How amazing it feels to live again.
A month ago, I was en route to my martial arts class to do some soft rehabilitation exercises (emphasis on soft.) As I was traveling south on Islington Avenue; I could see and feel the energy transformation while the sun was setting, allowing the moon to breathe and glow. As I observed changing neighborhoods; the downtown cityscape from the west and watched the lake rise on the horizon, it suddenly hit me that nine months to the day, I will be 30 years old. For the first time in my life, noting my age wasn’t a jarring realization. But it was profound in both its simplicity and complexity. As the bus was travelling across the overpass where train tracks lay below; I couldn’t ignore the deeply symbolic witnessing of my past, present and future all at once.
It has been an interesting 29 years thus far. I wish I could detail every experience and every adventure in this piece but I’m saving that task for when I retire, mostly to keep myself occupied because the phrase “idle hands makes for the devil’s work” is definitely a thing. In my first original piece written for The Good Men Project, I spoke about reconnecting with my purpose. This piece was written during one of the darkest times I have had to wade through, which is funny—considering I wrote about one of the darkest times I had to wade through. And now, I’m writing this piece from a place of gratitude and inner security.
On November 25, 2015: less than seven weeks with “The Company” in the respective division of employment, I was repeatedly assaulted by a violent patient at work. In the wake of this experience, I was left bedridden for three months as a result of the sustained injuries and had to have emergency surgery. After spending a week in hospital; I was discharged only to be readmitted, courtesy of post-surgery complications. Since then, I have been traveling a gruelling road of healing and recovery – rebuilding my life, one day at a time. I won’t go into too much detail regarding the corporate criminality surrounding this because that is a story unto itself but I will detail the cause-in-fact of its devastation. Though, for what seemed like the longest time, I believed this situation should not have happened. Technically speaking, it shouldn’t have.
Who in their right mind orders untrained, uncertified and unqualified employees into life-threatening situations?
When I learned the deplorable fact that slavery is alive and well in what is considered a free first-world nation, I was beside myself. Did the company take responsibility and provide due support for their wantonness of epic proportion? No. They swept their criminality under the rug; left the physical, emotional, psychological on top of financial repercussions in my hands and carried on as if nothing had happened—despite the bold acts of criminal negligence; bodily harm caused by criminal negligence, as well as the myriad of human rights and employee rights violations. To date; I have not received reimbursement for rehabilitation expenses, nor have I received any restitution. Needless to say, it set ablaze the social justice warrior within because I knew it wasn’t just about me. It was also about the hundreds; if not thousands of men and women who have been victimized similarly, if not worse. It seemed the steps I was taking to instigate justice were not yielding any viable results. However, I recently learned the relentless hard work and dedication has begun to bear fruit.
Prior to this workplace “incident;” I was pursuing my goals by gaining relevant experience and educating myself in university, so to assist in the making of an effective peace officer (if I chose to pursue this calling.) During my original shift that day, I was providing security services for a media event that turned into a bodyguard detail, due to a prior experience bestowed by the other security company I work for. I was at a crossroads at the time because I had two callings. Two very different callings and I was ambivalently torn between the two. After the completion of this detail and during an all intents and purposes fated conversation, I was so humbly and kindly given my ticket to fame and fortune. Naturally, this process would need the sacrificial offerings of blood, sweat, tears and my hypothetical first born to flourish but I was prepared to willingly offer this. Save for the hypothetical first born, of course.
After agreeing to help the company since they were lacking personnel, I reported for my recently acquired second shift of the day to conduct a fire watch. Instead, I was assigned to a patient watch detail in the hospital emergency department. I followed my orders and conducted the patient watch as I have successfully done in the past with non-violent patients; by not engaging, strictly observing and reporting due to the known fact that I am not use of force trained or certified, nor am I trained by the hospital to work with violent patients. Less than an hour after visualizing myself traveling the world to sing my heart out on stage, my life changed yet again.
