See ya later alligators

I move back to school tomorrow and I’m not entirely packed and YEAH NO I’M TOTALLY CALM ABOUT IT AHAHAHA…

(Kay so maybe I’m panicking a little.)

This will be short because I just don’t have the energy. I’m really excited about finally going back for a multitude of reasons, but it’s hard to fully realize that excitement when I have the horror of auditions awaiting me when I get back. And I’m also not as down to leave this city as I have been in the past. I’m kind of sort of really freaking out over everything I’m leaving behind because this summer has presented me with some not so great changes, and now things will be taken entirely out of my control when I’m 100 kilometres away. I wrote a long and emotionally driven blog post expanding on this that I was going to post today, but I realized it wasn’t going to help in any way. Sometimes parts of life don’t pan out how you expect and it really sucks, but you just have to deal with it and try to move on.

But hey, third year will be hella dope. I’ll be back with friends I haven’t seen in forever, I’ll be in some awesome classes and productions, and maybe I’ll get over my habit of saying words like “hella” and “dope”. But let’s be real, that’ll never happen.

I hope everyone who reads this blog had a wonderful summer. And if you’re at all worried about going back to school, it’s cool. Change just means that life is moving forward, and I would much prefer life to move forward than for it to stop.

No but seriously I’m staring at an open suitcase as a single tear rolls down my cheek OKAY GOTTA GO BYE.

9 life lessons I’ve learned from working with children

In the summer I work at a day camp, and this is my last week and I’m feeling the feels. It’s an all-girls day camp called Girls Rock! that promotes positive self image and self esteem (I know, stupid cute). The kids range from 5 years old (sometimes 4 and a half) to twelve, so I see, hear, and experience a bunch of interesting things, and what I’ve discovered is that children can teach you a whole lot of grown-up lessons. Here are a few:

 
1. Listen to people and they will like you a lot more:
     When I ask you to listen I promise that it is for your own benefit. When you don’t listen, you don’t know how to do the craft, you ask a million questions I’ve already answered, and I am not a happy camper. Listen the first time and you’ll make my favourites list. (Not that I have favourites or anything…)
 
 
2. Sometimes, speaking your mind with no filter can be a good thing:
     Kids say the darndest things. Often worth documenting in a notebook. Which we did. Again, not that we play favourites, but the staff was a little partial to kids who made us keel over with laughter at the shocking words that just came out of their mouths. Fan favourite: 5-year-old Grace singing “We Can’t Stop” because she just couldn’t stop having fun.
 
 
3. Originality is important at any age:
     Over the course of six weeks I encountered 8 Hannahs, 6 Graces, and 4 Avas. Come on parents, get it together. The need for creativity doesn’t end after age 6.
 
 
4. Look at the world from all angles:
     Particularly upside down. Some of the loudest giggles come from girls after I pick them up and flip them around.
(It’s safe, I promise.)
 
 
5. It’s okay to ask for help:
     I’m a fairly competent person, but when I have one kid in need of ice, another who can’t reach the toy bucket, and a third asking how to spell “friend,” it’s okay to ask for some assistance. I’m all for independence, but you need to draw the line when one child is strapped to each of your ankles, preventing you from walking.
 
 
6. Forgive where forgiveness is due:
     Sometimes, when safety or my sanity is involved, I get a little snappy with the kids. And when “alight, girls, let’s keep our hands to yourselves” turns into “I do NOT want to see you EVER hitting each other again; we do NOT do that at camp,” I worry that they’ll hate me forever for doling out the discipline. But the next second they’re begging to sit beside me in the circle. Sometime snark is necessary and I appreciate their ability to forgive and forget.
 
 
7. You can find happiness in almost anything:
      Ever feel like you aren’t doing anything productive with your life? Try building a space ship out of pylons, skipping ropes, and a deflated soccer ball. Pure joy can come from the broken and mismatched pieces around you if you find a way to put them back together.
 
 
8. Hugs are our greatest commodity:
     You think this hug is for your benefit but really I’m enjoying it just as much, if not more. Whether the other person barely comes up to your knees or towers over you like a tree, hug them with all of your might. Hugs are totally underrated, if you ask me. Especially the kind where someone runs full at you and flings themselves into you arms, nearly knocking you over.
 
