|So many questions for this guy...|
Why did I stop caring about academics? Why did I turn my back on those who tried to help me? Why did I choose a life of struggle when I could have done so much more? Why did I reject everything I thought I wanted to be?
These are just some of the questions I ask myself when I look back and I have no answers. 43 year old me would love to help the confused 17 year old Rob to not make these errors in judgement, but I know in my heart I wouldn't listen to any reason. There are a myriad of examples of people trying to step in and help me back then and I rejected them all.
It all began on a March break in the early 90's. The family had left for a week and I was left home on my own because I was working and hadn't given my parents any reason not to trust me. I'm sure they suspected I would have a few friends over and maybe bend the rules a little, but nothing to the scope of what I did. As soon as they left, my friends descended by the dozens for a party that now seems to have stretched forever that week. Fuelled by teenage angst, I plowed through bottle after bottle of whisky, oblivious to the fact that we lived in a pretty tight neighbourhood and word of my misdeeds would no doubt get back to my parents. My nihilistic view on life at this time had plenty to do with it. I was losing interest at school, neglecting my studies with an a vengeance and not thinking of any future. I wanted nothing more than to party with my friends and be a "grown up". I put that in quotes because I had no idea what that meant, my arrogance making up for my lack of knowledge.
I cannot tell you what happened, I see little snippets in my mind, but they are like ghosts in the works. Jack Daniels, pizza boxes and beer bottles litter the floor; a hazy smoke filled basement with hair metal blaring from the boom box and the feeling of this is how life should be linger in my memory as the week went on. I had no concept of what life really required of you, I couldn't do laundry properly or budget my money and yet I knew I was ready to take on the world. Such hubris is a common theme in much of my life since then and I struggle with those consequences to this day.
The Party itself was like a thousand other teenage parties before and after. Dumb kids get access to a place to let loose and someone has a friend who can buy them booze, mission accomplished on both points. While the exact events are not as important as what I did when my family returned, I really hope I had a good time because it was a long time before I felt happy again.
Knowing that I was deep into a whole world of hurt when Mom and Dad found out what I had done, I left before they got home. Long before cell phones, I cannot imagine their struggle to deal with what had occurred and my running away. Again, my memory is not clear on the details, but I know that I made a choice that week to throw away the plans I had been making since I was a young boy to go to university, become something bigger than myself and make a difference in the world. It wasn't a conscious decision, but it was one I made in anger, defiance and depression.
I now know that I was struggling with anxiety and a darkness that had come down like a veil on my life. This was long before we encouraged young men that it was okay to be sad or express their feelings. You weren't supposed to show any weakness because that was a sign that you weren't man enough. I work hard today to change that not only for myself but for the young men I know.
Part of my problem was that I was not getting the results I had in school when I was younger. Being labelled as "gifted" was a blessing at first, but as I levelled off and became part of the regular core of kids, I still yearned to be special. I imagine that if I had applied myself a little harder and worked on it, I could have achieved my lofty goals, but when the learning that came easily when I was young turned difficult, I was lost. Once again, I should have talked to someone, many people tried to talk to me, but I was building a wall that still hasn't come all the way down.
The aftermath of that week long self indulgent, arrogant train wreck of life choice was years of wandering. I moved out and lived on friends couches for days or weeks at a time. Returning home many times, I attempted to go back to my life before, but couldn't stay straight for long. I dabbled in drugs but they never really did it for me. Alcohol was my fuel and it took many of my memories with it in its' wake. Things would be okay for a little while and then I would again begin raging against an imaginary slight and run away. This was my life for many years after and I think it is because my parents never closed the door on my return that I never truly was lost. I could cling to that happy memory and slowly I grew up...very slowly.
I eventually did finish high school, with a big assist to my Mom who made it her mission to see me graduate. I immersed myself in the local hockey association, coaching kids and walking away from the people I had partied with during those fateful years. Occasionally I would have a few beers, but it seemed I was moving away from those terrible days and had something bigger coming. But my self confidence had been shaken by my mistakes and despite an amazing offer to pay for my first years tuition from my Uncle Lyle and Aunt Cathy, I couldn't return to academia. Life was rounding into a form though and my time behind the bench seemed to be the path I needed to find to fix everything. I really thought I was bound for the NHL one day...
This shows you how little I had learned, nothing is ever that easy and life was going to throw me a curveball once again. The next chapter of my life was both terrifying and amazing; Filled with memories that make me smile and cry, often at the same time...but that is something for another day.