Calling All Skeletons

I started this blog in the air between Boston and NYC about a week ago.  Actually I tried writing it a few weeks before that too.  It isn’t an easy one to write, bit I feel it needs to be written.  I have tried to properly articulate everything you are about to read below while trying to make sense of the past and connect it with the present.  I can tell you right off the bat that I am far from the protagonist in this thing.  You may judge me.  You may think what an %sshole!!  Hey, I don’t blame ya.  I ain’t arguing.  I just feel like there is something here that needs to be put out there for others and even for myself.  I have been living a life of redemption for many years now.  Here is yet another page to be flipped…

So rewind about a month.  It was a great day.  I spoke at Windsor Secondary School in N Vancouver – one of my favourite schools to speak at.  My pals from Pixhug came and watched this presentation and then afterwards I went to the Pixhug offices downtown to chat about Pixhug and my role as a spokesperson.  A position I am very grateful and excited to have.  All in all a very positive day.  I could only hope that the evening ahead would carry on in the same vain.

See I had plans to meet up with a guy named Mike. I first met Mike when we were in grade 8, and truth be told I wasn’t always the kindest human back in those days. For whatever reason, Mike had a big target on him as far as I was concerned. I used to relentlessly pick on the kid. I know. NOT COOL! Even less cool I used to make fun of Mike for being gay. I don’t even think I was homophobic. More I think this was just an easy way to poke fun. My attitude towards and compassion for anyone in the LGBT community has changed drastically since grade 8 as have my views on bullying or just being an asshole in general.  I am now an avid supporter of the LGBT community.  I am a staunch critic of bullying or any discrimination or belittling, disrespect or abuse of others.  Ironically it is these current more worldly, enlightened views of mine and my advocating for them that brought Mike and I back into contact.

Good ol’ social media…

After a post I made on Facebook a couple months back concerning the LGBT community and acceptance.  I got a Facebook message from Mike. He basically called me out on my BS.  I can only imagine how it looked to him.  Here is a guy going online supporting something that I used to completely disrespect.  He didn’t stop at calling me out as a hypocrite.  Mike also reminded me of what a jerk I was to him years ago and explained how the words I used to throw his way so thoughtlessly still affect him to this day. I wrote Mike back immediately first apologizing to him for any harm I caused him in the past and also ensuring him that I am a changed man with different views than I had when he knew me last.

Mike seemed pretty moved by the fact that I wrote him back.  He commended me on my efforts to right my wrongs of the past and to bring good from them.  He even forgave me.  It was a weight of my chest.  I think the same can be said for Mike.  We agreed to meet up. It took about a month of conflicting schedules. I think Mike was a bit hesitant to see me. Who could blame him? But we finally connected at the end of Februrary.

I met Mike and his boyfriend Johnny in a watering hole called The Dublin about halfway between our respective homes. A face to face apology came first. Mike was quite cool about everything. He accepted my apology again wholeheartedly. We didn’t get into too heavy of stuff at first.  We basically just shot the shit like no ill will had ever existed between us. We talked about life. About high school. About life after high school and a lot about music. I learned that Mike and I share the same affection for metal and punk music. In fact we had lots n common. Mike even had taken some of his wounds from the past whether inflicted by myself or others or just demons of his own devices and shared them with audiences in order to help others.  Yeah we have lots in common.  Maybe if I wasn’t such a jerk when I was younger I would’ve taken the time to learn this.

We did eventually talk about the struggles Mike faced because of the bullying he faced by me and many others in high school.  Mike explained that at the time when we were judging and ridiculing him, he didn’t even know himself that he was bi.  Of course the torment directed his way did not help with this confusing time.  Mike expressed that he still has anxiety and nightmares about the way myself and others treated him to this day.  That totally broke my heart because I have nothing but respect and admiration for the guy now.  And I wish only happiness and love and peace for him.  All I could think was we need to share our story because we could hopefully not only support people who are being bullied but hopefully also help those being bullies to realize that their actions and words cut deep and very well may have a lasting impact on others lives.  And no matter how big of dicks were are when we are young, at some point we grow compassion and a conscience and start to feel empathy.  I look back on how I treated so many now and all I want to do is make it good.  And anyone out there treating people similarly will have their day of reckoning too.  So why not just be cool now.  Bury the hatchet.  Make amends and end the cycle of pain for those who are being brutalized by bullying, intolerance and any kind of discrimination and abuse.

