Being a teenager is not easy at the best of times. A teenager who is undeniably different, generally, in my opinion,
goes through hell. For me the differences were two-fold - I was physically different looking, and I was gay and I didn't
know it. What I did know was that I was absolutely out of my head with anger and grief. I really believed that
my parents had just "neglected" to take me back to the doctor when I was thirteen. I had no idea that there was
nothing to be done. All I thought was that I would have another shot at being whole when I was eighteen. So I
plodded along through my teens, fighting, bickering, and generally being a bitch. My sister and I could barely be civil
to one another (secretely, I was jealous that her biggest concern was braces, and that she was outrageously popular), I fought
incessantly with one parent or the other (how they found the strength, I'll never know) and I ditched school work as some
sort of Draconian practice designed to humiliate and destroy me. I flat out refused to stand in front of a class and
give a book report. I wouldn't read aloud in class nor answer questions. I didn't have any class pictures done
until Graduation. And even then, it was only because my grandmother said she wanted one. Yep. Miserable.
No doubt about it.
I guess I shouldn't give the impression that there was NO joy in Mudville. There were some bright spots - and they
were the only things that kept me going from suicidal thought to suicidal thought.
I played cello
in two orchestras - one for the school district
and one for the province.
When I was on stage performing, it was like I was someone else. There is nothing like that total wall of sound
that surrounded me. There is no stereo system in the world that can recreate the vibrations in the floor, the smell of the
rosin, and the pride in coordinating eyes to the conductor, ears to the other musicians, hands to the notes, and
mind to the energy that flows from an orchestra in the groove. Makes me all tingly just thinking about it.
That was definitely a good thing to have in my life, even though I hated to practice.
Another good thing was my exchange trip to Pangnirtung, Baffin Island. Get out a map
. Look north above Quebec. Look about half way up the island to Cumberland Sound. See it? Isn't it
beautiful? That kind of isolation breeds some of the most generous, kind, and welcoming people I have ever come across.
I was fifteen, right at the height of my angst. I had been so unhappy, social workers were called in. They
couldn't do for me what that trip to Pang
did, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. No one could have predicted how that trip would start the shift for me from
miserable to at least halfway human. I doubt the people I met then could even believe me if i told them that they saved
my life for years to come with their openness and caring during one ten day trip in 1984. But it is true. From
that point on, I had a goal and that made life worth living. I wanted to go back and I would have to stay alive in order
to make it happen. I'd also have to finish school and have a career of some kind. That kept me going, it really