It’s been nearly a year since I went to court to file for protection against my stalker. Since then, I have been subjected to character assassinations, death threats, and a resurgence of phone calls on my new phone number that pushed the total to a point over 1200. I stopped counting and I changed my number again.
For the majority of this year, I have been in contact with various websites that distribute personal data such as Spokeo and Been Verified to have any and all information pertaining to myself and my family removed for privacy concerns (and because they have no business sharing my private information without my consent). As I have no social media profiles, these conglomerates were the last bastion where my stalker could obtain my information and continue her assault. Since writing to the various white pages of the internet, the calls have stopped and I have not received any further unwanted contact since April.
In two years, I have written much about the torment I have been going through since late 2011 with this individual, but never detailed how we met or the abusive relationship that I was trapped in with her throughout high school. As I have been writing about my school experiences and because I have been an advocate for victims of abuse most of my life, I feel that it is time for me to share that, hoping that it will help others.
This situation began in late 2002 to early 2003 at St. Nard’s. I was not well liked in high school as I wasn’t a jock, wasn’t religious and wasn’t involved in any clubs. I sat alone at lunch for four years straight. I was into prog rock, Magic: The Gathering and high fantasy novels so it was easy to see that I was a dweeb. I didn’t even perform in school talent shows and never told anyone that I played the piano. Because I lived 45 minutes away it was hard to make friends, and the highly conservative hierarchy of the school guaranteed that I’d never fit in. I even had a teacher as a freshman who bullied me to the point where I was ready to drop out, but I’ll talk about him another time.
Before I continue, I want to state that for privacy purposes I am not going to use my ex’s name or the name of the girl who set us up. So, I looked up a list of the worst names for girls in 2019 and decided to call my ex Diesel and her BFF Chlamydia. Yes, this is what the first result of my search yielded.
While I was a social outcast, I did manage to catch the attention of Chlamydia in Spanish class. (Oh, this is going to be fun.) To say she had a crush on me was an understatement; this girl openly told her friends that we were dating even though I had never asked anyone at St. Nard’s out before, she would force her way to sit with me at assemblies and hold hands with me whenever she got close. And no, she didn’t sit with me at lunch. While flattered, or at least as much as a 14 to 15-year-old could be, this girl did not interest me at all. We had nothing in common, she was failing all of her classes, and her clingy behaviour was creeping me out, especially after she signed my freshman yearbook with “I Love You!” alongside several hearts and a massive lip gloss kiss. She didn’t even know how to pronounce my last name correctly, so the idea that she “loved” me was really off.
This changed a year later, as she was the only person in the entire school who seemed to show the slightest interest in me as a human being, I kept Chlamydia close as a friend. (This is going to be awkward so just deal with it.) Her clinginess was still an issue but I just bowed with the wind. That was a red flag that I should have paid attention to.
Anyways, as a sophomore, a rumour started going around that I was gay, which was grounds for immediate expulsion from a Catholic school. Now, I am openly bisexual today, but not when I was surrounded by holier-than-thou ultra-conservative bigots, and because of the curriculum that clearly stated that both homosexuality and bisexuality were not real and just “wrong choices,” I thought I was flawed in some unforgivable way. This made being a social misfit who already had low self-esteem a lot, lot worse. In order to hush the rumours and to stay closeted to my family and friends until I could either “cure myself” (there’s no such thing) or come out as bi on my own terms, I made the horrible decision to ask Chlamydia out on a real date.
To my surprise, she turned me down, and said that she would much rather go out with another guy whom I’ll call Gary because it’s the first male name that popped into my head. Then she told me that she had already been dating him, while telling the rest of the school that we were an item. Now, a normal person would look at this situation and back the hell out of it, getting as far away from that tangled mess as possible. So, what do you think 15-year-old me did? I asked her if she had any friends…
I’m going to let you scream at me through the computer now, maybe break a mouse or something. It will make you feel better after reading that.
Chlamydia immediately told me about her best friend Diesel, who thought I was nice and cute (she never saw a picture of me before that) and gave me her email and AIM name. For the young ones here, AIM was the AOL Instant Messenger, it’s how we used to “chat” in real time before Facebook or Skype existed. Yes, this makes me feel old. Within a couple of days, Diesel had already written to me before I had even gotten up the courage to send her a single email.
We seemed to be relatable, at least we liked some of the same music though I was the only one who knew that Rush was a band and not a lunatic political commentator. I asked if we could have lunch together the next week, and that’s when I found out that she went to a different school. I didn’t see it as a major problem, but it was definitely trickier to make a relationship out of in the early ‘00s. When I passingly mentioned this to Chlamydia and that I was a little disappointed that she was setting me up with someone who lived over an hour’s drive away, she swiftly told Diesel behind my back and I was soon subjected to her “crying” over the instant messenger that I was dumping her and that she wasn’t good enough for anyone.
