Day 285 - Nathan (1st person I approached)
October 12, 2014 - Nathan was sitting alone, at a coffee shop’s outdoor patio. He had earphones in, and as I approached him, I realized that he seemed to be on the phone. Too late, we’d already made eye contact and he knew I was heading towards him. I smiled and said hello, as Nathan removed one of the earphones. I told him what I was doing and asked if he was on the phone.
“No, it doesn’t matter, the person I was calling didn’t answer,” he said. I showed him my Facebook page, and he said he thought he had heard of my project, but wasn’t entirely sure. He agreed to chat.
Nathan was born in Richmond, British Columbia (BC).
“I was born there, but never lived in Richmond,” he said. He grew up in Ladner and Tsawwassen, two small towns south of Richmond, located in South Delta, BC.
“I have one brother who is considerably older than me from a previous marriage of my father’s. I don’t see much of him. I have two full siblings; an older brother and a younger sister. I grew up with a younger stepbrother. He's like a full brother as well,” he said.
“I’m the middle child I guess. But I don’t think it was a negative for me. In fact I think it was probably a good thing. I feel like I got more attention because I’m the middle child. My little sister is five years younger than me. I think she felt she wasn’t getting as much attention, but it was more that my parents were easier and relaxed by then,” he said. Nathan and his older brother were close as kids growing up.
“We grew up as best friends. When our friends talked about hanging out, it was always 'with Caleb and Nathan,' both of us. Then as teenagers we went to different schools and had our own groups of friends. But we're a close family,” he said.
“I didn’t care for school that much. I like learning and knowing things, I just didn’t like the structure of school and having to be there all the time. The only class I liked was guitar class, and that didn’t happen until high school,” he told me, smiling.
“I used to watch Mr Rogers (children's educator/advocate television show) on TV and he used to have a guy (‘Handyman Negri') that came on the show and played the guitar. There was a music store in Ladner that I would walk by and they had a violin in the window. I wanted to get a violin,” he said.
His parents bought him a guitar instead.
“I didn’t play it that much, except to bang on it like a drum. Then when I was about ten, I wanted to be in a rock band. I took a few guitar lessons, and I guess technically you could say I knew how to play a couple of songs. In high-school, I took guitar class. I was even in a band and we’d play in the cafeteria at school during lunch. The other kids were like ’wow, you’re in a band,’ that was cool,” he said, laughing at the memory. Nathan continued playing guitar throughout high-school.
“I missed a lot of classes in high-school. Looking back I wish I had gone more but I didn’t like it. I think it’s atrocious that we think there’s nothing that we learned in school that we use or remember. What did we do during all that time then?” he said.
After finishing high-school, Nathan knew that he wasn’t interested in post-secondary education.
“I got a job delivering pizza. I moved out right away. Three friends and I rented the upstairs of a house in North Delta. It was so cheap I only had to work part time. I haven't played music much since high-school. I didn’t play with the guys from the band anymore. It’s like riding a bike. I mean I can pick up a guitar and still play, but I don’t do that much. The guys who I played in the band with in school lived downstairs. They’d stay up until four in the morning playing, and that bothered me. I only worked part-time delivering pizza so it didn't bother my sleep. I just didn’t want to upset our neighbours,” he said.
“I started partying and having a good time when I was about fifteen. You know, going to parties and drinking beer. Isn’t that what the teenage years are for? By the time I was nineteen, I found it boring. I was ready to not do that anymore. I guess I had worked it all out of my system. I rarely even drink nowadays,” he said.
A friend of a friend was planning on making a documentary in Edmonton, Alberta. Nathan and his friend moved there to work on the film.
“It was about a guy who's obsessed with playing the card game version of ‘Game of Thrones’ before it was ever a movie. This guy was so into the game, he made plans to be at a Game of Thrones card game convention instead of at the birth of his child. My friend and I leased a house for six months while we were there to work on this documentary. The guy whose idea it was to make the documentary, changed his mind. Said he wasn’t into it any longer. We had moved to Edmonton for this! Fortunately it was during the summer. I got a job doing landscaping and as soon as the lease was up, I moved back to BC,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.
Nathan got a job working for an aviation parts company.
“It was a shipping and receiving job. I did that for five years. Exactly five years. They let me go exactly five years to the day. Well, actually two weeks short of five years. They gave me two weeks notice. I was let go without cause. I think it was in part, because I’m more left-leaning in my political views. Aviation companies aren’t usually that left in politics. They’re involved with oil and gas companies. But I liked that I can say I worked there for exactly five years,” he said.
“I got a job in a Casino after that. It was a mix of union and non-union employees. I was let go from that job too. Probably because I was speaking up about things that weren’t fair for the non-union workers,” he said.
Three months ago, Nathan fell asleep on the couch watching television. The next thing he remembers is being in hospital, after having had brain surgery.
“I don’t have any memory of what actually happened. I had been having a few dizzy spells, you know when you get up too quickly and things spin. The only thing I can think of is I woke up and was heading to bed and I fell. I hit my head on the tiled floor. None of my room mates were home, which is unusual. They were away for the weekend,” he said. I asked who found him after his fall.
“No one did. I have no memory of this, but I called my mother at like four in the morning and said something was wrong and that I was vomiting. My mother called an ambulance,” he said.
On the short trip to the hospital, the ambulance crew repeatedly asked Nathan what year it is.
“I have flash images of this. I could see in my mind in bright sparkling lights, 2014, but I kept telling them it was 1984. That was weird because I wasn’t even born then. I wanted to say 2014, but I couldn’t get the words out,” he said.
Nathan injured the part of the brain that controls speech. He had an Epidural Hematoma, a traumatic brain injury where a buildup of blood forms between the brain and the skull.
“I was so lucky. I never went into a coma, and a few days later I was released from hospital. I’ve heard stories from other people with the same kind of injury. They had a completely different experience with recovery than I've had,” he said.
"After I got out of the hospital, I spent the first few days walking around and it was like I was seeing everything for the first time. I saw beauty all around, in the simplest of things. I feel so grateful. Seriously. I could have died. I’m so lucky to be alive,” he said. We chatted about how fascinating the brain and the human body are.
“I’m still recuperating. The Doctors say it could take as long as year. I have to go for tests in November to see how everything is doing," he said.
"The scar has healed well. Can you see it?” he asks me. I hadn't noticed it until Nathan pointed it out.
“It’s well placed,” he says laughing.
”It follows my hairline, so you can’t see it too easily.”
Nathan tells me he’s been a writer for the last ten years.
“Maybe I’m more of a procrastinator than writer,” he says with a smile. I tell him I’m good at procrastination too.
“I think I’ll be going back to work sooner than the year the Doctor says it might be. But I started writing a story about what I've been through with this injury. At least it got me back into writing and doing something,” he says, with a big smile. I take Nathan’s picture and tell him he should follow The Stranger Project 2014 so he can read my version of his story.
“Yeah, for sure. Hold on, I’ll do that right now," he says as he looks at his phone.
"That’s another impact of brain injuries. I might forget later.” #notastranger