So there you have it.  The anti-bully used to be a bully.  And Mike wasn’t the only person I picked on it high school.  And the bullying behaviour didn’t just take place in high school.  It dates back to elementary school.  I can’t pin point the day exactly.  I remember getting along with pretty much everyone in my earliest memories of grade school.  I don’t think I was a jerk in kindergarten.  Maybe something in the name.  Kind-ergarten.  In kindergarten kindness has yet to be corrupted by the judging, prejudice and cruel behaviour that some kids adopt and unleash on others around them in grade school. I do remember this one incident where I thought I was being funny by calling an older boy named Colby… Colby Dick.  Like the book.  Though I don’t even think at that young age I had a clue what this book was about.  I’ll confess to this day I have never read it.  Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at my early insult game.  Pretty innocent. I don’t remember laughing when Colby took offense to my play on his name and rag-dolled me all over the gravel play field.  Nope.  I cried.  I was probably 6 years old.  For whatever reason when faced with traumatizing events like this in life we can go in two different ways.  We can think wow I did not like that and would never want to do that to anyone else.  OR we can become the person we hate.  Damn.  I chose the latter.

I don’t blame Colby.  I can’t even say for sure this was the the turning point as I am psychoanalyzing myself. But there definitely was a change in my behaviour at some point that would lead me into all sorts of trouble.  I went from the kid who competed for grades with the smartest kids in class to the kid who did everything he could to establish himself as a troublemaker and a badass.  I was now competing to see who could get more hours of detention and who could get more pink slips.  Pink slips were handed out during lunch and recess to deter any kind of poor behaviour.  Well call it my competitive nature, but I was the best of the worst.  And  soon I was kicked out of elementary school.  Grade 7 and booted from school!  The destructive behaviour carried on into my next school and then into my first junior high school in grade 8 where I would direct much of my wrath towards Mike as I shared a bit earlier..

This blog could be an encyclopedia if I went into all of the poor choices and destructive behaviour I displayed in my early teens.  Booze, drugs, theft, vandalism, disrespecting my parents, my teachers, my peers, authority, rules of almost any kind.  I was kind of a nightmare.  Total nightmare to some.  I was in and out of court.  I was kicked out of a bunch of different schools.  I was a little demon, and I had a crew of demons who exhibited much of the same behaviour as I did.  We fed off of each other and pretty much just rampaged on our quaint little home town of Cloverdale at any opportunity we could get.

It got so bad that I got sent off to boot camp with all the other bad seeds.  I was such a punk that I even got held back in boot camp for tormenting some weaker dude.  I just took whatever the hell was bugging me inside out on the world.  And looking back I can’t say I really felt much empathy or anything for those who were caught in my destructive path.  Oddly enough, I am sure that there are family and friends and maybe even people reading this who knew me back in these days who will say I wasn’t a completely horrible person.  No if you were on my good side I was pretty much the same dude as I am today.  I was loyal and compassionate and generous.  I would give the shirt off my back to the people I cared about.  Then there was the other dude with a chip on his shoulder who left a path of destruction behind him whenever he went into Tasmanian Devil mode.

All of this drama I was creating eventually led me to also be kicked off the Rep A hockey team that I had been a proud part of since a very young age.  This created somewhat of a separation from the hockey bros I had grown up with and I think there was a little bit of resentment on my part.  I felt shunned.  And of course it was everyone else fault.  Not mine.  Funny today my biggest pet peeve is people who are not accountable for their actions and people who are their own worst enemies but point the blame outward instead of looking within for the problem.  I feel like I am learning about myself as I write this.  I feel like I am so bothered by how I used to act that it helped me want to be the exact opposite kind of person today.  Or maybe just that good me with all the lessons and empathy created from watching the old me be so destructive.

But first more skeletons from the past…  at age 15 I had a criminal record and was known to police and had been to essentially youth prison; I had been kicked off of my hockey team and kicked out of school.  Only one high school in the Surrey School District would take me in, and I ended up in the alternate program here.  I was among the most troubled teens in Surrey.  And for anyone who doesn’t know, Surrey has a reputation for being pretty troubled.  Things were not looking up.  For whatever reason when I look back on this time, I don’t remember even realizing what I was doing at the time.

