Tuesday, 21 May 2013

WHY I HAVE A VIDEO GAME TATTOO, AND WHY I'LL GET MORE

I found this short essay which I wrote last year sometime when I was considering leaving art and gaming behind me. It still holds true now so I thought I would share it.

--

I create art and video games because I want to share very important experiences which allowed me to be a happy, outgoing, and confident person, when in reality I wasn't.

Yes, I am damaged still; but I would be in a gutter shot full of lead or drugs if it weren't for the hope and the light in the darkness that art and video games provided. Through a multitude of quests and hard won battles and adventures to the far reaches of space and beyond, I was allowed to be me.

I am a nerd; I am a scared child.

I am latently afraid of anger and violence because it was in my home as a child and I know first hand the damage it does; yet even during that time I visited places where there was no violence, there was no anger, and everyone was happy. I dreamed of providing similar safe houses for others like me. It's why I have never stopped playing games.

I am very shy of people; yet I have worked with total strangers against adversity and learned to trust and to become friends. All in the name of video games.

I am not confident in myself or many of my abilities; yet I have lead strangers and real friends alike towards victory in the face of great odds and have topped leaderboards against very worthy adversaries.

This is who I am. All of this is beneath a mask, a mask that would have the world see me as a capable, confident, fearless man. A man of action, yet an angry man; a man not to be tested. The mask is worn and beneath it the most precious thing I have in my life; the childhood that was cut short. 

The frightened child who cowered beneath the sheets at night; who feared the wrath of anger and violence and for the safety of those he loves. I may not seem happy a lot of the time, and a lot of the time I am lost in a whirlpool of negative thoughts. But I have known happiness. I may be overly shy and embarrassed at times, but I have also been the most outgoing, captivating, confident person in the room. And without those experiences I wouldn't be who I am today; broken, yes, but a good, kind man who wants to share kindness with a harsh world and is simply still a little too afraid that the wrath which never fell upon me will still do so.

Art and video games gave me purpose and a reason to keep going. That is why I haven't given up even though I continue to struggle a lot of the time. Video games allowed me to spend more time as the child that I wasn't able to spend enough time being.

That is why I do what I do.

--

When you run over a hooker in GTA, there is a kid who doesn't do that and instead is learning how to move around in society, how to drive a car carefully, how to explore the world, and how to forget about the stress in their life.

I wish I could do more for kids, to provide the same spaces for them to not be afraid, but I myself am still too bogged down in the mire and detritus of my past to be able to reach out with confidence. One day I will reach that point; one day I will start a studio with people who are as passionate about how games can help people and who strive to push us all into another space that is uncomfortable and where we can move ourselves into new places and beyond the base prejudices that we clasp to in these times.

- DAVE

Monday, 29 April 2013

DISCOURTEOUSLY BLUNT

"Brusk" is the word used to describe someone who is 'discourteously blunt' and it unfortunately is a solid representation of my personality a great deal of the time.

I am trying to fully acknowledge that I have a huge character fault; I do not abide betrayal or slights against myself. I am not sure how I developed this idea, but looking back on my life I see how I have burned some friends for petty reasons and I'm beginning to view myself as quite the asshole whereas I have always thought of myself as a good person. In the ways that it really matter to my integration into society, I am lacking. I still have a ways to go yet...

A lot of this has to be so ingrained in my persona that it has become a defence mechanism and likely carries across in my demeanour in a way which I am not fully aware. I see now that I often avoid some people because I feel even the smallest twinge of disloyalty or betrayal against my person, and this is not good.

I'm quite certain that all of this is based in fear which was wrought from having been betrayed many, many years ago in some defining way. A friend helped me to realize recently that I do not currently posses the ability to forgive, or if I do, it is shrivelled and dried up. It goes so far that I am not even able to forgive myself. I'm not sure exactly how one learns forgiveness and in speaking about it now I feel like a complete and utter idiot.

I have a tendency to beat the absolute living fuck out of myself for the minutest of faults. Unfortunately, I also hold everybody else to the same standard, which I see is unhealthy. I tend to have bouts of idealization where I feel wronged by someone and get really moody as a way of passive-aggressively asserting my displeasure, which probably comes off as me just being a moody asshat. Despite being able to write and acknowledge that, I will likely continue to fall back on that mechanism until I can actualize the damage in a very meaningful way. I've survived this long, so I obviously need a stronger message to club me across the noggin'.

There are far too many personal character issues that I try to deal with in my mind on a minute-by-minute basis that it is at times maddening. I think I have hurt too many friends because of stubbornness and fear, and despite wanting to change I find it to be extremely difficult. I wish there were an easier way to explain this to people that matter to me who are not aware how much they matter, but fear keeps me from straight up telling them how I feel.

I want my friends to know why I can be difficult at times. Otherwise they'll view me as a complete basketcase and soon enough I won't have any proper friends.