I was suddenly, severely and repeatedly assaulted causing bodily harm in front of witnesses over the remainder of my shift (approximately four hours.) For the reason my willingness to learn had been previously established and with numerous requests for appropriate hospital-related training (which was repeatedly denied); measures to assign a trained and experienced full-time base guard alongside myself, with whom I could observe and take direction from would have been a reasonable accommodation to employ. There were numerous radio calls made requesting assistance when this patient became physically violent towards me, as I was the only guard assigned to this detail. Regrettably, the platoon’s response time became increasingly slow thus rendering them ineffective, since the patient would cease and desist prior to their arrival. Eventually, they ceased responding to my calls. I couldn’t help but wonder: how many EDPs who go through emergency are in need of an exorcism, instead of a doctor…
You may be wondering why I didn’t take measures to defend myself. If you are, I understand your confusion. In the realm of protective services; one has impending legal action hanging over their head at all times when they wear that uniform—regardless of whether or not the individual works with integrity, trust, vigilance and respect. As a result of being in the private security sector as a contract employee, we are hired by a company to oblige our client. Employees must adhere to their needs and wants, while coloring within the lines of the law. I had to make a judgement call and to this day, I believe I made the right choice even in the face of its cause-in-fact consequences. Had I taken measures to defend myself; knowing both the company and I are fully aware that I am not use of force trained or certified, nor respectively trained by the hospital—the ramifications would have been catastrophic and likely permanently prohibited my entrance into the Service.
You may be wondering why I did not just leave. If you are, again, I understand your confusion. I operated under the obligation to remain at my post until relieved, otherwise being subject to disciplinary action for abandonment of duty. I could not afford to lose this job, let alone sully my work ethic that rivals the Amish.
On December 18, 2015: I was notified by the Correctional Services Recruitment Unit that out of approximately 1,974 applicants, I was accepted and selected to move forward in order to become one of 75 peace officers at the Toronto South Detention Centre. I applied for this position on October 25, 2015; less than three weeks after entering the protective services division of The Company. It was all part of my graduating career plan:
In Dear Dad: You Were in Life and Death, My Guiding Map, I described knowing my purpose of serving and protecting at the age of five. Even now—I distinctly remember sitting by myself on my living room floor in 1993, watching the American Justice episode on Jeffery Dahmer. Sure, slightly ill-advised for someone at the age of six to be watching a detailed account of serial homicide, necrophilia, cannibalism and Dahmer’s other infamous modi operandi but I much preferred A&E over YTV. I remember saying to myself: “I want to go into prisons; speak to people, understand why people do what they do and make a difference.”
This prehistoric interest turned out to be quite rewarding. In one of my criminology classes, we were assigned a group seminar project to present and teach the class. The topic I was involved in is one of my main interests; serial sexual homicide. The journal we worked with was an extraordinarily complex one; incorporating many different aspects and theories attempting to determine the motivation(s) behind rape, homicide and serial sexual homicide. The result of the group project was as follows (from my professor):
“Wanted to apologize for being a bit preoccupied after class today as I know that you were seeking to get as much feedback as possible about your presentation. As you have unfortunately felt over the past few days, the issues that arose with your group (and others) can be quite draining and frustrating.
With that being said, I just wanted to reiterate once again my appreciation for your patience, tolerance and help ensuring that the group was able to present on the assigned topic. It was also quite apparent that you are enjoying the study of criminology, in light of your ability to understand and articulate the intricate psychological and behavioural tendencies to be found among the serial killer population referenced in the supplementary reading and I hope that it reaffirms to you the decision you have made to pursue this field of study down the road.
While I will be providing the entire group with more comments/feedback, I felt compelled to provide you with a bit more of my thoughts considering the obvious time and effort that you contributed to the project. I am sure that many of your fellow classmates were impressed with your knowledge and the contributions you made to the overall discussion in the same way that I was…”
When I received an e-mail notification that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services was hiring, specifically at the detention centre that can be seen on my way to the dojo, I applied. I would be able to gain valuable experience and utilize my psychology background to conduct case studies and understand. Theoretically, the plan was perfect. Despairingly, I was forced to withdraw from the recruitment process I was accepted into on account of the sustained injuries.
