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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Robbins

The Darkness That is... Me


Since leaving the military I have been confronted with the many ways I didn’t like myself. Saying that, one would believe I liked who I was in a uniform, but that is untrue. I have grown up never knowing the answer to that question, only looking at myself and not enjoying who looked back. I rejected the emotions that came with it because it hurt so much. The feeling of anything hurt. I didn’t have many people I could trust with this knowledge. I couldn’t bear the thought of how they would look at me. All through my life, I lived in a shadow of a deep longing. I wished for those who would understand me, who would see, and hear me when I often felt the opposite. I believed that I was unwanted. I am gay after all, I knew this at a young age and many l of my relatives convinced me it was a bad thing. It would be something I'd be bullied for, something that would cause me to be ostracised and alone for being. To keep my heritage secret because it's yet another reason why people would shun me. To escape inherent racism and stereotypes by not disclosing that information and keeping it to myself. No one would believe it anyway, who would look at me and see a person of colour when I actively pass as someone white? Who would see me as an indigenous or even black when I pass as white? It was something few people knew, I didn't trust easily and still find it challenging to trust anyone. Not many people know the real me. Throughout my life, I guarded anything that could be used to hurt me, behind a defensive wall, deflect any interest and pull away from anyone interested in me. 


The best way to defend myself was to be a bully. So I became a bully, armed with my wit and cut people down with my words. I was cold and mean growing up. I would reject before anyone would reject me. It hurt to do, like I was cutting myself and yet I thought I deserved it. I deserved to be alone, I was unworthy of anything else. 


My first real heartbreak was learning that I was unwanted, by my biological father. He deserted my mother before I was born. To my mind, because of me. The story goes deeper than that. That is not my story to tell, as these actions were not mine. My mother made them for me and it was for the best. I know that now. 

I met him years later, his family didn’t know about me. Hearing that fueled my belief that I was unwanted. The relationship I got was not the one I wanted. I believed that blood ties were somehow magical. He would open his arms and welcome me, wanting to make up for lost time. That was not to be. He was my father only in the role he performed in bringing me into the world and that was over, he had no other obligation. I was twenty. He had no part in the man I became. It was confirmed when I was thirty, he regretted answering my letter and with it, any hope I had of any possible future with him evaporated. I never knew such grief before. I have known loss before, but this was my first real loss. Forty years on this earth and I have finally resolved that truth. It took that long to resolve those emotions, and what it means to have lost an important person in my life. Yet it wasn’t him I mourned, it was a dream. A construct I created to sit in while he was absent. 


The loneliness continued, partners would come and go. I expected them to. I was never surprised when I was broken up with, nothing lasts forever. I expected them to, I was always waiting for the other shoes to drop. That was my life for a very long time. I lived in an emotionally shut down place and I didn’t want to be. In my last few years of service, I decided to make a real effort to get to know myself better and find better ways of living. I looked for god, while I travelled the world but religion wasn’t the answer I was looking for. God wasn’t the answer to the question I was asking. I needed to find something in this world to keep me here, a semblance of purpose to anchor me to this world. I didn’t have any at the time, not one I could put my full weight behind. My life was full of D’s. Deaths, Desertion and Duty. Those were the things I defined myself with. Years of my friends having their lives upended and leaving this world with rope, or stepping out and vanishing into the waves. Giving control of my life over to a chain of command because I didn’t want to take responsibility for my own choices. Everything changed when I woke up from a daze and I was staring down at the ice. I was on my last deployment in the Arctic Ocean, with no coat, just staring at the ice, and it called me to surrender. I used to have a recurring dream about drowning, slowly falling into the dark, and sleeping peacefully with the ice overhead. The prophecy of mine nearly came true, but I woke up and felt the cold for the first time and I went inside, the cold steaming from my breath a while longer.


Think about this moment of waking up all the time. It's dark, sad and angering. It was the time in my life when I took responsibility for my choices. The choice between living and dying. I woke up with a sense of clarity I didn't have before. I was reminded of times I sat with people and their pain, the hardest moments in their lives, they chose me to sit with and talk. If those moments were flames in the dark then the sea was on fire. I understood what was keeping me in this world, it was the clearest answer ringing like a bell all through me.  I believe I met god that day, they were the bell that woke me from the trance calling me to the ice. 


As hard as it was to write down, it was important to. These were the moments that shaped me, events that influenced me and my choices. These things made me ME. It was important to sit and reflect on and learn from the events where I decided to be responsible for myself and the way I live. As dark as they are, and the low which they brought me, only I could decide to shift focus from the pain and the moments that hurt me to the moments I find myself living for.

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