laugh after a tough day, or letting someone forget their problems for just a moment, is like heroin.* It is the best feeling on the planet, and one I hope to keep doing forever in some capacity or another.

*Mom, I have no idea what heroin is really like. It’s just a saying.

I’ve read here that in America post-election, comedy clubs are becoming less and less “funny” and more of a political discussion. That’s not what I’m here to defend, or attack. What I am saying instead is to remember to laugh. Things are scary, confusing, and dark at times. But laughter really is somehow the best medicine.

Find the funny. Maybe not in what scares, concerns, or frightens you. But at least find it in vines of kids being dumb. The world has, and always will, need to laugh.

Stop and Smile

My mom stops and talks to everyone. It’s embarrassing, and inspiring.

There are roughly seventy thousand people in Sault Ste. Marie, and my mother seemed to know every single one of them growing up. Each trip to the mall took for-EVER. Stopping to talk to her third grade teacher, then someone my uncle dated in high school, then someone who used to work at the restaurant she worked at.

Seriously. All of the time, stopping and talking to people. It drove me absolutely crazy.

It’s something I still bug her about to this day. In fact, I relished in touring her around Nipissing University on the day of my convocation. At that time, our roles were reversed. It was me stopping to talk to a person I had a history class with, someone I met at a hockey game, a former student and their partner. A big flip-switch-reverse I pulled on my mom.

Now I kind of get why she did it though. The more I look back on why my mom would and still does always stop, it makes more sense. People love to feel connected.*

*Editorial note: I’m 24 and 5/6ths. I’m not a wise old man. I have no idea what the meaning of life is, what I’m even doing, or how to properly calculate my taxes. This is just something I’ve picked up on.

She always remembers the details. She remembers kids names and even birthdays. My mom remembers jobs, passions, interests. Everything. And it could just be a northern Ontario thing to do, but she makes people feel important. Needed. Welcomed.

Isn’t that what we all want? It’s why a simple smile can make someone’s day, as opposed to walking around with a frown in desperate need of being turned upside-down. Why we should ask “how’s it going,” and actually want to give a crap how it IS going. It’s why it can feel somewhat devastating to be alone, but can be turned around when you feel that connection with someone.

The human connection is what we can all work towards. It’s a smile, a wave, a conversation. It’s holding the damn door.

I have days where I’m miserable too because surprise, I’m a human being and not a vertically-challenged, pun-spewing robot. When I do, a simple connection with another person through any of those means can start to turn that day around.

My mom, to this day, tells me to go “be brilliant.” I used to believe that was about being smart. It’s not, really. It’s about being a person that can brighten the days of others, just like she does.

So the message, if I have one, is this: Wave at a neighbour. Make a funny face at a baby. Tell your friend their hair looks nice. Call your grandparents. In the end, it’s all about the connections we make that make us feel like humans.

Oh, if you couldn’t tell, I’m a momma’s boy. And my mom can so beat up your mom.

Thanks, Obama (For Real)

The first leader to ever grab my attention is on his way out. So a bit of thanks is in order.

Look, I think we can all pretty much agree that the 2016 American election is like a dumpster fire where the dumpster is also made of fire and things keep catching fire. We just sit here in Canada, eating our better bacon and hoping that the fire doesn’t spread too far.

So instead of talking about that and my fears of this incoming hurricane on Tuesday, I’ll instead talk about the guy on his way out and why he’ll always be one of my favourites.

Freeze frame. “Evan, I don’t believe Obama has been that great. He hasn’t done X, missed out on Y, and don’t even get me started on Z.”

That’s cool. That’s your opinion, and that’s cool! For me, Obama is and always will be more than the results of his presidency.

For me, he’s the first public leader that I was ever really invested in. The eleventh grade was when politics really stuck for me, and Canadian politics were the tame northern neighbour of whatever was happening south of us. The hilarious-in-the-wrong-way George Bush was on his way out and I was curious as to who my parents would make fun of next. Then I heard Obama speak.

