Thursday, May 21, 2009

Halfway Done with Psychology

So it's May 21st and I'm halfway done with my Psychology Maymester so far. I've had to give a group presentation on mood disorders and have already taken my midterm. As it stands, I'm relieved. Almost finished! Just another week or so to go, and then... LA!

Reading through the Psychology textbook though, I've gotten some interesting insights into myself and the lives of those around me. I'm not psychological professional, but the book is pretty straightforward about symptoms, what is required to diagnose someone, treatments, etc. I feel pretty confident saying now that about a year and a half to two years ago, I think I was suffering from major depression. My appetite disappeared and I lost about 25 pounds within the course of a month. During the day, all I wanted to do was sleep and at night, I was so restless that I couldn't sleep at all. I would end up taking long walks at 3:00 AM in the morning around campus just to clear my thoughts, even though the process of clearing my thoughts generally exacerbated them instead. I was generally sad, but in such a way that it was hard to function. I would wake up in the morning and find myself already morose upon opening my eyes. Sometimes during my walks at night, a car would drive by, and I'd find myself thinking that if that car happened to swerve off the road onto the sidewalk and hit me by some chance, I wouldn't really mind all that much. Yeah, I'd say that qualifies as Major Depressive Disorder.

Luckily, I was able to pull out of it. I had really good friends who stuck by me most of the way. I never got to the point where I just dropped life completely. I stayed in school. I kept working. I lived life and made new friends. All of these things really helped me to stay grounded in reality during a time of my life when I could have easily just let go and stop caring about anything.

So, in hindsight, I think I was pretty lucky. A lot of people who suffer through depression can't heal without some kind of professional help. They need either anti-depressive drug therapy or some form of talk therapy to help them work through their problems. Also, many of them suffer through recurring bouts of depression. That's something that has worried me about myself in a way, a fear that one day I may end up becoming depressed again like before. It scares me to a degree. But even so, I think I was pretty lucky.

I think ultimately, I wasn't willing to go see a professional because I didn't think my problem merited professional attention. I just thought I had a severe case of the blues. Furthermore, I am an independent individual, so independent that it really bugged me on a subconscious level that I couldn't just fix myself. I think this is true of a lot of Americans. We're trained from birth to be independent and not need anyone else so that when we truly face something we can't do alone, well, we're unable to seek the help that we need from sheer pride. We're afraid of seeming weak. More so, we're afraid of actually being weak.

There's a certain stigma about therapy that we hold as a society. We view people who go to therapy as the "really messed up" ones. Or the people who are so weak as individuals that they can't help themselves. Like I said, this is very much a part of our culture. But this belief just isn't accurate for psychological problems. So many psychological problems go beyond even what we would call our "self". There are some problems that are biological, things that we didn't even realize lurked in the backs of our brains.

For example, I think my family has a depressive tendency. I've known that from childhood, although no one has ever gone to a doctor to be diagnosed. We're too proud for that. But I never once believed that this had any bearing on who I was as an individual. That's my family, I thought. It won't affect me.

Also, there are certain traits and tendencies that are taught and learned on a subconscious level even when nothing is ever overtly said. How we receive and express anger seems to be a big one. No one will ever tell you how to have a tantrum or how to bottle up your emotions until it explodes with little provocation. We just learn it through observation, usually from our families it seems. (If you're a behavioral theorist reading this for some reason, careful. Don't jizz your pants.) For example, the way I express anger is very similar to my father's. Oftentimes, my girlfriend will say that she's never seen me angry. However, I know that she's seen me angry a number of times. It's just that the way I express anger does not register as anger to her through her own experiences with anger. Hence, I think it's important for us and everyone else to know and understand the basis for their actions and just what has influenced them. This is crucial for healthy communication.

So, as I press on in this class, I'm expecting to learn a whole lot more. However, I also expect to gain more insight into my life and those around me. Hopefully, I'll be able to use these insights to help others, to form a stronger community around me, and hopefully serve others as much as I have the tendency to serve myself. The biggest lesson I've learned though is that you can't forsake community. It's so important, not only to the well-being of the community, but also to the well-being of the individual. Human beings are communal creatures, and without community in some way, well, we flounder.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Today, I graduated. Well, sort of. I went to the ceremony at least, donned the Carolina blue cap and gown, went to the Communications Studies Department Commencement, took pictures in front of the Old Well. The works. It was sort of off putting though. For one thing, I'm not officially done with "School" until August. For another, Carolina treats graduation very differently than did my high school. At Grimsley, if we so much as made a peep, the administration would pull us out of the graduation line and we wouldn't graduate. Simple as that. Today however, I saw a girl dressed in a Carolina blue bikini, a squad of students carrying foam swimming pool noodles, pink flamingo balloons, and more. The general graduation procedure seemed this ambiguous thing that no one had a complete grasp of and no one really cared about to begin with. Even Chancellor Thorpe seemed a little off his game. Like I said, off putting. Honestly, it didn't really feel like graduating.

