July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

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July 12 – you did me wrong

353/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  How cliché? 😉  But it is so very true – I totally understand and live by that motto.  Everything that I have been through in my life has made me the guy you know.  Yeah, my life was tough but I know people have had it rougher.  I accepted my fate in life and dealt with it.  What I do wish though was that I had support growing up.  Yes, as I wind down these posts, I must throw in one final back-handed gratitude post to people who, without your non-care (for lack of a better word), made me even stronger.  You all should know by this time that my dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic.  We, as kids, were told to keep it hidden.  Deny it.  Don’t talk about it.  This was told to us by our mother.  But she was forced to tell us this as her in-laws wouldn’t accept/believe that their son/brother/brother-in-law had a mental illness.  I recall overhearing my mom being lectured that she was making things up and she had to stop phoning the police when my dad would lose it on her.  I remember also being told as a teenager that I was in collusion with my mom by having my dad institutionalized for that decade or so.  I was in shock and I had so much anger at my dad’s family.  They saw things from the outside.  We lived things from the inside.  As you may also know, my sister and I were in foster care for a short period.  We were living with different relatives at other times when my mom would be hospitalized because of my dad’s violence.  The anger stayed with me for most of my life.  I had to see these people at my dad’s funeral – these people who never were there for us growing up.  Any one of them could have stepped up and been a father figure, a true uncle but that never happened.  On my 18th or 19th birth year, my mom wanting to take me to see my paternal grandparents in India – I was lectured to by my uncles there that my mom and I (once again colluding) to steal my dad’s wealth and property there – no, they had no clue about the poverty we actually lived in growing up as my dad put my mom on an allowance and so she had to hold down multiple jobs just to care for us but I listened and festered.  I, however, did learn that three of his other siblings (two whom had committed suicide) were also afflicted by the same mental illness – I got a better understanding of my dad.  I was forgiving of my uncles and family in India as they did not have the same knowledge level as my dad’s Canadian family.  I have 100% forgiven my dad because none of what he did was in his conscious control but I can’t forgive my dad’s immediate family here in Canada.  You could have made a difference.  You could have acknowledged that there was something wrong.  You could have supported any of us, all of us.  Yes, you lay blame on us.  I’d like to think I’m a bigger person and can move on but I’m not that good – I can’t forget and I definitely can’t forgive.  I will say though that you have taught me a life lesson that not all family is there for you. Yes, this gratitude post might come off as very bitter but I think I’m entitled to this one.   I am so that much stronger in spite of/despite you and for that, you get the backhanded thank you!

July 10 – the people in your neighbourhood

351/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’m always fascinated by one’s environment and the kind of impact it has on one in regards to character formation.  I grew up in the 70s in Northwest Richmond BC – a predominantly white community with a few ethnic families.  We were told to assimilate by both our parents and by the community at large and we did.  My street – Riverdale (like the Archie comics – yes, I’m dating myself) – was host to a very diverse population in regards to socio-economic status, family types, and even ethnicities.  I remember almost every kid who lived on the street and I’d love to say that they were wonderful and left an amazing, lasting impression on me but I can’t say that.  With perhaps an exception of one or two, most were not pleasant to me.  However, that also helped shape me into the guy I am today.  My neighbours and yes, it’s my blog so I’m gonna name you – brothers Daryl and Ken R who lived right next door to me made my life a living hell (more so older Daryl with Ken following his lead).  They would spraypaint racist epithets on our driveway and no form of cleaning truly erased what was said literally and figuratively as it has stayed with me to this very.  Daryl would vandalize our home: windows broken, rip off our laundry off the line and I would have to go hunt it down on the street, throw all sorts of trash into our yard and have his buddies over to spit at me from their deck while I (remember that I am extremely overweight and nerdy) had to cut the grass.  Daryl would make fun of me when my dad would be taken to Riverview, he would say the worst racist things to my mom and I would yell back and he would laugh at my face.  My mom told me to ignore them and do what I had to and just keep the peace and although I was angry at Daryl and Ken, I did what I had to and took the abuse.  They involved neighbourhood kids like Candace and Todd, Arif and Shafik (yes, that Shafik if you live in Richmond) to join in and yes, they joined in.  There were others but I need to get off this bitter train before I start giving them all their own compartments 😉 The neighbour kids across the street, although not involved directly, saw how very unconfident I was and did their own things – siblings R, P and K, and K and her sister – nowhere near the extent of Daryl and his followers with physical things but more psychological.  At the time, along with the bullying I suffered from (see post #15) in school, I hated my life and just wished I didn’t live there but I got through.  As with that earlier bullying post, I became stronger – a Survivor.  Everything I am today is on a subconscious level in spite of all of my tormentors.   I haven’t really thought of these neighbourhood kids until today and just happened to Facebook find a few of them as I was writing this and was tempted to send them this link but I am above all that – yes, I named you and I needed to do that and yes, I hope some of you who read this post and are in touch with them will forward it to them but I am beyond the Riverdale neighbourhood kids today and so much better off given what you put me through as I am that much stronger.