 
9. You might be a lot better off than you think you are:
     One minute you’re bawling til the cows come home because someone stepped on your toe, and the next you’re actively participating in a rousing game of octopus. Sometimes you can bounce back from rough times faster than you can say “sympathy bandaid”
 
 
Kids are extraordinary, wonderful, special human beings who see the world in such an admirable way. They are blissfully naive, and their biggest struggle in life is when they can’t get their juice open. I feel sad when people say they don’t like kids because we can learn so much from them. I go to work every day and see these girls and imagine the successful, loving, and beautiful young women they will one day grow into, but for now I hope they all enjoy and savour their childhood, because it’s a magical time and they’ve taught me more about being a better person than they could ever imagine.
 

Oh Captain! My Captain!

Clichéd title, I am aware, but nothing else felt suiting enough.

To clarify: the title of this post is also the title of a Walt Whitman poem written about the death of the American president Abraham Lincoln, most popularized by the 1989 film Dead Poet’s Society. In the film, teacher John Keating tells his students they may call him “Oh Captain! My Captain!” if they felt daring. Quality film. Watch it if you haven’t.

I am writing this post on Monday within hours of hearing the news of the death of beloved actor Robin Williams, who brought life to roles like Keating and numerous others, because I don’t think I’ve ever been so affected by the death of a celebrity. I feel shocked and confused and sad, and I want to talk to someone about it, so why not myself. Or I guess also you, on Wednesday. But for now, it’s just me.

Robin Williams made a very strong impression on my very young self. Somewhere between Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams I fell in love with his acting. I vividly remember my mom showing me Good Morning, Vietnam, which really solidified it all for me. He was my favourite actor as a child, still making the list today, and I am not just saying this in light of recent events. I’ve wanted to be an actor for most of my life, and the positive and happy feelings that Robin Williams evoked in my young self made me want to produce those feelings for myself in my own acting. Perhaps I didn’t understand this fully as a kid, but I could certainly see that he was hilarious and brilliant and talented and original, and I respected him and aspired to be him.

With this I do not claim to love Robin Williams any more than anyone else. In fact, I know there are so many other people who love him a whole lot more than I do, particularly those who knew him in person. Which I never did. The fact is, I have formed my positive opinion of Robin Williams almost entirely through the characters he has played. Our minds construct celebrities through their public persona: their performances, appearances, media portrayal. We know Robin Williams as Patch Adams and Mr. Keating and the Genie. We don’t know him as just Robin Williams, the person. Because first and foremost, he is a person. Artists express themselves through their creative endeavours, so I can only assume that Robin Williams was as loving and passionate and clever and funny as he has portrayed himself to me. But assumptions do not make a person. Every human goes through their own triumphs and struggles, and while sometimes all we see is the ups we need to understand and respect that there are the downs. We have no right to draw conclusions or make snap judgements. We should only show respect and as much understanding as we can.

Yes, the world has lost a brilliant actor and comedian, but more importantly, a man has lost his life. Forgive me if this is insensitive, but I feel like people react to death rather selfishly. It is natural and healthy to feel upset and to grieve (I certainly am very sad), but keep in mind that the strength of your sadness shouldn’t overshadow the bigger issue that a person is no longer alive. Robin Williams has suffered the greatest loss of all, and while I know everyone understands that, I just think we all need to continue to exercise our empathetic abilities in paying our respects. Death is a tragedy because it is death, not just because it is someone we all know and love.

I like to end these posts on a positive note, but I still think this is too recent to wrap things up with an optimistic quote from Sean Maguire. I’m having a tough time figuring out how I should deal with the death of a celebrity who I feel like I know but really don’t know at all. Grief is a funny thing. I will process and mourn and slowly come to a point of understanding, but right now I don’t feel right trying to force everything to be fine with a false positive outlook. Which, in my opinion, is totally okay. And I hope everyone who is also feeling deeply affected by his death will come to find their own place of happiness again as well.

Part of me doesn’t like the idea of adding to the number of responses to Robin Williams’ death on social media because something about this internet outpour gives me a weird feeling. But like I said, I am writing this for me, as my own way to deal with this shocking death that has impacted me more than I thought possible. Blogs are cheeper than therapy.

