Summer camps are magical places, and got to experience summer camp as staff for a few years. The first two years were at a christian campground, and the end of which I was highly, highly religious. I was supposed to be off a christian university, but the place had monetary issues and had to double tuition. It bothered me, as I had been convinced that if I could have attended there, I could’ve prayed away the gay.
I ended up at University of Waterloo. A fresh country boy, now devoutly religious, with the social skills of a broken tape dispenser: I couldn’t roll with the flow, I kept cutting in awkwardly, and found myself in all kinds of sticky situations. Since I never got the chance growing up to see a lot of movies, the idea that college was full of boozing idiots was a rumored joke.
So I was a sober, awkward, religious, deeply closeted country boy. My nightmare came true two hours after I arrived in the form of one of the beautiful people, who would be my first year roommate. Jon was a jock, into theatre, brilliant, funny, popular, blah, blah, blah. Saved my life the night I night I was heading back to our room to end it all, and of course he had a party happening (keeping in mind he was virtually NEVER there), which messed with my plans.
One of them as usual was mocking, when his voice cracked like thunder over top of them. “Shut the fuck up! I am so tired of listening to you people make fun of the guy. You always make fun of him for sounding like my butler taking your calls: it’s called being polite and friendly, which is amazing considering how fucking evil you people are towards him all the time. Why don’t you take two seconds to get to know the guy?”
The third summer camp at the end of year 1 university was hell. People were vicious, and I learned to be vicious back. It’s also where I started smoking. Yes, to fit in with the cool kids.
Year 2 of university also had a friend dragging me into the chaplain’s office, as she thought I was suicidal. And the good priest spent the next three hours showing me how the “gay” passages could all be reinterpreted, and then said “go have a walk in the wilderness. Walk away from all organized religion for awhile. God will call you when and where you are supposed to be.”
I started my whole coming out process and will summarize it with the gay community is not for sissies: if you do not have a thick skin, you will meet people who have been forged by trials that most straight people will never comprehend. That doesn’t mean they are better – too many will try to regain a sense of superiority by putting down others, and there is STILL a lot of rampant racism and a focus on the physical.
There were a lot awkward crushes and several “relationships”. But I survived all that, I got a degree and I moved to Toronto, determine to find something better.
I survived on the good graces of first a friend, and then my brother for housing, as I ran into that brick wall of “you don’t have enough experience” for professional jobs and “you just graduated, and will be out of here as soon as you get one” joe jobs. One job after another I slowly starting to learn things that neither school nor being isolated on the farm had ever prepared me for.
I was starting to get the hang of things. I had a solid relationship for several years. I found friends who genuinely liked my quirkiness. I began to get insight that somethings have to happen to take you to the next stage, and looking back, I could see all the silver linings in the clouds in my life. If I had a dark moment, I could tell myself that I had been through other storms, and looking back, I would see the silver lining.
And then I ran into an insane woman, who hated me as I had her old job and was doing a better job of it than she had. Even though she was doing the same job now for the city at twice the pay and benefits: drug outreach.
And though I could never prove it in a court of law, because the witnesses were all drug users and of “questionable character”, the crazy bitch began making promises on my behalf that she knew I could not deliver on, or tried to trump me with things she knew that I was working on. The biggest proof on this that her bosses had to call her into question on was getting a mutual client a scooter: she got a broken one with exposed wiring, just so she could try to say she had improved the client’s life and I couldn’t.
Then I started getting threats from clients. Then I got attacked by a client. Then I didn’t work there anymore.
It took a year and a bit to rebuild Humpty Dumpty. You don’t know what a panic attack is until you’ve tried to do your grocery shopping at 3 a.m. because no one is in the store, but when you arrive at the checkout there is one person in line counting out pennies, and you break into a cold sweat and run away leaving a full cart there, because your heart is going to explode out of your chest a la Aliens.
But I rebuilt. Got a contract job and lost in three months due to restructuring, but got rehired two days later to a different position. And I was content.
But all of this was a dress rehearsal for what was coming next.