Hearing this man speak of certain values to hold dear like hope and integrity struck a nerve. This man had poise, a natural charisma one can only dream of in a leader, and spoke with honesty and intensity. So, I tracked his campaign.

I became an election junkie. The TV at home went from watching sports highlights to coverage of the democratic primaries. A CNN time limit had to be instituted in my house. I stayed up, alone in my basement, to watch his historic election and skipped school to see his inauguration. He became someone I looked to as an example of how to be a leader while I was trying to become a better one.

As I got older, he became someone I looked to as an example for lots of other things. I saw him and Michelle as relationship goals long before that phrase peppered our Instagram feeds. He’s a man who continues to exude poise through any attack on him, and managed to raise two wonderful kids.*

*I assume they’re wonderful, I haven’t met them. They seem super cool though, and if they’re reading this let’s be friends.

White House photographer Pete Souza shared some of his favourite shots of Obama, which spurred this train of thought from me. They depict a caring father and husband, quick with a joke and also a man who has endured serious challenges through eight years. I’ve added them to the end of this post.

So thanks, Obama. No really, thanks. For inspiring me to be a leader. For giving me a goal to shoot for in terms of being a family man. And for just being so cool. Whoever gets elected on Tuesday, I know it won’t be the same.

Photos courtesy Pete Souza, White House

Rest easy, friend.

To one of the most authentic, genuine, and hilarious people I will ever know.

It doesn’t really make sense when things are left unfinished. It makes a lot less sense when it seems like a person’s work isn’t done before they are gone from us. It doesn’t seem possible that Brook Doseger’s work was done here.

I’ve been tossing the words around in my head for a couple days now, trying to describe the feelings that are all present; It’s been even harder to find the right words to describe Brook and all she has done for people.

The feelings started as shock and anger, followed by just an overwhelming sadness. How could the hilarious girl from my geography classes be gone? How could such a terrible thing happen to a wonderful person? As days passed, a tremendous amount of stories of her made way for celebrating the person she was and always will be.

Touching tributes continue to flood social media about her, and it swells my heart. All of these people influenced by one woman who was just doing her best every damn day. To those who knew her best, her family and closest friends, my sincerest condolences and thoughts. In a world with too few bright spots at times, Brook was always a light.

Talking with people who knew Brook well in the past days, the same things come forward to paint a picture of her so vividly. She was a kind soul who did all she could to support and help those in need. An invested and dedicated teacher. An unmatchable energy and passion for life, she lived with a song in her heart. A caring friend, and on top of all of these things, was authentically herself.

It was her writing, and her consistent prodding about “why the hell not” that had me start writing in the first place. I was inspired by her writing. It’s honest, hilarious, and deeply touching. Her authenticity was always at the forefront. She was herself, nobody else, and it made us all love her. There are lessons she was learning for us, and telling to us. Those will always endure.

I went to Boots and Hearts this year, where Brook was working. Once she found out I was going, she messaged me country lyrics I hadn’t actually heard before and promised my first beer would be iced and ready when I got there. I never got that beer because we lost touch that night. I know though that when the time comes, there will be a cold beer and a loud laugh waiting on the other side.

Thank you Brook, for being yourself and sharing that with the world. We miss and love you, and keep that drink on ice.

If you can, please donate to the GoFundMe in Brook’s name:

https://www.gofundme.com/for-our-love-of-brook-2ve5dytk

And please share in her touching writing as well:

https://missbrooktakesontheworld.wordpress.com

An Ode To Cyclists While I’m Driving – A Poem

“But really, what are you doing?”

Bro, really?
Come on man.
I need you
to make
a single decision.
Are you
or are you not
a vehicle.
You obey some laws.
And then not some laws.
Like,
really bro?
You have wheels.
And your hand signals
just don’t help at all.
Either get off the road
or get off your bike.
And walk.
Thanks bro.

Oh also,
if you put
a hockey card
in the spokes,
you go like
so much faster.
You’re welcome.