July 24 – last post: me, myself & I

365/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This is it.  The end is finally here.  My year-long gratitude journey comes to a close with this final post and to quote that song – I did “Save the Best for Last”.  Yes, that may sound very narcissistic but that’s the entire point of this gratitude post.  It’s about me.  And why can’t one or rather why shouldn’t one recognize themselves.  Take pride in their own accomplishments.  Think highly of themselves.  If you don’t think well of yourself and put yourself first, why should anyone else think any better of you.  I have always done that and never let what was happening in my life change the way I see myself.  Maybe that’s why I’ve gotten through all that life has thrown me and I’ve shown life that I believe in me, and so should everyone else.  I’m far from perfect and I can admit my foibles but they don’t define me – I focus on the positives.  This year long journey has allowed me to become even more comfortable in my own skin – I mean, I got a belly from inactivity this year (through no fault of my own – injuries and sickness) and the Randy of a year ago would have been obsessing over it but today’s Randy is oh well, I’ll work on it.  I went through a relationship crisis that I am still working on but I’m not so consumed that I won’t allow myself to enjoy what life puts in my way at the moment.  I fully embraced aging – denying in my 40s but wearing it proudly in my 50s – I mean I accepted my grey hair finally purple shampoo withstanding 😉  I make fun of myself because I know that I am sometimes not the brightest bulb but I still shine bright (maybe not like a diamond though) : )  I am proud of my ethnicity and no longer denying it.  I admit and own up to my weaknesses and character flaws and am trying to learn to improve myself.  I’ve opened up over the past year.  I’ve shared more than most people share in a lifetime and only then to a few close people.  I’ve alienated people but I’ve also earned the respect of others.  I am strong.  I am weak.  I am bold.  I am nervous.  I want to be accepted.  I want to accept.  I want to be loved.  I want to love.  I want to be respected.  I want to be needed.  I want to be heard.  But with all that, I am so very happy with myself.  I am a good person.  I try hard.  I don’t always succeed but I have a good heart.  Yes, I hurt but that won’t get in the way of me still being me.  I know I’m too much for a lot of people but I’m not going to change for anyone as I love who I am and how I put myself out there.  And I love the people who have stood by me and who support me.  I am me.  I have a lot more to learn about myself and still open up about that 365 days didn’t allow but in the end, what I undertook and finished and who I am as a result is someone I am very proud of!  On this last day, I thank me, myself and I as I am a pretty awesome guy if I don’t say so myself ; )

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July 23 – my wife

364/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Here it is.  The penultimate post.  The one that I wanted to write so many times but wasn’t ready for.  This one is for my wife – Lak.  I have not prepped my wife for this.  Yes, it may be wrong of me but I have to go with my heart.  I know that she is the yin to my yang and thus, this post is not what she would want as she is a very private person but I have been honest and public throughout the year and I have to finish on the same path.  My wife and I had an introduced marriage – not arranged as both of us had a “choice” to say no.  I had met several girls but the moment I saw her, I knew that she was the one.  Unfortunately for her, I was the first guy she met so she really didn’t get a chance to see others.  I know that we both felt pressured to get married – her more so than me and both of us being good children did what we were supposed to (this was the late 80s).  She was only 19 and I was 22 when we ended up getting married.  That first year – in fact the first couple of years – we were like a dating couple trying to get to know each other, figure each other out while being legally married at the same time.  I will say it straight up – I was not the best of husbands.  I was, I guess we both were, children thrown into this situationship but I acted like it; however, Lak was and is the one who could handle it and had/has maturity beyond her years.  I know I didn’t make the marriage easy on her but she sacrificed who she was to make it work and only in the past couple of years have I realized the things she has done to make sure that our home was a home and how she put her own needs after everyone else’s.  Yes, I took things for granted.  She is an amazing mother.  I fully recognize that.  Our daughter is a damn, wonderful young woman and it’s because of Lak and the tight bond that the two of them have and share.  My son, although he likes to pretend mom doesn’t matter, is her baby boy.  He adores her but won’t admit it.  She has been wonderful to them and has always put the kids first.  I know that is said of many mothers but Lak actually does it and I know my daughter realizes it and my son will also once he becomes a young adult and I definitely realize it though I should have acknowledged it more.  Not only is Lak physically stunning – yes, I’ve been told by several people (hundreds in fact) on how beautiful she is and what is she doing with me and yes, that’s a good question – but she is a very kind hearted, generous person to all those around her, a full time working mom (and has been since before the children were born and while they were young – never taking any time off) and a responsible daughter as well as good cousin, sister and friend.  As the years progressed and as does happen in many relationships, ours took a turn for the worse.  The boat that you thought was sailing along smoothly, capsized not as a result of some storm that you could have predicted and planned for but more due to the neglect of the maintenance required for the boat and then just getting used to it and the apathy towards the repairs that were necessary.  The boat tried to right side but would take on a lot of water and thus, we decided to take time apart from each other to reassess the boat itself as a vessel – I moved out.  New uncharted territory for both of us.  I decided to go public about the separation and with my feelings (freshly starting the gratitude posts into the first year of the separation); whereas, Lak wanted to deal with our relationship privately.  In retrospect, I totally understand her reasoning but in the moment, I wasn’t hearing it – something that has been my downfall throughout the almost 30 year relationship.  I definitely could have been a more understanding, more helpful, more there for her, more in tune with her needs type of husband.  Alas, I wasn’t and I apologize for my shortcoming but here we are back in the same space co-parenting our teenage son.  Where is this relationship between the two of us going to go?  I couldn’t even begin to guess.  Today’s post is not meant to be a public apology to undo the past but rather a public acknowledgement of gratitude for you, Lak being a great wife over the years to my not-so-perfect husband.  Thank you for sharing your life with me and wherever our roads lead us – either together on the same one, side by side intersecting here and there or in two opposite directions, I wanted to say I’ve loved sharing the journey and yes, I do love you!