This preventable workplace incident sabotaged my basic enjoyment of life, independence as well as my career plan. I was forced to withdraw from my academic studies; my per class GPA was 3.64, which was an endeavor I worked tremendously hard to achieve considering employment with multiple companies and other extracurricular activities. I was forced to cease all fitness training to reach, as well as maintain specific fitness and wellness goals for my career in addition to my overall health. As previously mentioned—I was bedridden for approximately three months along with needing emergency surgery and I’m due for one more as a result of recurring blunt force trauma caused to my abdomen; hips; groin; pelvis; genitalia; right thigh; right knee and right shin. I also had my right foot crushed with a heavy bathroom door, twice. Everything I worked so hard to achieve and my ultimate goal of entering the Service at 30 years of age – poof, gone.
To say I felt hopeless; developed a loss of interest in activities and life is an understatement. Aside from the relentless and agonizing physical pain; I experienced feelings of detachment from others and became emotionally numb. The symptoms experienced of negative changes in thinking and mood created adverse feelings towards myself, others and I was unable to experience positive emotions. I had a constant and overwhelming sense of sheer terror concerning the torment of having a limited future. I had difficulty maintaining close relationships and lived in isolation. I had feelings of immense guilt, shame, self-blame and I became morbidly depressed. The trial by ordeal subsequent to the incident perpetuated the brutality of this experience. I never thought I would smile, laugh and be cheerful again. There truly are no words to describe the intense feelings associated with being trapped within the depths of where angels fear to tread.
Men, I understand your struggle.
Private security and investigations are the epitome of male dominated sectors. I am surrounded by what are considered A-type personalities and the archetype of what we ‘see’ as masculinity—riches and muscle (both literally and symbolically.) We are, as a society, conditioned to believe this is what creates a man.
“In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail
No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
I’ve changed my face, I’ve changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose”
Poignant lyrics, wouldn’t you say? The unrealistic systematic expectations we have ingrained as a society; as well as the conscious and/or subconscious suppositions men place on themselves – without the things that bring definition to, men are believed to be weak and an utter failure. There is a heavy reliance upon superficiality and façades, which fuel the idea that men need to be empty robots. Circling back to understanding this struggle, I became and lived this expectation.
The blow to my ego and pride as a result of the incessant gray matter chatter was immensely destructive. I made it my priority to self-deprecate because I was at my most vulnerable. The feelings of inadequacy, uselessness, worthlessness and everything surrounding these were overpowering. I took on the responsibility, blamed and berated myself: I should have been man enough, since I have balls too but I wear them on my chest. I saw myself as a failure and was sure others saw me in that light as well, which they did. I emotionally broke open in private upon reporting the incident while the supervisor was searching for the internal investigation forms, which were conveniently misplaced upon completion. Somewhere between attempting to breathe and choking on sobs, I somehow managed to express that “I just wanted to do my job properly.” His response of “you’re not off to a good start” was inundated with disdain—a great example of immediate metaphorical conditioned taste aversion. As a supervisor; it’s one thing to provide constructive feedback in order to assist the person to grow and be better equipped, it’s another thing to be outright salacious, demoralizing and adhere to willful blindness.
During what seemed like an eternity of being confined to my bedroom after being destroyed on duty without any assistance; I began watching more television than I had thus far in my lifetime, which perpetuated the abhorrent feelings. One day however, I came across a film called ‘Deliver Us From Evil’. It became my favorite police procedural movie for many reasons, but mainly because I identified with it. It’s a true story taken from the unofficial notes of an NYPD Sergeant; a non-believer of other worldly things like demonic possessions who came face-to-face with that exact circumstance. Naturally, watching this round-house kicked a multitude of buttons but it was an opportunity to work through it, so I did. Following that, I began binge watching ‘Rookie Blue’ as per my Sensei’s suggestion, which inadvertently kept hope alive.
