What are you afraid of?



Question mark
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I’m a big fan of discovery-driven essays – a free-form flow of thoughts and ideas, a winding – but driven – stream of thought, trickling at first, then pushing through the rapids, only to find a great body of water at the end. Or sometimes, the river dries up, or pours forth into a bog.

I’m not sure what the bog would represent. I do so love my imagery.

Anyway, this is one of those, and it was spurred on by a simple question: “What are your phobias or peeves?”

This question came to me as I was staffing the Peer Helping office in the learning commons of the library. The asker was an international student who needed to get responses for an English language assignment. And after attempting to explain that fears and annoyances very different ideas, I tried to tackle the main question.

And I came up blank. At first.

I sat there, going, “Well, I… Hmm… Huh…”, making for a very poor language-based conversation. This prompted my interviewer to try to help me out.


“No, not really. It’s more… uh… well…”

“Ghosts? Ghosts?”

I wasn’t making this easy on her. I couldn’t think of the easy answers. I’m not afraid of creepy crawlies or snakes – I used to pick giant millipedes out of cages and put them on children’s arms at the Telus World of Science. I’m not afraid of public speaking  (clearly), and I haven’t really grappled enough with death at all to be calm or afraid about it. Heights. Heights? Well, not really. I’m fine with a tall height so long as I’m secure – so long as there’s a guardrail, a pane of glass, some layer of protection. If there isn’t though…

La Question
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So I tried to explain to a novice English speaker what vertigo meant. This involved a perhaps too lengthy visual elaboration of me finger-walking to the edge of the table, looking down, and having my hand gyrate (as if dizzy), then fall to its untimely demise. She didn’t understand the word dizzy, so I put my hands to my temples and swam my head around like a dancing drunk. The demonstration was perhaps less than effective communication.

I tried again. I thought about feverish nightmares from years and years ago – of blowing the big hockey game and letting everyone down, of a brick locker-room building o

ozing with acrid yellow-orange slime. But they weren’t as immediate as the fear I spoke without even thinking about it:

I’m afraid people will think I’m a bad person.


People are driven by their hopes and their fears, and right when I thought I had confronted and extinguished many of my own phobias, something like that shows up. Though it has always been there; I just haven’t framed it as being a fear before.

It’s not the same as I want to be a good person, because I’m afraid people will think I’m a bad person is all about other people’s impressions – it’s an external appearance. It’s what made me feel so precarious and uneasy after the kissing-the-drunk-girl-at-the-party incident. It’s what often holds me back (more-so in previous years) from complimenting women on how they look on a given day – don’t want to be seen as a sleaze. It contributes to being less of a risk-taker than I’d like, of leaning toward my Woody Allen character and away from Adventure Man.

Woody Allen
Cover of Woody Allen

If people see me as a bad person, as someone less than moral, they’re less likely to talk to me when they need someone to listen to them. They’re less likely to trust me, to want to work with me. And heck, I’m a representative for Christianity in a city that is apparently one of the least religious places in North America.

Fears aren’t meant to be rational. I know I’m a decent individual who still has a long way to grow and improve, but who wants to become better. Who wants to love more deeply and broadly. And I’m happy to have a conscience, that little feeling warning me if what I’m doing feels… like I’m stepping onto the wrong path. And I’m grateful to be involved in theatre, where I can explore those wrong paths and learn about them, in character, in safe and interesting ways, without needing to live them in my own life.

But it’s true, as much as I also worry that I am too bland or timid or plaid or what-have-you, I do worry that people will think I’m a bad person. This isn’t vanity, I don’ t think… it feels more like a desire to communicate myself as accurately as I can. I don’t think I’m a bad person. Most of the time. Do I screw up sometimes? Yes. Have I hurt people? Of course. There are ongoing situations right now that I’m concerned I am being a negative party to.

(‘Being a negative party to.’ Wow. Come, join me in the bushes as we watch the Spotted Andrew resort to legalize in his attempts to avoid his predators.)

Discovery essays are also prone to tangents.

