Is Mental Illness the new “In” thing?

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I’m thinking of myself as the “Carrie Bradshaw” of mental illness right now. In fact, right now I’m wearing my pajamas and a sleeping mask on my head as I write this, sipping a black coffee and chain smoking cigarettes with a photo of Mr. Big on my nightstand. Okay, I don’t have the coffee or cigarettes or the photo.

And I’m sitting in a living room, so there isn’t even a nightstand nearby. I am sort of like Carrie in that I write, not a column for a trendy New York city paper, but a blog for dorky, silly people such as myself. Sorry, I called you dorky and silly if you’re reading this. But I’m dorky and silly, so I imagine if you enjoy my writing that you must like dorky, silliness if you’re still reading this. Where was I?

Oh yes. I’m like the “Carrie Bradshaw” of mental illness. If I did write for a trendy, New York paper, my column would be called Crazy and the City. Seeing as how I live in the Maritimes though, I would likely write for The Coast and my column would be Crazy in the Tiny City.  But am I crazy? I thought I was but some things have happened recently that called into question all the things I thought about mental illness previously. Let me tell you all about my BFFs, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. We all went to lunch the other day and…

Okay, I am not so much like Carrie. I do actually have a Samantha friend. She may be better known to you as the Blog Broad. But she’s gay, and too crippled up with fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and slipped discs in her back most of the time to engage in the sexual acrobatics of Samantha from Sex in the City. 20180110_175922.jpgI also have a Miranda-ish friend, T. But she isn’t really very Miranda-like other than she has short red hair most of the time (she likes to change her hair quite often). She isn’t very sarcastic, she is an optimist and she’s very Catholic. And I don’t have a Charlotte friend at all.

So back to that thing that happened that caused me to question my insanity. Those of you who may have started following my blog may have noticed that I have disappeared for a while. In the days leading up to Christmas, things in my life went very… weird? No, not weird. They went crazy, literally. Someone very close to me went into a state of mania. So the last month was spent going back and forth from a very well known mental institution located here in the Maritimes. 20171226_171956.jpg

I’d never seen anyone in a state of mania before. It was an eye opener- seeing someone whose mind was broken to smithereens, going from one thought to another at the speed of light; seeing someone who was speaking to objects and dead people. Then visiting them at the hospital surrounded by other people in various degrees of true mental health crises. I couldn’t help but question all my previous-held notions about mental illness. I realize that there are varying degrees of mental illness, just like there are different stages of cancer. I suppose someone with mania would be at Stage 4 if they had cancer. Whereas I would likely be in the pre-cancerous cells stage or Stage 1 if I were to compare my “mental illness” to cancer.

20180127_063754.jpgBut it got me thinking about all of the people I know who are struggling with mental wellness, including myself, and I couldn’t help but wonder, are there really so many people who are mentally ill? Everyone seems to be on some sort of prescription: Zoloft, Effexor, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, etc.. Is it possible for so many people to be mentally ill? Is it legitimate mental illness or is our society making us sick? Are we all so obsessed with being happy that we need to take happy pills to find fulfillment? Or is it technology that is creating havoc and anxiety in our minds? Is there really an increase in the incidences of mental illness or is it an increase in awareness of it, a combination of both, OR is mental illness the “In” thing? Could we all just be normal?

I also have been wondering, what is “normal” anyway? I’ve been reading a lot of other blogs about mental illness and I’ve read Jenny Lawson’s books about the same topic, and I find I identify with the writing because as I read, I’m connecting- OMG- This is EXACTLY how I feel. But maybe we’re not really the crazy ones at all. Maybe we’re just the ones who are brave enough to share our true thoughts and feelings and bare our souls to the world. Maybe the so-called (self-called) “normal” people are actually JUST LIKE US but are pretending they don’t ever feel socially awkward, or isolated, or whatever. I think they are pretending! I think everyone has some element of craziness, but some of us are better at hiding it than others. I think crazy IS normal. And that the “normals” are really the crazy ones among us because they are crazy and don’t even recognize it!! Oooooh…. you “normal” people really piss me off, thinking you’re all that and a bag of dill pickle chips, making me think I’m the crazy one and you’re crazier than a pack of wild hyenas running around in a Walmart.