What made it even more special is the fact that it was filmed in Toronto and is based on the Toronto Police Service’s fictional 15 Division. I cried tears of truth; despair, yearning, happiness, as well as laughing and crying simultaneously more times than I would like to admit. It was a beautiful cathartic mess that hearticulated and solidified which call to answer. I was elated for many reasons to turn away from fame, fortune and unabashedly pursue my labor of love by working towards becoming a knight in blue polyester.
I began to let go and the current washed me upon the shore. I traded my mermaid tail for legs, began healing, moving forward and reclaiming myself. The process has been equivalent to the cha-cha in some respects; one step forward and two steps back. It’s extraordinarily challenging to be patient and not allow the frustration of where one is verses where one wants to be to overwhelm every fibre of one’s being. However; that in itself presents the opportunity to learn, integrate and embody the virtue of patience in addition to self-love. I showed the powers that be I’M READY.
And so, the universe gifted me with four game-changing individuals who serendipitously assisted to heal raw wounds of classical conditioning from my sector of employment:
• Sergeant Jade – a sturdy oak tree of a man and modest to a fault. His distinct courage, generosity and deeply rooted compassion radiate from his being. Kind, attentive, open, supportive as well as respectful. Without him, I would have not experienced my first ride along. He was the catalyst for profound emotional identification; illuminating the way forward to guide me toward where I belong.
• Detective Constable Tourmaline – a broad; six foot four inch man, with hands that could easily pulverize my head. His palpable strength, security and mastery come from within. What’s more; his irrefutable level of soothing compassion, caring and tenderness, along with the level of emotional openness, intelligence and empathy transformed fiction into fidelity.
• Staff Sergeant Onyx – a thick-chested, quietly intense martial tank. Strict, disciplined and also possesses a commanding presence but again, not because of external sources. His magnanimity, power and solidity come from his soul. All one has to do is look in his eyes and listen to him speak to know his undeniable honeyed gentleness, caring and warmth. He also possesses a level of emotional intelligence and empathy that defy the traditional conditioning of the baby boomer generation.
• Sergeant Lapis – broad in his shoulders and to the inch, stands a foot taller than I. Also possessing a quiet command and like DC Tourmaline and S/Sgt. Onyx, does so from within and with the utmost respect. He is a trusted and effective supervisor; granting comfort and kindness while exuding patience, equality, balance and the willingness to support. During our ride along; he was interactive and provided in abundance, two of my favourite things – opportunities to experience and learn. His inclination to encourage his constables, as opposed to overthrow or abandon their capability was more than evident. He became someone I wish to have as my supervisor once I swear my oath to serve and protect with the Toronto Police Service; or at the very least, someone like him. This honest sentiment was expressed to one of his officers, which I learned is a belief shared amongst his platoon.
With all due respect; these men have unknowingly been an intrinsic element in cultivating certitude for myself, as well as mankind.
It’s hard to recondition conditioning but it’s not impossible. Underneath your man suit; you are human with feels, thoughts, beliefs and desires—not the soulless components of motherboards, or the shell of a macadamia nut (the world’s hardest nut to crack, according to Google.) None of the aforementioned aspects of the human condition are by any means weaknesses that make you less of a man. In fact; they are strengths that make you the definition of a man and nourish integrity, trust, vigilance and respect. Allow yourself to be part of the human experience. These men embrace metamorphose; along with every other officer in the Service I met and spent time with. Many shamelessly donning pink epaulettes to support women and the cure for breast cancer—need I say more? These are the men I endeavour to serve and protect alongside because they are leaders of support and support others to lead. These are the officers I trust will have my back. This system of degrading masculine conditioning; unease and façades can evolve into something powerful, real and lasting – in the same way caterpillars transform into butterflies. The world and future generations will thank you for it, I know I certainly will.
