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My Alternate Timeline Suicide

December 28, 2011 1 comment

My Alternate Timeline Suicide

On December 23rd, Joe Bodolai, known as a former Kids In The Hall and SNL writer, posted his suicide note online, a lengthy and funny summary on his life, his regrets, and what he’s proud of. A love note to the people who cared for him.

“I need to feel the good that I did and whatever good I have ever done for you is enough for me. May you all have the happy lives you deserve. Thank you all for being in my life.”

The whole thing can be found here: http://qualityshows.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/if-this-were-y0ur-last-day-alive-what-would-you-do/ .

Suicide is a hard topic, particularly for me. I have been blessed in my life that, thus far, no one close to me has died. A couple of elderly relatives have passed on, but I had honestly only ever seen them less than a half-dozen times in my life. So death and me, we have yet to butt heads. Which will be an interesting, powerful, and potentially destructive spiritual battle when that occurs. But I know to count my blessings.

Joe Bodolai

Allow me to set the scene. I am a ten year old boy entering church on Sunday morning with my family. I am miserable. Daily. My family are great, but I spend every recess wandering the lot alone, planning escape route scenarios in case that kid decides to pick a fight with me, or envisioning scenes of taunts and teasing. Occasionally imagining what it would be like to be popular.

I wasn’t actually bullied much. But in my head, I felt like the schoolyard, the world, was a hostile force surrounding me, judging me. And I knew, in my heart, that when the inevitable confrontation came… I was a coward. I would run.

So there I am, sitting in church beside my mother. The pastor begins the community prayer. We all bow our heads and close our eyes. He begins, thanking God for all that we have, then opens the prayer to the congregation. An elderly woman stands up and asks for healing for her friend who is in the hospital with cancer. A man stands up and asks for prayer for his wife. I fold over further, burying my face into my hands, between my knees, crush my eyes closed even harder, deciding whether or not to stand up on my chair and ask the community to pray for me. To help me. Tears.

I didn’t stand up. But I did beg God to help me. To change me. To help me change myself into a person I could stand. To stop being such a coward. Wimp. Utterly introverted. To stop being miserable.

That was my moment of transformation. I took stock of who I was and decided I didn’t lke that person. And from then on, I have looked for ways to improve myself, from running to Late French Immersion (and thus, a different elementary school), to – on my first day of late french immersion in grade six – the brave decision to go up to the other boy with no one to talk to and start a conversation. Took all my muster. Became my best friend for two years. To joining rugby in grade eight. To diving headfirst into theatre and other avenues to find an extroverted nature (which I admittedly took too far in high school).

What does this have to do with suicide? Because if I hadn’t had God there, if I hadn’t had a wonderful family, if I HAD been bullied more… without that one moment in my life, I could easily have seen myself, a few more years down the line, as a 14-year-old suicide. Certainly within the realm of possibility. If there are alternate timelines, then there’s at least one of them out there without me in it anymore.

One of the biggest reasons I joined Peer Helping was because the POSSIBILITY existed that I might be able to help someone step away from the edge.

Now, I’m not saying people should be denied that free will decision to end their life in situations of great, increasing, and unending physical pain. But emotional pain… can be overcome. Can be conquered. It can get better. The world is a bounteous and beautiful place and we have so many opportunities to make it better for the people around us.

At the tail end of my time at UVic, I made a movement piece on the subject, approaching one of suicide’s darkest corners – someone who feels they are destroying their loved ones around them. Who feels their death will better the world for not having them in it.

Some more part of my inspiration for building that piece came from this audio clip – the last message someone left before ending their life:

 

Makes me quiver, tear up every time.

In this timeline, in this life, I am so very grateful that I am surrounded by so many marvelous and wonderful people. So glad that I feel deep down that I can be a positive force in this world.

So hopeful that you feel the same.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

Building the Killdozer / Aiming my Life

EDIT: I posted my Marvin Heemeyer / Killdozer monologue here: https://adewade.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/marvin-heemeyer-my-monologue/ .