Yes, I have stopped taking my pills. I’m normal, after all.

 

 

 

 

On being White. And I mean White. Pasty White.

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There’s white and then there’s WHITE and I mean White. Pasty white. I am pasty white. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and am very, very fair. I am so fair-skinned, in fact, that I endured a myriad of names such as Casper, Ghost, Albino, Mummy and Liquid Paper to name a few. In fact, I remember kids in school holding paper up to my skin and claiming that I was whiter than the paper. Other things I have been compared to: Elmer’s glue, flour, sugar, snow, clouds, marshmallow fluff, cotton balls, polar bears, baby seals, piano keys (the white ones), Kleenex, Ivory soap, toilet paper, porcelain and the list goes on. When Die Hard came out, I was compared to that really white guy who John McClane (Bruce Willis) calls an Albino at one point. I was also compared to the children in the film Children of the Corn (Christopher Reeve version.) One of my friends said she hoped I would marry and have children with a similarly pale skinned, blonde guy so she could call our children “corn niblets.”

karl die hard
“Karl” from Die Hard. True fact: I look just like him when I wake up without make-up.

One time I remember being at a Diversity workshop and a colleague asked, “Well, how can you say Black people are discriminated against when white people are always tanning to try to get dark skin?” (I know, right? And they say there are no stupid questions. White people, ugh.) The presenter pointed out that there is a huge difference between having dark skin all the time, and having the option to have dark skin. Well, I have never had the option. I have never had a tan. When I go out in the sun, I burn. I burn so badly I turn red, red, red. My summer nickname was “Lobster.”

QT
This lotion gives you Donald Trump orange skin. If you go to the site where I found this pic, you can buy this for $199.00. (NOT WORTH IT!)

I have tried all of the tricks to get a tan. In high school, I used this product called “QT.” It was made by Coppertone and stood for “Quick Tan.” It had to be applied evenly or streaks would appear and it had to be washed off your hands immediately or your hands would change color. For some reason, when I used it, my skin would emit this rancid smell even though the lotion itself didn’t smell bad. And in the end, I never got a tan. Instead, I turned Donald Trump orange. I bet Trump bought up all the QT and still uses it, because his skin looks identical to a QT “tan.”

I tried tanning beds, being told that I would get a tan in them because they are not the same as the sun, you don’t stay in for very long, and it targets the pigments in the skin that create tanned skin. Well, apparently I do not have any pigments in my skin that create a tanned look because I turned pink. I have tried those newer self-tanning lotions, but the problem is that if I put those on, I can’t also use my sunscreen. That may not make so much sense; you may be thinking, “Why don’t you just put it on later after the tanning lotion sets in?” The thing is I burn so easily and quickly that during the summer months I have to apply 60 SPF sunscreen as soon as I get out of the shower. 60 SPF sunscreen is hard to get, and it is generally quite expensive, so I buy the Coppertone for Kids Spray-on stuff. That way, I can get those hard to reach places on my back. If I miss even one spot, I’ll get a really bad burn that could be just one tiny line or blot. The first time I bought the Coppertone Kids Spray, my mother was with me and she said, “You can’t buy that. You’re not a kid.” And I replied, “Why can’t I? I’m buying it.” I firmly believe that the packaging should be changed from “Coppertone for Kids” to “Coppertone for Kids and Extremely Pale, Ghostly, Casper-like People.”

Another problem I run into being such a fair and blonde person is the fact that my eyebrows and eyelashes are also blonde. When I was in elementary school, I remember drawing pictures with my friend and he put eyebrows and eyelashes on his picture of a person. I asked him, “Why did you put those lines around their eyes?” I wasn’t even aware that people even had eyebrows and eyelashes.  In the 1980s and 1990s, the look was always blonde with dark, black eyebrows and, of course, eyelashes. I never saw any blondes in the media who looked like me. I always thought I was ugly. Many of the other kids even said as much. When I became old enough to wear make-up, it was a wonderful thing because of mascara and eyebrow liner. Without these two magical make-up products, I look like I have no eyebrows or eyelashes. The biggest problem with using make-up to create eyebrows and eyelashes is when it’s time to go swimming. In my younger years, I avoided swimming altogether as much as I could, and if I absolutely had to go, I wouldn’t put my head under the water. It’s sad, because I loved swimming and I was a very good swimmer.

