Day 333 - Brandon (2nd person I approached)
November 29, 2014 - I walked past Brandon and considered approaching him, but he seemed engrossed in the book he was reading. I decided to keep looking. Funnily enough, the first person I did approach was reading as well, but it didn’t occur to me to not approach her. She was waiting for an appointment and said she didn’t have much time. I walked around a bit and headed back to where I had seen Brandon the first time. He was still there, and reading, but I went over and interrupted his reading anyway. As I explained to him what I am doing, Brandon closed his book, putting it down. He smiled and said he’d be happy to chat.
Born in Ladner, BC (British Columbia), Brandon has one sister.
“She’s two years younger than I am. We lived in the same house so we were close by proximity, but we weren’t always friends,” he tells me.
“We had times of being close and times of being distant. We both have our own lives, but we try to stay in touch. There is definitely love there between us.”
“In school I played soccer and baseball. I played hockey as well, though I wasn’t that good at it, I still played. Sports were a good way of feeling a reprieve from a sadness that I constantly felt in life,” he said.
“I was a good kid, but not a very good student. I never got in trouble, but I sure spent many times in the Principal's office. Never because of something I had done. They were always counselling me to do more, to work harder. I never did my homework and generally wasn’t interested in school.”
His parents separated when Brandon was nine years old.
“My sister and I remained living with our father. I was confused by it all, and no one explained what was going on. I just went along with it. The decision was made for us, we were never asked what we wanted. We lived with our mother part-time on weekends. My Dad was a single parent. I remember he had three meals that he could make, and we rotated through those three meals,” he said, with a smile.
"My mother moved into a basement suite when I was about thirteen years old. The family who lived upstairs became an important part of my life. They were the first group I saw that actually functioned as a family unit. I would spend time with them on the weekends when I was staying with my mother. They also loved hockey. We watched it and I played street hockey with the other kids. That family helped me to understand that it was possible to be a part of a functioning family unit. They were role models for me,” he said.
At the age of sixteen, Brandon and his sister went to live with their mother.
“My father got remarried and he was speeding more and more time with his new family. So we went to live with our mother. It just worked out better,” he told me.
“I finished high-school, Grade twelve, but I didn’t graduate.” Brandon moved out on his own when he was nineteen.
“I worked at a local grocery store, and did that for a few years. I had never felt like I fit in anywhere. There was always an underlying sadness. Perhaps in part because of my parents separation, but I can't say that if they never divorced I wouldn’t have felt the way I did. It was like something was missing, and I didn’t know what that was,” he said.
The company that Brandon’s mother was working for moved to Calgary, and his mother moved with her job.
“I decided that I would get a job woking in the oil patch in Alberta. I figured if I made a lot of money, that would make me feel better. I lived with my mother for a while in Calgary. To work in the oil rigs, you have to do this training, called Floor Hand training. I took the three month training in a small town near Edmonton. The thing is, after finishing the course, there weren’t any jobs available. I had met some guys from Quebec during the training. They were going to head back to Quebec to do some roofing for a while, then they planned on coming back for the rigs. I was dating a girl in BC at the time, and I called her to say I was going to Quebec to do some roofing. She didn’t care for that very much. After a long conversation on the phone, I decided to come back to BC and not pursue roofing or the oil rigs any further,” he said.
“It’s probably for the best. I don’t think I was cut out for a job in the oil patch.”
Upon his return to BC, Brandon started to work in construction.
“I became a carpenter, working on foundations and framing,” he told me.
“I love what I’m doing. I really enjoy the job. And my boss is like a mentor to me.” I asked him about working outside in cold weather.
“I don’t mind the wet weather or the cold. I get to work outdoors and see all the seasons. I’ve suffered through some very uncomfortable days because of not wearing the right clothes. I had to learn how to cope with the weather. It’s about the right socks, long john’s, sweatshirts, scarves, gloves. Lots of layers. A flask of hot tea to drink on breaks and a thermos of hot soup or chilli so that I’m eating hot food to stay warm,” he told me.
“And acceptance.” I asked what he meant by ‘acceptance?’
“Accepting that it is what it is, and being prepared. If you resist the cold or the rain then you’re just going to be miserable. Enjoy nature. See the beauty in everything. Rain is beauty falling from the sky, it keeps things green, and waters the flowers,” he said, philosophically.
In an attempt to overcome the ever present sadness Brandon felt in his life, he decided to move out of his apartment.
“I figured that if maybe I did something out of the ordinary, if I changed what I did, then maybe I’d feel better. I decided that I couldn’t afford to pay my rent any longer. So I sold a bunch of things, and put everything else into storage. I lived in my car for five months. I liked not having material possessions. I was working full-time. I’d go to work, then go to the gym, do a workout, then shower and shave there. I’d go out for dinner, and then get into my car, and read until it got dark. I became a serious reader during that time. I was going through a book a week,” he said.
“My car was a Dodge Surf, a small one. I couldn’t stretch out in it. I spent all night going from the driver’s seat, to the passenger seat to the back seat. Shifting seats to change position. I had friends that, occasionally, I would ask if I could crash at their place. Just so I could get a night of sleeping outstretched,” he said with a laugh.
“I lasted five months and made it into September when it started to get cold. I got another apartment. Living in my car really made me appreciate the small things. A shower, a toilet, running water. I didn’t have any furniture because I had gotten rid of it all, so I slept on the floor. It was bliss. To be able to lay stretched out with a blanket all night. So good,” he said.
With the recognition early in his life that sports helped him to feel better, Brandon has remained active.
“I’ve always looked after my body. Physical fitness is important to me. I used to love watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. I started to train in Muay Thai. I go to a gym in North Vancouver, that teaches martial arts. I’ve been doing that for six years now. The founder and head instructor, Mehdi Pouroskoui, or Kru as he is called, which means Master teacher, has been a huge mentor for me. He is from Iran and trained in Thailand. He’s like a huge rock star in Thailand, but is relatively unknown here in Vancouver. He’s my rockstar. I’ve learned so much from him,” he said. Brandon has been teaching martial arts for the past three years.
Close to two years ago, Brandon met and then married a woman from Mexico. He was sitting reading his book while his wife was at the gym, working out.
“She has a degree in Mexico, but she’s upgrading her education here to be able to use her degree in Canada. She likes to lift weights. I prefer Muay Thai,” he says. I asked about the sadness that he has always carried with him.
“I had to look inwards, and realize the problem wasn’t external. It came from within me. I’m at peace now, content and happy. I feel like I belong right where I am.” #notastranger