• Joseph Couture

Still Me After All These Years: A Mission Statement

Let's be clear about something, it wouldn't exactly be accurate to call me an optimist. In fact, this ship is sinking fast and I'm not here to deny that reality or rearrange the chairs on the deck of the Titanic so it's all pretty as she goes. Consider me more like one of the band members who kept playing to make the inevitable a little more kind.

I gave up trying to save the world a long time ago when two things happened. The first was I realized that was bloody hopeless. The second, and less important of the two, is that pretty much everyone told me to shut up and fuck off. The first is tragic. The second par for the course and I really don't give a rat's ass. I do not, and have not ever cared what people think of me and my big mouth, which is a good thing because I've done some pretty stupid and embarrassing things and if I actually cared I would never be able to leave the house again.

But as I set out once again on this journey to the edge of the abyss, I would like to say a couple of things at the outset. I'm not going to whine and cry like a big man baby, but some of you people have done some truly awful things to me and to other people. I'm not excusing what you did because you did it on purpose knowing full well that you were going to hurt people and the world would be worse off for your crimes. Your intent was inexcusable, and often still you are not sorry and you keep doing it. But excusing behaviour and forgiving it are separate things. I can forgive you without justifying what you did.

So that is what I am doing here today. I am offering blanket immunity for all crimes of the past, letting it go and moving on. There are no exceptions. I forgive everything. And I hope one day the people I have wronged can one day forgive me, too. But this is not to say I plan to take any shit moving forward, no sir. So don't try anything 'cause I'll beat your ass. Nor does it mean I want anyone and everyone in my life. I don't. But for my sake as much as anyone else's, it's better to make a clean start of it all and move on both without any grudges and/or a chip on my shoulder.

To illustrate why that is important to me personally and why it will make me a better journalist going forward, here is my first excerpt from my forthcoming book. By way of a short bit of context to the clip, all you need to know is that a whole lot of horrible things had just gone down. I was about to make my first suicide attempt and shortly thereafter about to get locked up in the loony bin for the first time. While this excerpt mentions someone in particular, this whole blog entry is not about him specifically. The "you" I'm talking about is anyone and everyone.

From "Inside the Cuckoo's Nest":

I was a total mess. I had been a total mess for quite awhile. I had hardly gone anywhere for any length of time. I needed to get out and I decided to try the bar again.

It usually really pissed me off when I would be walking on the sidewalk and some idiot would come barrelling down on his bike and run me off into the snow and the muck. They are supposed to ride their bikes on the road. At the very least, if they preferred to use the sidewalk they could at least say excuse me and not be dicks about it and just mow you down.

It was cold-ish, dark and the snow was slushy and there was mud everywhere. I not only saw the guy coming at me on his bike, but he was weaving back and forth, taking up the entire sidewalk. There was no safe place to stand that would allow me to let him pass with any degree of confidence that I wouldn't be struck.

He clearly wasn't going to adjust course. He was headed my way and there was no stopping him. I felt a flash of anger. I wanted to lash out at him, scream and tell him what an inconsiderate asshole he was. But then I thought about it, I didn't want to sink to that level.

I was angry, but I decided I did not want the confrontation. It would just make the night worse for everyone. I stepped off the sidewalk into the mud and made room for him to pass.

As he approached, I began to see him more clearly. When he was nearly upon me, I realized the truth. I saw that he obviously was a man with a developmental disability. As he got nearer to me, he smiled, thanked me and told me to have a nice night. I nodded and smiled back and then just about completely lost it.

I realized something very profound in that moment. I did not want to be the kind of person who screamed at handicapped people simply because they inconvenienced me, even if I didn't realize the truth of the situation at first. That was not the kind of person I wanted to be and it was not the kind of person I was.

I did not want to change into that kind of person because of what Dave had done to me- and I had not. I wasn't going to, either. Not if I could help it, and I could help it. I realized in that moment that Dave had not won. I was still me despite all he had done. He had failed to turn me into him, the evil that he was.

I stood by the side of the road and sobbed. Sobbed like I had sobbed on the side of the road so many times before because of Dave. But these were tears of victory. Victory hard fought but ultimately won. I was in so much pain, but despite all appearances and no matter what I may have thought, I was not losing the battle at that moment.

An old friend of mine was at the bar when I got there and I told him what had happened. I explained that I had made the choice to stay me despite enormous pressure to go over to the dark side. He congratulated me, but pointed out something very important.

This was not one choice I had made. I had made this choice countless times in the past and I would be faced with similar choices in the future. Life is a never-ending attack and we choose what side we are on every day. He was right. I was glad he reminded me of that so I could remain vigilant as hard as it is sometimes.