I don’t mean to complain about being a White person. I know there is privilege that comes along with being White and I know there are some things I will never have to worry about. The cops are not likely to pull over Casper the Friendly Ghost unless they have a legitimate reason, like Casper is speeding or has expired license plates. Casper will never have to worry about being followed around Walmart because employees think he’s going to steal, especially in the paper aisle because he blends right in. Casper will never have to question did I or didn’t I get the job because I’m pasty. But, and this cannot be disputed, Casper will never have a tan.

Photo Sources:

Casper. Mad Cartoon Network Wiki. <maditsmadfunny.wikia.com/wiki.com/wiki/File:Casper_the_Friendly_Ghost.jpg> December 1, 2017.

Jennie Garth. Pinterest. <https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/799037158860161748/December 1, 2017.

Karl from Die Hard. Internet, Movies, Firearms Data Base. <http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/Die_Hard> December 1, 2017.

Madonna. Metro. <http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/25/madonna-to-appear-at-the-brits-18-things-every-80s-girl-learnt-from-the-material-girl-5053907/> December 1, 2017

QT. kookykitsch.com. <https://kookykitsch.com/index.php/beauty-cosmetics/vintage-coppertone-qt-quick-tanning-sun-tan-lotion-spf-2-1992-paba-free-kitschy-detail>December 1, 2017. 

Playing with PNES

By Ocean Hayward

Anxiety. ADHD. PNES. Okay, you’re probably all well versed on the first two, but the last acronym is probably not as familiar. About a year and a half ago, I was officially diagnosed with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures (PNES). I always like to joke that, yes, it is an acronym that if stated phonetically would sound an awful lot like penis. Pee-Nes. Just my luck. I don’t typically share my PNES with most people. I used to because the seizures were so frequent that I was afraid I’d have one in front of people. I’d rather them know up front why I’m shaking and trembling like a person during DTs so I don’t alarm anyone.

I started having seizures about 8 years ago. They aren’t fall down, unconscious on the floor-type seizures. They are tremors, twitches and jerking motions that I have no control over. They can last for a few seconds, to a few minutes, to a few hours. It all depends where my state/ level of anxiety is. During the attacks, my blood pressure elevates as well. My seizures are my body’s way of dealing with extremely high stress situations. I’m not sure why it reacts with seizures. Maybe it’s because I tend to be a quiet person, especially when it comes to how I feel. I try to avoid conflict as much as possible and when faced with the anxiety of having to confront someone, that tends to set off the seizures quite a bit.

Certain situations are much more stressful than others. A big one for me is crowds. I hate crowds. Over the summer, my husband and I were walking along the Saint John waterfront and it was “Saint John Idol” night. You know, like American Idol? But with Saint Johnners singing instead. For whatever reason, the whole “Idol” show concept is still surprisingly popular in Saint John, even though in every other place in the world the craze has fizzled out.  It seemed that everyone in Uptown (That’s right, every other city/town has a “downtown” but Saint John has an “Uptown,”) and surrounding areas had amassed into this tiny closed-off-to-vehicles street. Some idiot (because it should be called Saint John Idiot/ American Idiot, in my opinion) was up there singing their heart out and I was stuck with my husband trying to walk on this street through the crowd of both people standing still and watching the Idiot and people also just trying to use the street as a through-way to another part of town (like my husband and I). I started to feel the panic because of all the people around me. My husband was behind me and he could see my body jerking, shaking and trembling as I tried to keep my calm. If I’d been asked to rate my level of panic, it would have been a 10+.