I deal with these thoughts on a daily basis, regardless of what is happening in my life. It's unfortunate that at times there are small issues which will exacerbate these thoughts and feelings, and I am trying to get myself beyond them.

A 'confession' like this is probably going to do more damage than good in terms of my character in the eyes of others, but I figure that if I keep doing this eventually I will properly realize what I tool I've been and that is my ultimate goal, even if I look like a completely immature fool to you, dear reader, for the time being.

The point of this blog is primarily to help me overcome my fears and eventually be comfortable with who I am and the things in which I believe. So these embarrassing posts must stand in the hope that when I meet you next I will have grown beyond where I am at the moment of writing entries such as these.

- Dave

Friday, 26 April 2013

AURAL DISTRACTIONS

As much as I find music to be an inspiration, it can also be a distraction. Sometimes a song will play randomly which alters my emotional state, whether for better or worse depends on the song and the emotional connection I have to it.


I tend to listen to music as a means of distracting myself from my thoughts, thoughts which tend to affect me negatively. The problem with doing this is that it also means that I'm unable to think on those thoughts and root out the cause of them.


Furthermore, because I tend to listen to the same bands, songs, and albums, there is a sense of expectation that the music will help me to achieve a certain feeling or state of mind. Everyone knows what I'm talking about; that song that gets your hips moving of their own volition, or the sad song that always seems to find it's way into a playlist when you're feeling down. Other times a familiar song will play, one that you forgot about, and it's almost as if you've ingested some drug or the effect of a few beers has finally risen to the surface. I love those moments. Much the same as the aforementioned substances, those moments can be negative as well. If that song takes your mind away from the task or thought at hand, as good as it feels it is also setting you back a step or two because it's brought your thoughts to another place, another time.


I always figure that I can somehow use the energy in a song to help propel me onwards and upwards, but a lot of the time I end up caught up in the message of the song, or at least my interpretation of the message and whatever the song has come to mean to me. We usually build an emotional connection to a song to the point that those emotions arise habitually and automatically alter our thinking patterns.


The interesting thing about music is that it takes a very special situation to alter your already established emotional connection with a particular track. There are some songs that remind me of particular stretches of time in my life, times that weren't the greatest, which have altered how I feel when I hear those songs. I can no longer see them objectively because the sensation of emotions from that time slide back on up to the surface automatically, habitually even.


What I'm looking for now is a way to obtain a better understanding of my thoughts and emotions without resorting to music all of the time. A large portion of the thoughts in my mind are songs or beats from songs which just play on repeat. These are personal distractions which I've set up for myself in order to avoid other thoughts. Yet because music, like a drug, makes you feeling instantly gratified, it is at the very least a satisfying way to avoid more difficult thoughts.


I think I'll write again on music in a future post.


- Dave

Thursday, 18 April 2013

FEAR, ACCEPTANCE, & TRUTH

Two events have recently given me reason to think on the topic of personal truth, fear, honesty, and acceptance.

To start, a friend and I have been discussing the tumultuous time of their 'coming out' to family, friends, and co-workers. What I've personally received from these discussions is the realization that there is an immensely profound sense of relief and release which comes from speaking a deeply held fear aloud. Furthermore, accepting that fear and fully accepting yourself is of huge importance to the understanding of who you are and how you live your life.

Second, the point of religion has come up twice recently; once in a book and again while speaking with my Mum. In the book, every time the author mentioned religion I noticed that I would tense up and there was a sense of hot belligerence that would wash over me. My thoughts in those moments were that religion shouldn't have a place in this particular book, or anywhere in my journey to further self discovery. It made me doubt the validity of every word I'd read so far and I wanted to put the book down. Instead, because I'm trying to challenge myself, I forced my way through those few instances, that is until I hit upon an entire chapter about religion. I read some of it, but my engine was too fired up to continue objectively.

In the conversation with my Mum I realized what it was about religion that has always made me uncomfortable. Surprisingly, it's linked directly to fear. Basically, at some early point in my life I noticed that people who very steadfastly believe in one thing will be persecuted outright by people who believe the opposite. Worse still is that people who say they hold no belief are accosted by those who do! Essentially, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. What I realized is that there is something in the idea of being persecuted, for whatever bloody reason, which has created a ball of fear in me.

What I divined (pun intended) from these incidences is that the relief my friend experienced in speaking their truth essentially nullified the fear involved with hiding that essential truth about who they are. And my realization of the reason why religion makes me all prickly brought about a minor sense of release. Further, as I feel that I am dogged by fear from all quarters, could it be that simply accepting my truth, whatever it is, would extinguish the very fears with which I've battled for so long?

So how does one get past fear to truth then? I've observed that many of the people whom I would say are confident seem to have accepted their lot in life and it's as if that acceptance has pulled back the proverbial curtain on the fear in their lives, which then allows them to experience the release in expressing their truth, whatever it may be.