Also, it was kind of sad that I wasn't there with all of my friends, my closest friends who've been with me since I first arrived at Carolina. This feeling was relieved somewhat by seeing my friends who are natural born '09ers, and even more so that I got to graduate with Liz. But it was still strange knowing that I won't be there when the sea of blue is populated by faces so familiar to me that they're almost family.

That's not to say that today wasn't a happy occasion. It was. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed being with my family and sharing that moment with them. I enjoyed sharing it with Liz. It was certainly a moment of triumph. Just a moment somewhat divorced from the feelings I know should exist in collaboration with it. I just didn't feel like I was graduating.

I think all of this really boils down to the knowledge that I'm leaving, and the expectation of life in North Carolina coming to a close. It seems like I'm at a point of waiting, and this waiting tends to water down the exuberance of my days remaining in Chapel Hill and North Carolina. But I'm not really satisfied to leave it like that. I want my last two weeks here to be bold and full of life and adventure. That's my goal for my life and for those around me. If I can inject some boldness and adventure into the lives of others, then I think my last moments on the east coast will be a success.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thoughts of the Day

A few thoughts before bed...

Why is it that the poor seem so much more generous than the rich? Even though they can't afford it, they freely give and desire to give to others while those who are much more financially secure tend to flinch at the very notion. Why? Jesus talked a little about this I think at the beginning of Luke 21, but even that was a slightly different situation. I want to know why those who have little are more willing to sacrifice a lot for others than those who have much already?

Today, my mom and I saw saw baby geese. Baby geese are beautiful. Just a reminder of how beautiful life is and how ingenious its creator. Although the thought of those baby geese growing up to be adult geese walking annoyingly across the road makes me cringe. I wonder if a similar thought ever went through my parents' heads when I was a baby? "Oh &%*#! What if he gets a tattoo?" :P

Yesterday, I didn't know how to change a tire. Today I do. I wasn't exactly thrilled by the fact that I needed to know how to change a tire, but I'm thankful that I've learned a new skill, and I'd rather learn it here than out in LA when there's no one else there to help.

Today, my friend Zac Allard fell in love with my feature film screenplay idea. Do you have any idea how surreal I feel? Zac is one of the hardest writers' to please that I know, and he loves my idea. That's high praise right there. He's never liked one of my ideas before. Yup, I think this one's a winner.

Today, I almost finished moving out of my dorm, and I did it without the aid of my parents. Dad helped some yesterday, but today was all me. Yeah. I'm an adult :)

Confession: Tonight, I picked up Wendy's on the way home from Chapel Hill around 12. I know. See my previous post. Stress and late nights. So here you go non-existent blogosphere audience - my confession of wrong doing. Maybe this will help keep me accountable.

Sleep now. Bye.

Coming Soon: The pros and cons of Night vs. Day

Friday, May 8, 2009

Insomnia and Overeating

So tonight, I've realized something: When I'm feeling more intense emotions than normal, I tend to eat more. That seems to be my body's immediate reaction. Maybe it's a calming mechanism? Like my body is trying to distract my mind somehow?

My mind gets very industrious. I find it hard to sleep. It keeps running until it's made every connection it can. Not that it finds answers. It just makes connections and keeps going and going. I can't shut it off.

So I end up staying up late and munching. And I do this until I'm too tired to do anything but sleep.

And I'm not OK with this. This year has been particularly stressful on an emotional level, and I can tell because my late night eating habits have gotten worse and worse. Furthermore, my regular eating habits have declined as well. Meals have been one of the few times I've had to sit down, breathe, and collect my thoughts this past semester. And my weight shows it. Again, not OK with this. Why do I make dumb choices when it comes to what food I allow to enter my body and in what quantity? I've gained so much weight this semester which I didn't have to gain. And now starts the arduous process of losing it.

So now that I've realized this, what do I do? Figure out a better way to organize my thoughts? I used to avoid buying food for my dorm room so there was nothing around to eat late at night, but that doesn't really help much more either. I feel very trapped sometimes. My emotions allow me to be extremely creative. That's why I'm moving in the first place, to make use of my creativity and find employment that allows me to be creative like God made me to be. But sometimes I really don't like my emotions. I feel like I experience them too strongly sometimes, and then my body reacts negatively to compensate. I'm not all emotion, although sometimes it may seem like it. I've got a strong sense of reason as well, rationality, logic, etc. Hence this blog post. I tend to experience emotions and then hyper-analyze why I'm experiencing them the way I do.