Suddenly, I couldn’t stand it anymore; I needed to be out of that crowd and quickly. You know how they say to stay calm in emergency situations, like if you’re in a crowded building that’s on fire? I was that person who panics and pushes through and stomps on people and kills them. That was me. I was pushing people out of my way in a mad dash to get the hell away from all the fucking people! I don’t remember much about it other than my feeling of panic, but I’m sure I pissed a lot of people off. Although perhaps my panicked voice saying to my husband, “I have to get out of here” made them sympathetic. All I know is my husband grabbed me suddenly by my waist and pushed me into a pub, and out of the crowd. I was still seizuring, but I was out of the source of my anxiety. In about 2 hours, it was as if it had never happened. But it did.

The worst thing about having PNES is I never know when something is going to happen that will spin me into a frenzied state of nervous energy. It’s unpredictable. Some people with PNES can never hold a job. I am determined, however, to beat PNES. (To improve the humor in the piece, read PNES phonetically in the last two sentences.) Where was I? Oh, yes, I will beat PNES. Er… I will overcome PNES. I have strategies. I use self-talk to calm myself down. I try not to take on too many things at once. I try to make sure I take time to take care of myself. I take drugs. Lots of prescription drugs. And I try to always find the humor in life, even in my PNES. The most important thing I’ve learned on my journey with PNES is that I have to put myself first, and keep myself healthy. I’m no good to anyone else if I’m not good to myself first. And on that note, I’m going to go play with my PNES.

I am a teacher.

I’m a teacher.

It’s a phrase that sometimes makes me proud and sometimes makes me want to keep as a secret. Of course, I live in a small town, so I can’t go anywhere without being recognized. When I go grocery shopping, to the drug store, for a coffee, to the movies, you name it, there is always multiple people who will call out my name. I can tell when I taught them by whether they call me Mrs. Hayward or by my maiden name. Some of them get so excited as if they are experiencing a celebrity sighting. It’s like they don’t realize that teachers are people too. No, I don’t live at the school and yes, I do have shits and have to buy toilet paper.

So when I’m home I can’t go unnoticed. I have tried, of course. Sometimes if I’m feeling lazy or sick, I’ll put on a baseball cap and sunglasses and try to be anonymous. Sometimes I wear a scarf. Sometimes I isolate myself in my home and pull a Greta Garbo just trying to get some privacy. The worst is if the students figure out where I live. I try my best to protect myself from that. You can be the best teacher in the world, everyone’s “favorite teacher,” but it only takes one student with a hate-on for you to result in having your car egged. And yes, my car has been egged before.

I am always a teacher when I’m home and I can’t fly under the radar. But when I leave this town, I have the opportunity to be truly anonymous. In the summers when my husband and I travel, it’s absolute freedom. I have the choice whether or not to disclose my profession.

This leads to very interesting outcomes sometimes. Such as this past summer, when I went to a party with my husband where most of the people did not know me. Overhearing conversations people have about teachers are sometimes the most fascinating things for someone who is a teacher. So it’s time to debunk some myths. Below are some actual things I have overheard while “undercover.”

Heard at the summer party from a lady in the private sector: “Those lazy teachers get paid on snow days, and I have to work for my pay.”

Okay, first of all teachers are not lazy. Anyone who ever says this has no idea what a teacher actually does. If you’ve ever had to give a presentation, you should know how much preparation and effort goes into that. Likely, if you have given a presentation, it was maybe 10 minutes long at the most. I have to prepare for five 1 hour long presentations a day. It’s A LOT of work. However, preparing for the presentation is not even the half of it. I have to make sure that those listening to my “presentations” have actually learned from them. So I have to create assessments, have the students complete them, read all of the completed assessments to ensure understanding, give feedback and I have to do that for 150 students. My day starts before the students even arrive, preparing in the morning, and ends long after they leave, staying late at the school making copies, and going home with bags of marking. I get an hour of paid prep time every other day. I often work through lunch and stay after school giving extra help. And I haven’t even got to the extra-curriculars like sports and teams that teachers volunteer to do on top of all the other things related to their jobs. During the school year, I work days, evenings and weekends. My home turns into a scene from hoarders because I’m so physically and mentally exhausted that I often neglect cleaning. So I get a few snow days off during the school year- I need them. It is one of the few perks that gets me through the school year. It allows me to clean my house, do laundry, and get caught up on school related work too. Furthermore, teachers don’t get “personal days,” because we have March Break, Christmas Break and Summer Break, so we are expected to do anything related to appointments, vacations, etc. during those times. So we get a few snow days here and there where we’re paid to stay home, and that’s only if we’re lucky enough to get a snow storm that’s bad enough to close the schools. We deserve them.

