Medical Condition? (Tick this box)

 

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Today I was signing some paperwork at the gym and there was a box for “medical conditions” and for a moment, I didn’t want to tick the box.
The lady received the paper and gave it the customary once over before stopping to read a little closer. She asked “what is Long QT syndrome?” and I tried my best to summarize something I only superficially understand myself.
By the end of the conversation two other staff members were standing by listening. This minor spectacle lasted only 15 minutes and they asked respectful questions but by the end I remembered why I wanted to leave the box blank.
I can’t remember the last time I had to explain my condition to a stranger. I live most of my life without people knowing or thinking about my condition. It’s nice to feel like it doesn’t define me in my daily life but it’s things like this that remind me that I’m extremely lucky.
My condition is a part of my everyday life but I have the luxury of worrying about a multitude of other things because my condition is really just a very dramatic inconvenience.
I have to be thankful. Thankful that my condition is not glaringly obvious to random passerby. That I am able to go to a gym at all.
I need to tick that box because to ignore or hide a condition like this jeopardizes not only my life but the incredible effort, love and pain that has gone into making my condition manageable from all the people who love and support me.
There’s always somebody worse off than yourself, so enjoy the gorgeous gifts you have been afforded and have fun… right?

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We haven’t talked in awhile…

Hello everyone, I realize that you probably haven’t received an email from this account in quite some time, in fact, it has been just over 1 year. The truth is I created this blog to articulate some of the incredibly difficult times I was experiencing because of my heart condition, and since then my heart condition has become more manageable and thus my writing has stopped.

I’m writing you today to let you know that I am going to be making an effort to post on here more regularly. The posts will likely consist of a link to my new Youtube channel where I am publishing videos from my life now that my condition has calmed down somewhat. In addition to this, I am hoping for some participation from you.

I have spent the last 2 years running around like a baby goat that got free from its pen because my body is permitting me. However, I have noticed that my attention to my health has definitely gone down as well. My regimented exercise routine has become less regimented, my 8 months off drinking ended a long time ago, and in general it seems that I’ve gone back to the unaware life of a normal guy. The problem is I miss the discourse around the heart condition. I loved being able to dig into my problems and scrutinize why things happened and why they affected me in that way, then even more so, the response that I got from all of you. It seems like a part of myself that I just stopped exploring as soon as it no longer became a life altering obstacle. I stopped because to share my (now) slight medical inconveniences (in comparison to some) felt cheap and contrived.

So I am wondering if you would be interested to follow my journey on this page without the strong focus on my medical condition? I loved the dialogue that was created in this space and I want to continue it, but what would you like to see? I don’t want to revive the anxiety of the past and make drama where there is none but it feels strange to walk away from this part of myself when it is still a very active part of my daily life. Is there something you would like to discuss? Let’s talk about it?

So with this rather sudden change, I will share with you some of my most recent videos from my youtube channel. They’re light and silly, those parts of myself I have been so happy to re-connect with over the last couple years but I guess tonight (after a long weekend of drinking and not sleeping) I felt the need to get back in touch with the thing that made me who I am today.

Thanks for listening, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Levi

 

7 Reasons You Should Enjoy Being Unemployed

It gives me great shame to admit that I am a job snob. I have spent months trying to find an occupation that is as awesome as I am. And somehow… I am still unemployed.

Apply!

With confidence in my worldly experience, charming good looks, and sparkling personality, I have spent the months of April and May applying for only the most desirable and spiritually fulfilling positions I could find on the internet. My mentality was that I would be willing to take a pay cut for something that I found pertinent to my future career aspirations, or sell my soul for the big bucks and achieve my dreams later. Turns out there is a lot of people looking for those kinds of jobs.

Unemplyed student

When I look back to all the job hunts of my past, they all share a similar existential and anxiety filled theme. But it was within these uncertain times that I found little parts of who I am today. So while you’re here, and have nothing else to do, enjoy this list of seven reasons why you should appreciate being unemployed.