Therefore, if I can learn what truth I need to face, somehow accept it and further face the infinitude of potential negative and positive outcomes of that acceptance, I will have released myself from the shroud of fear which has dogged my existence for these nearly three decades. ...Right?

For the moment it seems as though my latent fear of being persecuted may be the truth I need to face up to. There is much fear in the idea of being persecuted, or of being different, as it seem as though there are infinite things to be persecuted for. With these discoveries, it feels like I'm near to moving beyond the cage of fear I've gotten myself into all those years ago.

I need to do more work in this vein, as I feel so damned close to something new! The challenge, however, once I'm into that new territory, will be to remain there and no longer be bogged down by the past and those empty fears.

Challenge accepted ;)

- Dave

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

TIME, THY ENEMY?

Time seems to always be slipping through my fingers. Perhaps though, it's just how I perceive time and the possible consequences of thinking on it.

I remember an incident not long after I finished art school yet before I found an art job. I believe it was a week night. My girlfriend at the time had recently landed an art job (I think), and I was still looking. I wanted to do some cafe drawing, because I was cooped up inside all day either working on a portfolio or looking for work, so we went to the mall. I needed to relax but I also wanted to get some practice in.

While I was drawing, I received a call. I don't remember what the call was about, but when I told them I was at the mall drawing they were not happy. You see, this person paid for most of my art tuition and, I can only surmise, they thought that I was wasting my time (and thereby their money) by sitting around in a mall drawing people instead of looking for work or some way to make money.

Even prior to that incident, I have muddled up the idea of relaxing verses productivity so much that even when I am actually relaxing I'm tense and worried! 

My mind is always thinking but not usually in a good way. Most of the time it's fretting about this or that or this other thing and it's just a huge mess up in there.

I'm reading a booked called 'Steal Like and Artist" by Austin Kleon and I when I came upon this bit the first thought in my mind was "I want to do many things but I can't because time is running out" and I wrote this post. Here's what he said;

"Learn to code. Figure out how to make a website. Figure out blogging. Figure out Twitter and social media and all that other stuff. Find people on the Internet who love the same things as you and connect with them. Share things with them."

I'll make a list right now off the top of my head of some things that I want to do or learn;

-Write and illustrate a fictional story or graphic novel
-Write a non-fiction adventure story
-Be known as a really good environment and character artist
-Be able to draw the figure entirely from my imagination
-Create my own video game(s) and do the following; come up with the idea, write the story, do the art (2D and 3D), design the levels and puzzles, create music for it (if only temporary), design the gameplay, program it where necessary, design the production schedule, learn to market and publish it. I've probably left out some steps.
-Make music (guitar, piano, and voice)
-Be able to repair and modify cars
-Be able to easily hold a conversation with anyone

Not only do you need to dedicate hundreds or thousands of hours to each of those things, but a few of them require multiple disciplines! I've let myself become overwhelmed by the idea of failure to the point that I rarely start anything new. When I used to do new things, I remember that as soon as I saw that I was going to fail at it, I would stop doing that thing and move on to something else. After failing like that a bunch of times I am petrified of starting something new.

And that's the hole I am trying to dig myself out of :)

This was more of a 'from the hip' post about something that I hadn't really put into writing before. Apologies for lack of any useful lesson to take away from this. I'll try to do that on the next post :)

- Dave

Monday, 1 April 2013

THE TALE OF THE FOOL

I struggled a great deal with fears during college. Fear of failing, fear of being judged, fear of not fitting in, fear of not being good enough. I was afraid to truly express myself and because of that fear I wasn't the best student I could have been. My work was only mediocre at best.


I was so distracted by what other people thought, and by the myriad of fears racing through my mind, that I didn't reach the potential that I could have in my time there. I just couldn't figure out how to stop being afraid and distracted!


I found it nearly impossible to open up to any of my new colleges, mostly because I didn't want to say the 'wrong' thing and end up scaring them off.


I couldn't put the words together to ask the right question of my teachers, yet there was one teacher who could not only see what was holding me back, but unlike the other teachers they were able to tell me exactly what it was; I was just too foolish to get it.


On the bridge outside of the Animation Arts Centre in broken English with a heavy Russian accent, our experimental animation teacher, Valery Tokmakov, said eight words to me while trying to help us understand how to draw caricatures;


"Only a fool is afraid to look foolish"


I immediately understood what it meant intellectually, yet I am embarrassed to say that to this day I have remained a 'fool'. Still, the profound nature of those words firmly embedded themselves in my mind and are partly the reason for why I started this blog.


Being an artist by and large means understanding and expressing yourself. If you don't understand yourself, the message that you present won't truly be your message but rather a regurgitation of someone else's ideas.


In his essay "Self-Reliance", Ralph Waldo Emerson states; "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humoured inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another."