July 3 – where my girls at?

344/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by females.  Born in New Westminster, my mom just 19 would stay with her aunts and nieces in Vancouver while my dad was at work.  I was told that I was passed from female cousin/aunt to female cousin/aunt as they were all older and I was the new toy.  I was with them for about the first four years of my life.  Nary a male around.  Growing up in Richmond, my own siblings and first cousins were born and they were all female.  I stayed with my aunts, sister and cousins while my mom worked.  Once again, usually the only male child around.  I can admit that because of my earlier nurturing, I have an ease with females that eludes many a male.  In high school, I related to the females who would say that they found it easy to get along with males as fellow females didn’t get them.  I felt this way with males but once I hit university and found my stride that all changed and I easily made friendships with my male counterparts just as easily as I did with the females.  I recall sitting down at a lunch table with a few female staff members who were already engaged in conversation.  I gleaned that they had an informal top 5 list of male staff members that “creeped them out”.  I was taken aback – no, not at the list, but if I had ranked!!?  I asked them as much and I was told that I could never, ever end up on such a list.  Phew!  Then of course I had to know who made it and was told and given an explanation for each and I realized that I was the antithesis of every single guy on the list based on their characteristics and qualities that made these women (and I suppose most women) uncomfortable.  Even tonight, there was a mini work reunion of sorts and it ended up being four females and myself and yes, when I initially heard about the guest list, I was missing the male camaraderie but moments into the festivities, friendship and ease took over and once again, I was in my element with these ladies cracking jokes and just reminiscing.  Thanks to all the females in my life when I was a young child as you totally shaped me into the man I am today allowing the females who come into my life today to appreciate the man I am and I thank you ladies as well for being a part of my life and accepting me into your fold.  Here’s where my girls are at!

June 22 – Hold Me Now

333/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  My defining moment came in 1987.  The year prior (1986) I got that amazing job at Expo 86 and the year after (1988) I got married – two amazing life milestones but the one that shaped me probably the most was traveling to Quebec on my own to learn French for the summer.  I had attempted travel (after high school graduation) to Europe with others and that was a nightmare so I was very wary to say the least.  I traveled across Canada on a plane and a train on my own – the train being an amazing experience!  I met people who had lasting influences on me.  I experienced many, many things for the first time.  I basically broke out of the self-imposed shell that protected me!  However, the highlight of the entire summer came from being at the right place at the right time.  I, with a few friends, were supposed to go to a club – a former cathedral converted into a dance place – but we couldn’t get ourselves organized.  We then heard about a band playing in the back field of our campus (Universite de Laval) as a warmup before their performance at said cathedral.  It was all on the hush-hush and only a few people were privy to the information.  I was in the in-group but more on the outside of the inside in that I was not informed who the band was.  I got there.  There were perhaps 20-30 of us and who was performing but only one of my all-time favourite 80s group – The Thompson Twins.  Okay, for you young ‘uns, you have no clue what I’m talking about but they would be the equivalent of say The Black Eyed Peas in their hey-day!  I was in shock.  This was my 80s music.  Tom Bailey (lead singer) epitomized coolness to me (oh, and I tried to model several of my hairstyles after him) and here he was only 15 feet away from me.  Afterwards, they talked to the group of us but I was just freaked out and stood in the back trying to take it all in.  I have never, ever been a fan-boy for celebrity but yeah, here I was freaking the shit out!!  I can’t even remember the songs they performed as it was so surreal and at times I wondered if it happened but yes, it did!  I just happened to be where I was supposed to be and the Thompson Twins were supposed to entertain me on that night.  They were at the top of my 80s musical idols.  I had a love for their music but ever since, ever so more.  Everyone needs their musical, athletic, artistic, whatever it is idols because their talent gets us through things in life but to be able to see them perform in real life is a special experience and it has been the one concert going event (can I even call it that) that has stayed with me until this very day!  As I create a Spotify playlist in their honour, here’s to my musical heroes who I didn’t know were until that night – The Thompson Twins!!