Heard at a restaurant from a parent to a child: “Be a teacher when you grow up. You’ll have the summers off, as well as Christmas and March Break and get paid for them.”

Really? Okay, so technically, no, I don’t have to report for work during the break times. But I do work during those times. The only difference is I can make my own schedule. For example, I don’t get paid time to set up my classroom or clean it up at the beginning or end of the year. These things have to be done, so I go in during the summer to do these things. I also generally get new courses each year, so I spend my summer reading curriculum guides and textbooks so I can plan for September. Yes, I can do that reading on the beach if I want to, so that certainly is a perk. That covers part one of the comment.

Apparently, teachers get paid for the breaks too. Nope. Not true. Teachers get paid for the school days in a year, depending on how many school days there are in the district or region where they are employed. The number of school days are different in every province and/or state- they can range approximately from 185-210. Most places where there are a lot of snowy days tack on about 10 extra days to compensate for days that school closes for snow. But teachers are only paid for the school days worked from September- June. In many places, it may seem that teachers get paid all year because the pay they get for the 185 days (or whatever it is) is prorated to ensure the teacher gets a pay cheque over the breaks. If my gross pay were, say, $45 000, my daily rate of pay would be $243.24 (before taxes.) So let’s just say I win a vacation for 5 days in Mexico during the month of April. There is no April break so if I want to go, I have to take 5 unpaid days if I actually want to go on the trip. Five unpaid days= $1216.22. It wouldn’t even be worth it to go, because that comes off my next pay cheque. So no, we don’t get paid for those breaks.
I could go on a lot more about the so-called “perks” of my job, but I won’t for today. What I will say is this: we all have good and bad aspects about our work. No one has a perfect job. What’s important is to enjoy your job and to have purpose. Even though I work really hard and am exhausted much of the time, I am satisfied with my job because I feel like I make a difference every day. For me the biggest “perk” of being a teacher is that I change kid’s lives every day- I help them read and write, I help them deal with anxiety and depression, I listen to them when it feels to them like no one else understands, I buy them lunch if they don’t have anything to eat, I encourage them to be the best person they can be and to follow their dreams.

I am a teacher.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could choose your neighbours?

6 a.m.. The early morning sun creeping into the windows, lighting up the world. Oh, the sounds of the dawn of a new day: the birds  are chirping and my neighbour is hacking up his  lung. Every morning I awake to the sound of a man coughing like a car engine struggling to turn over as he smokes his morning cigarettes in his garage before leaving for work.

Neighbours. We all have them. Even if you live in a desolate wooded area, you still have them. They may just live a little farther away. Or they may not be human neighbours. They may be bears, or deer or raccoons or some other kind of critters.

I’ve had many neighbours over the years. In the grand scheme of things, the neighbours I have in the city aren’t so bad. They may get a little rowdy on a Friday night, and cough loudly in the morning, but they are kind enough to bring my grandfather his supper every evening.

Some of the worst neighbours I’ve had were in apartments. Living in a small town, it’s rare to find an actual apartment complex. The best you can do are big old houses that have been divided into smaller units. These are the worst. There is no sound-proofing between units. You can hear everything: pleasurable howls of lovers in the mid-afternoon, the thundering thuds of a large, older lady who walks on the floor above, Muslim chants at 2 in the morning praising Allah, the clanging of empty, recyclable bottles on early Monday mornings. Their schedule becomes your schedule.

Sometimes it’s better to hear your neighbours though than to see them. The most disturbing image I have that I wish I could unsee is of a neighbour in his yard in the early morning hours wearing nothing but his under-shorts while doing yard work. He was a skinny, scrawny man, balding and pallid.