That last sentence struck a cord when I read it. Many times have I looked at a piece of art and witnessed glimmers of my own ideas from years ago staring back at me almost mockingly. I was simply afraid to try out an idea which I thought might be taken as 'foolish' and thus end up looking foolish myself.


My favourite bit from the essay comes just prior to the quote above; To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, - that is genius." He goes on to say, "Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, - and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment"


When we look back throughout our history, it is the people who were unafraid to look foolish who were able to move us forward by millimetres or miles.


I have yet to accept that it is okay to look foolish, but I am beginning to. I realise as well that this ties into the dichotomy of my youth in my attempts to fit in with both the nerds and the cool kids. In reality I wasn't either but rather I was simply 'me' and afraid to accept whatever that meant at the time, or however foolish I thought I might seem to either group.


Through my continued readings and research, I'm learning more and more what it means to be me, how to accept it, and how to stop being afraid to be myself, even if that means looking foolish.


Thanks Valery.


-Dave

Sunday, 31 March 2013

DON'T DO WHAT DAVE DOES, or, HOW TO LITERALLY WORRY YOURSELF SICK

Roughly seven years ago during the summer before my final year of college, I started to have trouble with my stomach.

At first it was simply needing to visit the throne more frequently. Then it started into a feeling of being bloated, and at times was a little painful. I noticed that certain foods would cause me to have to go to the loo very shortly after eating them, and as this continued I began to be more and more worried about being too far from a toilet for an extended period of time. This caused me more stress and my issue hit a boiling point when one night I was so backed up and unable to breath that I ended up in the hospital.

I saw my doctor when this first began, and his initial assessment was that I was overly stressed. At the time, I didn't feel any extra stress, and since there was physical pain I immediately wrote off the suggestion. I just couldn't believe that something physical could be caused by 'stress', especially when I didn't even feel stressed! Damn it all if I wasn't a huge fool for not looking into that possibility sooner. I mean, my 'safety' time in the blanket of education was coming to and end and I would have to get myself together and launch my career. Looking back, I realize there was a tonne of stress all around me.

Over the next two years I visited my doctor a bunch of times, saw various specialists that did blood work and took all manner of samples, I was scanned and rescanned and X-rayed and probed a bunch of times. And each time I came away with the same message: "We can't see anything wrong and you actually appear to be in very good health." However, my stomach problems persisted, and I got more worried.

Eventually I saw a gastrointestinal specialist who came to the conclusion that I had "Gastrostasis", also known as "Gastroparesis". Basically, my stomach wasn't processing the food at the normal rate, which was causing my issues. The worst thing about this verdict is that there is no known cause and no known way to treat it. The other great news was that for some people it just goes away and other people have it for the rest. of. their. lives.

This was as far up the Western medicine chain I could go regarding my specific situation and I wasn't very happy about it, but at least my beast had a name.

I did some research and found virtually nothing on the subject. It turned out that my mate at college had had similar issues and he suggested a few things that a Russian doctor had told him to do. My problem wasn't as bad as it had been, but it was still there all the time.

For years my life felt like a rotten hell, and I felt trapped by my own body. I was afraid to go places, I was embarrassed if I went out to eat with my girlfriend at the time, in case I had to go and spend 10 minutes in the washroom, leaving her alone at a table. I refused invitations from friends to go see shows, and other invites to go out for drinks or just to hang out. I was so embarrassed all of the time, and even at home I didn't feel comfortable, but there didn't seem to be any way to fix the issue despite all sorts of diet changes.

Early in 2012, my relationship fell apart, largely in part because of my stomach issues and how they made me grouchy most of the time and restricted where I could go. 

We were on a trip for her friend's wedding and on the evening before the wedding day my stomach problem reared it's head. I couldn't fucking believe it. I couldn't leave the hotel room. The wedding was in the morning and I wanted to be there but knew that I wouldn't be able to stand around for the whole ceremony. Still, when the time came, and still feeling god awful, I got myself together as best I could I headed down to the beach because I didn't want to let my girlfriend down. I wanted to be there for her. I managed to see the bit where they get married but then I had to make a bee-line back to the room.

I swore to her with all of my conviction that I would get to the bottom of this once and for all and never let it prevent us from doing what we wanted to. Heartbreakingly, it was too late. She was already out of the relationship in her mind.

Within a few weeks of being back from that trip, it was over. 6 1/2 years of dreaming of babies, houses, and living to see each other grow, gone in flash.

I had stopped drinking a few years ago because of my stomach, limiting myself to a bit of wine now and then at home with dinner, but with the emotions that were ripping through me I decided 'to hell with it' and started to drink again.