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, thank you so much Melissa and Janet for your kind and well-thought-out comments on my last post. A full reply deserves a post of its own that I’ll deliver sometime later this month.

How does a pacifistic Christian accurately write from the viewpoint of, and portray, a man who feels compelled by God to build himself a homemade tank and destroy half a town?

This Friday, Intrepid Theatre is holding their third Bring Out Your Dead event, where I am performing a monologue as Marvin Heemeyer, builder of the 75 ton Killdozer that tore through the buildings of his enemies in the small town of Granby, Colorado, in 2004. This shall also be (as I only just realized this morning), the first time I have ever been paid to act (other than as a film extra). I have been paid for my writing, – for performances of Hullaboo and High School Noir – but never before for acting. Well, if you discount Grossology centre stage shows and running around like a supervillain at Science World. 🙂

So this milestone comes with its own pressures, including that unfortunte fear of success that seems so counter-intuitive an idea. Why a fear of success? Because actually getting paid for my crafts really does put me in a career trajectory of potentially doing acting and writing as a living… which, admittedly, is scary, as much as it is also challenging and wonderful and excellent.

To get a sense of ‘Marv the Muffler Man’ and his story, I highly recommend reading the damninteresting.com article on him, and perhaps this Syndicalist recap as well. I’ll wait for ya.

This man is who I am dramatizing – a desperate man who, when faced with corrupt authority figures and injustice in society, went on a crusade to confront the evils of the world. His name is… BATMAN.

Okay, maybe not.

But he is a compelling figure, nonetheless. His aggressors did nothing technically illegal, yet they pushed him out of business and left him without options other than to sell and get the heck out of Dodge. Out of all this (and his fiancee cheating on him and leaving him), he felt inspired by God to build a tank, equip it with guns, and destroy City Hall, the concrete plant, and other buildings (with, oddly enough, a Catholic Church near the end of his list of targets).

As a Christian believer, do I think this was a course of action God really directed him to take? Well, no. But as a Christian, I can really identify with that desire to see a pattern in the world and identify it as a God-given purpose in life. Because we do look for how the higher power may have steered our lives, for what opportunities and challenges may have been deliberately set before us by the Great Almighty.

I know, personally, some options presented before me just seem to ‘click’, like when I signed up for Students for Literacy, or when I acted with David Perry at ThePlace, or put my hat in the ring to be one of next year’s Peer Helping Coordinators. Or auditioned for UVic’s theatre department.

Challenges? Certainly. But they felt like the right stepping stones. So I suppose that I, like Marvin, do feel that sensation that my life has an ideal way it can progress, if I make the right choices, if I follow my gut instincts and trust in the Great Shepherd to take me through the fields.

And whether I agree or disagree with his actions, I feel, as I write this piece, that it’s important to find the overall certainty within Marvin that he felt what he was doing was the right way, was justice… and then introduce little glimmers of uncertainty.

Because believing is all about faith,

and faith requires the possibility of doubt.

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The letter it took me four years to send.

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Confidence.

Confidence is a concept I have grappled with, my whole life long. That ability to believe that yes, gosh darnit, I am good enough for the task, able to slay that dragon, to win that audition, to write that story. To know that, if I don’t currently have the knowledge set, that I can learn it, train it, become it.

The first time I auditioned for UVic’s acting stream, in my interview they asked me what my biggest weakness was. I told them, confidence. That I had been out of the theatre world for a couple of years and I wasn’t certain I would cut the mustard.

I didn’t get in. That time. Fortunately, a trait I did have at the time was the stubborn persistence to try again.

But that failure made me question how I approached life. My former outlook was to look at each possible interaction (auditioning for a show, submitting to a contest, applying for a job), to examine my current abilities, and to see if I matched what was needed for the task. I was confident in my decisions, but shied away from the larger challenges.

Then came the failed audition, and I saw how this mindset made me avoid activities that excited me, but that I wasn’t sure I could do.

“Screw you, confidence.”