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.

July 20 – so young

361/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Back in the day, my Accounting teacher told me that in life there are three definites: death, taxes and car accidents.  That hit me.  I didn’t know about any of them at age 17.  I learned about taxes pretty quickly – take home vs gross pay – pretty ugly.  Yes, I’ve had my fair share of fender benders – small accidents thankfully.  I did not experience any immediate family loss until well into my 40s.  Yes, so very rare and very fortunate but I did attend funerals prior to this.  Sadly, as a teacher, they were of my students.  I have been teaching high school since 1991 and have taught well into the thousands of young minds.  They are perpetually 17 or 18 years old to me.  Lives full of potentiality!  A lot of them feel like extended family because I get to know them as young adults since I teach grade 11 and 12.  With the advent of social media, I have gotten to keep in touch with them and get to see what they are getting up to in their lives and I vicariously take pride in their successes and when there are failures in their lives, I also feel that sense of loss.  Thus to hear/find out that these young, amazing people have passed away well before their prime was something that I was not prepared for.   The one that struck me the most was Chris.  He was in my and the school’s (Burnett) first graduating class ever.  Chris had it all.  Height, model looks, girlfriend on his arm, athleticism, university acceptance, amazing family and a wonderful and humble personality.  Always respectful to me and constantly smiling and just an all around nice guy.  This is exactly who I wanted to have as a son if I ever had a son (which would happen a couple years later).  The day that I heard that he was killed in a car accident shortly after graduation devastated me.  This was the first death of a person I had known.  It was a student.  There should be distance.  This should not affect me.  I didn’t know him that well.  He was just in my class.  I tried making the excuses but it did affect me.  He was like a “child” to me as are many of the students that I teach and end up bonding with.  He was an amazing young man with his whole life in front of him.  He has stuck in my mind.  He has forever affected me.  Yes, there have been other students.  None as young as him yet none of them any less important but Chris was that special young man.  Chris made me realize that in my career as teacher, the students that I work with will also affect me just as much as I affect them and all I wish upon their graduations is not only for their happiness but that they lead long and happy lives.  Yes Chris, you are gone, but you are never forgotten!  Thank you for coming into my life and showing me that teaching is more than just teaching – it’s about connections, memories and relationships.

July 19 – remedy

360/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Most of you probably don’t know that I have a medical condition (sarcoidosis) which has resulted in a compromised immune system – I get sicker faster and stay sicker longer than most people (I’ve had a cough/chest cold for 11 weeks running as of this moment!).  I am at St Paul’s Hospital two to three times a year (and have been for the last decade) undergoing heart monitoring, breathing tests, CT scans and xrays, in addition to weekly blood work, and daily/weekly ingestion of prednisone or methotrexate coupled with two inhalers.  My respirologist, who I have thanked earlier, is amazing but today’s gratitude post is for the entire provincial healthcare system.  Yes, many of us complain about our medical system but I am not one of those as I am constantly in and out of doctor’s and specialist’s offices, constantly in labs and constantly hooked up to various machines just so some sort of understanding can take place about the condition I have.  Have I gotten better – unfortunately, no – just a bit worse each year but I’m not upset or jaded and one of the those reasons is that my experiences in the medical system have been easy and the people have always been friendly.  The people who do the breathing tests know me by face and joke with me that I am an expert – hence, when I’m scheduled, I get the students working with the veteran on me (happened today).  The secretaries at the various doctor’s ensure that my four appointments at the hospital are all coordinated and are at least in a four hour time period in one day rather than all over the calendar.  Yes, I may have to wait a few extra weeks on occasion, but I can’t and won’t complain.  The techs in the blood lab – already queasy just typing it – know that I hate the sight of blood so they get it done as quick and as fast – or as fast as 8 vials of blood can be removed.  I am still healthy, I can still do all that I want to do but when I do have to spend my time related to my medical conditions in the “system”, I am glad that the system takes care of me well in all aspects!

