Wednesday, 11 January 2012

About Me, Part 14: Too Much To Dream

I began my last year at Rosemount High in the fall of 1986. Over the years, I had learned to seem cheerful regardless of what was going on inside. It wasn't as if there weren't reasons to feel grateful. I had a circle of friends, my classes were going well (although my few years in Ontario had helped to stunt my French speaking abilities), and despite occasional bullying, I had enough friends and acquaintances to counter-balance it all. However, on two fronts, dating (or trying to) and family, things were pretty grey. Depressing actually.

The custody tug-of-war and emotional back-and-forth between my parents continued. It was difficult not to take sides. I think I was trying to get needs met from both of them somehow; I was trying, without realizing it, to make myself whole again. I now felt more anxiety going home after school than I did going to school in the morning. Clueless about who I was, I clung to others, wanting approval for who I was, but who was I. Dating was still largely unsuccessful. Though my friendships were fine, I didn't seem to have the right stuff. Looking back, I think I lacked more than confidence, I lacked emotional stability (not that that stopped some of the other folks I knew). I probably also came across as being very delicate and soft which counted as a liability. I had lost touch with the other side of myself, so the idea that I might be anything other than a "regular guy" didn't even dawn on me. I have since known many former students who have come out as gay or lesbian, none transgender that I know of. There were no role models then. We had to put ourselves together.

I had very short dating relationships with two girls that year. In both cases, I was completely shocked; I didn't think anyone would ever be interested. But, both ended disastrously. The first, towards the end of grade ten, lasted about a week and ended after, in my youthful arrogance, I started boasting about how well it was going. The second, during the fall term in grade eleven, ended more painfully; my girlfriend's parents told her not to see me anymore and she caved. She didn't want to obey them and was, I found out later, trying to find ways that we could still see each other. But, wounded soul that I was, I took the break-up very hard. It triggered the depressive moods I had developed while in Ontario. Once again, I focused on trying to end my life feeling a lack of any worth. My self-talk went something like "if I can't attract and keep a girlfriend, then I have no worth". Both of my parents grew concerned; my mother's brand of concern was worry, my father's was to become overbearing. During that very cold winter of 1986-87, I was threatened more than a few times with the promise that I would be "taken to the hospital and left there".

My friends grew impatient with my moods also. Finally, after a few months of this and finally being told by my former girlfriend's parents to stop calling, I hit bottom. I gradually pulled my self out in the most interesting of ways.

Much like that winter a few years earlier when my mother was hospitalized, I turned inward to my imagination. I began writing in a journal, but also the music I began to listen to was changing. 60s rock had begun to creep into my growing record collection. To me (I later found out that I was not alone in this one) the connection between alternative rock and the psychedelic rock of twenty years previous was obvious and one led to the other. But it wasn't just the music itself, but it's celebration of the imagination, of life and the future was like medicine. The way I began to dress began to change accordingly. During a month long bus strike in the spring of 1987, I walked for an hour to go to a shop that sold incense and bought some for my room. My hair grew out and a sought some beads and an Indian shirt. I began drawing a mural that I wanted to paint on one of my walls; it was a picture of a meditating silhouette surrounded by concentric multicoloured bands. I attended my first ever meditation workshop, which a vegetarian classmate (one of my friends) had told me about, at the Siddha Yoga centre just east of downtown Montreal. By the time spring was in full bloom, so was I.

I graduated at the end of May 1987. The party of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel and then at a friend's house in the east end was a blast. I had my first B-52 and rolled on the floor laughing. I later fell asleep on the back balcony until the sun came up. I went home to sleep, but not for long. My friends and I headed for La Ronde amusement park that scorching afternoon and spent time on the water slides before heading back home. Although there would be reunions among us over the years, it was the last get together we had before our respective lives took over. For me, the struggle to retake myself was just beginning.

To be continued ...

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