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Just Keep Breathing: Lucas McBath and his Senior Project

By: Kaitlyn Mariah Fikaris

Lucas McBath working on graphics for his senior project. (Photo by: Kaitlyn Mariah Fikaris)

Lucas McBath’s apartment walls in Alumni are covered with inside jokes, drawings that purposely look like a kindergartener drew them and the longest CVS receipt he’s ever received. The background noise is Frank Ocean’s album, “blond”. Tall, with opaque blue eyes, it’s hard to miss Lucas. He was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder in 2016, has two dogs and two moms. Lucas is a graphic design senior, currently working on a game application for his senior project with a special significance for him.

What are you doing for your senior project, and what is the significance?

My senior project is about anxiety. It’s basically an application and game that I wish I had when I discovered I had anxiety at 16. The game is completely controlled by the pace of your breathing. It rewards you for breathing slowly and calmly. It kind of teaches you a breathing exercise to calm yourself and your breathing. I haven’t worked out the subject of the game yet, but my idea that I’m going forward with is I’m going to have this guy walking through a forest with a lantern. The lantern will get brighter if you’re breathing slowly and dimmer when you’re breathing too fast or anxiously. The way it senses your breathing is that I’m creating a wearable device; it’s like a belt that measures the expansion of your chest to see when you’re breathing in and out so that will be the main controller of the game. But yeah, it’s all about anxiety and how breathing can counteract that.

You were diagnosed with anxiety at 16; tell me about your childhood before that.

My childhood? This is all the stuff I don’t say in therapy. My parents included me in everything, they were the best. I have two moms, so I was wanted. Being wanted is weird. Obviously, someone isn’t going to get artificially inseminated with a turkey baster thing if they don’t want you. Being wanted is weird because sometimes it can be too intense. My parents give me a lot of affection because they both wanted me so hard. Children of same-sex couples understand the parent that didn’t birth you has to work harder to connect with you since they’re not blood-related, so that was weird for me growing up. I feel that I’m closer with my birth mom, and I always call my birth mom first.

I know your biological father, a sperm donor, remains anonymous but do you know anything about him?

Yeah, I know some things. He’s a schoolteacher, he’s 6’2’, blond hair and blue eyes. He’s Irish and German, so just very white. I have other half-siblings from him, but I’m older than all of them. There’s a requirement when you donate your sperm: they can’t give it to people that live near where it’s from because there’s more of a chance of them finding their dad basically.

I remember you told me once you teach kids design?

Yeah, I do, still do! I teach kids programs like photoshop, illustrator, 3D animation, 3D printing, just techy stuff. I go to schools and teach after school programs. One time one of the kids looked me right in the eye and was like, “you look dumb.”

Kids are like that. What have been some struggles or challenges with your project?

Struggles have been like conceptually how the game was going to feel or look. For example, the goal of the game, the appeal of the game to get people to play. Also, writing the 20-page thesis, it’s a lot to write. I have to write my preliminary research, the development, the final product, what it does, stuff like that.

What do you hope others will get out of your senior project?

That’s a good question. I hope they will gain a sense of relaxation, that’s the whole intention. And it doesn’t matter to what degree they feel relaxed, I just want them to feel relaxed at least. I’m going to set it up in the VA, so that anybody could put on the belt and play the game. It’s on a screen, and you can play it on your phone.

Tell me about your personal struggles with anxiety and how you deal with it.

I’ve had anxiety since I really can remember. It’s always been there, but it kind of intensified when I was about 12 or 13. My senior year of high school I started seeing a therapist and really figured out what that was about. Going into college, I was definitely still anxious, but I had started meds, so that was helpful. But yeah, I’ve kinda just been growing from there.

Do you yourself practice what you’re preaching, in terms of mindful breathing?

For sure. My therapist taught me breathing techniques. I really do think that slowing your breathing down helps anxiety. It’s not going to get rid of it completely, but it’s going to make you feel calmer.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned while being at Purchase?

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that in the real world, nobody is going to wait for you to get through whatever the fuck you’re going through. Everybody’s moving. Sometimes you do have to sit in your bed for two days because you’re feeling like shit. But people are always going to move on no matter what, with jobs, relationships, friendships. That’s what my mom always emphasized to me. She was always like, “the world is never going to wait for you Lucas, you have to do things right now.” You got to just do it.

Due to COVID-19 and the cancellations of all performances and showings on campus, how do you feel about not being able to present your senior project in the VA as planned?

That is such a great question. I feel very frustrated because my project is something I was hoping to share with as many people as I could, but now I won’t be able to do that at all. Basically, my advisor is telling me I will have to document the project in a video format and then send it to him. I’m hoping after all this blows over, I can demo it to some people, but that’s just not possible for the time being.

For the time being, it seems that Lucas will have to continue practicing what he preaches and just keep breathing.



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