Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Permission to Panic: Chaz Thorne’s Whirligig

Posted on | September 13, 2010 | 2 Comments

"If you succeed at first" by Patrick Campbell.

"If you succeed at first" by Patrick Campbell.

At the age of 25, I had a nervous breakdown.

A combination of a genetic predisposition to anxiety and a generational predisposition to getting an arts degree and believing a future would lie at the end of it, lead me to panic in a world where the Great Capitalist experiment is in the process of crashing and burning. The business suit at the end of the hippy rainbow was no longer a forgone conclusion.

From meditation to medication, from cognitive behavioral therapy to cleansing myself of all contaminants, I looked for some way to calm the panic and become myself again.
I felt like I had given myself a cancer that would never be cured.

My life before November 3rd, 2009 seemed like a blurred and happy memory of who I used to be before I was born again in the light of my new fears.

The new Michael Kimber had many self-absorbed delusions, including the idea that everyone around me had it all figured it out. That somehow they had skipped past the panic and found themselves on the other side whole and untouched.

Ready to stand in line and smile at the small lives the future offered them on one side and ready to excel as lawyers and doctors on the other.

It took me a while to realize that people socialized in tuxedos.

You don’t see happy couples stumble in the effort to find something to talk about. You don’t see smiling parents at home at the end of a long day trying to avoid their screaming children. You just see hand holding and family photos. The supermodel thinks she is fat. The valedictorian doesn’t feel they have anything to say. Bill Gates used to eat gigantic tins of apple sauce and couldn’t get laid to save his life.

Since the Cure has been released I’m approached at every party I go to by strangers and friends who tell me that they have been living the same life, behind close doors and smiles, hopes false and true.

They too scream where no one can see them.

At 25, you stand at the crossroads to the rest of your life and feel like you are going to make the decisions that decide the rest of your life. Naively believing that if I didn’t have a retirement plan I wasn’t ready for the success and failures of “real life”.

The uncontrollable panic boiling in my stomach was my biggest fear. The thing that kept me running away to the internet looking for the right way to meditate, the right medication to take, the right path in life I needed to let go of the fear.

I didn’t want to worry my family, friends and first love.

Which made it worse.

I wanted to escape it all.

So I planned on going to Japan. A place where the rest of the world couldn’t touch me. My plan to run away from myself failed due to lack of funds and sanity. Yet the idea of Japan still holds a certain romance for me. Beautiful fishing villages and a world of people that don’t know me or my aspirations. A place where I could be invisible and invisible men don’t have problems.

What no one will tell you is that 25 has been a fucked up year for a couple years past forever. Your sister, your mother and your father all went crazy, traveled cross country in vans slow dancing with alcoholism and drug abuse, cried until they annoyed love ones, had sex with strangers and made mistakes that they don’t think about anymore.

Take your free pass. You’re allowed to be a lunatic and search in every nook and cranny of yourself to figure out who you are.

Mike Kimber officially gives you a permission slip that says in standard legalese: “You are allowed to get fucked up and find yourself. Tell any grandparent who wants you to join the Navy and become an adult, that we know you can’t purchase a life by making a life and spending your life paying for it. We won’t get married until we have seen the end of fairytales and found a best friend on the other side. We won’t take a shitty job that will last a lifetime for the health insurance. We are a generation born of easy answers and simple solutions and we have choked on the silver spoon. Now is the time to panic.”

Too many of my friends think they are alone. That life should go as they planned and are now in the process of mourning the life they wished they had. Who are dying for the impossible hope that life will become a certainty, that they can somehow hide from the sky that is always falling.

Let it go.

In my humble, barely employed opinion, you have to panic, to feel deep down what you actually want. The secret desires of your soul don’t announce themselves in whispers but screams that convulse your whole body and torture you into learning some hard life lessons. Getting fucked up is an essential stage in your development and that eventually fear and loathing stops strangling you. That you can’t skip the panic.

Unfortunately the panic is a part of the comic tragedy of life. You can’t avoid the whirligig because the most important lessons in life have to be lived to be learned.

On that note I’d like to do the first Colony of Losers movie review.

I only do it because Chaz Thorne’s Whirligig amazed me. I came across it when Michael Amo, the screenwriter who turned my dad’s book Swissair 111 into a movie, got in touch with me after reading my blog. He thought the movie he wrote and Chaz directed might strike a chord with me.

It did. In a week where two childhood friends began the slow walk down the same path that took me through hell this winter, I found solace in this movie.

So I want to share it with you.

Because as fucked up as this is, the movie made me feel better.

Whirligig about being 25 and the mistakes you make in attempt to get your shit in order.

