Like most people many days are the same for me. We all endure a degree of drudgery and duplicity. I had a slight vacation from the mediocre today. I was the keynote speaker at the Elgin County Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police Mental Health Strategy Meeting with Community Stakeholders. It seems logical that someone with experience in mental illness and the justice system would be invited to address individuals who are involved in these areas but the whole scenario was for me surreal.
I showed up a little early today as I believe dreams should not be ignored. When I arrived I was invited to sit with 6 Ontario Provincial Police officers at a table. Part of me wanted to run and part of me wanted to text all my friends and post pictures on twitter. The officers were in full uniform and most of them had the white shirts of command. I was cognizant of the fact that they could handcuff me before I said Mississippi. I considered losing my shirt and tie to fit in as my undershirt was white as well. I was a little self conscious about displaying “Fruit of the Loom” next to the more glamorous crest of the OPP. Besides it wasn’t pressed and was barely clean so I clung to the dignity of my cheap suit.
I was explaining to the officers that my cat disliked my car because it was part of the process of going to the veterinarian. Police officers are exposed to a degree of animosity because they are the vehicles that deliver us to jails and hospitals which can be painful experiences. It is unfair but it is also a human association and reaction.
I’m always a little nervous when I do a presentation but sitting next to six pistols added to my anxiety. I was hoping someone from the audience would scream out “don’t shoot the messenger.” I shared with the room my childhood dream of being a Conservation Officer. My adolescence and young adulthood was spent working for the Ministry of Natural Resources. I volunteered most of my weekends assisting Conservation Officers with their patrols. I left the school of natural resources following my father’s death and the depression that seeped from his grave into my mind and heart.
One of the Ontario Provincial Police officers approached me following my speech and relayed that roughly the year before me he too was a student at the same school in the same Fisheries and Wildlife program with the same dream. We may have passed each other in the hallways on our identical journeys. I’m not sure which of us was more taken aback by the situation. We were nearly step by step in unison but I ended up in jails and hospitals as a prisoner and he as a police officer delivered people quite like me to the same places. We had each applied to police forces but he found a paycheck and I found pain.
I have always respected the police on some level but this evening it is something deeper. I doubt the officer with a similar journey resents me and I surely do not resent him. I am pleased that he has fulfilled his calling and I believe in some small way I am doing the same. He seemed like someone I might like to go fishing with. Possibly he would out fish me as luck seems to have paved his path more than mine but when you eat a shore lunch it matters not who caught the fish. Just enjoy the meal. Today I did just that. I am unlikely to ever forget my egg salad sandwich and carrot cake. Flavour is found in the company.
I was dressed up today as were the officers but I hope my words and story illustrated the fact that we are all flesh and bone with degree’s of dignity dancing among the molecules. Had that officer’s and my dreams and desires duplicated we would likely never have met or spoken. I don’t know what he thinks of me but if I had to endure what I have to facilitate meeting him and his colleagues I don’t have much of a problem with that. We seldom thank the police but to the Elgin Ontario Provincial Police I say just that for just this. Take care and be careful out there.
I was at this meeting as one of the community stakeholders. I very much valued hearing you speak. The realm of mental health and mental illness is one that I have had limited exposure to and one that I am beginning to learn more about. In that way, I thank you for sharing the parts of your story that you spoke about.
Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to comment. I’m sorry we didn’t get the chance to talk to each other. Obviously as a stakeholder at the meeting you have an important role in the community. I’m pleased my presentation was helpful. I can speak to many issues but I have few answers. Sometimes creating the question leads to answers. I value your feedback as I am sometimes unaware of the impression I make. It provides meaning to some of my struggles when I know it is helpful on some level to some people. Take care and thank you again. Brett