Although a little melodramatic on the universe’s part (in my humble opinion); had this disaster not happened, I would have still been caught up in the destructive rat race. I would have still been all too concerned about truly insignificant things that obstruct my full potential, deeply held goals and fundamental beliefs. I wouldn’t have taken the time to thoroughly understand the depth of my purpose; all its layers to make the best, heart/soul-felt and fulfilling decision of how I can altruistically make a difference in this world.
I wouldn’t have answered the call for submissions; acquired my amazing editor and friend, which is how I began writing for The Good Men Project on a voluntary basis. I wouldn’t have developed an amazing connection to Bruce Comstock; a God of a man, who has been providing me the ability to walk again and assisting in rebuilding my emotional self. I wouldn’t have developed a beautiful friendship with his leading lady, who has been my partner-in-crime and guiding light. I wouldn’t have gone to the community consultation for the modernization of our municipal police service to listen and learn. I wouldn’t have gained valuable insight through ride-along experiences at different divisions. I wouldn’t have met new and reconnected with officers I had met years prior, whom I have been able to graciously apprentice from and be inspired by even more. I wouldn’t have won the Leaders in Learning: Marilynn Booth Award from Ryerson University based on academic excellence and dedication. I wouldn’t have been able to stand up for those who have been victimized and speak for those who otherwise cannot; for the reason that the Magna Carta states: no one, not even the king, is above (or below) the law. I wouldn’t have been able to know the true extent of my inner strength and resolve. I wouldn’t have learned, grown, evolved and expanded empathically in ways I haven’t even begun to detail in this piece. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to build a better, stronger and more secure authentic foundation that is best suited for where I’m going, from where I stand now.
While I was en route to the dojo to do some soft rehabilitation exercises, I was traveling south on Islington Avenue. I could see and feel the energy transformation while the sun was setting, allowing the moon to breathe and glow. As I observed changing neighborhoods; the downtown cityscape from the west and watched the lake rise on the horizon, it suddenly hit me that nine months to the day, I will be 30 years old. For the first time in my life; noting my age was not a jarring realization but profound in both its simplicity and complexity. As the bus was travelling across the overpass where train tracks lay below; I couldn’t ignore the deeply symbolic witnessing of my past, present and future. I no longer look at the Toronto South Detention Centre as a shattered opportunity. In fact, I didn’t look in that direction at all when I passed by. My focus naturally re-directed as a result of all the introspective work I took the time to accomplish (as above, so below. As within, so without). Whilst approaching the end of the bridge, I saw the arrowed sign for the municipal police college. In that moment, I exploded into a billion glittering pieces. With fervent trust as well as awareness, I am finally at home with my direction and nothing will stop me
I am no longer the person I once was prior to the workplace incident, nor would I want to be. What a perfect ending to trail-blaze the way for a perfect beginning; as the preverbal phoenix rises from the ash, defying gravity and soaring to new heights. We gain what we need from unexpected sources, in the most sudden and surprising of ways. The outcome has a propensity to be better than what we presume, or had originally planned. And as one would expect; a healthy dose of cosmic trickery to keep life interesting in addition to to testing our sense of humour. I still have much to do in the realm of healing and rehabilitation but with patience; authentic tenacity and the magical support system that has rallied by my side —there are no words to express my eternal respect and treasuring of this – it is only a matter of time. And that is something I can most certainly afford.
Dearest Reader: from the depths of my heart and soul, I wish no one to ever go through any form of trauma or hopelessness. In the event that one does experience distress of any degree by traveling through the fiery rings of hell, please reach up and reach out. There is absolutely no shame in this. Your wellbeing matters and is of the utmost importance. While it may feel as though you are alone; along with the conflicting need to be both embraced and remain solitary, allow yourself to be supported. Doing so reassures the way through to the place you so deeply yearn to be – to make your dreams a reality.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963
*The identity of those in the Service have been changed.