The story concerns the trials and tribulations facing Nicholas(Gregory Smith), a former Mormon missionary moving back in with his parents in small town Nova Scotia returning from a disastrous trip to Japan. His parents didn’t give him their address when they moved but he has found them anyway.

Like most of us Nicholas is having a hard time growing up. Played with earnest terror and hilarious eccentricity Nicholas is a hero I could identify with mainly because he wasn’t a hero, just a fuck up willing to try anything to escape his problems.

The first thing that struck me was how the music offsets the whole mood of the movie. You are able to maintain a sense of hope even in the darkest points of the film. Which I guess in a sense is what the whirligig is, a comic tragedy, funny because you are so absorbed in it you never think it will end, you forget everything outside of it, losing all context of the world you are so afraid of. The second thing that struck me was the movie was fucking hilarious, with nothing in common with a sitcom. The jokes are buried deep in life and twist and turn in your stomach as you double over laughing. The movie pushes you in and out of Nicholas’s anxiety.

At peak points of his anxiety, Nicholas repeats the phrase “I’m not here, I’m not here.”

To me this is a defining phrase in anxiety, the magical projection of yourself to a place where you won’t have to be you. Captured in Radiohead’s Emoclassic, “How to Disappear” this sentiment reverbretes through my generation. It also reflects the unfortunate reality of anxiety, which is the simple fact that you never feel that you are in the moment. Lost in reflection and fear you lose conversations, kisses, jokes and opportunities. The desire to escape takes you away from the very things that could welcome you back to life.

Nicholas finds himself home at 25, as close to his childhood as he can be while attempting to become an adult. Going to Japan didn’t make him a man. Getting his driver’s license, drinking every bottle of wine in his parent’s home, fucking an incredibly sexy married MILF didn’t do the trick either. He tries on as many coming of age clichés as he can and he is still a panicked little boy who can’t figure himself out. The movie carries us along with the hope that at one point Nicholas will realize he isn’t a problem to be solve, just a person in a life that he can lead.

For me, Whirligig is best summed up by Nicholas’s father and the strange folk art he creates in his workshop. Avoiding any confrontation with his control freak wife and his son’s odyssey into adultery, archery and alcoholism he stays in his workshop and out of the fray. In his workshop, he builds a whirligig, a cartoon craft version of his son’s fucked up events and tragedies. As if all he could do was let his son make his mistakes until he saw the humor in them.

Whirligig is a controlled hurricane, a fantastic spinning movement that you think is never going to end until it does.

You are probably wondering why the fuck am I talking about this movie? It has nothing do with my distaste for Leonard Maltin or my belief that Siskel is haunting my apartment, ready to steal my thumbs as I sleep.

I’m writing this because of the feeling I got after watching this movie. That strange sense of release that this war against myself was somehow necessary. That there is no reason to try to escape it.

I would recommend this movie to everyone that is out of university and wants to stop getting that look from their parents that says get off my fucking couch and stop being my responsibility.

For the success stories that are facing their first grips with the reality that they aren’t perfect to the fuck ups and failures still living at home, Whirligig is your story. Our generation has convinced itself that we are unique in our hysteria. That we alone know what its like to reach the end of a road and have no understanding of how to cross the road.

Whirligig speaks to our struggle, as the societal check marks of marriage, baby and shitty job no longer appeal to us. We don’t want to become our parents and settle, but our childhood was saturated with advertisements that said we could do anything.

With so much choice it makes sense that we all go a little crazy.

The panic comes as a gentle whispering of your screaming guts trying jump out your throat. This is your life and your choice and what you want isn’t easy to figure out.

Whirligig is dark, hilarious and light hearted, reminiscient of what would happen if Charlie Kaufmann wrote American Grafitti.

Here is a link to their website.

Check it out at the Atlantic Film Festival taking place in Halifax September 16th to 25th. Or watch it in theatres when it comes out near you.

Welcome to the Colony of Losers, a world of quarter life crises, anxiety, depressionand the friends and the failures on the way to finding your future. This is the story of Michael Kimber’s panicked fall into adulthood.



2 Responses to “Permission to Panic: Chaz Thorne’s Whirligig”

  1. chelle
    October 30th, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

    Came across your blog tonight, i am enjoying snooping around:)

  2. Michael Amo
    May 4th, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

    Hey Michael,

    Hope you are well.

    Just wanted to let you know that “Whirligig” is opening this weekend (Friday, May 6) for a very limited engagement (4 days) at Empire Bayers Theatres Lake.

    There will be a special screening at 6:20 on Friday that includes a Q and A with Chaz Thorne (the director) and myself.

    Here’s a link to a fan-supplied trailer for the movie on Youtube:

    Best Regards,

    Michael Amo

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  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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