This should have been another red flag as Diesel was already beginning to abuse me with a technique called gaslighting, and was creating a false reality in my own mind where I was hurting her feelings just by having some doubts about making a long-distance relationship work in an era before teens even had their own basic flip phones.
Diesel immediately got to work setting up a list of rules and a schedule for me to follow. I had to be online from 4pm to 10pm every weekday in case she logged in to chat, and if I wasn’t there she would get quite peeved with me. Keep in mind that she never told me when she would be online and that this was before you could message someone while offline. Also, AIM did not save messages automatically, you had to manually save them as a file if you wanted to reread an older chat log. I had to send her at least two love poems a week, I had to call her my girlfriend even though she hadn’t even told me her last name yet, and I was required to complement her looks in every chat even though I hadn’t seen a picture of her yet. She had gotten a scan of my sophomore class picture and restated that I was cute, while hiding her own image from me behind a list of strange excuses (for example; she had no disposable camera, her makeup was running, she didn’t have a computer even though she was telling me this over the internet).
My sister Hannah absolutely hated Diesel. They had never met each other, but in one chat Diesel had asked for me to say hi to my sister for her, to which Hannah gave the computer monitor the finger. Hannah could see that I was being manipulated and abused, and it infuriated her that I continued to talk with someone who was hurting me. Diesel’s ridiculous rules also made it hard for Hannah to use the computer for school or to talk with her friends, and because we had dial-up, it meant that the phone was inoperable while the computer was online. I gradually moved away from my required schedule as Diesel and I both worked after school and this freed me a little from her grasp. Hannah seized this opportunity to try and get me out of that pseudo-relationship and would desperately talk with me about asking one of her friends out, mainly those who were secretly crushing on me. She even tried to arrange a date between her best friend and I, hoping that it would break Diesel’s spell.
Nothing seemed to work though.
In one instance, Diesel became irate with me for not being online during her designated hours. She had told me the night before that she would be working the next day until 10pm and wouldn’t be home until 11. I didn’t bother going online and let Hannah have her fun with the zany websites of the era and group chatting with her friends about which 1980s rock star they thought was the hottest. I didn’t hear from Diesel for nearly a week after that, and found out from Chlamydia that she was angry with me for breaking her rules. Diesel had lied to me about working just to see if I was online during her schedule, and seeing that I wasn’t sent her over the edge. After discovering this from Chlamydia, I was sent a long and seething email from Diesel where she claimed to have been in the hospital for a suicide attempt, and threatened to cut herself or worse if I ever disobeyed her again. She claimed that I was being unfaithful and that she couldn’t trust me at all if I wasn’t willing to follow her instructions.
All of Diesel’s claims were false; this was her continuing to gaslight me and attempt to gain further control of my emotions and psyche. A different mutual friend of ours had later told me that she had never been hospitalized and never had self-harmed.
It was only by dumb luck that I was finally able to meet Diesel in person during my junior year of high school. All attempts to convene in the past had been turned down by excuses (“I got a bad haircut!”) despite that we’d be meeting alongside both of our parents and in public spaces to ensure our safety and to put our folks’ minds at ease. Just before St. Nards’ winter formal, Chlamydia and Gary broke up, and Diesel and I decided to go together as a group since Chlamydia was now going to be alone. I purchased two tickets to the event and a corsage for Diesel, and everything was put in place so we’d meet in the lobby of the Best Western where the dance was taking place. This time there were no trite alibis and things finally seemed to be going well.
I was waiting in the hotel lobby for an hour with fear in the back of my mind that I was going to be stood up before Diesel and Chlamydia arrived. We introduced ourselves to one another and this was also my first time ever seeing Diesel at all, and she was very pretty, maybe not what I had pictured, but at least this wasn’t some sort of weird joke out of a crappy Paris Hilton movie. We went to the dance, got a snack and took our seats while we got to know each other better and everything was going great. I also have to add that this was the first real “date” I had ever been on, so I was really nervous and awkward. After about seven or ten minutes, Diesel excused herself to use the restroom and never returned.
I sat alone at our table for over an hour with the DJ’s speakers right next to me, before I was told that Diesel was sick and was going to be leaving early. I helped her out of the hotel while and she left without saying a word to me. I had been given my dad’s cellphone, the only one in the house, and swiftly called home to get a ride. My parents and sister had just arrived at the house from going out to the mall, and my mother was furious when I told her what had happened. She was under the impression that Diesel was a no show, but she was angry at the entire set of circumstances anyways given how much I had paid for tickets and flowers (nearly $150 in total), and for all of this to just backfire in my face after waiting so long to try and meet Diesel face to face.
