I first met Chris in the early naughts in the always fresh smelling city of Kamloops nestled in the Interior of British Columbia. Previously famous for its distinctive smokestack belching poo smells enjoyable for kilometers around, now better known as the Tournament Capital of Canada (pretty sure they made that up but it’s better than the smokestack so let’s allow it eh.). Back in the day one of the largest employers in the city was this joint called Convergys, I say joint cause it felt like a prison at times but we got a paycheck so I mean we had that going for us right. It was one of the first jobs that I had an ID badge for, the picture was awful; on the advice of a hairdresser who I thought was a friend my hair was this bleached orangeish poofy curly mushroom abortion with a pretty intense undercut. Not my greatest ID photo but not my worst, that award goes to my Costco card where I look like a rabbi, Grizzly Adams and the Unabomber had a baby and that baby was me. That wonderful ID card allowed me entry to the building, and to gain that entry we had to brave the Horton door. The Horton door was a mean motherfucker, legit! It had broken arms and legs, sprained wrists and trapped dumb assholes that tried to sneak in on someone else’s swipe preventing the rest of us from getting back to our cells, I mean cubes. I fucking hated that door, but it was appropriate for the place it protected; as it crushed our body parts the rest of the building crushed our souls.
Convergys wasn’t my first grown-up job, maybe my 3rd, yeah third for sure, the others were interesting and maybe post worthy one day. For the readers out there who have not heard of Convergys it is a call center for hire that had placed call centers all around the globe (for flat-earthers, the world is round, that’s why we say globe, its not fake news) and in the early 2000’s work was cheap and plentiful in Canada, we were like the Philippines of North America when it came to call centers. There were a few contracts running inside, the first was Amex and I knew a few people that worked the phones there. Being a nerd the credit card hustle wasn’t in the mix for me, I ended up on the technical contracts. The first contract I was assigned to was HP All in One (AIO) Printers, nothing lasts forever and HP decided to unplug and move to India (because more cost-effective) first they moved the Pavilion team which increased our call volume because, ahem, the agents that customers reached on the new Pavilion teams were not to their liking. So they would hang up and call back and try to get a hold of someone they could “understand” which some wound up in our queue and when we said we were unable to help them with their Pavilion computer because we were the printer teams we were met with cries for help because finally, they reached someone they could “understand”. When HP pulled the plug on AIO there was no love lost, I was done with printers and the customers calling in and abusing us because they couldn’t be bothered to read or comprehend simple instructions.
Meep Meep, have you heard? the bird is the word. Enter Time Warner Roadrunner Broadband Cable, its a mouthful and we had to spit it out every time we answered the phone. Thank you for calling Time Warner Roadrunner Broadband Cable, can I have your phone number, please. As they dismantled the HP machine inside of the building, some of us were retained to join this elite group of agents to work on this new-fangled internet contract. This is where I met him for the first time. Medium build, kinda grumpy, a beard that would make Bob Villa emotional and a firm grasp of the english language. This man among men was called Chris and I wasn’t sure how I felt about him. I would see him around the call center, but eventually, we crossed paths at LAN parties. For the younger readers out there back in the day, before Steam. If we wanted to play video games with our friends we would have to drag our computers to each other’s houses. This was in a time when LCD screens were for super-rich dicks, we would lug fucking CRT monitors around man. That’s how serious gaming was back then and it was AWESOME! These LAN parties were ridiculous, maybe we need to bring them back, cause back in the day we all had to meet face to face and chill with each other instead of sitting alone in our quiet places and “connect”. We would game often because we were nerds and it was fun, and I’d see Chris out at these events. It wasn’t until he hosted one at his house that I was like whoa this dude is tits. He had this rad video setup and he would make all of these cool videos and had Mini DV cameras, we were adults but he was an adultier adult. I can’t remember exactly how we became friends but it happened and sweet baby jesus I’m glad it did cause he’s been one of my raddest friends to date.