And honestly, I just want to sleep. I don't want to eat anything. I don't want to wade through a web of mental associations, idea networks, and feelings. I just want to sleep.

And for anyone who's listening, as I've been typing this, I just made another mental association. Randomly. Chaotically. It'll probably end up as a blog post sometime soon. Great.

The end and the beginning

So today, I'm home. The Spring semester has ended, all of my grades are in, and for the first time, I know that I'm not going back to UNC in the Fall. It worries me. Haha, that's funny. I wasn't even thinking when I wrote that, but yeah, I guess it worries me, and the reason it does is that, sitting here at home, I feel lonely. I miss the closeness and fellowship of the dorm. I miss my friends, because frankly, I'm not sure when I'll see them again or how often.

I'm graduating at the end of August. I have one last class to take before I'm done, Abnormal Psychology, which I'm taking in the space of only two weeks during the month of May. My final exam is May 29th. My flight to Los Angeles takes off on May 30th. My internship begins on June 1st. May 30th I say goodbye to my family. The following Tuesday, my dad gets on a plane back to Greensboro and I say goodbye to him too.

That's a lot of goodbyes. So yeah, I'm worried and I feel lonely... in advance. Weird, huh? And it makes me wonder, why do I feel lonely? What am I worried about? You know, honestly, I don't think I'm that worried about getting a job. I seem strangely optimistic about that. I think I can do it. I really do. I think I'm just worried about being lonely out in Los Angeles. I'm worried about lacking the support of friends and family that I've had here at home and at school.

And ultimately, I think I'm just nervous about taking that next huge step in life. I mean, I'm moving across the country for crying out loud! It's ok to be nervous. But I have to have faith that despite any loneliness that I may feel, God will provide in Los Angeles just like he provided in Chapel Hill. It may not look the same, but He is.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Baring All?

I happen to be reading a book entitled Writing for Comics with Peter David which just happens to be written by Peter David. Just to provide a brief biography, Peter David is a comic book writer known for his work on The Hulk, Supergirl, X-Factor, and other better or lesser known Marvel and DC comic titles.

May I say that I absolutely love comic books? I don’t care that I’m currently 21 years old and about to move across the country to hunt for work. I grew up on comic books and the myriad of 90’s cartoon spin-offs on the Fox Kids Television Network. But, for me, comics were never just… well, comics. I loved how the characters came alive and leapt off the page. They were very real seeming, and each character seemed to illustrate some aspect of my life or the world around me.

For Example, one of my favorite X-Men characters:

Gambit: A Cajun with a mysterious past in the criminal underworld. He can kinetically charge any object just by touching it and plug it so full of energy that it explodes. Basically, he can make bombs out of anything. Pretty cool, so cool in fact, that he is featured in the upcoming movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The coolest thing about him though was always his nonchalant attitude. He was a man of mystery and confidence. I always wanted to be like that as a child and young teen. I wanted to be that mysterious man, the one who everyone wanted to know more about, but couldn’t pry any more information out of than was allowed. I wanted to be that slightly dangerous, yet good, card wielding Cajun. Call it fantasy or catharsis if you will, but as a child, I empathized with this character. He was an extension of a hidden longing within.

So as I’m reading this book, Peter David goes into a discussion of how to create a character and how to create characters that are compelling for the audience. Here is a quote that particularly struck me:

“Don’t hold back. Writers have to be willing to metaphorically drop their pants and invite the world to take its best shot. If there are aspects of yourself that you really don’t like, be willing to explore them within a fictional construct. Not only might you create a compelling character, but you might find out interesting things about yourself.”

~ Peter David

So here’s the catch, am I brave enough as a writer to expose my inner demons to the world? Is that something I want to risk? I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently, thinking about how this applies to my writing and my future in the film industry (and any storytelling industry, honestly) and I’ve come to the conclusion that this has been what I’ve wanted to do all along. I often say that I want to create stories that reveal things to people which they didn’t know about themselves before, that I want to expose the corners of the room that are currently hidden in shadows. So yes, this is exactly what I want to do as a storyteller. My goal though, is to create characters that can live in dreams and goals and aspirations just like so many Marvel characters did in my childhood. To do that takes time, courage, and self-examination. It may involve going places that I'm not comfortable going or writing difficult characters and situations, but in the end, it's worth it. If I can create characters that I empathize with, then I can create characters that the world empathizes with as well, and in so doing, maybe we can learn a thing or two about ourselves.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Corpse Bride

It’s been a while since I’ve posted again, so I thought it was about time.