  1. Work ethic. Being bored and scared for your future engages the fight or flight feature in your brain. The rejection and loneliness of unemployment tears down the perception that you are “destined” for something and instills a frantic need to define yourself in some way.LIFE
  2. Working out. You basically have to get a beach bod when all you do is go to the beach right?
  3. Humble pie. Suddenly you can sympathize with every awful job anyone has ever complained about. Because you’re about to start applying for them.Homeless
  4. What do you really want to do? With a lot of time, unfortunately, comes a lot of thinking. And it’s not usually productive. You will take long, deep analyses into what it is you value in life and how you want to be a part of it.
  5. Patience. I still ask my mom sometimes how she managed to put up with me, my dad, and a classroom of grade one students for over 25 years and didn’t kill any of us. Having things not go your way now, is going to help in life down the line.
  6. Sports and rec time. I don’t know when the last time was that you read a book, or rode your bike, or played the guitar, or made a meal, but seeing as that to-do list is still empty, you might as well fill it with something fun. Then maybe when you do get that interview you can serenade your way onto the payroll.To_do.jpg
  7. Creative freedom. This is an extension of the previous one, and it’s the last one on my list. For once you aren’t answering to your boss or your bosses’ boss. You can do what you like (within financial and legal restrictions) and you should take advantage of it while you can. Use this excess time and financial crunch to get to know yourself and do something you’ve always wanted to do. Because when you do get that job, you’re going to wish you had time to do stuff like this.

More than likely you’re going to have to work a job (or six) you don’t like. And in the meantime you’ll probably have to write a few blogs about your life just to keep yourself motivated. These jobs, and the times in between them, aren’t going to fill your heart with joy or get you your own TED Talk, but they will grant you the life experience needed to get you closer to your goals. So enjoy the time off while you have it. Because from what I can tell you sitting here on my couch, you might as well.

Gardening is the first step towards having kids and a mortgage


 

Growing a garden is the first step towards having kids and a mortgage. It’s a responsibility. An externalization of yourself in something else that takes your attention off the global issues, and refocuses it on the immediate ones. Instead of being small and helpless in the global slurry of concerns far outside your influence, you can take control of this little part, which is your own life, and make a difference. Because if you have plants on your patio, basically you have done your part to save the world… Right?

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One of the biggest challenges stopping people from living a sustainable lifestyle is the level of effort and commitment that it requires to “go green.” It is, for example, much easier to argue with your friends on Facebook than to bike to work everyday; much easier to share news stories about water shortages in third world countries, than to take shorter showers. To take responsibility for your environmental impact means that you have to change the way you live your life.

It’s not easy to be live sustainably today, the decision to minimize our impact is usually reduced to one brand or another. The only thing that is visibly different between them is the sticker and the price tag. These decisions provide no tangible evidence to show that these efforts are making a difference, and end up making food cost a hell of a lot more. It’s really sad. Local, organic food has been portrayed as a luxury item only attainable for the wealthy upper class. Now although I don’t see myself being independently wealthy in the near future, that doesn’t mean that I can’t support good food.

So, as of this summer, I’m a gardener. Something that would make 17-year-old Levi cringe. I started my own little garden on my patio, and though I still bitch about the state of the world, at least I can back up what I’m saying with what I’m doing.

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It’s the same as the sports fan yelling at the TV, or the guy watching porn on his laptop, you’re never going to get the satisfaction you want until you get in there and do it. If I had a vegetable for every argument I’ve had about how poorly we treat the environment, I wouldn’t have to pay for groceries anymore. It may be small, but what this garden does is something so many GreenPeace spam campaigns have failed to do—inspired me to change.

Me Gardening.JPGIf you have a garden that you wanna do a shoutout to, or some plants you feel love for. Just drop a comment in the section below, I’d love to talk plants with ya’ll. 

3 Reasons To Stop Reading Trump’s Junk

Yesterday I spent an entire day without seeing, thinking, or reading anything about Donald Trump—and it was awesome. Of course by reading this you may have broken your own Trump-free streak, but perhaps after reading this you will consider scrolling past the small-hands man the next time he appears on your news feed. Here’s 3 reasons why you should.

1. It helps him win. As many popular posts online have shown, Trump is popular because people watch, read, tweet, and argue about him constantly on the internet. This is because the things he says are insane. And famous, insane, rich guys running for presidency makes really good television. He is the ultimate train-wreck of a human being, but we have to find a way to ignore it.