Outside of the call center Chris and I would go on stupid adventures and record dumb videos, I’ll attach one down below so you can see the garbage we made before YouTube was a thing. Chris was like Casey Niestat before you could be a YouTube superstar. I wish I had some of the videos he made to share with you. We used to have to make our own servers to host these shitty videos we would make so we could share them with the world. He was also working his ass off to become a Journalist, something that would take him away from Kamloops and move him down to the lower mainland to chase his ambitions of working in the news industry. I also ended up moving to the lower mainland and so the bromance continued to grow. We ended up living not too far away from each other, a couple minute drive. Almost right in between us was a Dairy Queen in Burquitlam Plaza. This is where we would meet, team fat kid; we would gorge down Blizzards and bitch like grumpy old men. Chris had become a Journalist and in his journey to making it, he had moved to different places in British Columbia. We couldn’t meet in the plaza anymore but we stayed in touch over email, phone, and the interwebs. He had always had a family with like a million kids, that dude fucks! he’s like a baby making machine. I had also gotten into a long-term relationship and was still living in Vancouver while Chris was living on the Islands off the coast of BC. I hadn’t heard from Chris for a while and it concerned me and that’s when I got some crazy news. He had a brain aneurysm while having breakfast with his wife, he told her something was wrong and face planted into his cereal. They were not on the main island and he had to take two ferries to get him to the hospital, the doctors told her that she made it just in time and they were able to save him.
It had been quite some time since I had last seen Chris, my partner and I met up at a White Spot on the island. You could still see the scar on the side of his head where the doctors had to do their magic to save him. He had to relearn a ton of things but I was stoked to see him, he was adjusting to his new lease on life. Over the next few years he moved around and I moved around. We’d stay in touch and sometimes catch up when we were both in the same city. He and his family ended up in Edmonton and I was living with my partner back in Kamloops. I would see him a more often now sometimes a couple times a year when he was coming thru town. We would catch up, go grab some food it was always nice to see him. As time passed my life changed, my partner and I separated and I was about to embark on a new chapter in a very different place.
I’ve spent the bulk of my life in Western Canada, an opportunity at work came up to relocate out east to Toronto. My life was complicated and something new seemed like it would be helpful. I had decided that I was going to drive to Toronto, so I had a hitch installed on my Volvo station wagon to prepare for my journey. I had this workshop in Kamloops that I needed to clean out and I had borrowed a trailer to move some things around. I had made a facebook post of me failing at rocking a trailer and captioned it “getting ready for Toronto” or some crap like that. I get a message from Chris being like “Dude are you moving to Toronto?!?” and I said yes. Turns out he was planning a trip out to Toronto for some work and asked if he could catch a ride with me. I took a look at google maps and the detour to pick him up only added like 200km to the over 4000km trek I was looking at so I said fuck it man why not. The big day came and I hit the road from Kamloops to Edmonton to pick up my co-pilot. Spent the night at his place in Edmonton and moderately early in the morning, we embarked on our quasi-cross country adventure.
I have to admit that I am glad Chris came with me on this journey, if I had done it by myself as originally planned I think I would have legit gone insane. By the end of the journey, we had both gotten a little squirrely. We made the trek in three and a half days, looking back I wish we had more time and I wish I was more into photography on that trip cause there could have been some epic shots. Alberta was pretty mellow, we both were fairly familiar with driving around that province so there wasn’t really any surprises. Saskatchewan was unsurprisingly flat and boring, and windy. Manitoba pretty much like Saskatchewan, driving the prairies though made me wonder if my car was broken because my fuel mileage was mental. I had never seen my car chew thru so much gas before but I guess with driving into the wind hauling a massive box behind me wasn’t going to do my fuel economy any favors. We found some silly towns to take pictures in along the way, listened to garbage music and made up stupid things. Then we hit Ontario, we had to stop in Kenora to pay respects to Bob and Doug. Driving along Lake Superior was kind of amazing, god damn is that lake huge. Chris took some lovely shots of me and my U-Haul trailer and we made our way deeper into Ontario. We ended up having to spend the night in Wawa because I’m a stubborn ass and everything closes early in Wawa except for Tim Hortons and the sketchy ass motel we checked into. Back on the road bright and early we headed east for Toronto, well actually Brampton cause that’s where I stayed for the first month I was here. I dropped Chris off to be picked up by a friend near Orangeville and made my way solo to my uncle’s house. I’m grateful that Chris was able to go on this adventure with me, it was an amazing trip and we had a great time. It also kind of stoked our friendship a bit, we started talking more often after the trip and that was great.
