When I was 14 some of my friends kept journals. I thought it was a good idea so I started one myself and hid it under clothes in my dresser. One day I found out that my mom had read it, and in anger I ripped it up into pieces and threw it out. This is something I now regret. When you’re young, you want to be old. And when you’re old, you want to be young.
The first time I came to Ottawa I was around 12 or 13 years old. I was in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and we did a weekend field trip, staying at (according to my memory) the Connaught Barracks in Ottawa. Saving up the money to get there was damn near impossible for me because I also had to contribute money towards family expenses. This was angering to me because all my companions seemed to have the opposite problem: “what should I buy with all my extra money” syndrome. Extra money I thought? What is that?
I remember preparing for the trip by cutting my hair very short, thinking that I was being radical and later learning that most of my squad shaved theirs completely. My squadron took the bus from Brampton Friday afternoon and the drive to Ottawa was fun. I pretty much sat beside that same guy Forrest Gump sat beside on the bus, and I’m quite sure he was thinking that he was sitting beside Forrest Gump. (I don’t think the movie was out yet)
Let me explain something to all the parents reading this – parents send their male children to Cadets because they want to prevent them from getting into trouble. Parents send their female children into the Cadets because the girls are ALREADY into trouble. So you think this will be a place where your children will stay out of mischief, but actually it’s a place where a bunch of mischievous people can all join together. I don’t know what trouble my mom thought I was getting into. I wake up, go to school, come home, help with endless chores, then work to earn money for the family. Do homework (reluctantly) and then sleep. Summertime involved full time work, usually lying about my age to get jobs because I was too young. No drugs, no booze, no wild parties. I think one time in anger I told her that if anything she should have been the one to join cadets.
Anyway when we arrived at Ottawa and checked into a real army barrack it was the coolest thing for me. We had real Canadian Army soldiers training, with REAL guns and it was just super awesome. I ate meals with real soldiers and got poked (by accident) in the back with the business end of an assault rifle in the breakfast line. If you had a wayward child – THIS was the way to get them back on track right away. My uncle in North Carolina is in the US Army and so I’ve had the opportunity to use all kinds of awesome military equipment and I’ve visited the Fort Bragg base several times.
In the morning a lot of the cadets were being yelled at and having their rooms torn apart because they didn’t keep their rooms proper. The beds weren’t made the way they should have been, shoes weren’t shined properly. Not me though. My room was in tip top shape. My family has a policy, that if my bedroom isn’t in 100% perfect order, every single thing except the bed, desk and empty dresser gets thrown away or given away before I come home from school. This has happened to me several times and I’ve learned to keep things in good shape for the most part.
During one of the meals at the barracks we had a contest to see who can eat the most hot peppers, little did I know one day my diet would consist of them for a solid month. On Saturday we visited a war museum, and on Sunday we were asked to volunteer in a church, which I declined because I didn’t believe in Jesus at the time and felt weird about it. Little did I know that one day I would give my life to Jesus and do many thousands of hours in various churches.
Little did I know that parents would send me their boys and girls, mostly teens and I would take away their drugs and guns and ask them to give their life to Jesus and ask them to volunteer in church while they reluctantly decline.
On the ride back home from Ottawa (I’m still talking 1992-3 or 4 here) I was happy to be going back home, but at the same time thinking “one day I wouldn’t mind living in Ottawa for a while.” When my squadron arrived back in Brampton all of the parents were waiting there to pickup their kids. Except mine. This would be a recurring area of tension for me. It would be about 6 hours before my ride would show up. Yes, 6 hours. My superior, Sergeant X (I can’t remember his name, but I know he was a Sergeant who sleeps only 4 hours per night and has a loud voice) was not happy that my ride took long. Once again, and for the millionth time I was taking blame for something I had no control over. To make matters much worse, a massive house fire broke out down the street and Sergeant X couldn’t help as much as he wanted because he was obligated to look after me since he was the only adult left and I was a minor.
It was an embarrassing situation and I never went to air cadets again, and it would be a very long time before I would rely on anyone for a ride again. Even at age 13, I rather walk several hours than wait for a ride.
Fast forward. I guess I can scratch living in Ottawa off my list today. One fun thing about living in Ottawa now (2001) is meeting and greeting a new era of Air and Army Cadets from all over and sharing fun adventures.
I’ve had many beautiful adventures here in Ottawa these past 5+ months. The winter snow is brutal, I have no car, no money, and despite how sweet it’s been here, it’s been bitter to. It’s time to go back to Toronto. In a way, I feel defeated because I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to achieve, but I did achieve a lot nonetheless. My friends do NOT want me to leave but what can I do? I’ve run out of money and I don’t have a choice and I have friends waiting for me to come back home.
I’ll still visit Ottawa, especially for short weekend vacations and chances are, knowing me, I’ll end up owning real estate here one day to.
On September 11, when terrorists attacked America, I went outside of my apartment and walked down Carling Avenue and a white city worker stuck up his middle finger at me. I rode my bike pretty much around the entire city of Ottawa. I forged new friendships here that I suspect will last a long time. I learned a lot. This was a real learning experience for me. I’m certain that I’ll think about what I’ve learned here for a very long time. Hopefully for the rest of my life.