003 | learning learning.

I wish I’d never been commended on doing well as a kid. I was a child. Whatever I was doing was mediocre at best in comparison to a basic-functioning adult and most probably happenstance, so there really was no need to pretend I was up for Nobel Peace Prize nominations at every parent-teacher conference. Writing at a 5th grade level in 2nd grade. Spelling at a 7th grade level in 3rd grade. Reading at an 8th grade level in 5th grade. “Gifted” in America, “Enhanced” in Canada. My parents? “Yawn.” It was such a given that I was likely kicking my peers’ butts at the brain-game that my parents kinda sorta mostly lost interest in parent-teacher nights and figured, hey, let’s just stay all stay home and enjoy the latest Seinfeld, yes? (Sucks to be them, comedy is what I prioritized over math.)

Kids just are, they do what they do, they soak up what they see, hear, experience. So their output is just that. And when I kept getting rewarded for being a nerd, I knew my brain was A-okay and chugging along. It seemed to be pleasing all of the adults around me with no intervention required. I could just continue deep-diving into my Bearenstein Bears, Boxcar Children, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley, Judy Blume goodness, my pocket thesaurus, presidential biographies, and that big book on geographical features, and not worry at all about figuring out how to really do anything. Because my brain seemed to be doing it on its own. And when it got confused? Well, I just walked away. I distinctly remember explosively failing a quiz on measurements in elementary school. My teacher’s facial expression was just flat-out confusion. Was Bree absent when I taught this? How is my star pupil bombing this, not just badly, but at all? Well, the measurements unit wrapped and we never talked about it again and then I wrote a killer essay on killer whales and wowed her pretty fast, pretty easily, and all metric system failures were quickly buried and forgotten. (This was in California, hence, metric, not Imperial.)

Sidebar: I still have no clue what Americans use a yard stick for beyond teachers pointing at chalkboards. They must’ve advanced to laser pointers by now so yard sticks are most probably obsolete both physically and in the percentage of carpenters using them, I’m sure.

I think I’m emerging with two points here. The first, the process of learning was never emphasized, so yea, there really is something to that “commend the effort, not the result” developmental psychology research theory for raising your kids.

The second, I became very scared of venturing deep into realms of learning where I sucked and natural intelligence could only get me so far. I walked into situations expecting an A, perhaps even an A+, so when a big ol’ “Wrong” came my way, it was instant Failure City paranoia. It should never be about failing. It should never ever be that. No kid should ever feel like their only options are to either just be great through no control of their own, or fail miserably.

I didn’t know how to be vulnerable about my shortcomings.

As my natural intelligence started equalling the studying efforts of my teenage classmates in high school, failure and mediocrity became the new weird feeling inside of me. But I surely didn’t know it. Throw in a resulting depression and an inability to label, let alone address, these new feelings of frustration, I was doomed to hold tightly to the antiquated notion that I was naturally able to excel and be perfect– rather than face what I was being shown over and over through test results. I knew I had the brain… I just didn’t know how to use it anymore. I didn’t know how to study. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable about my shortcomings. I didn’t know how to say “Help me, I’m lost,” and “I suck at math so why am I trying to get into med school rather than writing The Next Great Canadian Novel?”

Second sidebar: I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realize that I’m pretty basic at math. When I do math in my head, I visualize. Nothing’s automated. I’m really speedy at those visualizations now, but in comparison to colleagues, it’s probably still a massively slow way to reach answers. (Yes, yes I have worked and trained as a data analyst, and I don’t know what to say about that right now so I guess stay tuned for a future blog post?)

My god, I’ve picked the most subjective career possible– I’ll never get that A from all hundo-p of viewers (that’s 100%, don’t forget)

Which all brings me to today. I know I’m good at acting, I might even say great at times and I can say that with confidence. I’ve grown as a learner since my public school and uni days. I’ve practiced techniques from acting and improv classes, gigs and watching others perform live and on TV; I’ve changed how I analyze scripts. People enjoy my performances.

But when I fail? Hoo-boy. The shame of my “natural intelligence” not gleaming through to glide me to perfection– yea it definitely tries to kick down the door to get at me and slam me down to my knees with brute force. But the default settings that came with my brain barely have anything to do with the clean, precise, technically-proficient and emotionally-generous professional actor I am continuously developing and forming.

Yes, I utilize my natural instinct of swimming into the depths of my emotional well, and I pick up humour faster than them non-humourous folks (who even are they, why even are they, please let me never go out on a date with any of them ever again). But the precision in harnessing my emotions for this career is something I’m constantly fine-tuning and will be forever. I’ll never be exactly what everyone wants. My god, I’ve picked the most subjective career possible– I’ll never get that A from all hundo-p of viewers (that’s 100%, don’t forget), let alone that A+. There’ll always be the flip-side of a reviewer deciding comedy needs to be explained to me because I just didn’t get it.

But as long as I don’t get complacent and sit back to rely on whatever level I’m at now, as long as I stay aware that perfection is nowhere near and there’s always room to push and uncover my next layer of unbelievable– yea, I’ll be here chiselling away. Because, here’s the lesson, kids, now I know how to get better. And I actually want to instead of running away from questions about how many meters are in yards (or yards in meters?). Because I love it so goddamn much beyond everything. All that career-flipping, purposeless wandering and suicidal depression that dropped me off at “either go die or pursue your dream career” cliff (which will fill up this blog)… was worth it.

002 | preservation.

I’m hesitating on what to write about right now. I’ve put myself on a deadline of accomplishing this blog entry by midnight (or 1am or whatever) and here I sit typing and backspacing first sentences. There are a multitude of topics I could venture into, but instinctively I’m being held back from diving in. My brain’s wondering, but mostly my heart– are you up for it? Are you ready for the ups and downs that come with letting your mind wander in that realm?

It’s the deep ocean where procrastination rises from, like Poseidon lurking ready to burst with a clock in one hand and a phone/guitar/romance novel in the other– these are my time hogs, of course. You know the pressure you’ve put on yourself to produce, so it’s mighty easier to back away, or at least look away, just for right now.

Sure, it’s a big ol’ nothingburger.

But I’m here, staring at the rest of this dooming white screen. And it’s not even like it was a bad day where I’m trying to take a break from an exhausting train of caboose after caboose of sorrowful baggage. It was a pretty remarkable day really, in comparison to the heavy molasses of the past few months. I yoga’d, I pandemic-walked, I video chatted, I fed myself, I worked (edited and sent off a self-tape audition to my agents, and reviewed sides (script excerpts) for an acting workshop), I practiced the dreaded F barre chord on the guitar… and I even threw together a stream of birthday surprise deliveries for a best friend (“Best friend is a tier, Danny.”) which culminated in the creation of the fastest yet neatest powerpoint to accompany hosting a zoom birthday party.

So I’m wondering if I’m fearful of upsetting that steady ground I found today. I took care of my body and I successfully interacted with people. I was even productive– like majorly so. Gonna take a moment here to congratulate myself on having reached an extra level of modern human where I could simultaneously host a zoom party game, interact with the conversation, and update a powerpoint with images from incoming emails from latecomer guests. I out-human’ed myself. I deserved– nay– achieved that entire bowl of dumplings afterwards.

It was a good day. I checkmarked a ton off of today’s to-do list. Past Bree is really happy, a true proud parent.

So it’s ok, Bree. Take this day. This blog entry can be a gimme. Sure, it’s a big ol’ nothingburger. But you kept up the streak. Didn’t even kill it on the second day! That’s like, at least a step above crying into your bedding’s flat sheet. (That’s what it’s there for, right? Built-in handkerchief.)