Hannah was livid but happy at the same time. She was a little envious that I was going on a date to a formal dance and that she hadn’t been asked by anyone herself. She was a freshman and I knew of a lot of guys who had crushes on her but they were too afraid to ask her out either because they were freshman themselves and thus timid by nature, or were in my class and were concerned that I’d be upset if they had asked my sister out, which I wouldn’t have been but they just made that assumption without even talking to me. As a consolation prize, Hannah gave me an early Christmas gag gift of David Lee Roth’s greatest hits (an oxymoron), which we listened to in her room with a dance off to cheer me up.
Despite Diesel’s apologies for what had happened, I later discovered that she was not sick from a bug, but that she and Chlamydia had been drinking before the dance (hence their late appearance) and were wasted by the time they had arrived. Diesel had passed out in the ladies’ room while vomiting and was taken back to Chlamydia’s house so her parents wouldn’t find out that she was drunk.
This was the last straw and I stopped following Diesel’s rules and maybe chatted with her once a week, just staying friends with her. I considered myself single again but didn’t go on the dating circuit as to give myself some much needed “me time” after that whole kerfuffle. I was feeling good and was more confident that I had been in ages. But things would soon take a very different change of course.
On 3 May, 2004, I was involved in a multi-vehicle wreck on the highway while being driven home by a livery service. Hannah was seriously injured, but due to confusion and some sketchy 911 calls, it took over 20 minutes for an emergency response. Hannah passed away from her injuries, with details that still have never come to light fifteen years later.
I lost my best friend and half of my entire person.
I was incredibly vulnerable. I had been seriously injured myself, but mentally I was in worse shape than any part of my body. I couldn’t and didn’t know how to react correctly, I bottled everything up, and I considered suicide on several occasions.
My classmates provided an outpouring of support with sympathy cards and interaction that I had never experienced before, but it also opened me up to the worst of the abuse I’d receive from Diesel.
Using this vulnerability, Diesel immediately swooped in and tried to make herself my saviour. She visited my home the day after the wreck and became involved with my parents and myself on a more personal level than ever before. She actually seemed like a real friend for the first time in our relationship. She wasn’t just an internet friend now, and she would visit our home at least twice a month and even showed up as a surprise on my birthday. After about six weeks of this, I slowly and unknowingly found myself following Diesel’s every command, even resurrecting her controlling schedule for online chats without realizing it.
At this point, Diesel became the only friend I had. Even though my oldest and best friend from kindergarten was visiting me every day, and she and I would go out for drives and just talk about shit, Diesel was still the star that I was guided by and was orbiting. Going out with some new friends had to be cut short so I could talk to Diesel. Visiting with Hannah’s friends for mutual support, each of us stricken with insurmountable grief, had to be scheduled around Diesel. Visiting my grandparents had to be worked around Diesel. She had me by every cell of my body and every part of my fractured soul.
By the summer of 2004, Diesel dictated who I could and could not speak with. She demanded that I only stay within her and Chlamydia’s circle of friends and that everyone else, including my aforementioned best friend, was excluded. I still spoke with them, but had to hide that from Diesel. It reached a point where even Diesel’s mother was involved in controlling when and where we would speak or meet. Diesel’s mom even tried to control my parents and used that to schedule dates or get togethers around her work and interests.
My mother hated Diesel’s mother. She was an illiterate, self-absorbed asshole who had no empathy for my family (or anyone). During our last get together, Diesel, her mom and Chlamydia all decided to come to my family’s house for lunch. When my mother told Diesel’s mom that she was doing poorly (as it was just four months since Hannah’s passing), her response through chewing a wad of gum was a sarcastic “Still?” which turned her as red as a can of Coca-Cola. That would be the last they ever spoke to each other.
We had a tense lunch, but Diesel, Chlamydia and I got along despite everything. Diesel’s mom had made some disgusting noodle salad that I feel obligated to bring up for its sheer nastiness, but other than that, it was just a cookout. Afterwards, things got even stranger. Diesel decided to use the family computer to instant message some of her friends despite deliberately coming to my house to visit me, and she was fixated on the computer for the rest of the afternoon before she had to leave to go to work that evening. She didn’t even hug me goodbye like we usually did. This would be the last time that I ever saw Diesel willingly.
After that lunch date, things became worse. Diesel and I were up very late online one night and I had casually written “Love you” as we were signing off. This made her very angry and she refused to speak to me for two weeks. That two word sign off also enraged her father, whom I had never met, and he decided that I was some sort of drooling villain prowling remote hamlets for maidens to have the nerve to say “love you” to his daughter.