So now I take the antagonistic approach and ignore the intellectual conversation of whether or not I think I have the appropriate skillset to do something. Nowadays, I say yes to every opportunity that comes my way that excites me, with two exceptions:

  1. If I am unable to schedule it around all my other awesomeness.
  2. If I have a really, really, REALLY good reason to say no.

As a result? I am a Peer Helping Coordinator, Fine Arts Senator, Impromaniac, finishing up both a BA in Writing and a BFA in Acting, PEAK Study Leader, Astronomy Interpreter, Red Hat Lab Supervisor, ESL Study Centre Volunteer, Children’s Ministry Volunteer, and a number of other titles. I haven’t fit all the requirements for a single job I have landed. And I am learning so much.

The Letter.

Which brings me to The Letter. Ever since my second year in the Writing department, we students have been pushed to submit our works to literary journals. This was seen as something writers did. As a way to get our work known. As a way to motivate us. As a way to get published!

But my own pieces weren’t good enough, surely not.

A couple of years ago when I joined 43Things.com – a site where you list your goals, track your progress, and other people cheer you on – a few of the goals I included were seemingly simple little projects, items to be accomplished in a day. Like submitting already completed works to a literary journal. But my own pieces weren’t good enough, surely not.

Somehow, my just-go-for-it attitude has not carried over to my writing.

Well, today I bundled up three poems, added a contest fee, and sent them off to The Malahat Review. Just like that. And are my poems good enough? Doesn’t matter. The importance is in the doing.

In becoming a confident writer.

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Why you should become a Peer Helper

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

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!

Playing it angry.

February 16, 2010 Leave a comment
Illustration of Othello and Iago
Image via Wikipedia

Two weeks ago in my Peer Helping microskills group, I was asked to create a character to roleplay for this week – an angry individual coming into the Peer Helping office (where we do counselling work). Other helpers had been wondering what to do in such a situation, and asked for some experience.

Being the theatre student, I agreed.

Now, I’ve been trying to limit my mindwork this past week to necessary schoolwork and Iago, because those are the top priorities, but this angry individual kept coming back to me. I made him someone whose relationship was growing more distant, his girlfriend spending less time with him, and while she wasn’t cheating on him, he had just found out she had lied about where she had been, the past weekend, and he didn’t know why she felt she had to do that. And he was afraid that if he brings up the issue, that would become the break-up talk. But if he doesn’t bring up the issue, then he can’t trust her, and without trust, what does a relationship have, really?

So, stuck between two awful streets, he’s left to ponder the inevitability of his losing the woman he loves. Why wouldn’t he be angry? And while he’s not violent, there are hints that he could impulsively lash out, like cornered creatures do when there’s no good option left.

So I performed it, improvised his love for his Marie, his anger (complete with F-bombs), his tense physicalization, his defensiveness, his pain. And it got me to thinking about my own relationship with anger.

I used to be an angry person. AKA – grade 5 and earlier, I was downright miserable, much of the time. But I had a transformational moment, dramatically and intentfully changed who I was over the course of a couple of years, and the anger faded. Sure, I’d still get frustrated from time to time, but no volcanic activity. Well, not much.

I can think of two definitive times in my life when anger took control of me. One, was a punch to the shoulder. Another time, in grade 12, I grabbed someone by the throat and shoved them down into their seat. Yeah. Me. I know. Only two times in the past 20 years, but they are enough to make me, well, fear anger, and try to avoid it as best I can. So this exploration was interesting, to say the least.

(for the record, immediately after the throat-grabbing incident – which really was like some outside force had taken control of my body for that split second – my knees nearly gave out and I apologized profusely, terrified at myself.)

But I can play that angry individual, if I choose to. Because I know that side exists within me, even if I don’t ever let it come out. Because, as a good little Christian, I believe that there exists in everyone the possibility of committing the very best good deeds, and the very worst evils. I look to imitate the best of us, and I sympathize with the murderers, because, with a few different, terrible choices…

Villainous thoughts, Roderigo. Pish.

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