The worst part about neighbours, though, is that you can’t choose them. They choose where to live or somebody else chooses them for you. Right now one of my neighbours is a crazed lunatic with orange skin and a dead animal toupée/hat. As a Canadian, I had no say in the election of President Donald Trump.
Trump, as president? Who saw that coming? Who would ever have thought that a joke made on the Simpsons in the 90s would ever come to fruition. Now whenever I see hyperbole being used on adult cartoons like the Simpsons and Family Guy, I’m going to get a sickish feeling in my gut. What if that really happens?

The sounds and sights of the Trump presidency

When Trump was first elected, I felt the most fearful that I’ve ever felt. I remember in high school, I used to lay awake at night, worrying about the end of the world. That November morning when I awoke to the news that Trump had been elected, I thought “here it is.” I remember during the Bush Junior years, always being pissed off by the stupidity of Americans, but Bush is a moderate compared to Trump. I would give my left breast to have the Bush years back again. Yes, the years immediately following September 11th seem like a simpler, kinder, gentler time.

Do you remember the coverage of the first 100 days? Almost daily some new policy was being implemented such as the Muslim country immigrant ban or news broke of another scandal. Bets were actually being waged in Las Vegas on how long it would be before Trump was impeached. So now we’re not just betting on sports’ outcomes, now we’re placing bets on the presidency of the United States? It was swift and cunning how quickly Trump was able to take one of most respected and revered positions of leadership in the world and turn it into a joke.

But it’s not a funny joke. Yes, we can laugh at Trump, and I enjoy the Saturday Night Live (SNL) sketches and late-night fodder as much as the next person. However, when you really think about it- it’s not funny at all. A megalomaniac has taken up the office of president of the United States. Orange-man has his finger on the button every day. The Blue Man group would be more qualified for the job. At least they’d be more pleasant to look at.

We are approaching the one-year mark of Trump’s presidency in November. I imagine all the major U.S. television news networks will be doing “breaking news” reports on “Trump: the first year” or CNN will call it “breaking news” for sure. Apparently, stories that broke two years ago are still breaking news to CNN. What I’m noticing after almost a year of this nonsense is that I am no longer glued to the News Networks every day like I was. In fact, I am in hiding from the News. I didn’t even know Trump looked directly at the Eclipse until somebody else told me. I think it was around March that I got exhausted of the whole thing. It’s either you watch the news about Trump’s antics and live in a state of incessant agitation, or you isolate yourself from the news and social media in order to maintain your sanity.

The good news I have to report about my neighbour, president Donald Trump, is if I can’t hear him or see him, I don’t think about him. Then I just live my life in the most stress-free way possible. I know many people who write blogs are on social media a lot of the time.  Lucky for me, as a teacher, I’m lucky if I have time to squeeze in writing, let alone to be checking social media sites all the time. So it’s easy for me to bury my head in the sand. The best stress reliever in the world is to turn off from all forms of the media. I wish I could just as easily turn off the coughing hack of my city neighbours. I guess you just can’t have it all.

 

NOW/ NOT NOW- A Journey through time with the ADHD mind

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My whole life has been a disorganized mess, literally, as my mother would tell you while pulling her hairs out examining my pig sty of a bedroom. Actually, it was worse than a pig sty. Ever watch the show “Hoarders”? It was kind of like that. It’s because I have difficulty in thinking about the past and future and putting those time frames in reference with the here and now. I really do live in the present everyday which is prescribed by many inspirational quotes found on mugs, in picture frames, fridge magnets, key chains and other knickknacks: “Live in the moment. Forget the past and don’t worry about the future.” Sure, it sounds great in theory. But when your mind is constantly in the present all of the time, chaos ensues. I know this, because my mind works in only two modes: “Now” and “Not now” and it always has. I am the ADHD poster child. So in this piece I’m going to prove with my own life experience why these “live in the moment” idioms are bogus. That’s right, I’m talking to you YOLOers- because, yes, you only live once, but you still have to think about consequences and use logic. For people who don’t have ADHD, I would imagine it is quite easy to encourage a care-free existence where little thought is given to past events and future consequences.

