My last real post was January 27th. I did some bullshitty type list post on the fifth in an effort to reclaim some drive when it comes to writing, but it didn’t take. The reason it didn’t take is because I’m recovering from a breakdown that happened so fast that I got whiplash. That last post was called I’m a Quitter (Day 3), and on day four, I broke. It’s not about smoking though. Trying to quit smoking just weakened the levee, everything I had been doing for over a year now had built the pressure behind me.

In this time, I was the sole male in the department I work in. Well, the sole male to be present over 50% of the time. This position gave me anxiety, I want to be a good man and not come in and try to domineer over the women that know more than me. I held my tongue over and over in many situations as to not “upset the balance,” but the thing I’ve only recently discovered is that by doing that, I created an imbalance. It’s odd to be the victim of sexism as a man, I’ve lived in privilege for so long that it’s a complete shock. That’s the point of it though. I feel powerless and like I have to stay within the lines drawn for me, I can’t get close to anyone without rumours starting and closed-door conversations happening about it.

Without speaking up against anything, or, in the one situation I did and was denigrated for it, I allowed for the balance to remain unshifted in my presence. I’m surrounded by blatant prejudice, brown nosing and various other forms of blanket disrespect and I’ve held my tongue—which is the antithesis of my personality. Now, while I’m not out on a mission to flip things on it’s head, I am on a mission to claim my space. I can’t be quiet anymore. I have always, since I was a kid, spoken up in the face of wrongs.

The first instance where I reclaimed my power was when a “friend” emailed me. This “friend” behaved in a way that I was forced to grow out of long ago, behaviours that I (wrongfully) assumed only fifteen to twenty-five-year-old men exhibited. She “white-knighted” me.

I have a friend named Sarah. When we were eighteen, she broke up with her long-term boyfriend and we began to get closer and closer. I, being a “nice guy” at the time, decided that she needed my love—my love over all. Thinking I had the best intentions, I essentially told her that she doesn’t need to be with some immature “idiot” (this guy was and still is my friend, that’s how snake-like I was), she needs to be with someone more mature, someone like me. I truly didn’t think I had said anything wrong, or out of line, but I received a text message from my best friend, Jules, the next day informing me of how ugly and disgusting my behaviour was. In that moment, Jules kept me from becoming any more deluded. I reacted poorly and lashed out in the moment, but as the years ticked on, I realized that I was completely wrong. The friendship between Sarah and I never really recovered.

Now I’m almost thirty, and there’s a “friend” my own age. A person with a child and husband declared that I needed her love—her love over all. She told me that I have no support network, that I’m completely alone, that I have unreturned romantic feelings for my best friend and that I lock people out. This person created their own narrative for my life and confronted me with it, without realizing that I met her little more than a year ago. There was no real bond between us, just one of those sense-of-humour bonds that makes hanging out with people easier. She never realized that maybe, just maybe, I have multi-decade friends that know my past without a long discussion. She took our rapport and twisted it to suit her own needs, not realizing that it had been making me uncomfortable, despite our conversations about it.

She refused to listen to my needs and made my breakdown about her. Her email started with the line, “Joel, I feel like you’re ostracizing me,” whereas all other people in my life who know I’m struggling just left me messages or sent texts saying, “You don’t have to reply, just wanna let you know I’m here and I love you.” She repeatedly texted me, worrying that she had done something to me, rather than accepting the fact that maybe I just didn’t want to talk to her—or anyone. Suicidal ideations kind of do that.

She conveniently forgot that fact I live with my mother, literally the safest place on earth for me right now, to tell me that my support system relies solely on a single person (that I apparently have unrequited feelings for). The ignorance was astounding. I still don’t know what she was expecting. Did she want to leave her husband and kid for me and move in with me my mom? Did she want me to move into her home after she kicks out her husband? I don’t know, and frankly I don’t even care.

My response to her taught me that I’m completely capable of controlling my frothing rage to formulate a firm, yet coherent reply. But it also taught me that I have zero room and patience for that kind of behaviour. It’s incensing to me when I see grown people acting in the ways that I was severely reprimanded for as a dumb-ass kid. I had amazing friends that corrected my course over and over again, and I can never thank them enough. Not everyone is as lucky as I am when it comes to people like that in their lives, I understand that, but like I said, I have no patience or time for ignorance. Not in any arena of life.

To boil it all down, I feel like my spine has grown back. I’m not going to sit here and say that I feel like this is a new chapter in my life, because I’ve done that before and it’s bullshit. What this is, is a recalibration, a new focus. I’m no longer striving to become Joel the career man, because that’s ridiculous and a result of being raised around men who believe that work is life. I strive to become Joel the happy man, Joel the man with his convictions. Joel, the man that knows what he wants and needs. Fuck everything else.