This past week, I watched a movie on the advice of my best friend, The Corpse Bride. The basic plot is this:

A bumbling but inwardly talented young man, is betrothed by his parents to a woman he’s never met. Fearful of his impending marriage, he realizes upon meeting his fiancĂ© for the first time that here is a woman who, despite all of his fears, he can love and she him. Reassured by this realization, he still can’t get his vows right and goes on a walk deep into the woods to practice. While doing so, he finally manages to repeat his lines while placing the wedding ring on what looks like an exposed root, only to discover that the root is in fact the decaying remnants of a human hand.

Still with me?

What results is a strange visit to the underworld with Victor's new bride, (remember the hand? It belonged to someone) the Corpse Bride, and Victor's desperate attempts to return to his betrothed above.

It’s actually quite a brilliant film in many ways. Unlike many stop motion films which employ clay to create and pose characters, or all too common today CGI assisted animation, Corpse Bride was filmed using expertly crafted models from the UK with a complex gear mechanism within for incredibly subtle motion control.

Plus, Tim Burton’s fingerprints are all over it. It may be bizarre, but it’s bizarre in an incredibly imaginative way. One thing I admire most about Tim Burton’s directing style is that he truly lets his imagination reign free. Plus, if you’ve ever seen him in a “making of” featurette, his hair is crazy! This gives me hope for the future that Hollywood isn’t completely biased against directors with big, curly hair ;)

From a technical perspective, this film is a drool fest (kind of like another model based animation that recently came out aka Coralline).

From an emotional standpoint, The Corpse Bride is even more powerful as it looks at the nature of relationships and romantic endeavors. One particularly touching moment for me was a musical number in which the corpse bride laments the fact that despite her best efforts, Victor will never love her the way she wants him to. It’s such a tremendously sad moment, especially because, in all honesty, there’s no particular reason why Victor and the Corpse Bride wouldn’t be perfect for each other (other than the obvious fact that she’s already dead). They get along well. They share the same sense of humor. They even play piano together beautifully. But he’s in love with someone else, and there’s nothing that she can do to change that fact. Summed up in this one musical number is enough rejection and internal pain to last a person their whole life.

This really just got me thinking about a lot of things, and one thing that crossed my mind was what it must feel like to be someone left at the altar. Just think, you’ve invested so much time and emotional energy into one person, proposed (or conversely been proposed to), intending to spend the rest of your life with them, and then at the very end, they change their mind. What must that feel like? Where do you go from there? Do you just keep going like before and hope that one day they change their mind and decide to marry you? Or do you call it all off completely? How hard that must be.

Today I watched a short propaganda video with my dad which was created by a small Christian ministry. The main purpose of the video was to warn families of the dangers posed by the media based out of Hollywood and the "war on family values" and Christian culture that it represented.

A few things:

1) The piece was incredibly outdated. If you judged by the particular clips used as examples, you'd think that MTV was the only television channel in existence. Given when it was made, I can understand how concerning MTV would be for Christian parents. But today, it's a little unreasonable to base your entire understanding of the media on one television channel which, quite frankly, isn't even top dog any more as far as teen and college interest is concerned.

2) The acting was horrible and even worse than that found in most typical Christian movies. One would think that if you're going to make commentary on films and art, you should actually be good at, say, making films and art. This is one reason why it's so hard to take Christian commentators on the media seriously these days. I understand your points and even agree to a certain extent, but the fact is that you still are unable to present a viable alternative to mainstream media, even with your Christian subculture that you've created.

3) The propaganda piece pretty much just strung together as many creepy or bizarre clips as it could in montages without any context or explanation. You had clips ranging from Chucky to the Terminator and Poltergeist. So of course Hollywood and the media are going to look freaky. You're only showing freaky things.

4) As a tie-in with number 3, the movie took the most extreme examples of Hollywood bias against Christianity and biblical morals and presented it without any counter-evidence. Further, it inferred an argument that anything which looks disturbing or may be emotionally disturbing was somehow anti-Christian or anti-biblical. This just simply isn't the case. If you were to take the Bible and turn it into a movie, there is no possible way that it could be made into anything rated below an 'R'. The Bible is not PG-13. Heck, even one of the best crucifixion stories told on film to this date, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" earned an 'R' rating. So this philosophy that only things which are family friendly are worth watching is false.

5) The movie essentially argued that the purpose of art was to present something lovely to its audience (referring to Philippians 4:8). And while this is perfectly acceptable in one's thought life, we live in a world in which human beings require God's convicting on matters of the heart, and art is one tool which the spirit chooses to do so.

For me, personally, I want to create films that do disturb, and disturb in such a way as to provoke my audience to action and change. I want to foster movies which shine as beacons in the room, lighting dark corners and exposing shadows for what they are. I want to uncover those monsters lurking in the closet and under the bed. Because, frankly, I feel like human beings are really good at hiding things from themselves. I know I am. It's up to the artist to show us those things which we don't want to look at ourselves.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. More to come.