And guess what? It didn't do a damn thing to my stomach. I started working out, mostly as a way to release my incredible anger and confusion at the time, but also trying to get myself in shape so that I could either win her back somehow or at least be presentable to other women if that didn't happen. I started to push my body really hard, past all the comfort zones I had known, and coupling that with being a bit drunk a couple of times a week, my body seemed to be making a huge strides.

I wasn't eating awful fast foods either, but having nice 'home cooked' meals at pubs with a few pints, maybe 2 or 3 times a week. I thought I'd licked it once and for all! I enjoyed many months of not having to think about what I was eating or drinking, not worrying about being far from a toilet, and despite the wretched emotional state I was in nearly ever second of the day, I was no longer worrying about my stomach.

Oddly, as one of the most stressful times of my life, it still doesn't make sense that my stomach stopped acting up. Nowadays it's not bad at all, and I believe that a lot of that has to do with taking more chances and not worrying about what might happen while I'm out. I started to trust myself to be able to handle situations as they came, rather than getting myself into a worry before even leaving the house. ...It probably also helped that I was drunk or hungover a heck of a lot, therefore not really paying attention to my stomach.

These days I have a goal; to be able to travel and not have my stomach be an issue at all. I want to visit my distant relatives in Ireland. I want to see Mt. Fuji and the Cherry Blossoms in Japan. I want to visit the Himalayas and the Yang Tse, journey into the Amazon and see the Pyramids at Giza.

Taming some of my anxieties has allowed me to do more things which I prevented myself from doing for years. Here's what I have come to realize; I wasn't a good friend, I was an even worse boyfriend, and I am the only one to blame.

My quack doctor had it right straight from the beginning.

In reading "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living", there are just reams of examples of people who had various illnesses which were brought on by stress. Time and again they explain that they managed to overcome their issues by changing their thinking habits. 

It's not some sort of 'miracle cure' mind you, you do have to work at it. For nearly as long as I can remember, I have been anxious, nervous, shy, or afraid. And now it's plain to see the reward for over 25 years of worrying... 

As I told her in that hotel room, I'm going to fix this. And by Zeus' beard, I WILL FIX IT!

The difference now is that I'm no longer doing it for her but for me. 

-Dave 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

ART AND THE ZEN OF REGULAR SCHEDULED CAR MAINTENANCE 

Right then! Here's a car story which relates not to the art of cars themselves, but to creating art in general.

About three years ago I bought a brand new Mazda 3 and over the course of the two years I owned it I would pay regular visits to the dealership for scheduled maintenance. I loved that car and I planned on keeping it around for many, many years, so I didn't mind taking it in for service. The service would usually take around an hour, all told, and during that time I would bring a sketchbook or some paper to pass the time drawing.

The other day on my walk to work I saw a Mazda 3 (not a rare thing mind you) and it brought back memories of being in that waiting area and the wonderful magic that happened there. And all of a sudden I understood what had created that magic!

You see, while I was in that waiting room I had a greater focus, I liked everything I drew, I experimented and took chances, my drawings were more accurate, confident, and loose at the same time, and I realize now that I didn't give a single thought to the outside world during that hour!

Here's what I figured out; I gave myself permission to be free of my usual worries. The fact that I was stuck there created a resignation which allowed me not to fret about any other issues that I might have been worrying about at the time. I didn't care whether I was spending my time wisely or productively, because simply by being there I was being productive!  

I existed only in that space and didn't give a thought to anything beyond that dealership. The situation put my mind so entirely at ease and in such an automatic way that I didn't even realize it was happening at the time!

Applying this realization to all the other times I've been afraid to draw, I now understand that all of that fear is entirely my own creation. Every excuse and every fear has no actual basis outside of my skull. It's the cacophony of imagined fears and worries which cloud my vision and prevent me from getting down to the brass tacks and doing rather than (over)thinking.

There have been other times when I've had similar results from having to wait. I specifically recall waiting on someone after I was ready to go and busting out a drawing that I was proud enough to hang on my wall for ages! I was just dicking around essentially but was able to focus on the drawing entirely because I didn't know exactly how much time I would have, yet someone was definitely going to come and get me at some point. So all of my cares just didn't exist and I fell into the moment completely.

It's now becoming clearer that letting my mind be unrestricted by these imagined fears is one of the gifts I can give to myself on a regular basis if I work at it. I have generally 'allowed' things to burrow into my thoughts, fester, and become larger issues. It's often small, insignificant things from the recent past, or something I would have to do soon which I was nervous about or not looking forward to. I never allowed myself to exist just for that day and that day alone. I've carried every day before and every day yet to come and all of that weight brought down my ability to think clearly.

Now my challenge is to figure out how to allow myself to be resigned to a smaller moment in time and not worry about the minute before or the one which doesn't yet exist. So far I've found it manageable to live only for today and still function normally, but tuning it right in to little slices of time could be harder in terms of time management. When an artist is having a good day or drawing session they say that time seems not to matter, which sometimes creates problems if you have a deadline you need to hit! So I have to learn to cultivate the sense of being in the moment while managing to not let myself get swept away in the current of time. 