July 17 – save the last dance

358/365 -people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I am the type of guy who thinks that everything in life will always work out.  The philosophy that I employ in my teaching life is that I, as teacher, am not there to mold students but to rather unfold them as they bring to my class (and to me) a sense of who they are.  Education is not to indoctrinate but to introduce.   I feel that I and my colleagues are there to get students to enjoy something about school and to try and reach a potential – not necessarily their full potential but to start on it.  That has been mindset when it comes to my students and perhaps that is naïve on my part but that’s what I believe and I have met many of them as adults and see how they are living their lives and I’m really happy for them as they are on that path.  Earlier this year, and don’t judge me here, I, with a buddy, ended up at an, ahem, a gentlemen’s club.  We just walked in on a lark and ended up at the stage – let me repeat, don’t judge 😉  We are having beers and talking to each other and sadly, which is normally the case, not paying much attention to the entertainment.  As I’m engaged, I hear “Mr Sangha?  Is that you?”  8/ I was in shock.  I looked up and I immediately recognized A!!  I had taught her more than a decade ago in grade 12 and well, here she was – uhm, in all her glory – on stage.  I could not look at her and she sensed my unease and comfort.  My buddy was in shock – no doubt as I was stunned beyond belief.  I sat there, consciously avoiding any inadvertent gaze at the stage because to me, my former students are perpetually 17 and 18.  A finished her set and robed up and came right up to me.  All eyes in the establishment were on us as it was a weird bonding but no one knew she was my former student.  She gave me a hug and as I do with my former students, I gave her one – I would not have rejected her as this the exact moment where I realized that I had no right to judge.  Before this moment in time, this type of entertainer didn’t really elicit any emotion from me (be it positive or negative) as I didn’t think there would be anything ever linking us but here was super smart, keener A in that same role.  We sat, had drinks and talked about how she got to where she was.  It was a great heart to heart and I understood a lot more about her life circumstances that brought her to this moment. She could tell I was dejected and she told me that I was still one of the teachers that she remembered and that she hoped I wasn’t disappointed in her.  That did it – damn, tears welled up – here is this stunning biracial beauty who was an athlete and academic achiever in front of me again and everything else I had just seen (actually avoided) and heard was out the window.  I gave her another hug.  Wished her well.  That moment stays with me and now I realize that yes, I can have expectations for my students but they have their realities and just because I have defined potentialities doesn’t mean that they aren’t reaching them – just a different set of them given their life circumstances.  Thank you A for schooling me!

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 11 – i’ll be good to you

352/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I know there are sayings in regards to being nice to people now because they could come back later in your life to help you or haunt you or something similar.  I have no clue what those sayings are exactly but I get the gist.  I have lived life with this motto for as long as I can remember.  Only once has it ever happened to me but not in the traditional sense of the saying.  Late 90s, I leave my house to head to the gym.  Driving down my street called Riverdale.  At regular speed level and then bam, pow, bang – holy Batman!  I hit the brakes.  I recall a blur in front of my hood, then on my windshield and then over the top of the car and falling off the trunk onto the street through my rearview mirror.  I am in shock.  I am sitting there.  I start to shake.  I look back at the rearview.  It’s a boy.  He’s on the street.  Rivers of blood from his head.  I can’t compute.  What has happened?  My Law 12 teacher’s words come into my head – anytime a driver hits a passenger, the driver is 100% at fault.  I am literally cold.  After what seems to be hours yet only mere minutes, I get out of the car.  I see the car that was coming in the opposite direction.  The male driver and female passenger run out and she yells “We saw everything!!!”.  I’m on the verge of tears as this is it.  The end of my new career as teacher.   Oh, have I forgotten to mention that I live and teach in the same neighbourhood.  Out come running people.  I hear “Mr Sangha???”  “Mr Sangha, what happened?!!”  “Oh my God, Mr Sangha, you hit someone”.  I am embarrassed.   I am upset.  I am still in shock.  My mind races years ahead – me in prison, my kids on the streets.  I’m shaking – oh, yes, I am wearing shorts and a tshirt.  All a blur.  Fire engine, multiple police cars, ambulance and to make matters worse, as they are redirecting traffic, the mother of the child just hit happens to be driving by and yes, sees her son.  Kill me now!  The two witnesses come over and give me hugs.  I don’t understand.  They tell me that they saw the kid run into the street after a ball and knew that I would never see him and that it was not my fault.  They tell the police this.  The police officer tells me that I’m good, I did nothing wrong.  I’m looking at the blood.  The paramedic tells me that the lip bleeds like no other organ.  I am driven home.  I am in shock.  If I drank then – yes, surprise, surprise, I didn’t back then – I probably would have become an alcoholic.  All forgotten.  Six or seven years later, I am teaching Psychology 12.   Ask the students to write a journal entry about a psychological experience that affected them for the rest of their lives.  At home reading and marking the assignment.  As I’m reading Adam’s, I start to freak out.  “I’m playing ball in my friend’s driveway and go get the ball.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a White Honda Civic comes barreling down the street at me.  Takes me out.  I go flying over the car and end up breaking my arm and with some other fractures.  End up in the hospital for a few weeks and off of school for a month.”  I sit at my kitchen table.  Dumbfounded.  I write him a comment – “Let’s talk”.  We do.  He laughs.  I laugh.  We hug it out.  He doesn’t really remember everything but he was told I was the teacher.  He is in my class.  I was scared that he would hold it against me.  He never did.  We had a great year.  You rock Adam.  I needed that.  We affect people.  Positively or negatively.  How we react to that affection is what matters especially when it comes to mistakes.  I am so glad that I had the interaction with you years later.  I am so glad that we got to talk about what took place.  I am so glad that I learned a valuable life lesson.  I could have reacted in all sorts of different ways – was told to sue the family for the damage to the car – bullshit!  I am so glad that you came back into my life and let me move on and realize that my decisions/choices on how I responded came back to me but in positive ways.  Yes, I screwed up your grade 7 year Adam 😉 but you gave me a great life-lesson going forward – be good to people and they will be good to you later on!