One of my best buddies from hockey was a guy named Rob.  We met really young and always got along great.  We even skateboarded together a bit.  I still thought was Rob was legit after my hockey days were behind me even though his kept moving forward.  Then a dumb tiff started up between us.  Some gossipy guy trying to cause drama started relaying trash back and forth between Rob and I.  At one point I confronted Rob and things turned physical.  I took a swing.  Total sucker punch and it connected with Rob.  It was a lucky shot of sorts because where I hit Rob it was only millimeters away from what could have been a serious or even fatal blow.  And it gives me shivers thinking of stories like this of punches gone bad leading to fatalities that I have heard since this incident with Rob and I.

It took a while after this incident before tensions cooled between Rob and I.  In the meantime he hit the gym hard and transformed himself from a skinny, lanky, little punk into a muscular force to be reckoned with.  I however remained a skinny little lanky skater punk.  Lucky for me Rob never did return the favour and introduce his first to my unsuspecting face.  I am sure he must have wanted to, but he never did.  Thanks Rob.

Fast forward many years down the road and pretty much all of this had been forgotten between Rob and I.  I can’t speak so much for him, but, I had turned my life around drastically.  I was dating a very nice girl, had graduated high school, was no longer in trouble with the law.  I was working 3 jobs, being good to my family and looking towards the future.  I was pretty much a good human being.  Though I still had a wild side.  Many of us Cloverdale kids did.  I also had my first set of wheels, a led foot and a love of partying hard.  Very dangerous mix.

One fateful summer night, Rob and I ran into each other at a party.  We started slamming beers and eventually left the party with a couple other guys.  One of those guys was a fellow childhood friend and hockey player named Brendon.  Brendon and I were buds.  We had known each other since we were kids.  We were nowhere near as close as Rob and him were though.  Rob and Bren were best buds.  Brendon and I had had a bit of a falling out in recent months because him and my sister had dated.  So when they broke up I went all big brother on his ass.  But on this night all was forgiven.  We party bounced a bit.  I drove.  I drove recklessly.

Leaving the final party of the night there were two running vehicles.  One was a taxi and the other was my car with me extremely intoxicated behind the wheel.  Brendon, Rob and another friend named Shane were in the cab as best as I know.  Brendon suddenly decided to come with me.  Our plan was to keep partying.  We never made it to the party.  There were many disturbing phone calls that would soon follow the crash.  Worst of all would be the knock on the door at Brendon’s house.  Because everyone besides our distraught families had been partying the night before, it was kind of unclear at first to most just who was in my car.  The only information that was really being disclosed beyond mine and Brendon’s family was that there was a car crash and one or two people had died.  Then maybe there was a survivor. There was a lot of confusion and panic to say the least.

Well after the crash and well into daylight my car was still there mangled in the ditch where it stopped rolling.  People went to the scene to try and make sense of what had happened.  Some I am sure just out of curiosity.  There was a massive debris field of shattered CDs, clothes, empties and whatever else had been flown from my car.  There was broken glass and motor oil.  The scene was gruesome even with the two occupants of the car having been removed hours earlier.

From what I have heard, people started to gather at the hospital to. Because it was my car, I think it was pretty much known that I was one of the people.  I think by the afternoon people knew that I was the sole survivor still fighting for life.  There were still a lot of people unaware of who the deceased person was though.  Rumors flew around.  One person who did know the sad truth to this question was Rob.  Rob knew the minute he got the phone call.  Rob knew that Brendon was the other person in my car.  Brendon his best friend had died.

Because of a head injury and morphine and who knows what else I was pretty much out of it for the first few weeks in the hospital.  As my injuries started to stabilize and my numerous infections that I caught in the hospital started to go away I was slowly weened off the cocktail of drugs that I had been administered in the hospital.  I remember seeing my immediate family and a couple of my closest friends in those early days.  I was still pretty out of it though.  I would soon learn the devastating news of my injuries and then the even worse news of the fate of Brendon.  I don’t even know how to put it into words.  There isn’t a word as far as I know.  Just absolute devastation and despair and again words just don’t suffice.  It was horrible.  Beyond horrible. Sickening.

Through the love and support of my family and the forgiveness and support that I learned of coming from Brendon’s family I found something to cling onto.  My sisters and family and friends were always around.  I was never alone long enough to really dip into the darkest of dark places.  I will say though that this was the greatest struggle of my life.  But I knew I had life.  And I didn’t feel like I ever had a right to feel sorry for myself considering what had happened to Brendon.  And with his family and even his friends support that I was hearing of I had hope.  I had a will to live and a desire to fight.  Rob came to visit once I was out of intensive care.  It must have been so hard for him.  I took out his best buddy.  The pain he must have been feeling at that time.  i can’t even imagine.  Yet he came in to see me and put on a brave face and was very cool and supportive that day.