Sounds like fun :D 

- Dave

Thursday, 21 March 2013

FEAR AND FEVER CITY


Lovely heart drawn on me at the Bovine Sex Club. 
Might make a nice tattoo!

I have a fear of crowds. 

Specifically of being in a crowd for some time and not knowing anyone. Perhaps my actual fear is of meeting new people? I'll have to delve into this, but for now I'd like to elucidate upon my adventure in Fever City tonight in the hopes of exposing more of my fears to my waking mind.

For the past few weeks I've been really excited to see my friends play their next gig, which happened at The Velvet Underground this evening, a venue that I hadn't been too before and which I was always hesitant to visit because of the 'heavy metal' exterior. I figured it would be a bunch of bikers and hardcore chicks covered in tattoos who would sooner rip my loins off for smiling than have a friendly convo about the best place to get a tattoo. I also thought I would be the only one there who held that opinion, and to my surprise one of the band members expressed the exact same feelings!


So even though I've been excited to see my mates play, who, by the by, are a seriously TIGHT band live, I have also been afraid to some extent. I've seen them play at least 6 or 7 times now over the course of less than a year, and during most of those shows I was in a wreckless frame of mind and usually either drunk before the show or drunk very soon into it.


These are some really fantastic, warm, and friendly guys who are just super fun to be around, so even though I have a fear of being in crowds, I suspended that fear because I would hang out with them before their shows and sometimes afterwards as well, and during a few shows I got to know some of their friends and had people to talk to when they weren't around. 


The last show was at the Horseshoe Tavern, which is maybe a 12 minute walk from my house, if that, and so I was super pumped to go. The difference about that show was that it was the first I had been to of their shows where they played during the week. Not a problem for me since I could easily walk there, but I knew going in that I might not know anyone there. Couple this with my latent fear of crowds (at this point I'm beginning to suspect it's a fear of mingling/meeting strangers), and I was nervous. At the same time, these guys put on such a great show and their songs are fun and inspiring that I powered through my fear and made the plunge.


Previously, I had only been to the Horseshoe one time so it was partially familiar, which helped a little bit since that I'm a spatially oriented artist/person. As an aside, I could describe a location to you in surprising detail after having only spent a brief time there. So I had a slight advantage, in that I was a tiny bit comfortable going into the location but I didn't know who would be there that I knew.


Whenever I see these guys live I have to be as close to the stage as I can be. Sonically these guys are great, and I love strumming and air drumming along with them and just beaming smiles and love at them to just show them support.


So I got there a little before their set, found one of the band, said hi, and proceeded to watch Taylor Knock rock the fuck out. Afterwards, they were setting up and the crowd were mingling, and I didn't see anyone that I knew. Perhaps awkwardly, maybe stubbornly, I stood in the mostly open space about 10 feet from the stage waiting for their set to start. I tried to ignore the entirety of the crowd who were standing somewhere behind me, secure in the fact that I probably had the best 'seat' in the house.


It was awkward. For me. I felt there were a hundred imagined eyes scrutinizing the way I was standing, what I might be thinking, why I wasn't talking to anyone, why I was there alone, and on and on and on immeasurably. I downed my drink right quick, popping off to the bar for a second and returning to my 'spot', which, on the one hand, I was happy to have, and on the other afraid of. There was almost a defiance to going back to the same awkward spot, which I knew to be a really great spot for watching the band, but not a great spot when you were there alone and only had about 1% confidence. 


The show, as always, was stellar and I had a great time regardless of my worries and uncertainties. I can always count on these guys to keep their end of the bargain :)


Tonight held more reason for worry because I knew for certain that I wouldn't be accompanied by any 'close' friends and that a situation similar to the last show would almost certainly occur.


I started out by going into the wrong venue, the Bovine Sex Club up the street, and having to ask the lovely and understanding host at the door if I was in the Velvet Underground or not. She informed me that that it was just past the Subway down the street and kindly gave me my Tenner back.


Having virtually chugged a pint of Okanagan Pale Ale whilst waiting for my dinner not long before, my pride was merely grazed by the minor snafu of ballsing up the locale. I proceed down the road and in I went, attempting to focus my mind forwards and to not over-analyze what had just happened.


There was a sign and everything and I knew that I was finally in the right place. I took off my toque, had a quick gander around, noticed that my mates were setting up on stage and dove to the bar for some more liquid courage.


The shite thing was, as I scanned the crowd pretending to look for someone I was supposed to be meeting, I didn't spot a single recognizable face. I scoped out a choice spot up front, dead centre, and then quickly ended up glued to the ledge on the wall opposite the bar and proceeded to become a wallflower.