June 18 – baby sister

329/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ll probably come off bitter or mean-spirited with this gratitude post but that is not my intent going into it.  I have a sister who is almost 15 years my junior and it’s obvious that we have major differences given our age gap.  My father was released from Riverview after about a decade or so once his schizophrenia was properly diagnosed and managed with medication and about a couple of years later my youngest sister Sandee was born.  I can admit that I was subconsciously jealous of her and the parents that she had in that she had both and my dad was working, more or less cognizant of what was going on in the world because of the meds and adored her.  However, the thing about having a younger sibling was that I had an early start on learning what parenting was all about as myself and my other sister (two years my junior) were basically responsible for her as both my parents worked at that time.  I learned how to feed, bathe, clothe and change a young infant.  Did I love it?  Hell no LOL.  Whereas all my teenage counterparts were living teenage lives, I was at home with my sisters responsible for them but I still had fun – I remember good times with Sandee – playing board games, fashion showing her Barbies, making her watch movies with me (barring the scary ones), playing dress-up, being host to her and my cousins talk shows and a host of other activities.  Sadly, Sandee doesn’t remember this and has bitter feelings towards me as she feels that I wasn’t the older brother that I should have been (which boggles my mind) and I wasn’t there for her.   Yes, I may not have been that dad/brother figure that she desired but that wasn’t my responsibility.  In the past, I tried explaining to her (both of us as adults) that I was almost 18 years old when she was three and I was in university and had to focus on myself and I also wanted to be away from my parents as I needed to assert my own independence but because she had some idealized version of what brothers were supposed to be, I have never measured up in her eyes.  I also tried to get her to see my perspective of what it was like for me to grow up with a (schizophrenic) dad who was institutionalized and unfortunately she couldn’t understand it and trivialized it – It’s sad that we have been estranged and I have not seen her daughter who was born almost two years ago nor her son who I had a great bond with.  Life is like that unfortunately especially because of family dynamics.  I still care for my sister even though we have our differences.  Unfortunately, because both of us are of the same ilk, our pride gets in the way and I can admit that we are both to blame in the way our relationship has turned out.  Wherever we may be in life, I am glad that I had Sandee as we needed each other when my father passed away three years ago.  Who knows if we will even mend our broken bonds but I’m still glad that I have my sibling(s).

June 10 – quirky is so cool

321/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Amongst the many bullies and mean girls of my youth, there were some of my peers (few and far between) who did make me feel worthy.  One of those people was ultra cool Carmel – I mean, look at her name!  Perhaps back then, she wasn’t looked as cool and more quirky but damn, she was ahead of her time and game because today she rocks that chic vibe.  I remember her with her short hair and awesome fashion sense but also her wit and intelligence.  Although we were nowhere near besties or even close (a casual hello in class), I do remember that she received some shunning from the popular, cheerleader types but Carmel had her sense of self and her own niche where she fit in with others and I admired that about her.  She epitomized what it meant to march to the beat of a different drummer.  Perhaps on some subconscious level, that influenced me as after high school I did my own damn thing and didn’t worry what others thought – no, I didn’t march to that drummer, I led the entire damn band!! ; )  Carmel and I have seen each other throughout the years at various high school reunions and have gotten to know each other much better through that wonderful platform called Facebook.  We have actually had a mini-high school reunion or two with a select few over wine just enjoying getting to reconnect as adults and that’s one thing I didn’t thing I would ever do – get together again from people from my past but I have as there were some nice people back then.  Thanks Carmel for being one of those people.  Let’s raise a glass soon.

June 6 – mean girls

317/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As I’ve written these posts, I have had to go back in my life and relive some of the good times and also revisit the bad ones.  I have been able to thank people who have positively helped create who I am and also back-handedly give “recognition” to those who just made my life negative to completely unbearable.  Some may say that I am bitter and others may say that I should let it go but this experience has been cathartic and through writing these posts, I have let a lot of feelings go since they were never acknowledged.  I did confront some of my bullies during a high school reunion about how negative they made my life.  I wasn’t really surprised to learn that they had no clue as they were so self-absorbed and I didn’t matter at the time.  The bullying boys – with the exception of one – channeled all their dislike for me through physical aggression.  After it was done, they would just forget and move on.  I’m an elephant – I didn’t forget but after taking my minor in Psychology, I understood how they operated.  The girls also got their bullying on through relational aggression – getting others in on it, creating stories and gossip and generally egging it on.  During that same reunion, I spoke with the girl who was in every one of my classes in grade 8.  I had to be honest with her about how she made my life miserable with her friend “A”.  Although “A” was the main perpetrator, this other girl would jump in and tag-team the venomous verbal barrage directed at me ranging from my geekiness, to my ethnicity, from my less than ideal masculinity to my unattractiveness yet when we were not within A’s vicinity, she would be pleasant – that’s the worst kind of mean girl/bully.  Hate on me all the time.  Don’t toy with me.   When I told her all she put me through at the reunion, she broke down in tears – but not because she was apologetic but because I was making her feel bad?!  What?  Because you can’t handle how horrible you were to me?  Stuff that stayed with me a lifetime but I’m not supposed to say anything because you feel awful?  I am glad that I was able to let all I felt out as she needed to hear what I had carried into my 40s.  This is my healing.  Because of that reunion incident, I have actually been empowered to be honest with people from my past regarding how I was treated be it positively or negatively.  If they can’t handle it, that is because they needed to hear how they affected another person’s life.  This girl could definitely not handle it as she unfriended me on Facebook but that just made me stronger as I knew that I had become a much better person.  Yes, to you nameless girl, a back-handed gratitude post for making me a stronger person as an adult and being able to address issues and then finally let those bygones become bygones!

