My first encounter with this word was when I was perhaps ten. Mom and dad had sent me to a summer camp on the eastern shore of Lake Simcoe, north of my home in Toronto. It was my first time away from them … and I was terrified. I was basically scared of life and everyone in it. That included adult leaders and other campers. I didn’t know how to swim, I wasn’t any good at baseball and even a hike through the woods seemed dangerous.
There I was at night in a cabin, not at all snug in my bunk bed, surrounded by breathing boys. They all seemed to be asleep, but I sure wasn’t. I wanted my mom. So I decided to go find her. I whipped on my clothes, tiptoed across the floor and out of the cabin. I walked to the beach. I knew if I turned left at the shore, I’d end up in Toronto with my parents.
I don’t how many miles of Lake Simcoe shoreline I walked, but eventually adults with flashlights found me. I was a mess, and I don’t remember what happened after that.
Many years later in Grade 12, I sat in the guidance counsellor’s office. Grade 13 was next and it was expected that I’d go to university. “You’re so good in Math, Bruce. You should be an accountant. The University of Toronto has an excellent Commerce and Finance program that will lead you to a fine career.” As a teenager, my future penchant for independent thinking was in embryo: “Yes sir,” I replied.
So there was the academic year of 1967-1968, with me sitting amidst a bevy of eager commercial hopefuls. While others no doubt dreamed of financial independence and a bungalow in the suburbs, I was a further mess. Principles of economics, balance sheets and actuarial science. I could become an actuary, living in luxury within a respected insurance company, using Math to assess various risks of insuring someone. I remember something called “A double dot N” (two letters of the alphabet) but right now I have no idea what that means.
Sitting in lectures, or having lunch with my upwardly mobile classmates, I sensed the same sadness that I felt in that cabin. “What am I doing here? Can’t I just go home?”
Today I feel at home. I have many friends who meet me in the eyes. Together we discover the beauty of connection. But there are no doubt millions of humans who feel solitary in a strange land:
Nobody really sees me … really sees who I am
I don’t make a difference to anyone
My best years are behind me
I’m in a party, surrounded by people talking, and I feel so alone
Nobody talks about their hopes and dreams, about what is truly important to them
My friends are full of opinions – about politics, sports teams, social problems
There’s all the stuff I need to do every day, and no time left for me
There’s all the people in my life that I need to be with, and no time left for me
Where are my true companions, those who will share the journey?
Where is a purpose that I can hang my hat on, and pursue with joy?
Where’s the juice?
We all need home