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 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 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 4 – quips and quotes

315/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I can’t jump on the Muhammad Ali bandwagon.  I never watched boxing.  Yes, I knew who he was but nothing more than that until I saw some of his quotes surfacing on my Facebook feed as well as on internet pages in the last couple of days.  I am not a guy who generally likes quotes.  I am not a teacher who has motivational posters in his classroom although I am a fan of the self-created metaphor.  I don’t really have a motto that I live my life by.  I am agnostic; thus, not influenced by any doctrines.  I’m a very apolitical person generally unless there is something that I need to be educated about.  I take pride in being myself and trying to be a better person along this journey of life.  One thing that I was told growing up was that no one would look out for you except yourself – basically, you are #1 (or that’s the way I interpreted it).  I don’t currently recall who had said that to me and I don’t even believe anyone in particular said it explicitly but perhaps it was several people in my life who had interpolated that quote in order for me to get through some of the tougher times in life.  I may have embraced it a little too literally as I am the first to espouse my own virtues but why not? 🙂  As I read Muhammad Ali’s quotes, there’s a lot of them all about self-empowerment – some may say that that is a form of vanity but I’d wholeheartedly disagree.  If you don’t believe in yourself and take pride in your accomplishments, why should others?  There’s definitely some sort of charisma that comes across when someone has a solid sense of self.  Yes, there is of course a blurred line between self-confident and cockiness but I think that line is decided by the receiver and not the sender.  I am glad that I was given the advice to believe in myself as it has greatly helped me overcome the obstacles that life has thrown at me.  And just maybe I might start opening up to and living my life by other quotes/mottos – got any good ones for me? 😉

May 31 – to my dad

311/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  This one’s a tough one.  I can only put it off for so long but tonight is the right time.  My dad passed away 3 years ago on the 26th of May a few days before his birthday which is today.  He would have been 80 today.  I have mixed emotions when it comes to my dad but through therapy, I have learned that those emotions, although valid, are of my own perspective and not because he did anything wrong consciously.  My dad was a paranoid delusional schizophrenic – he thought the government and all its agents were after him and by extension the family and thus he did not abide by certain rules and we were not allowed to live in the way most people live.  However, back in the 70s and early 80s, no one really knew all that much about mental illness and the myriad of diagnoses.  His own brothers and sisters denied he had a condition and lay blame on us (myself, my sister and mother) for fabricating tales about him.  He could get jobs but because of his delusions, those would soon end.  Eventually, because of things I’d rather not delve into, he ended up being institutionalized at Riverview Institute.  I was around 6 years old.  He was in and out of Riverview – sometimes on a month release, other times because he would “escape”.  This was our life for the next decade or so.  During this time, a feeling of resentment grew in me.  I would see dads and sons everywhere: playing ball, helping ride bikes, walking to school, cutting the lawn etc.  Upon a few of his unsanctioned “leaves”, the proverbial white van showing up at our house with my dad being taken back in a strait jacket is etched deeply into my memory.  I was embarrassed and neighbourhood kids made fun of us calling us the “retard’s kids” – oh damn, this is getting pretty tough tears welling up – but through it all, he was my dad and I had to remember that.  When he was finally diagnosed properly and on meds that managed his condition, he came back into our lives on a full time basis.  I finally had a normal dad for the most part – yes, he still had delusions and would talk to himself but less so.  He got a good paying job.  Worked hard and a year later, my parents had their third child – my younger sister.  I will admit that I was ambivalent towards her as this sister ended up with two more or less functioning parents and much more of a normal life than I had.  I had a very superficial relationship with my dad in that I guess I blamed him for not being around and thus, in turn making me feeling I was less than adequate.  I blamed him for not giving me the male role model I needed.  I was jealous of the new family dynamics when he was back.  I was upset that I didn’t have a normal childhood and laid all blame on him.  I know now that he did not do any of this!  He did not leave us willingly and consciously.  He did not abandon us because he didn’t love us.  He didn’t talk to or not acknowledge our existence because he didn’t care.  He didn’t hold down jobs because he was lazy.  He had a mental illness.  He was not in control.  Damn, more tears!!!  He worked hard.  He saved up money.  They got a brand new home.  New cars.  New “toys”. A new life.  Being the dad/granddad to my son that I never had.  Yes, I felt like I was on the sidelines looking in but I was also an adult and had to get over it.  I am 100% sure that my dad made me into a stronger person.  I needed to go through all of that to be the man I am today – phew, more tears!!  Towards the latter years of his life, I was able to let go of my resentment.  No, we did not have a movie-like wonderful ending – more like an ongoing telenovela/Bollywood drama where we were good for this week’s episode but that hole in my heart for lack of a father became much smaller in diameter.  Yes, I have never properly thanked him, told anyone I loved him, acknowledged him or even yet grieved his passing but this gratitude post is a start, albeit a public one, that my dad, given all he had to go through, ended up teaching me about life, struggles, being responsible for self and not letting your past dictate your future.  I love you dad for giving me life and caring for me in your own way.  Thank you for moving to Canada, marrying mom and creating something here and leaving behind a great inheritance both financial and emotional for the three of us children moving forward.  I still have a lot of work to do on myself in regards to father/son bonds but wherever you are, I am no longer angry or resentful – I can honestly say that I do love you and what you did for us.