Regardless, thank you Robin Williams, for bringing so much joy to my life. If only I could have returned the favour.

I actually really love school

Sue me.

The inspiration from this post comes from the study cram session that I am in the midst of this week in preparation for my summer school exams this Saturday. Don’t pity the fact that I am doing school work in August, because I don’t pity myself. While, yes, I wouldn’t mind passing these dog days catching up with Suits and napping in the sunlight, I’ve actually really loved taking classes this summer instead of drowning in a four month hiatus from learning. Last summer I really disliked not doing schoolwork for such a long period of time, so this summer I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to further my education. And if that doesn’t speak to my level of craziness, then I don’t know what does.

I have loved school since a young age because I was incredibly lucky to be a very smart kid. I feel like my elementary brilliance is pretty irrelevant in present day, so it’s okay for me to gush over my past intelligence without sounding like I’m bragging. Or at least, I hope. Public School Marryl is an entirely different person from Current Marryl so really I’m not even bragging about myself. Just a past me that is long gone.

Basically I was just really smart, whatever that means. I was always reading above grade level. I was given extra assignments when I finished the class assignment early. I got hella bored in math when we repeated the same problem a hundred times even though I understood it after the first two. Things just made sense to me and I generally excelled in everything school related. I went to an Enrichment school (aka School for Smarties) a half day a week for a couple months from grades 1 to 5, and then one full day a week for the entire year in grade 6. There, my class of kids from across the region did activities and independent studies that were shaped to higher learning or whatever. Nowadays my mom says I should have skipped a grade or something because I felt unchallenged, but shoulda woulda coulda. I’m not really sure what it meant to be smart in elementary school, because all I really did was understand big words and learn really fast. But at the time, that was so normal to me. Ignorant little Marryl didn’t realize it wasn’t easy for everyone. Sorry, I sound braggy. The point is that I did really well and therefor loved it. People like things they’re good at.

I continued to do well throughout middle school and high school, though in my opinion not as well because there was a larger volume of people to compare myself to, and public school is a very comparative system. Actually, the education system in general is very comparative, as much as it likes to deny that fact. But I did well nonetheless, and without trying very hard, and so I still liked it. It wasn’t that I just slacked and got good grades in high school; I still tried and gave most things my all. But looking back, I can’t remember the effort I put in taking that much energy.

University is a whole different ballgame. I put in stupid amounts of work and average grades ridiculously below what I averaged in public school. I don’t always love university, and I think that’s why. Like I said, people like what they are good at because it makes them feel good about themselves. I am pretty good at university, but not as good as I was at high school or elementary school. I really loved public school, but I think my mind correlates that love with the fact that I excelled so much. And now I’ve tricked myself into thinking my enjoyment level is only determined by my success.

But that’s just dumb.

The University of Toronto is a very snobby institution, so while they let you study elsewhere for the summer, they’re worried that you’ll go off to some easy, non-top 5 school, get 90s, and come back with a boosted GPA. So I only need a 60% in my summer courses, and then it’s credit-no-credit. I’m sitting her, busting my butt to cram all of this French grammar into my brain when I could probably get a 30% on the exam and still pass the course, without affecting my GPA. I could just slack and do the bare minimum, but I can’t. I mean, I could. Netflix is only a tab away. But in this case, my satisfaction isn’t tied to how well I do because grades honestly do not matter. I’m studying like it’s my day job because I want to for the sake of wanting to. I want to learn grammar and I want to memorize vocab and I want to read Tuck Everlasting because I’m learning and learning is pretty rad. Even when it’s 28 degrees outside and I’ve become all too familiar with the cocoon that is my bedroom.

I think what I need to remind myself in this upcoming school year is that it’s totally okay if I don’t get amazing grades. A lot of people will say that “grades don’t matter”, which is untrue when taken literally. Grades matter to an extent. But grades don’t always correlate with the quality of your learning experience. As a girl who is so used to liking school because she was so good at it, I need to keep telling myself that I’m still good at school, but how much I like it doesn’t need to drop as much as my grade point average.

Because learning is dope. I love all the cool stuff I’ve been learning, and I’m very thankful to be able to learn it all, even though I totally take it for granted sometimes.

Stay in school, kids.