As I settled into Toronto I reconnected with photography. It was something I really enjoyed when I was younger and back when Chris and I were first hanging out. I realized pretty quickly that I suck with video but I’m good with photos, so he was the video guy and I took pictures. The lens helped me connect to Toronto and try to find places I could be comfortable in. Chris was stoked about this cause for ages he has been on my ass about getting back into being creative again. I started with a Nikon D300 that I bought off Kijiji and the old kit lens from my D70 that had died years ago. I was shooting mostly graffiti and stickers or random things I’d see in Kensington Market and Chinatown. By some random events, I had ended up with a Bronica medium format camera and started shooting a bunch of film. One of the things that stuck out to me here from the west is all of the random bodega style convenience stores that are all over Toronto. I started to shoot them as I would drive around exploring the city, I wasn’t sure what I would do with the photos but it was fun to take them. In random conversations with Chris we came up with this idea for a book, we kept talking about it but it never went anywhere.
I got this email from a place called Queens shop asking if I would be interested in hanging some of my work there. I met with the owner and checked out the space and while we got to talking about what work we could hang I mentioned the book idea Chris and I had been mulling about. The owner was like “Great! we can have a book release when we do your show opening.” I agreed and then while walking to my car muttered to myself “fuck me, now I need to make a book” mild panic ensued and I called Chris to tell him the news. We laughed about it, dumb luck, I have it by the bushel man. So we went to work and created something I had never imagined I would be part of. When the first shipment came in my mind was blown, it was beautiful, we had made something tangible that captured a moment of time. There are a few more book ideas in the hopper that we are working on so watch out, the Edge Lordz will ride again.
Long story short, Koehn is one of my best friends and one of my favorite people in the world. We’ve had times where we didn’t talk for months or years but whenever we would hang out it was like no time had passed. I sincerely hope that you have a Koehn in your world. I feel blessed to have one in mine, thanks for reading my story about my pal Chris.
Today is World Mental Health day, Wednesday October 10th 2018. For some reason today has felt like more of a Monday than a Wednesday, a random guy at the JJ Bean this morning commented “No it’s actually Tuesday!” before correcting himself and muttering off into the lobby with a quiet shuffle. Most of today has been pretty mundane, went into the office, made the PowerPoints, checked the emails and did my job. In the late afternoon, I went to Ryerson to participate in a thesis project for a friend of a friend. This is the second thesis thingy I’ve participated in this month. The first one was a facetime interview with a dear friend in Vancouver, we talked about life and memories and relationships with objects; it was a nice chat. The session this afternoon was a little different, it was in the student photo studio at Ryerson. The space was odd and dark, it looked like something out of a movie. Other students scurrying in the dark working on projects, I was led to the back of the room to a space that was warmly lit with a small stool place directly in front of a camera on some massive industrial instrument that looked way to massive to hold such a tiny object.
He asked me questions about my life, my ideals, my experiences, and in-between words there was a flash and the distinct noise of a shutter. Talking to a new person can be fascinating sometimes, I always enjoy hearing new ideas and perspectives. He made an observation many people mistake with me, he assumed I was educated somehow because of how I speak. There wasn’t anything traditional about my education, there is no paper that declares what my capabilities are, nor crippling student debt to deal with. My education came with a different cost and is still ongoing today, it will only cease when I do. His questions brought us across a broad spectrum of discussion, it made my mind wander. I’m closer to 40 than I am 30 and only now am I starting to understand who I am, what matters to me and what I would like from (in) my life.