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2. It Makes You a Part of the Problem. You might be thinking, “but Levi, shouldn’t I be speaking my voice to say that I disagree with his policies?” Maybe with your friends in person, but public participation online gives his actions more impact. By sharing your anger and frustration you are giving his supporters the reactions they are looking for, and  pushing the conversation to continue.

3. It Makes You Feel Awful. By putting yourself in the negative environment that follows Trump, you are putting yourself in a bad mood. By cutting the Trump, you will find your perspective on life is a lot less jaded. Maybe take that time you would have spent infuriated in front of your computer, and go do literally anything not Trump related.

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Yes, you can argue that this is a passive aggressive, head-in-the-sand mentality. But it will do no good to perpetuate the cycle of trump negativity, and it may actually be harmful to your health to engage with it.

If you really feel like you can’t handle the pressure of his big stupid face all over your news feed, at the very least you can make it funny with John Oliver’s “make Donald Drumpf again” Google Chrome plug in. This handy little extension replaces the word “Trump” with “Drumpf” everywhere it is found on your browser, making his news at least a bit less depressing.

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donaldjdrumpf.com

If you have any other ideas of how to combat Trumperia, Trumpression, Trumpophobia, leave them in the comments below.

 

 

Don’t Stop When You’re Tired, Stop When You Hate Yourself

There’s a mentality in the academia world that says you should be willing to ‘do everything it takes’ and to ‘sacrifice it all’ to become who you want to be. These messages promote hard work and commitment as the way to achieve your dreams, but in practice we see that message going a bit awry. On University campuses around the world, students are hustling to get through their degrees– and they’re running themselves into the ground to do it.

Motivational

I could blame the curriculum, capitalism and the millennial generation but the reality is that students choose their own course load. And from what I have experienced, the idea is to try and do as many classes as possible in a semester, even if it means bleeding out of your eyes and crying yourself to sleep every night. You make up for healthy social lives with blackout drunk weekends, sleep with caffeine and Adderall, and self fulfilled direction in life with government approved validation. Instead of finding commitment and true passion in students we see anxiety stricken stares of bewildered youths who are in way over their heads. I add myself to this list.

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I attended a rigorous program at Capilano University in North Vancouver. Over the three years of attending school in Vancouver I can count on my hands the number of times I went out to experience the city. I was taking between 6 and 8 classes a semester spending 50-60 hours a week at the school. My only goal was to get through school so I could go out and start making a name for myself. This works in theory because the sooner you are out of school the sooner that Mark Zuckerberg can discover you. The problem is Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t give a sh*t about all the classes you just took.

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Essentially I graduated from University (in record time) with a bachelor’s degree in nothing and the emotional depth of a petri dish. I had no real interests I could remember other than what I had abandoned when I decided to go to school 4 years earlier. The truth is, I was too busy getting a degree I thought would define me as a person. I missed out on the fact that University should be the place where you discover who you are as a person, not what you do for work.

Now I am here at UVic like a reformed drug addict telling all his friends he found Jesus. I’m taking FOUR classes a semester, I dropped my summer job, and I go to the movies on cheap night. I focus less on the final step of my 5-year plan and more on my 25 steps getting to the bus stop from my apartment. This is the way my life should be: I have time to party responsibly, I can binge watch Netflix one or two nights a week and not feel terrible about it, and I can do my best work on the assignments that I have due.

My point is that these motivational slogans shared by Instagram celebrities translate rather poorly onto the general public. These bold font inspirational ideologies suggest that people should already know what to do with their life, as if deciding your life’s purpose through a course description is the easy step. There is already so much anxiety around “what you’re going to do for the rest of your life” yet even if you are gifted enough to know what it is you want to do, you have to do it quickly?

I’m not saying that University is bad, I’m saying that people are doing it wrong. I think stress and being challenged to manage your life in a professional environment is crucial to becoming a functioning human being. However, after all the knowledge you gained and skills you learned are stripped away, you are left with 4 or 5 years of your sexiest, healthiest, most-able-to-recover-from-a-hangover years of your life. They should be some good ones.