July 9 – it’s all elementary

350/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I have been asked a few times why I chose to be a high school teacher over an elementary school teachers and my response jokingly has been that I don’t want to be touched with germy hands.  I never, ever considered elementary.  I just knew that I was suited for high school.  The students there would get my sarcasm.  I would end up making the elementary kids cry.  The students in high school/listen/follow the same pop culture icons.  The elementary kids would go home and tell their parents and I’d be in a whole world of trouble 😉  I have also joked about the calm nature, soothing voices, and just general loving nature of elementary teachers – totally not me!!  For the past week, I have been part-time employed assisting kindergarten to grade 7 summer school!  I did it last year as well.  Totally outside of my comfort zone.  They touched me!  LOL  I had to tell them to keep their distance.  I watched the elementary teachers working with them – first time ever I saw close up the difference between high school and elementary and I was in awe.  These teachers were amazing.  So good with the students.  So suited to be doing the job they were doing.  I also look back to my elementary years and I had some amazing teachers.  I reflect on both my kids teachers and they too were amazing and my kids loved elementary school because they felt important and acknowledged.  Yes, the argument could be made that it is the nature of the classroom and the school but I do think it has a lot to do with the type of teachers that are in elementary school.  Just as I know that I would not be suited for that type of role, they probably know that they are ideal for the job they are in.  The patience and the general caring nature that is so second nature to my elementary sistren and brethren is what makes them the perfect people to be in their role.  Thank you to my own elementary teachers in shaping who I am.  Thank you to my both my children’s elementary teachers for helping create the adult and teenager I have today.  If not for my summer school job, I wouldn’t have seen how amazing you all are in what you do for all of us!

July 6 – oldest niece

347/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I’ve been told that I am quite naïve at times and take things very literally at other times missing the subtle sarcasm or subtext.  I’d like to think I’m just very straight forward and expect things to be relayed to me that way as well 😉  I have also been told that I am quite into my looks.  Okay, well, I won’t argue that but if you know my history – and if you have been reading these posts – well, then that personality trait is understandable.  I thought I was one of a kind until my niece Sabrina came along.  I didn’t see the similarities in personality until her own mother, my sister Pam, pointed them out.  From then on, almost everyone commented on how we were similar.  I didn’t take offense to it and I’m hoping Sabrina never did as it has been a running theme/joke whenever the family had gotten together for family gatherings.  Sabrina was born about a year before my daughter so I got a quick education on what parenting as an adult would look like.  In fact, Sabrina did everything a year before my daughter – entered kindergarten, high school, university etc and thus, I also received a cursory overview of what could possibly in store for my daughter and thereby myself.  I enjoyed our easy rapport and definitely our similarities and our uncle/niece bond but alas, as things have happened in my family, Pam and I have become estranged and sadly but understandably Sabrina decided to also cut ties with me in solidarity with her mother.  I hope that someday soon Sabrina remembers the happy times that we all shared as family but especially myself and her and perhaps will decide to rebuild our relationship as individuals rather brother/daughter of a family member but until that time, I wish her well and will always remember the learning that took place for me as I saw her growing up.