A map of the Tokyo Subway System. Say whaaaaat?
Recently, Dad Club London completed a pretty awesome Christmas fundraising campaign of $5,500. Part of this money allowed us to hit the streets of downtown London, with Christmas presents, coffee, donuts, muffins, cookies, wraps, and pizza for over 100 people.
Set up outside The Unity Project. A rewarding experience for us all
As part of this sharing of our abundance, I encountered a familiar face outside of The Unity Project that I couldn't quite place. Like I had known a different version of this person, before the gaunt pallor and sunken eyes became his present reality.
Then he spoke, and it hit me. He looked at me and said "still playing ball, Jeremy? Bet I could dunk on you".
Holy shit. Him and I went to high school together. He was one of the popular kids in my grade, and in the middle of some pretty big social circles. He didn't play on the basketball team, but was a pretty good athlete in gym class.
Where was his wrong turn?
As part of my beginning to understand myself and healing process, I was referred to a therapist in 2017 by the social worker at my family health team. This therapist told me "you had literally the worst childhood I've heard in my thirty years of being a social worker and therapist. You're supposed to be either in jail or dead of an overdose."
Leo's character Jim in The Basketball Diaries could've been me
Seeing this person from my past has made me wonder how things worked out the way they did. Eighteen years ago, I just wanted to be someone else. Someone who was liked and accepted universally by his peers. This guy had that. I now have everything I need. Where did we go differently?
Looking back, I think I ended up the way I did for a few reasons.
I got invited to a few bush parties in high school. The kinds of places where everyone drank, smoked, used drugs, and had sex. Celebrated their youthful freedoms and proclivities towards experiences and experiments.
My dad never let me go. Welcome to being the son of a former RCMP drug squad officer. "I know what happens at those kinds of parties. You're not going."
Dad, this could've been me but you trippin'
Subsequently, kids I went to high school with ended up as parents in high school. Their kids are now finishing high school themselves. I myself waited until I was in college, and "in love" to have sex. I use the term loosely and in quotes because eighteen year old boys have no idea what love really is.
This was likely my first wise choice. I was ahead a year in high school, and celebrated my thirteenth birthday at football practice with guys who were already sixteen. A huge gap in physical and emotional maturity and experiences.
On the basketball side, I didn't even start in my grade nine year. There was a guy who was one grade and two years ahead of me, who played my position. He was a physical specimen, 6'5" with a full moustache and biceps in grade ten. Apparently in 2019, according to Facebook he is a bodybuilder.
Lo and behold, he got his girlfriend pregnant, and dropped out to go work in a box factory. GUESS WHO WAS THE NEW STARTING CENTRE BY DEFAULT? YUUUUUP THE TALL SKINNY CELIBATE KID WITH THE AFRO BAM BAM.
Box Factory got a new employee, I got more minutes....
In the Montcalm way, although I didn't have sex or drink I did steal a pack of cigarettes from my dad once, with the logic that maybe it would lead to girls talking to me. They still didn't, and I really didn't like my mouth tasting like a dumpster and my two days as a smoker were very brief and uneventful.
Once I got to university, I kept on making mostly solid choices to stay on the right path. I partied pretty hard, but had older teammates to supervise me. We snuck rum into "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back", and I ended up puking on my lap because I wasn't a drinker. My 21 year old teammate carried 17 year old 6'10 me to the car at 4 pm on a Saturday. DVW was my first exposure to true and full friendship. I miss that guy.
I didn't touch pot until my very first rebellious moment when I knew I was walking away from my full NCAA Division One basketball scholarship and heading home to play on my own dime. I hung out with some frat guys in my last few days on campus in High Point, North Carolina and didn't just say no to some bong hits during Playstation 2 for the first time ever. I immediately checked my arms for track marks and started debating calling rehab centres for when I got home, because I felt so gross and disappointed in myself.
When I got back to Canada, I stayed on a reasonably smart path. I began working at a popular downtown bar that was a hub for cocaine and cocaine accessories. My coworkers accepted me for who I was, and knew I was only interested in hoovering down Bud Lites like a Dyson vacuum and that was the end of my list.
Only propane and propane accessories for this guy I tell you hwhut
At the same time, I can't paint myself Bob Ross style as a virtuous saviour in Sean John sweatpants. I did struggle with my vices. In hindsight, I was self medicating my undiagnosed anxiety and escaping my feelings.
Pretty sure I painted this picture in my toilet at 3 am a few times.... I struggled with healthy food choices and suppressing binge eating impulses. Once I was on my own and had money to spend, eating out became my jam. It wasn't in the budget as a kid, and Pizza Hut twice a year was another way I didn't feel like I measured up.
I also struggled with binge drinking. While out partying, people seemed to like me a lot more. I came out of my shell and was fun, energetic, boisterous, and generous. I struggled to find my off switch and ran up $100+ bar tabs multiple times a week. I puked on my bedroom floor in my sleep. I woke up a few times not knowing right away where I had passed out.
Gambling and shopping had their moments too. I was able to go on ten hour binges of online poker or casino poker and feel like I'd been sitting for 10 minutes. I spent more than I made back when I had a full time job, no mentors, and no financial responsibility training.
Despite these minor struggles with eating too much, drinking too much, gambling for too long (I did make a LOT of money, which was nice), and spending too much, I never took that wrong turn. People knew better than to offer me hard drugs. I never fell into the wrong crowd.
Even though I didn't have a stable and loving family, or a warm and embracing home life, I still did get lucky in one way. I got lucky in that my dad was a career RCMP officer, and a good person. He INSISTED on the golden rule, and led by example on always being available and ready to drop everything to help people he cared about. He made it so doing anything other than the right thing, or making bad choices wasn't even an option. He also genetically gave me his pig headed stubbornness.
Add a moustache, and this could be my dad. MMMMHMMMM.
I haven't stolen since I was nine. I've never done hard drugs. I always tell the truth. I put others before myself and treat them the way I wish to be treated. I refused to fall in with the wrong crowd. I didn't treat my body like a temple, but I also didn't treat it like The Motor Court Motel either. I read books. I used my manners. I always wanted more. To be happy, to be well, to be better, to be loved, to be accepted. Turning the other direction was never an option for me. I took a while to truly succeed, but I also never stopped refusing to fail either.
I can't speak for where my former high school classmate that I encountered living on the streets went wrong. In 2001, I would've happily traded places with him temporarily just to feel like I had a place in the world around me. In 2019, I was honoured to be able to hand him a gift, a warm meal, a hot drink, and to look him in the eye, smile, and wish him a Merry Christmas. He said thank you in return.