IMG_0070The end of the season always comes. And it always seems to be raining. And as I get closer and closer to my contract’s end, crewmembers seem to pitter out of the system. It’s a weird end, because not everyone ends on the same day. There’s no final hoo-raw, or goodbye. Some people are on tour when other people lock their locker for the last time. It’s a weird feeling, because some of those people will never be back and you’ll never see them again. Those people that you’ve grown so close to in such a short amount of time. Spending 40 hours a week together. Sleeping in the same canvas tent together. Driving in the crew cab together. Some of them you won’t hear from till next spring. Or until your paths cross again. If they ever do. It’s a bit of a weird feeling, and yet, it’s not really sad. Just weird. You learn to accept that that’s how the end of the season feels. It is what it is. Grey, overcast, rainy, and slowly getting quieter and quieter, until you as well, pack in your red and blue bags, and lock your locker for the last time.

Yesterday was a particularly gloomy day. It was the first day that three crew members said their goodbyes, locked their lockers, and drove off base bound for southern Ontario for their winter academics. It also poured 76mLs in less than 42 minutes. I was at a table, eating lunch, wondering what the afternoon would bring, when a crew boss sat down. He comes in late often. But he has a long drive from the reserve. A new baby born in August. And a hell of a story.

“My cousin committed suicide last night.”

What do you even say to that? Just empty eyes and a dropped jaw.

She was a nice kid. Only 19. I rubbed the sides of my nose as I cupped my face and mouth with my hands. It’s real common on the res. They don’t know that it’ll get better. That you just have to get past those feelings. And they’re all just kids. 10, 16, 14 years old. And that was it. My eyes were filled. And I clasped my hands behind my head, and stared upwards, biting my lip. I don’t understand… how did she get that idea? Why did she get that idea? How do you think like that when you’re 10 years old? How do you feel that way?

“You just feel…empty. And it’s not even that you feel trapped, but you look around at your life, and you believe that that’s all there is. You see the people, and what they’re doing… and you have no idea that there’s a whole world of opportunities and possibilities outside your community.”

#TeenLife #ItGetsBetter #Suicide

Playing outside. Running around with friends. Biking to the neighbours. Building forts out of sticks. Waking up early, and coming home late. It’s not always that different than what I experienced. My summer days were running around, barefoot; smiles, and a curious mind that kept me outside. Her summer days were waking up early on the living room floor, and running around, hiding in the woods in the fort, where she felt safe. I wasn’t allowed inside because eating popsicles got sticky in there. She wasn’t allowed inside because playing woke dad from sleeping off a hangover. She forgives him for punishing her, but sometimes she’ll still catch a glimpse of his old ways.

Sometimes his mom would take him to the city. Buy two or three movie tickets, and a large popcorn. They would spend all day together, watching movies. He smiles. It was the best. A vivid memory relived through the smirked right-side corner of a beautiful smile. And sometimes she would cry. And he didn’t know why, or what happened. Maybe she drank too much, or was having relationship troubles. He would just walk over to her, and lay his head on her chest. He gave her the love she needed. Just a little boy, being a man. But they never spoke about it. They never talked about feelings or what was going on. Because she never had that when she was his size. She never learnt how. She never knew she needed it.

#Abuse #Emotions #ParentStruggles

And you might think, as I once did, that it sounds horrible. Why would you want to live somewhere like that? Why would you choose to live somewhere like that? Why would you continue to stay somewhere like that? In a place where you feel like you can’t trust anyone. That, for some, fosters so many scarring memories and feelings. But let me tell you when and why: when you have 5 children of your own, and you can’t afford $1400/month rent in town. When you never had $100 to your name, and now you have to figure out how to manage an income and pay bills. When, despite its quality, that reserve has been home for your entire life. Think about never having been taught about bills, life responsibilities, financial commitments, or accountability. Think about how many hard lessons you would face on your own, with no support. Think about how strong you have to be. Still have to be.

His stepdaughter’s friends always ask her to come into town, and he tells her she can’t be doing that anymore. She has a bebe now. Responsibilities. She can’t be driving the bebe around in the car so much—it’s bad for her. She needs to be at home, growing and learning. He doesn’t want her to grow up like he did. He wants it better for her.

Some people are amazing. Some people who started with no support, no education. Who knew nothing outside their community. Somehow, they’ve prevailed. They knew they wanted something different, and they sought out to get it. They recognized that what they had, they want more for their children. That they will give them the love and support that they deserve and need. It’s amazing that somewhere along the way, some people realize that something needs to change. And they change it. That they have the strength without even realizing it.

#Responsibilities #Commitments #Strength

I have this saying with some colleagues that “it is what it is.” No matter how illogical or unfair something may seem, sometimes it just is what it is, and nothing will change. Sometimes we have to let out a big sigh, pack in our bags, lock our lockers, and walk away from base without saying goodbye to everyone. But sometimes, someone can change something. And they will. And they did. Something that should never happened, won’t happen again. Sometimes, “it is what it is.” And yet sometimes, we challenge that. And we can make a change. And we can stand up for what we believe is right. And we can be strong, and pass along our lessons learned. And sometimes… sometimes, some people do this.

#ItIsWhatItIs #ResLife

Author Ariel Root is currently in Kenora in her fourth season working as a forest fire fighter for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.  She has a BSc in Food Science & Nutrition from Carleton University in 2012, and is currently a graduate student in the Health Science, Technology and Policy program at Carleton University. She has been featured on APTN’s new hit TV show, Playing with Fire, Season 2.

Come back for the last instalment of this series next week.

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