June 2 – safe haven

313/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Everyone wants to feel safe/have a safe haven and I can say that with all I had to endure during my childhood/teen years in regards to bullying, there was one thing that the government did that gave me some comfort – a Parent Watch program.  This was a program where homeowners could sign up to be homes where a threatened child could go to that door for safey.  They would be vetted by the governing agency and if approved, would be given – well, I don’t know what they were given as my mom was an immigrant and didn’t sign up for it – but I’m assuming that they were given training and a sticker to place on their window to show young people that this was a safe home.  That sticker was my beacon.  It was a bright orange triangle with two children in it.  We were taught about it in elementary school that if we ever needed to get away from someone, be it a stranger, someone in a car, a bully, whomever, we could run to a home with this sticker and they would help us out.  I’m not sure how they would but just having that peace of mind got me through a lot.  Yes, I had bullies who beat me up on my way home from school because I didn’t expect them but then I got savvy and started to plan my routes around homes that shone this star of hope for me.  I never, ever ended up using the services of the safe homes but just by knowing they were there made it somewhat easier for me to get home from school.  I wish the government had a similar program in existence today as I would definitely sign up and give that same type of comfort (whether utilized) for any child feeling threatened or bullied on their travels.  I thank all those adults who volunteered for the program – you don’t know how it made a difference for a person like me.

June 1 – strike a pose

312/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  After last night’s emotional, heartfelt and quite draining post, tonight’s is much more subdued and light.  When I was in high school, the classes that I enjoyed the most were some of my electives such as Art and Photography.  I remember taking my first and only photography class at Richmond High in the early 80s.  Mr Waber was my teacher.  The cameras back then had nothing on all the technological advances of today – I mean the word filter was before the fact, not after as it is today 😉  And selfie??  Not even on the horizon LOL.  Editing software – future language!!  I digress, back to Mr Waber.  He started us off with a pin-hole tin can camera and I fell in love instantly with photography as I ended up with an amazing photo because of the perspective it gave.  We had different themes for various assignments and I spent my time engaged in the work.  After that class, unfortunately I never touched a camera except for the occasional family pictures, never for artistic escape.  For most of my life, I wanted to get back into taking pictures and share them but because I was concerned as to whether I had talent and a keen eye, I shied away from it and of course, life just kept getting in the way and I made any excuse to avoid taking up photography again until just recently.  My daughter was enrolled in photo class in her high school and she exceled (winning top photo student).  Her pictures were amazing as she had an amazing digital camera.  Her teacher inspired her as had mine.  I decided then that I would start taking pictures but with my cell phone – this way I could blame it on the equipment if I really had no talent 😉  However, if you know me, you know that I don’t do anything half-heartedly – I put my heart into it and well, I certainly did with photography.  I decided to take a picture a day for a year with monthly themes and post them on Instagram – that was in 2014 and here I am in 2016 three years later and still continuing with that project!!  I have done a month of tattoos which entailed going up to complete strangers and asking to take a picture of their tattoo – I loved that month as I got to hear their stories.  I went around for a month and hunted graffiti which got me out of my neck of the woods but then one month I spent an entire in my city of Richmond taking shots.  I have taken pictures of my martini creations for a month – I had to suffer through and drink them each day (the sacrifices I make for my art 😉 ).  One of the strangest monthly themes involved going up to men and taking pictures of 31 different beards – I was only rejected once!  Thank you for Mr Waber for the initial spark and thank you to all of you who have commented about my photography as it has been a great diversion in life as well as being a way to allow me to express myself and share another part of myself with people.