By: Omar Masri
June 28th, 2020
I live for the feeling of watching a movie, interview or even listening to a podcast, where a scene, an anecdote or an explanation somehow summarizes who you are as person better than you have ever been able to do before yourself. This doesn’t mean you two are the same person or have the same external factors driving these feelings, but rather it seems you’re both processing the world the same way. Within this relatability, there is some strange level of comfort in knowing that it truly isn’t just you. To give you a little bit of an idea of who I am, I’ve personally had this feeling from listening to people such as Jonah Hill, Kanye West, Jamie Foxx, Dave Chapelle and the list goes on.
Now just off that statement alone, you might be making preconceived judgements about who I am and that’s okay and kind of the point I’m actually trying to make. This being said, I think you always need a certain level of self-awareness when saying things like “I feel like Kanye”. No, I’m not saying I’m one of the greatest musical artists of all time, but rather the way he struggles to articulate his personally profound thoughts into speech resonates with me immensely, and I feel as if I’m still searching for my outlet the way Kanye found his; in music.
When you don’t have your voice yet, it can be so reassuring to hear someone advocating for the way you’re personally unpacking this crazy life too.
I think sharing your story is so important because you might be providing someone with the moment of relief inknowing you truly are not alone in the way you’re feeling.
Having said all that, stop me if this sounds too familiar:
Everything as a child came easy to you and that’s seriously fucking you up now.
You’ve heard teachers in parent-teacher interviews say things like, “Omar is doing great, but it concerns me because he’s barely trying, and I know if he applied himself a little bit more, he would be top of the class”.
You’re a super likeable person because you don’t ruffle any feathers and honestly you prefer it that way.
You do the leg bounce thing almost anytime you’re sitting down.
You’re always joking and smiling and trying to make everyone’s day better but you’re really struggling on the inside.
You now have absolutely zero work ethic, and real life is slowly kicking your ass while you rely on escapism to ease the stress.
I’ll stop there because I want to touch on escapism and how that played, and stills play a role in my day to day life and mental health.
I think I smoked weed for the first time when I was about 16 years old in grade 10, and it was a very typical “coming of age/tries weed for the first time story”, I was actually one of the last ones to try it in my friend group because I was still really afraid of my parents finding out. Prior to this moment I was about as straight edge as a 16-year-old could be. Anyways, me and the boys get on our bikes, ride off into the night and get absolutely baked. It was such a surreal feeling for me, as a kid that had never smoked, drank or done anything to alter my brain chemistry, I was truly experiencing an altered mental state for the first time ever and I absolutely loved it.
Now before I go on, I need to make it abundantly clear that this is not a “weed is bad” story as that is most certainty not the case. It is a “using anything as a crutch or escape to not face the shitty realities of your life/current situation, is bad” story.
Between grade 10 and high school graduation, I was still using weed super occasionally and just with a big group of friends and I won’t lie, it was really fun and felt harmless. Now, let’s fast forward to my first year of university and I was struggling to make friends as I was commuting and still on the waitlist for residence which I would get later in November of first year. Those first few months were really tough, and I want to give a shout out to the commuters of the world because University is a whole different ball game when you don’t get to make automatic friends in residence. I’m sharing all of this because it was in those very short couple months of September/October where I bought weed by myself for the first time and also smoked by myself for the first time and this really was an introduction into a whole new world.
These were the nights were I truly felt the most alone I had ever been, and I would just find myself crying alone and anxious about every little thing. When I say every little thing, I literally mean things like not ordering from my universities cafeterias even though my parents had put money on my card, because I didn’t know the procedure of ordering in a cafeteria and I was too afraid to ask and make myself look silly. Feeling defeated, I would just use my debit card at the McDonalds kiosk, this way I don’t have to talk to anyone. I would go to any means to avoid talking to people and risk making myself look dumb. I felt like everyone was watching me and judging my every move. This was a necessary step in my growth but let me tell you now, living in fear of the unknown and constantly relying on yourcomfort zone is no way to live and you will be going nowhere fast.
The more I smoked alone, the more I began to realize that smoking weed when I was feeling this way tended to alleviate my stresses or anxieties (or so I thought), and this led me to use it as a sort of defense mechanism to this type of feeling. The next couple years through ages 18-20, I would end up completely rewiring my brain by smoking weed at every possible moment I felt frustrated, agitated, anxious, depressed, confused, overwhelmed, and the list goes on and on.
I’m writing this about a week before my 22nd birthday and I am on day 20 of a 30-day hiatus from weed. 30 consecutive days off of weed smoke is something I haven’t done since the age of 18. Again, to make myself clear, weed itself wasn’t the real issue but rather how I was using it. Your “weed” might be, junk food, gambling, endless scrolling of social media, meaningless hookups, etc. We all have our vices but being aware and in control of them is the fine line that separates a healthy indulgence and self-destructive behavior.
What this weed hiatus has allowed me to do is rewire my brain to remember that every instance I feel any of those negative feelings I don’t run to weed so that I don’t have to deal with them. I want to be so in control of my own choices that if I say I am going to do something or rather not do something, I can trust and rely on myself to do it. Sometimes I like to think that there’s a monkey in my head that wants to do nothing, but smoke weed and scroll through reddit all day, and every time I do end up doing exactly that, the monkey gets stronger and harder to say no to.
I want to end on a positive note of my healthiest escapism addiction and that is music. Since about grade 9/10, music has been one of the most important and consistent things in my life. I listen to it every day and it feeds me with that feeling I was talking about at the beginning of this write up of having someone else put how I feel into a beautiful assortment of melodies and harmonies and lyrics. Two of my favorite songs of all time that speak to my soul in a different way and have helped me out of very negative places are “Moment of Truth” by Gang Starr (RIP Guru) and “Vienna” by Billy Joel. I want to end by sharing two separate lyrics from both songs because they perfectly encapsulate how I feel sometimes, and I would rather let them speak for me in this instance.
I’m still a work in progress, but a secret that they don’t tell you growing up is that everyone is. That’s just life.
“Moment of Truth” by Gang Starr
“Sometimes you gotta dig deep, when problems come near
Don't fear things get severe for everybody everywhere
Why do bad things happen, to good people?
Seems that life is just a constant war between good and evil
The situation that I'm facin, is mad amazin
To think such problems can arise from minor confrontations
Now I'm contemplatin in my bedroom pacin
Dark clouds over my head, my heart's racin
Suicide? nah, I'm not a foolish guy
Don't even feel like drinking, or even gettin high
Cause all that's gonna do really, is accelerate
The anxieties that I wish I could alleviate”
“Vienna” by Billy Joel
“Slow down, you're doing fine
You can't be everything you want to be
Before your time
Although it's so romantic on the borderline tonight
Too bad but it's the life you lead
You're so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need
Though you can see when you're wrong, you know
You can't always see when you're right. you're right”