It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve started to shape an idea of who I am. The process has been brutal at times but the hardest part has been the relationship with myself. For a long time I hated myself, hell I’ve even loathed myself. This negative narrative reinforced by different experiences and people over the years that helped to cement this awful shitty image of who I thought I was. A fat, ugly, worthless, disgusting piece of crap with bad teeth and gross skin because of compulsive picking from childhood into adulthood. Lying about everything “what’s that mark on your arm?” oh I burned myself with a cigarette, stop looking at me. I’ll go to the gym, I’ll start eating better, I’ll take my vitamins; nope, I’m a shit bag. How could I think anyone else would see me in a different light when I saw myself in such an awful way, every day, for as long as I could remember. I wanted to not exist, struggled with suicide, depression, and anxiety. I’ve lied about all of it, even when the lies were so shitty that everyone could see through them, I lied; because I was scared, I am scared.
I was terrified to share my feelings, what if it made people hate me, what if they thought I’m nutty, what if I get locked in the crazy farm and lose my job. All of these things scared me and justified the lies, push through it’ll get better. Wrong! It won’t get better unless you do something about it. Putting a band-aid on a festering wound won’t heal it, it’ll give you an infection and then you’re right fucked. If the band-aids I used had a brand it would be Fear and I purchased them in wholesale quantities, by the time I accepted help I don’t think there was much left. I was raw, broken and worn down. Maybe that is where I needed to be, no more energy for defenses, just time for the medicine. Pills scare me, I’ve never had a good experience with them. What finally worked for me though was counseling, I talked to my counselor for years. She saw me through some really brutal times and she helped equip me with tools to protect myself. I wanted to be better and I felt like I was worth the effort.
I still have shitty days and struggle with all of the usual suspects. Their voices aren’t as loud as they used to be but they are all still there, fighting for mindshare, waiting for a moment of weakness, a sliver of dark. I don’t think I am a shit bag anymore or think that I’m ugly, I still struggle with nice compliments but I’m learning to accept them more gracefully. I do my best to be mindful and gentle with myself because I deserve it and if I can’t provide it to myself, I can’t accept it from others. There is still so much to learn about myself and the world we all share. It would be nice to explore it all, it’s a pleasant idea, a lofty goal of sorts. If you’ve read this far, thank you. Your time is a gift, it’s the most precious thing we all have to give, the one thing we can’t get more of. I hope on this World Mental Health Day that you are doing well. If you aren’t, that is ok too. You need to do what feels right, just know that you’re not alone. If you’d like someone to talk to, drop me a line. Always happy to talk to new people and share what I can.
I’m still scared, but I’m learning. Learning to love and accept who I am and what I’d like to be.
I’ve posted this before but it is fitting for today. If you are really struggling and need help please look at the contacts below.
The new Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), by Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7 For numbers in your own province click here
You are awesome, you are loved and you matter. Despite what your own narrative or experiences tell you contrary to that, you are. It is easy to get mired deep into the darkness, we’re living in a world that is challenging for many and it is not always obvious to see people who are struggling. They look just like you and me, they look successful, they can be beautiful, they can be inspiring and they can be dying inside and we would have no idea. There is so much pressure to do, to be; successful, rich, happy, productive and normal. What are those things at the end of the day, we all measure them differently and we are all chasing seemingly similar things but we are all unique so how can one yard stick work for everyone? So many of us cope to get through each day leading to dependencies on alcohol, drugs and even one another till ultimately for some the pressure mounts to suicide and then the questions pour in. No one saw it coming, they were so successful, they were so happy, it’s such a shame and it really is.
The pressure starts early, we’re programmed as kids to be more, to get a good career and be productive. We’re bombarded with media depicting how awesome it is to be wealthy, to be someone. We’re shown examples of what we should be, what is successful, what is normal, what is happy and often that visage is not realistic. The comparisons come with the programming, looking at ourselves and looking at others and seeing what is missing, what is different, what more do they have and what little do you or vise versa. This can be healthy sometimes to drives us to attain things we want and strive to be a better person. More often than not it feeds the demons and colors your narrative, it reinforces the negative thoughts and feelings that you have created or maybe have been gifted. Social media is a great example of this, I’ve heard from so many people they need to check out of it because comparing themselves to others on social media makes them feel awful. Like they are failing and not good enough, they aren’t beautiful enough, rich enough, a good enough parent, successful enough. It’s bullshit.
You are enough, you are beautiful, you are loved, you are doing your best and you matter!