Of course I would eventually leave the hospital for a rehab centre called GF Strong.  I would spend 4 months trying to reinvent myself as a person limited to using just the muscles from my arms up.  I would learn to maneuver a wheelchair and so much more.  After a total of about 6 months I would return home for good.  Here I would try to find a purpose in life and fortunately through some positive choices I began to make I would eventually find myself sharing a lot of what you have just read and much much more with schools around the lower mainland area of BC.  It was a long transition from being the hardcore badass punk to a role model for young people.  There always has been that fine line because the part of me that is a little rough around the edges is the part of me that helps draw in those who most need to relate to and absorb my message the most.  On the other hand it took some time for me to truly understand the responsibility I have being in the position that I am in.  Finding the balance.  Rolling the fine line.  Live and learn I guess.  I am still learning.

Throughout this time I would hear stories now and again about Rob.  I started to hear that he had gotten pretty heavily into drugs, and that he was making some pretty destructive decisions of his own.  I never judged.  Who am I to judge anyone?  I get that now.  I don’t judge anyone.  I hoped the best for Rob, and when I would see a mutual friend I would always ask about him.  I didn’t and really don’t know how low Rob sank into the dark world of drugs.  I do know that he faced some pretty serious challenges and demons.  I was really happy to hear that at one point Rob made the choice that he was sick of being sick and got treatment and got clean.  And stayed clean.  No easy task.

Through social media I learned that Rob had founded a clothing brand called Purpose Apparel that has been taking off as of late.  Rob has always had an eye for fashion so it made sense to me.  But what made even more sense and what spoken to me personally is the name and meaning behind his brand.  PURPOSE.  What a rad name!  Here is a guy who had overcome his demons and found purpose.  So he took that purpose and did something positive for himself and other with it.  I can definitely relate to that.

So I recently reached out to Rob and even paid him a visit at home.  I met his son and wife and we had a cool visit.  Like I said we go way back.  There are no hard feelings left these days.  Just a lot of respect.  Both of us have been to hell and back.  We have made some poor choices that have hurt others and ourselves.  Hell even each other in my case.  But despite the tough times we both have overcome and learned and grown and have found a purpose.

I wasn’t expecting Rob to give me any clothing when I visited.  I was actually going to see if I could help promote Purpose through my social media because I thought what a great brand and message to be sharing with young people.  Rob being the the rad guy that he is just loaded me up with sick gear, and I mean sick gear.  A box full to be exact and welcomed me as a part of Team Purpose. I am stoked on this!!!!!!!!

The more and more I have thought about all of this stuff the more I have wanted to put it down in some form.  It seems unless I change my mind once more and don’t post this that it will all come out in a blog.  I don’t even know how many lessons are contained within this blog.  I hope that it was easy to follow because in many ways it felt to me as I wrote it like a lot of past thoughts, feelings, regrets, stories and skeletons were just flowing as they were released from my heart, memory and soul.  I just let it flow.  It is almost 2am now so if I go and try to edit this thing sleep is going to be out of the picture.  Instead I think I am just going to post it as is.  Raw and punk rock.

I would like to give props to both Mike and Rob for being forgiving friends.  For being bigger men that that little bully who disrespected both of them.  I wish I could take things back from the past, but of course that isn’t possible.  I think we all do have this understanding though that without the past we wouldn’t be where we are today.  Not that I encourage any others to partake in the tales I just wrote about.  I hope that these words prove to be a cautionary tale for any impressionable mind reading this.  But on the the flip-side I hope these words can inspire hope for anyone out there who has struggled or who is struggling with anything.  Although it is hard to see past the dust and debris that clouds around us when we have fallen or crashed in life, these rock bottom moments can go two different ways.  We can choose to stay in the darkness and let our demons and skeletons, regrets, mistakes, guilt, pain, you name it keep us down.  OR we can choose to fight and overcome and rise above the darkness.  It is through this journey that three dudes I am writing of right now have found their place in this world and their Purpose and I hope that can be a source of inspiration for anyone reading this.

Thanks for reading.

Kevin