 

As someone who has pretty much always lived in the moment, I’m going to show you how living in the moment has resulted in some pretty awful consequences, some of which could have been avoided if I’d been capable of remembering things from the past and using that knowledge to prevent future catastrophes. I hope this table makes it easy to understand how my mind has worked since I was a child:

 

NOW NOT NOW RESULT
Now I am 4. I just got home from trick-or-treating. My parents don’t want me to eat all of my candy so I will hide some in the very bottom of toy box for later. I have to be quick because my parents are coming in to put me to bed. Shhhh… they’re coming.

 

Candy? Not now, I think everyday after this now that the candy is at the bottom of the toybox and my toys are on the top. The candy stayed in my toybox for months. The next summer my bedroom became infested with ants. Large ants. EVERYWHERE! My parents had to tear my room apart to find what was attracting them all. They found the ant nest at the bottom of my toy box, with the candy.
Now I’m 14. My bedroom floor is full of discarded clothes (too fat for this!) and paper (This poem I wrote sucks!). I’m busy doing homework while listening to the radio. They are playing the Top 9 at 9 and they are going to play the newest hit “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul. Homework? Not now. I dump my homework on the floor  so I can get out my boom box and wait for “Straight Up” to come on but I have to be really strategic about it so I don’t get the radio announcer’s voice at the beginning or end of the song. I hope the deejay doesn’t mess it up on me again by talking over the track.

 

My homework isn’t done the next day. I can impress my friends with my tape of the newest hit song that I was so patient for though. School’s not really that important, right? Reading, writing, who uses that?
Now, still 14, I am happy to have my tape of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” to impress my friends with tomorrow, but I might want to have a sleepover this weekend, and I need my room to impress my friends, so I decide I’m going to tape the latest pin-ups of Corey Haim and Kirk Cameron out of Teen Beat and tape them to my walls. My mixed tape and boom-box? Not now!  I throw the boom-box and tape of the song on the floor beside the homework and get out Teen Beat, scissors, tape and a chair to stand on. I can’t find my homework to hand in the next day because it’s somewhere in a pile on my floor mixed in with clothes, papers, and tapes.
Now I have some photos up on the wall, but I didn’t finish. But Degrassi Junior High is about to come on, so I can’t finish it now. I have to go to the living room because we only have one TV and it is on the floor in a giant wooden box. Oh, and it only has 13 channels AND you have to get up and walk to change the channels. Awesome new pin-ups in my room for a sleepover on the weekend? Not now! I throw the magazines, scissors and tape into the growing pile of things on the floor in my room. I can’t find my tape of Paula Abdul because it is buried in the pile of clothes, papers, tapes, magazines and scissors.
Now I am watching Degrassi and eating yogurt. The show is over and  I’m taking my yogurt into my bedroom. I’m going to call my friend Lorrie from the landline on the corded phone in my bedroom to talk about what happened on the show. Yogurt? Not now. I’m tired. I put the half-eaten yogurt container carefully on the floor with the best intentions of putting the container in the kitchen garbage in the morning. My posters on the wall are only half-done, my room is messy and my homework wasn’t done so my mother won’t allow me to have a sleepover on the weekend.
Now I’m 16 and trying to fall asleep. The pile of mess on the floor of my room has grown exponentially over the course of 2 years. I awaken to a clicking sound. Sleep? Not now! Every little noise is soooo distracting to me. What is that clicking sound? After several nights of hearing the clicking sound, I finally turn the light on when I hear it and search it out. To my surprise (but really, should I have been surprised?) I find a cockroach.
Now I’m 18 and I just received my $500 Visa card to use for emergencies as a university student. Now I’m wishing I had a nicer boom box than the Realistic  one from Radio Shack that I’ve had since I was fourteen. (For all of you who were born after the Radio Shack years, Realistic was Radio Shack’s generic band. I guess it was called “Realistic” because while the store brand electronics looked like the more expensive, brand name ones, they were actually just overpriced pieces of shit.) Now I’m going to go and buy a real stereo, a Panasonic, that plays both tapes AND CDs. Visa card for emergencies? Not now. Besides, having a Realistic brand stereo IS an emergency! And a life full of financial burden begins…

