Almost 3 years have passed since our first camp and, Wow how things have progressed! Our initial idea of running a few camps a year for a few kids in our school holidays has evolved into something that has changed the lives of many of our hundreds of participants. It has also changed mine.
This will all come as a surprise to many- especially many of my closest friends and family.
I have lived with Mental Illness my whole life. It has been self-managed pretty well for the most part but in the darkest of dark times when rational thoughts are replaced with only negativity and self-doubt, I found myself staring at a decision that I can see now, would have impacted so many…
I am someone who has always had trouble in finding purpose in my life. When I was younger, I had a loving family, I was spoilt, I was OK at school, I was OK at sport, I had friends and I had opportunities. I should have been happy, but often I was not. I knew I should have been but I wasn’t.
Whilst at university I; had a brilliant girlfriend (my now wife), was reasonably popular, I was passing my classes (just), I was social, I was part of sporting clubs, I had part-time employment etc But this was a time that seems a blur as I was forever in search of something else?
After University my now wife and I moved to Albury. We both gained great teaching jobs at good schools, I was involved in sporting clubs, we bought a house, we were ‘living the dream.’ Still, something was missing. I knew I had something in me that needed to be found.
In 2009 our first child was born- a healthy boy. He was soon followed by another healthy baby sister in 2011 and then our youngest daughter in 2012. These guys gave me for the first time in my life, a real sense of purpose. I was and am, proud to be their dad and adore each of them unconditionally.
We bought the house we dreamed of, I drove a decent vehicle, I had a good job and had a loving family. It seems selfish to say it but again- something was missing.
I continued for a few more years going through the motions of everyday life without feeling as though I was actively doing anything special.
BttB has filled that void. We all want to be a part of something, I am just lucky to be a part of something that is truly special.
After ups and downs with my mental health, my most trusted accomplice AKA my wife sat me down and said I needed help. I had known this for my whole life but found it easier wearing the mask and acting to get my way through. But in this case, I was too exhausted from it all.
I often thought about what life would look like for them when I was gone and it was beginning to consume me. I had made all the plans to end the pain and was committed to doing so. At this very time, there was an article in the local paper about an ex-student that died by suicide and I saw the pain and devastation she left behind. Something in this article really resonated with me. I decided to heed my wife’s advice. I sought help.
I was almost sick with nerves waiting to see him. When I entered the room I was unsure if I would even be able to say anything. When he asked why I was there I just broke down. I had a good sob for a bit and then composed myself to tell him I was not well and wanted to be happy.
Instantly, the lid had come off and I felt completely different. He prescribed some meds for me and explained that it is a neurological thing that can be changed. We chatted a bit and I felt the lump in my throat and the tightness in my chest subside.
When I was driving home, I felt like I had never felt before, almost euphoric. I knew that life as I had always lived it would now be only a memory. This may seem difficult to believe for many but it is true. From that day my life changed.
For the next couple of years, I continued teaching. I was enjoying life. I rarely miss anything my kids do not because I feel an obligation but because I genuinely love seeing them grow. It was during this time that my mindset changed.
I had been teaching for 14 years and it was a job I was good at and enjoyed, but I knew it wasn’t why I was put on earth. We had talked about doing something for years around boys’ programs and camps and it got to the point where we could keep talking about it or we could do something about it.
That decision has paid off for me personally as BttB has given me clarity. I now know why I am here and what I will be doing in the future. What I loved most in my old job was the small amount of time I got to really get to know the boys and assist them in becoming decent blokes. I now get to do this for the rest of my life. I love bumping into kids (now blokes) and them saying thanks or sharing a story from their time at school. More often than not their stories/memories are from the times spent on BttB camps or Boys Ed Days.
BttB has allowed us to take hold of the wheel and steer our ship in the direction we believe will have the greatest impact on the lives of boys that need it most.
We are rewarded every time we have a kid: return to camp, gain employment, re-engage with school, re-engage with family, find suitable living arrangements, call us to have a yarn etc
We are not changing the world but we are changing the world of many. I am indebted to BttB for saving mine.