 

 

 

 

Voting Basically Makes You A Superhero

Stop HarperTomorrow is your last chance to jump on the bandwagon of Canadians actually utilizing their right to vote. 70,000 students have voted on campuses, 71% more people voted in advanced polls than in 2011, and we have taken more selfies in the name of democracy than any other year combined. All of this because of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I voted to defeat Stephen Harper. That’s a statement only the those of us of age will be able to say. History will look back at this time and marvel at the tyranny that has occurred while the conservative party was in power, and we will be responsible for it coming to an end. We’re basically superheroes!

This is your chance to be a part of a movement, to make your voice heard and exercise your citizenship in one of the best countries in the world. When we win this election (because I believe that we will) we will be one more step towards unlocking the true potential of our country. To bring back the country that we all love.

Happy voting y’all!

The Apprentice: A Father’s Day Tale

About a month ago, I made a decision to take an interest in what my dad does for a living. Having been a cabinet maker and sculptor his whole life, the world of wood working was always at my fingertips, but something I never explored. I regret not spending more time with my dad as a kid, or at least taking more of an interest in what he does. With one of his projects on the go back home, I took a month out of my all important life to help my dad build a guest cabin.

Helping my dad build the guest cabin is like helping David Beckham kick a soccer ball. Every move I make or question I ask is a trip, snag or full blown haemorrhage in the plans of the master. My dad is not a sporadic person. The idea of a guest cabin came into existence more than 6 years ago. Due to back pain, long winters, and paid work, the hobby house was constantly being pushed to the back burner. During that time, its finer points were constantly under refinement until now, when all of the speculation becomes a course of action.

Fort Conger

The guest cabin is affectionately named “Fort Conger”, after an outpost at the northernmost point of Canada where an expedition of men became stranded and ate each other. Many of the last alive kept rigid journals of their descent into madness before marching off into the snow and dying. After many lengthy explanations, Dad clarifies that the title is mostly used in jest, but the cabin’s theme is pulled from the winters of solitude the men endured there. “Our Fort Conger will be a place of contemplation.”

OG Fort Conger

On top of many structural and artistic decisions, each piece within the house was specifically chosen: a Norwegian stove representing Fridtjof Nansen who lived at Fort Conger, my great-grandfather’s armchair, and the phrase carved by one of the explorers, “Inveniam Viam Aut Faciam” meaning, “Find a Way or Make a Way.” Within the creative vein of my father’s past, the guest cabin has become more than a place for guests to stay, it has become a work of art.

Aut Viam

So here I am, a twenty-two year with a diploma in acting and a semester of high school woodworking under my belt as his apprentice. On his turf, with his careful gaze upon my every move, my hands respond like over-inflated water balloons. After two days of doing almost everything wrong, I had to accept that my place was to carry things, move stuff out of his way, and observe.

As a young man, you don’t look at your father much, not unless he’s mad at you. In a desperate fear to build an identity away from our parents, it seems that we overlook them as sources of influence or knowledge in our life. I look at him now: a middle-aged man on 10 acres of property in one of the most beautiful places in world, married to my wonderful mother, doing what he loves and with only one shit-head son to support. Perhaps my youthful ambition to become super rich and famous has blinded me to the subtle things in life.

Working With Dad

After every day of working, my dad goes out to the job site to look at the work he has just done. He compliments, reflects on, and revels in a job well done and plans for the day of work to come. He wakes up in the morning and tells of thoughts he had while falling asleep to further improve or build upon the task at hand. He mulls it over at breakfast, lunch and dinner. He discusses the next step from every angle before stepping outside to put it into motion. Obsessive compulsive? Semi-neurotic? Or passionate? Whatever it is, it’s hard to imagine finding something in my life that is as fulfilling and totally my own as this is to him. As I prepare to head back to school for another semester, I can only hope that I find something that makes me slightly as obsessive compulsive, semi-neurotic and passionate as my dad.

Dad

Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all the other quirky fathers out there.

I Took A Selfie With Every Water Bottle I Drank While Traveling For 5 Months

Sitting in a bus station in 38 degree weather Leah says “We’ve gotta take a selfie with this one.” A routine we had to face 2 to 3 times a day. In a foggy state of exhaustion, I look over to the middle-aged lady reading a paper beside me. “Stranger selfie?” I ask, she shrugs a “if you want to” and looks back down at her book.