 

These are just a sampling of how life is pretty much a series of “now” moments for me. It still is even to this day, although I have strategies in place to help me now. I made a rule for myself to no longer allow food in my bedroom so that helps. Even if my bedroom gets messy, there will not be ants or cockroaches. Another problem not shown on my handy table that I have is keeping track of keys, purses, and bank cards. I got my first bank card at fifteen years old and by the time I was eighteen, they’d issued me 18 cards due to having lost them. I’ve lost purses or left them behind on the backs of chairs in restaurants so many times that now I only buy purses with long straps so I can wear them across my body and I never take my purse off. I even pee with my purse on because I’ve left purses on those hooks on the back of the bathroom stall before. I’ve actually considered getting one of those waist pouches but still can’t get past the stigma attached to them from their popularity back in the late 80s/early 90s. As for my keys, my husband makes fun of me mercilessly for it, and I’ve had people make comments to me “Are those for work?”, because I have attached my car keys to a lanyard that I wear around my neck all the time. I have to because I’ve wasted too much time in my life searching for keys.

 

The worst part of thinking in the present all the time is not being able to remember where you put things. So much of my time is wasted trying to find items that I put aside, no longer needing them, thus not paying attention to where I put them. Then when I do need them, it causes anxiety and frustration. So to all you fools with your inspirational “live in the moment” bullshit quotes, fuck you! If you truly knew what living in the moment all the time is like, you wouldn’t like it one bit. You people should be thankful for your ability to be aware of the past and future while living in the moment. It is a blessing.

 

And now to my most hated group of all, those YOLOers. I’m sorry if you are a YOLOer. But you people make me sick! You only live once. Here’s the thing about being in the present all the time, when you are always in the now- as I’ve said above- your time is constantly being wasted. Yes, I want to enjoy my life. I get the sentiment in the whole YOLO movement. But searching around for keys, purses, documents, rings, necklaces, mittens, laptops, cell phones, (you name it, I’ve lost it) is not an enjoyable way to spend time. If I will only live once, I would like my life to be filled with happy, joyful memories. Not memories of all the times I’ve lost things. And one more thing for all you YOLOs- what makes you so sure that “you only live once”? So basically, what you’re saying is Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists and Siks have it all wrong? What makes you YOLOers such great experts in life? For the love of Allah, stop passing on preachy clichés, trying to tell the rest of us how to live our best lives. Put an end to encouraging risk-taking behaviours! Stop glorifying a life spent at Lost and Found bins!

 

I think what I’m trying to say can actually be summed up best with a quote from Charles Darwin, which is ironic in a way. He revolutionized science with his survival of the fittest theory. Sorry, YOLOers, but the “You only live once” philosophy doesn’t bode well for the survival of our species. Or maybe it does? Imagine all the YOLOers dying in bungee-jumping accidents in their YOLO T-shirts hollering out YOLO all the way down until SPLAT. It really does give me a bit of hope. Anyway, Darwin said, “A [person] who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” At first glance you may think, “but it’s the same thing as living in the moment and YOLO.” I don’t see it that way- it is about using your time effectively- if you waste your time, in essence, you are wasting your life. Whether you agree with the theory of evolution or not, you have to agree that Darwin’s studies did contribute to our knowledge of many species of animals and plants. It seems that in our modern world, we have become selfish with this “you only live once, living in the moment” attitude. People are huge time wasters- taking selfies, posting on social media, playing games on phones, Netflix binges. Having a reason for getting up in the morning is what’s important- not having as much fun as you can before you reach the end. The value in life is being productive.  That’s what I find so depressing about my ADHD- the time I waste trying to stay organized. So I think a better life mantra is “Live with purpose.” In the advent of all this new technology, far too many of us are wandering around without purpose just YOLOing along, self-absorbed and living in the moment. I have an excuse for it- my brain is dopamine challenged. But I take drugs for that. So if you’re YOLOing along without a purpose, what’s your excuse?

 

LWP. Live with purpose.

 

Just one more thing… have you seen my keys?

 

-Ocean Hayward-