Because of my research into overcoming social anxieties and the lot, I was finally aware that my normal reaction in this situation was the one which I had been reading about for ages. I AM a wallflower! With this knowledge front and square in my thoughts, I tried some of the 'techniques' which I had read about that would give me an air of 'openness'. I won't lie; I felt awkward. But my mates were setting up their gear and that was something interesting for me to look at, so I angled my body a little more towards the stage and watched them puttering around with their kit. 


Then they left the stage. Lo and behold I was facing NOTHING with the entirety of the crowd behind me and to my right. The imagined 'hundred eyes' were once again upon me, albeit that I had a wall and a ledge to keep me company this time. I turned my whole body to face the bar and tried to keep a smile on my boatrace as best I could. There were a few people I noticed, more specifically ladies, who were either alone or in smaller groups of two or three. My mind flitted through situations where I went over and somehow ingratiated myself into their grouping and we had a nice laugh before the show. None of these situations happened, however, because I was afraid. I was standing in my own blasted way again, all because of imagined scenarios where the worst possible outcome could not only happen, but would definitely happen, at least in my brain.


So I stood around with one hand in my pocket (and no, the other wasn't 'giving a peace sign') and holding a beer in the other hand, patiently waiting for my buds to start playing and take some of the spotlight off of me.


Likely we can all agree that imagined fears are the worst because they are never actually happening, but you feel so strongly that they are that you make them real in your mind. Bloody hell, eh?


The guys fired up and the sound was just fantastic. I enjoyed a great show and had a laugh at a couple of really minor fuck ups by the guys (the bassist's glasses at one point ended up on his pickups while he was still playing!) and just had a blast. Even though I was having fun, I was still ruminating on all of the things I had been worried about since arriving, and I was overly concious of how I was standing or how I was grooving to the music or what my hands were doing. Suffice it to say that if I weren't worried I could have had an even better time.


What I want to be able to do is focus entirely on simply enjoying their shows and not giving a single moment of thought to the entirely anonymous crowd behind me. I want to rock the fuck out with these guys and not give a care about how silly I might look to some random stranger standing five rows deep behind me. Who, by the way, is probably also overly conscious about themselves that despite wanting to be standing right up front where I am having a blast, they play it 'cool' and stand a few rows back merely bobbing their noggin' a bit.


Aside from yet another amazing and entertaining show, my saving grace for the night was when a friend, whom I had only met at Fever City shows, approached me to say that they had been trying to follow this blog and were impressed with how open I have been in my posts. This is a very intelligent person whom I admire and I was honoured to have any sort of praise for my meagre efforts. I have and will continue to write these posts for myself as a way to face my social and personal fears and anxieties, but the idea that anyone would actually read these and comment on them only ever sat in the back of my mind as a distant possibility. To have been in a social situation where my guards were up and I was battling my 'fight or flight' response, and to have someone come up to me and say that they appreciated the personal flaying I've been doing on this blog was like a brick flying through the paper thin phial that contains most of my fears. Okay; maybe the 3 or so beers and elevated hormone levels from watching the show was also aiding my interpretation, but fuck it if it didn't feel great!


To sum up this evenings events, and bearing in mind that in the grand scheme of today's Earthly rotation, nothing truly cosmic happened in the space which I occupy, I had a nice burger and a pint for dinner, saw a great live show, and somehow, from a crowd of people where I knew less than probably 3 or 4 per cent, had two offers to hang out with some really cool and groovy people.


At the moment I'm focusing on two thoughts which are helping me maintain the minor (all things considered) excitement of today; "live in day-tight compartments" and "the worried person must lose himself in action, lest he wither in despair."


My fear of crowds is still exists, but I can see that if I'm able to crowd out all of the other obtrusive and pointless thoughts, I can get to the source of the issue and face it head on. With perseverance, I hope I can detach myself from walls in the future :)


-Dave

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

CONQUER WORRY

All things considered in my life, I SHOULD be happy, and yet I can say that despite a short span of time here or there I don't feel as though I've ever been properly happy. 

Here's why I should be happy at the moment;

-I have a creative, enviable job
-I live on my own
-I have no obligations to anyone (no kids/spouse)
-I am not in debt
-I have a good chunk of money in a savings account and save with each paycheck
-I am healthy (mostly)
-I'm young
-I have a loving family who care for me

So, given all of those things why I do I complain about being unhappy? Over the years I have thought extensively about this and it's become such a mismash of issues, both real and imaginary, that I have trouble separating from each other.

So, here's a confession; I'm lazy and a bit of a quitter. I don't want to be, but I am so often overcome with fear and worry that I don't even start things a lot of the time. And if I do, I tend to get overwhelmed or bored quickly and easily.

Phew, okay...that was embarrassing. I've never put it that way before, mostly because I've always pegged it on some gem from the past, or some imagined mental issues. But if I'm able to see past my own excuses and state it so simply then it's become clear that I need to learn how to flip this and become a go-getter.