April 28 – i didn’t know

278/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Tonight we had parent teacher conferences.  As a teacher, this can be a relatively easy evening or a highly stressful one.  Mine have always ever been in the former category.  Teaching electives (Psychology, Marketing and Accounting this year), you don’t get booked solid but at the school I am at (McNair) you definitely get about 50 – 70% of the spots filled.  I have also noticed that most of the parents that schedule are of the “good” kids but the ones you really need to speak with don’t book – ah well, nature of the beast I suppose.  We teachers lightheartedly joke about the “good” kid parents who want to know how to raise the 98% higher as their child has to get in to university – oh and they are just in grade 9 or just want to hear how wonderful their child is and by proxy how wonderful a parent they must be.   Ah, parenting : )  I needed tonight though to remind me of something that I alluded to in yesterday’s gratitude post – there are so many, many students that you affect and effect in a myriad of ways but are not cognizant of.  I have focused a lot of these gratitude posts based on direct impacts that have happened to me because of something being said or done until this evening.  I was sitting in my class talking to a parent who had brought in their grade 12 son into the interview.  She told me that she was happy with his grade (84% which is two percent away from an “A” and no mention of that) but she wanted to let me know how much he enjoyed the class and how he came home every day to tell her about what we were discussing and learning in Psychology.  I was blown out of the water – this boy, who I, up until that moment, thought had total disdain for the subject and also my teaching was actually really into the course.  The entire term, he sat there with his buddy never saying anything unless I asked a direct question of him.  The entire term, never once showing any indication of interest in the course.  The entire term, just going through the motions – or so I thought.  I was reminded of similar conversations I’ve had with parents almost every term of every year that I have been teaching and only in writing these gratitude posts am I realizing that those non-vocal/introvert kids are also connecting with me but on a different level than what I am accustomed to.  I needed tonight to appreciate those kids that are loving what I do but have never let on that are presently in my class, that have been in my classes over the last 20+ year and that will be in my classes.  I feel guilty that you have been overshadowed by the students similar to me in personality but I take comfort in the fact that regardless, you have appreciated what I have done and I honestly appreciate you and wont’ take it for granted that because you haven’t said anything doesn’t mean that you don’t feel anything.  Thank you my introvert/shy/reserved yet appreciative students – life lesson learned.

April 25 – lifestyle choice

275/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  About 23 years ago, I made a decision that affected the very essence of who I am.  After seeing a documentary on the processing of beef and being heavily affected by what I saw, I decided to cut out all red meat (in my mind that was pork and beef).  It was a bit difficult as growing up my entire family from parents to uncles and aunts were meat eaters – every meal had a huge meat component from sausages and bacon at breakfast to luncheon meats and burgers for lunch and then steaks (beef and pork) or chicken and turkey for dinner.  McDs and KFC were the letters of choice whenever mom didn’t want to cook.  However, that documentary got me to thinking about what my part was in the process and I just couldn’t live with myself.  I was 26 but it was only a choice for myself – never inflicting my beliefs on others (the only vegetarian in my family immediate and extended).  A year later, I happened upon another documentary on the chicken production industry and I was done.  At the same time, a teacher friend told me about fish and bottom feeders and well, I quit that like it was yesterday.  I’ve had many critics of my lifestyle choice – a principal who told me “real men eat meat”, my own mother telling me “why are you doing this to the family?”, others telling me that we are evolved and at the top of the food chain meant to eat meat and finally the ones who take one look at my skin colour and think it’s a religious choice (fyi, least religious person you will ever find writing a blog).  I held strong and with the exception of introducing fish back into my diet about a decade ago (compromised immune system and thus I require essential fatty acids and omega something or others), I have never (knowingly and willingly) eaten meat.  I appreciate all the friends and family in my life who have accommodated my choices by selecting restaurants that cater to my tastes, cooking an option for me specifically, even choosing vegetarian options here and there themselves.  I go along with the jesting about my non-meat choices but know that you respect my decisions.  Yes, my life as a vegetarian is much easier today than it was two decades ago as the options and choices available to me are endless but it’s the people around me who have made it that much easier.  Thank you to my friends and family who help me out with the way I choose to (not) eat.

April 21 – Prince

271/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I heard about Prince’s death this morning from a friend who came by my classroom.  My heart sank.  I was devastated.  Thankfully, my class was working on individual assignments so I could take time to process.  I loved Prince like no other!  People had/have their musical idols – Bowie, Lennon, Cobain, Mercury, Houston, Jackson – all amazing no doubt but Prince epitomized music for me.  He was my idol.  I love music but his music spoke to me on a different level – it was funk.  It was rock.  It was soul.  And it touched my soul.  I loved his image too and he, other than David Bowie, was a male who kept on reinventing himself with look after look – something I have done since I was a young adult – he made it normal for me as a teenage/young male to change up how I presented myself.  I idolized him.  He also made it acceptable not to have to be hyper-masculine to be a male.  He had attitude.  He oozed confidence and sexual bravado.  He didn’t take shit.  He talked smack about whatever he wanted to.  He wore his androgyny proudly.  He did it his own way regardless of what anyone thought. He was Prince.  Everything about him, I loved – and have come to emulate consciously but more subconsciously.  He produced for other artists and after hearing their collabs (Sheena Easton for one), I became a fan of that artist but the reason was the Prince sound.  His videos were iconic – When Doves Cry and Kiss are etched into my memory as are dozens of others.  His signature voice – the falsetto (Camille voice) morphing into his deep natural voice and the amazing production of his songs equaled perfection.  No matter what you called him – Prince, The Purple One, The Kid, The Artist Formerly Known As, Symbol – you can’t deny his talent.  I didn’t understand how people were moved by a celebrity’s death, someone they didn’t know, until today.  Perhaps it reminds me of my mortality as I grew up on his music in the 80s and now I’m 50 and he was only 57.  Perhaps he felt like a member of my extended family as he was always there musically and visually to get me through life’s moments.  Perhaps his songs resonated so deeply with me as they formed the soundtrack of my teens/young adulthood.  Whatever the reason, I’m gonna miss the musical genius but I take comfort in the fact that I have his music to remind me of his talent and what they meant to me.  I concoct a purple martini in your honour and salute you!