Stranger Selfie

This selfie and 299 others we’re a part of a project I did while traveling, to document the waste attached to drinking bottled water. My choice to do the project came on my first day when I realized that you can’t drink the water out of the taps in Asia. As naive as that sounds, when you come from a country like Canada (where fresh, clean drinking water flows out of every tap in your house) it’s easy to forget how good you have it.

The process became a daily routine, so we had to have fun with it. Many of the photos in the album are silly or staged, but every single one has a story behind it, a snapshot from a moment in our journey. These water bottles were with us every step of the way, as water is naturally in our everyday lives. To have this essential life resource bottled heightens awareness of how dependent we are on clean drinking water.

Levi Nearly Naked

We brushed our teeth with bottled water, avoided swallowing in the shower, and food was unsafe to eat unless cleaned with purified water. The world as we knew it changed, yet for the most part this was the norm. Without being vigilant we could get sick for days at a time. This is not even news for many people, but it’s another reminder that this may very well be our future as well. How much longer will I be able to drink from the hose in my front lawn, get free water when I sit down in the restaurant, and drink water without fear of sickness?

I’m not writing this to tell you to join the clean water bandwagon or jam depressing statistics down your throat. I am reminding everyone to be aware that the most important substance in the world comes out of our taps for free and we should not waste it. If you live in a country with clean drinking water, #DRINKFROMTHETAP.

To watch a short video with all the photos click here: https://youtu.be/g0Vpbv7kxgM, if you want to scroll through the album: https://www.facebook.com/Levi.Jacob.Swann/media_set?set=a.10152791795091699.1073741830.582841698&type=3

Ceci N’est Pas Une Person

My girlfriend and I walked through the gates of the War Remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. A man with no arms approached me and offered his arm just above the elbow for me to shake. “Hello sir, I am a victim of a land mine explosion during the Vietnam war. Thank you for visiting the exhibit. Do you have anything for me?” A jar hung around his neck with a few sample bills attached.

Leah and I had been reading about the Vietnam War during our travels and we were looking forward to seeing the government’s perspective on what occurred. The war museum provided most of what we expected with a dash of Communist favouritism. Disfiguration and genetic disease from Agent Orange took up nearly an entire floor of the display. America was always referred to as the “aggressors” and the Communist takeover was deemed (and well repeated) as “bringing salvation” to the south. Each display put vivid pictures to the words and thoughts we’ve all had about the Vietnam War with America.

Ceci N'est Pas Une Person

The pictures and stories of the atrocities brought an emotional sternness to our walk through the gallery. In fact, I was somewhat shocked at my own response to the exhibit, drawn inward by the prospect of humanity’s tip-toeing on the brink of insanity and mayhem. Emotions alight, I was then more shocked by the other people in attendance.

A young white girl posed, pretending to hold a machine gun on display, a gun probably used to murder innocent civilians (pictured in the room they were visiting) less than 50 years earlier. Young Vietnamese girls on a school tour were taking selfies in front of the Agent Orange deformities. School groups shrieked and socialized their way through the exhibits, even the adults seeming to only be half involved with the gore on the walls around them. The stories of the families and the race that they belong to, the faces of people of whom they share a national relation to.

Man Using a Selfie Stick In The War Remnants Museum

The Vietnam War ended midway through the 70’s and war with Cambodia continued until much later than that. The contents of the exhibit seemed impossibly unimportant for them, but perhaps the Vietnamese people have more cause for detachment from these matters then I can ever understand. However, it was the foreigners who wept through the displays, repenting for sins they had not committed, and entranced by the memories they awoke.

Leah compared the experience to being in art museums in Europe where “people are silent and photos aren’t allowed. You are there to ponder the subject matter presented, not take pictures of yourself in front of it. Here we were at a war museum, with internationally recognized photographers works hanging on the walls, and people behaved as though they were in a shopping mall.”

We are encountering so many staggering obstacles today that we can not push such massive mistakes aside during our consideration. Yet that seems to be exactly what we doing, fleeing the scene of the crime, and always rushing to forget.

In the 38 degree weather we pondered the fragility of the worlds situation and the constant threat for history to repeat itself, with only a Banh Mi sandwich for breakfast. “One shouldn’t be pondering such worldly subjects on an empty stomach” we thought, “best we find something to eat”.

Pappa Roti For Lunch!