Barfights and Blessings

2009 was a strange year. While I don’t remember most of it thanks to spending the majority of my trip around the sun with an applejack gait and wasting all my time at parties and in clubs, the memories I do have constantly crack me up. There is also a constant re-surfacing of photos, stories and anecdotes as well as little mementos that made their way in to weird personal belongings. 2009 was one of the best years of my life. I worked a few steady casual jobs, my father was still alive, I had no debt, and I was surrounded by good people who loved to party as long and as hard as I did. We always had each other’s backs and were there for one another, sober or not. Some of those friendships to this day are some of the best I’ve ever had (and still have), and I consider these people part of my family. 

2010 went downhill and I honestly can’t remember many details. I remember ending up surrounded by poisonous people who filled my heart and mind with toxic ideologies and allowed an abundance of rage to dwell a little under the surface. This rage would bubble and manifest itself in vile diatribes based in zero fact, but heated emotion that had been ignited in the spare second it had taken someone to pass on a rumour. Over the years I’ve scrubbed my memory of most of those toxic people, but I hold tight to the memory of who I had let myself become in their presence. 

Gossip spreads like wildfire through small communities, and none more so than the queer community of a small town/city. Gossip would do the rounds about relationships, friendships, jobs, sex, violence, and the like, and for the most part, zero of it was accurate or even real. I know a lot of lives that were crushed or taken by those awful and malicious lies. Mine was almost one of them. 2011 and the beginning of 2012 were no better. 

Come early 2012 my father had deteriorated from cancer so rapidly; I moved back to where my family lived to help care for them. Mid-year my dad died. While his death was not an immediately pivotal moment in my life, it was the misplaced piece of snow on the mountain of crap that caused the avalanche of change. The pivotal moment came after my father’s funeral (for which I had been three sheets to the wind since 6am). Two friends had taken me to the local bar where the staff knew me and my circumstances. My friends had been doing a very good job of trying to console me before one had a family emergency and had to leave. Shortly after my friend had left, I started a bar fight. 

Let me preface this by saying that no one got hurt. In fact, thankfully no one got the chance to land a swing. Grief does some weird things to the human brain and everyone reacts differently. For me, grief combined with – what should have been a lethal amount of alcohol – makes for a very short fuse and the strength of a heard of wild oxen. One patron had been abusing the staff for almost the entire time we’d been at the bar. So I had drunkenly decided to intervene. Threateningly, and violently. Thankfully, what could have turned in to the beating of my life time, didn’t end that way. 

I’d drunkenly approached the guy who’d been bullying the staff, hoisted him up by his lapels, started threatening him, and my tiny five-foot nothing friend got in my way before I headbutted the guy. His friends were laughing, rapt with the fact a girl had roused on their dickhead mate, and were cheering on my petite blonde friend who had given me my marching orders and sent me outside. The guy had ended up following me out of the bar and as I turned to give him a right hook he wrapped me up in his arms, held me tight, and apologized for his behavior and for my father’s death, and wished me well with the promise he’d never be rude to wait or bar staff again. It wasn’t until years later I found out my friend had told him why I had lashed out the way I did. I’ve never forgotten that moment; Standing out in the cold air, holding tightly to a stranger who had apologized for me attacking him. 

Since that night in mid 2012 I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with my rage, finding healthy outlets and I began to take stock of the people I had in my life. Several friends had abandoned me in my depression over the loss of the most important person in my life. I had to forgive them and recognise that for the blessing it was. A few other people had taken advantage of my state and fueled several nights out with illicit drugs. While I can’t entirely blame them (I willingly participated), I do hold them accountable for the part they played in what was a very dangerous game. By the start of 2014 I had only a handful of people I trusted and saw. It was the healthiest decision I ever made. 

Over the last 3 years I’m constantly baffled by how so many “good eggs” have entered my life and chosen to make a home within my little family, despite my near immeasurable flaws. I’ve managed to accidentally collect (but deliberately keep) some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known to walk the Earth and they enrich my life in ways I didn’t think possible. I’ve been incredibly lucky with the people who’ve entered my life and I try very hard to never take them for granted. I’ve found it’s important to remind people, regardless of if I’ve spoken to them in a while or not, to remind people they are important. 

Letting go of people is never easy. It hurts, and there is always a sense of loss, until you experience what true friendship is. You learn to accept help from those around you because you know they don’t expect anything in return. You learn to love yourself as they love you and you begin to flourish under the constant reminders that you are worth loving. Healthy friendships build stronger people. Healthy friendships build stronger relationships. Healthy friendships save lives and make this tumultuous world worth living in.

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