I feel as though I have a truckload of issues to sort through, and I've never really had to face up to a lot of tough things in my life. I've managed to overcomplicate my life by hiding behind excuses, such as low self-esteem, shyness, and fear. I've had my moments in the past where for a time I was able to bypass these factors and have felt happy for a time. But the excuses always come back stronger and harder. Perhaps if that's the case, then one of my primary issues in maintaining happiness is letting things get to me and chip away at whatever happiness I am able to achieve.

Another small confession; before what you are reading now, I wrote 12 other paragraphs before realizing that I had been whining for 12 paragraphs and was just rambling. In the eleventh paragraph I realized that I was a quitter and when I read back a bit I realized that it would be plain for anyone else to see by paragraph 1, but it took me 10 more to see it.

I can lay out a bunch of reasons which I believe cause me to be unhappy, but it is becoming more apparent that there is only one reason why I am not;

Me.

All of the excuses and all of the reasons in the world just boil down to the simple fact that I am getting in my own way. It feels like such an overwhelming thing to conquer because I don't want to do the leg work. It's become such an embedded set of habits for me to be passive and afraid that what to other people seems like a simple thing to overcome is to me a mountain to climb. But I've already begun making my way to base camp and will start climbing as soon as I have all the proper gear together.

Between October 2012 and January 2013 I managed to sink to an extremely low place mentally. The only time I was having 'fun' was when I was too drunk to know any better. This took it's toll on my body (and wallet), which began to affect my self-esteem even further, and I let everything else that I have always fretted about overtake me. I probably didn't hide it well if you know me personally.

Starting in February, and thanks to following an idea from a friend, I decided to make some changes;

1. Limit my alcohol in February only to weekends and never while alone. 
2. Start monitoring my finances better and stop worrying about them.
3. Change my eating habits to a "Paleo-lite" lifestyle. (This means no grains, no sugars, no processed foods, and no dairy, but not worrying when I do happen to eat one of them if I have no other option)
4. Fix my overthinking through research and action.

So how have I been doing? I still get drunk, but only on the weekends and only with friends, and I'm enjoying cooking and eating healthy foods more regularly. I don't chastise myself for eating 'non-paleo' stuff on occasion, and within 3 or 4 weeks of starting to eat paleo (started mid Feb, roughly), I lost most of the gut that was damaging my self-esteem without having to pay for a gym membership and all the worry that comes with that! 

I have more energy during the day and no longer suffer from 3pm sluggishness, and some of the worry that is usually associated with following some sort of diet is just not there. I eat healthy when I can, and when I can't I go for the closest option. I've simplified my idea of food and eating and it has relieved some of the anxiety that I used to have.

I've been able to save up a bit more money while also picking up a few useful 'luxury' items as well, and I have an easy way to monitor my finances from anywhere instead of only at home or at a bank machine.

As for the really super difficult bit, correcting my overthinking, I've been reading up a lot on a few websites about shyness, fear, motivation, worry, and other aspects of life that I realize now I have been fretting over with no advantage whatsoever.

I've had the most mileage out of a few simple ways of thinking so far, and I practice these on a daily basis;

1. What other people think is none of your business
2. Do it now
3 Live only for today

I'm learning so many other things through my readings each day and have been organizing them in a crappy notebook. I found a few notebooks from my time at Ganz recently and realized that I had filled up 4 of them at least over the course of only two and a half years there, 1 and a half of which I was just a 3D artist. 

I had always had the notion that artists should have these sketch/notebooks, which contain perfect sketches and lovely handwritten treatises on all manner of intelligent things. When I looked at the mileage I got out of my crappy work notebooks, and the fact that I have only ever filled ONE sketchbook in my life, I realized it was time to throw off the preconceived ideas of what a notebook is and just have something handy to scribble in at any given moment. That idea may seem simplistic, but it's so liberating that it actually feels as though part of a weight long held is being lifted off of me.

Whenever I've had a blackbook sketchbook with me in public, there came a time that somebody would ask me to look through it and boy did that fire up the ol' worry and self-esteem engines! With a lined notebook I just scribble shit in it and then if I'd like to I can expand on ideas further on some nice loose paper or digitally. So liberating :)

--

Okay, so that was a lot of stuff, but really this post is more for me than anyone else. Sort of a personal review if you will. I feel that the strides I've made so far are beginning to take hold and even starting to nudge out some long-held bad habits, so regular reviews will probably be a good idea.

Writing out my thoughts here has been very liberating and I plan to continue to express myself more often, hopefully in a more entertaining and educational way! 

As I'm better able to organize my thoughts as my mind becomes clearer and free of worry, I'd like to start addressing specific aspects which I'm dealing with in detail, hopefully to the benefit of whoever continues to read along with me.

Thanks for reading!

- Dave