Mental health is important and we need to talk about it more in an open and honest way. This is not something that affects just some of us, it affects all of us whether we talk about it or not. There has been some progress and discussion but we need more, once a year for Bell Let’s Talk isn’t enough (For non Canadian readers once a year Bell Canada sponsors a mental health day and donates money towards mental health initiatives). We need to smash the stigma so we can freely share where we are and how we are so we can get help without fear how the admission of our struggle will negatively affect us. It’s hard enough to be struggling with these feelings, but to be fearful and ashamed of them is a fucking tragedy.
I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember and felt ashamed of that for most of my life. I tried anti-depressants with mixed (mostly awful) experiences, I spent a massive part of my youth and young adult life drinking to drown the thoughts. Then I became addicted to work, I freaked out about the time I had wasted numbing the feelings and overcompensated by obsessing on building a career. The problem with running and hiding is that there are only so many places to run to and hide in. I found a career and became successful, I met a lovely woman to build a family with and we bought a house (without a white picket fence, one of our rentals had one though) on paper everything was achieved. That is the formula we are taught as kids career+family=happy but I wasn’t. I ran away on planes and I hid at work and in return I received money which allowed the circus to perpetuate for another cycle. My relationship deteriorated so anti-anxiety meds were added to the tool kit to get through my time at home. I learned how to containerize my feelings so I could keep it together, this felt important as I didn’t want my company or my colleagues to know I was hanging on by a thread because I needed the job to pay for the life I had built. So Monday - Friday during working hours and sometimes on weekends I held onto my shit to get through every day and look like I was a put together normal person and not about to burst into a million pieces, I was terrified to talk to anyone about how I was actually feeling. I would talk to partner but not tell her everything, same with physicians, we tried some counselling but also it wasn’t helpful at that time. I was too scared to share how I really felt and where I really was.
Honesty will set you free!
I do my best to be a good honest person, I don’t like to lie to people. Unfortunately I’ve spent a big part of my life living a lie. It wasn’t easy to tell the truth, it felt like it would destroy everything. Looking back that was a ridiculous thought because of the lie everything was ruined already, everything but the lie and the narrative it constructed that I had accepted as reality. By the time I learned to be honest with myself, all of the things I was worried about destroying were already in shambles. My relationship had failed, my health was questionable and I couldn’t effectively do my work. I asked for help and I was reluctant at first, for months I didn’t really give my counsellor anything to work with. I would just bitch and moan about what was making me unhappy. Then one day she confronted me in a session and plainly asked, do I want help or do I just want to complain because either way she would gladly take my money but the choice to be better was mine. I of course wanted to be better, it was scary but I was honest with her for the first time and we started to make progress. The years talking with her made a massive impact and today I am in a much better place because I stopped living a lie.
It’s OK to not be OK!
Happiness isn’t a destination or a level that we unlock if we capture enough achievements that suddenly we just live forever in this amazing blissful state. Happiness is everywhere if we want it, it’s moments with people who matter to us, it’s looking over to see something beautiful that makes us smile and feel like time slows for a moment, it’s your favorite song, or smell or hell anything that gives you a good feel. I see happy everywhere, a dog smiling, someone diving into a juicy burger, the way the light from sky scrapers reflects onto the brick buildings while I walk downtown, sharing time with people I love, strangers hugging or laughing as I wander different places or certain music. The world is amazing, but it is also awful. There are so many terrible things happening, locally, nationally and globally. It’s hard to not let it drag us down. As much as it is important to be happy, I feel it’s equally important to be sad. It gives us perspective, it help us appreciate the good, balance is important. If all we experienced we’re happy things we would eventually become indifferent and would no longer appreciate them, just as if all we had were sad things happen we would likely stop believing that there was any good to be had. It is ok to feel like you are not OK, but it’s not ok to think you are alone. That is probably the biggest lie we tell ourselves, there is always someone out there who cares about you and will listen and be there for you. If you feel like you have no one and you’re struggling then contact me, send a message to me on the contact page and we can talk turkey. I’ve lost too many good people because the struggle won. You matter and I love you.
If you are really struggling and need help please look at the contacts below.
The new Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), by Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7 For numbers in your own province click here