Anyway, I don’t have a great resolving statement for you; it’s something I’m working through. But I can see where this phobia – heck, I’ll call it a peeve as well – can steer me away from where I want to go. So it’s worth keeping an eye on.


After I answered her question, the international student surprised me with beautiful, eloquent English:

“I don’t think you’re a bad person at all.”

I don’t know why I felt so relieved to hear that.

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Why you should become a Peer Helper

Peer HelpingI am here to make a public service suggestion for all my fellow students returning to UVic:

Become a Peer Helper.

Seriously. Don’t know what it is? I’ll tell you. Don’t have the skillset? We’ll train you. Want to become a better person, a better friend? Become a Peer Helper.

You can apply here: http://peerhelping.uvic.ca/involved.html

We peer helpers are trained to provide basic counselling. This means learning how to listen. How to support. How to have tact. How to help someone get through a difficult time in their life. And while, yes, we staff two offices – one in the SUB, and one in the library – I’ve found I use all these skills far more in the real world than anywhere else, be it by consoling a distressed roommate, listening to a friend, or counselling a sibling.

I have become a better and more attentive listener (crucial for my acting), become a better confidant, and become a better friend. I have counselled strangers in the grips of depression. I have made a difference in people’s lives.

We are all also trained in the life skills of time management, how to study, how to write exams, and other areas so that we can help people as best we can.

The main focus of the program is to train you, and me, and all peer helpers, to have the skills and abilities to emotionally and academically support the people around us. Isn’t that worthwhile?

The requirements: We go on an awesome weekend training retreat in early September to an absolutely beautiful camp. After that, you staff an office for an hour a week, go to weekly training (‘microskills’) for an hour and a half each week at a time that fits your schedule, and do some committee stuff. For example, on the International committee this term, I’ve spent an hour each week at the ELC Study Centre on campus, helping students with their English. Other committees put on free workshops, create free coffeehouse meeting places for students, and other ventures. So, not too tough on the scheduling.

The program has the potential to be an absolute blessing in your life, and I really do hope you can join me in being a part of it.

So join up!        http://peerhelping.uvic.ca/involved.html .

If possible, aim to do so before the end of March. Let me know if you have any more questions.

Thank you!

Why I finally got myself a cellphone.

A Motorola DynaTAC 8000X from 1984. This phone...
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I have held off getting a cellphone for all my life, until today.

Why? Well, a few reasons, really. Financially, I feel really averse to monthly subscriptions – instances where money is leaving my account without me having made a conscious decision to do so. Pay-as-you-go plans seemed to be a possibility, but I resisted.

Socially, the inconveniences haven’t been too inconvenient. Sure, a few times people have missed busses and I’ve been left waiting for them, but I figured that just meant people were learning to be punctual. 😛

Besides, there are negative social costs to cellphones, not the least of which is when they go off in the middle of a class, rehearsal, or show. (I work in theatre). And goodness knows, my days are jam-packed – I don’t need to sit around, waiting for someone to call in order to have places to be pretty much every evening. Also, up until this past year, my roommates had a landline which I paid a little into to use as my phone as well. But I’ve been off the grid since last April, aside from being able to phone out with Skype.

But, professionally, not having a phone is downright unprofessional. Not having a number people can contact me at is a serious issue, and I understood that. But still I resisted with some internal stubbornness, some gut-heavy nervous reaction that I still don’t really understand. Maybe I enjoyed being different to the people around me. Maybe I’m worried about any step that pushes me into living a less simple life.

So what brought me around? What made me finally go to the nearby 7-11 (their ‘Speak Out! Wireless‘ has the best pay-as-you-go plan around these parts) and purchase my cellphone? My morals.

Last week, I realized that if I have a phone, people can contact me if they need someone to talk to. If I don’t have a phone, they can’t do that. So, for that greater chance that I might help someone in need, that pushed me over the edge of my indecision.

I discovered that it would be against my ethics NOT to have a phone. Andrew Wade, welcome to the 1990’s.

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