Once my senior year began, Diesel was again demanding that I be online all evening to talk to her even when I knew she was working, and she would randomly give me the cold shoulder and refuse to respond to messages before accusing me of being mean or angry to her when I knew for a fact that I never was. Again, this is gaslighting and she was a master of using that abusive technique. I’d write a simple “Hi” to her and she would type back absurdities like “Why are you so mean all the time?” or “How could you have done that to me?” without specifying anything. I started to doubt myself and had to save all of my chats with Diesel just to go over them later and see if maybe I did have a temper or did say something out of line. I didn’t, but I felt like I was going crazy every time I spoke to this woman.
I started to question reality because what I knew and experienced was never the same thing as what Diesel was telling me I had done or said.
This reached a breaking point when Diesel decided that I was not to call her on the phone anymore. She randomly messaged me with those disheartening words: “We need to talk” and proceeded to leave the chat for over three hours before coming back, watching me nervously squirm the entire time in her mind’s eye. Her reasoning was that I was “an unstable person” for having told her “Love you” back in August. This was October and this reasoning was inane. But Diesel had so much control over me that I still obeyed her. While she didn’t want to speak with me by phone, she still insisted that I speak with her online daily, and demanded that I give her my AIM and email passwords so she knew what I was “really up to.” And I did. I didn’t even question such a brash and unreasonable violation of my own safety and privacy, I just gave them over.
Because Diesel had asked me to never call her on the phone anymore, I didn’t call her for her birthday and instead sent her a Hallmark card. That did not go over well. She tore into me that I was “over the line” in sending her that simple card (which I only had signed with my name because I knew “love” was about as bad as a certain c-word with her). A few days after she called me every name and slur in the book over AIM, she apologized saying that it was just the stress of senior year getting to her, and that I was “lucky she still loved me.” It’s okay if she said it but if I said it, oh boy. And that right there was a massive red flag amongst all the smaller ones that I still had failed to see.
Everything came to an end on Christmas Day of 2004. My parents were not doing well, I wasn’t doing well and everything in our lives and home was off. After our dinner, with a special plate set at Hannah’s seat with an offering of yams, her favourite vegetable, my mom asked if I was going to call Diesel and wish her a Happy Christmas. I was hesitant as she had told me to not call her on the phone but it was, after all, Christmas. With a lot of anxiety, I dialed her number and was confronted by her father almost immediately. I’ve mentioned this before, but after I asked for Diesel, he responded with something along the lines of “Don’t you ever call here again you goddamn k*** or it’ll be the last fucking thing you ever do! That’s all over now, Chanukah Boy!” in a thick, nearly unintelligible Boston accent, and with an obvious hint of drunkenness.
I never again spoke to Diesel and I never saw her after that (on purpose). I was devastated at first, but once I began talking with my real friends, I slowly started to understand what a blessing I had been given. I started to see through the fog and realized just how manipulated I had been, and how clouded my judgments had become due to her constant abuse. I had even slumped in my grades and in my musical practice during that relationship because I always had to make time for her which meant less time for studying and less effort in my essays. I comprehended that I had more friends than I had previously thought, as she had controlled who I could and could not see or speak to. After making arrangements with my companions and colleagues, I soon deleted my email and AIM name and created a new one as Diesel had my passwords and I didn’t want her to know how to contact me ever again.
Of course, she would later go on to stalk me with her mother’s assistance, but I’ve already discussed that and have had police intervention to make sure that she stays as far away from my family and I as possible.
Given the weight of this very long story, I want to again provide my readers with information on how to leave and heal from an abusive relationship, alongside suicide prevention hotlines from around the world. Stay strong, and know that you deserve to be treated right and with respect and dignity, and anyone who fails to do so is not deserving of you!
Domestic Abuse Hotlines
United States: 1-800-799-7233
United Kingdom: 0808 2000 247
Suicide Prevention Lifelines
Canada: 1-866-277-3553, (514-723-4000 in Montreal)
United States: 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom: 0845 7909 090
International Suicide Hotline List
Orion: 16 April 2004 - 11 March 2019
I have been quiet on my blog over the past few weeks, and I want to share what has been going on and the reasons for my lack of posts. Three weeks ago, my cat Orion began walking with a limp and we discovered a lump on his right hind leg. Testing proved it to be benign, but his walking became more and more uncomfortable. Starting last week, he would only walk a few meters and rest, with his right hind leg becoming more and more swollen. We took him to the vet for analysis and a mass the size of a golf ball was discovered near his stomach, and we were told that this tumour was the reason Orion was having such a hard time walking. The vet said he would have about a month left with us as he was too old to receive surgery to remove it.
Today, on 11 March 2019, after showing significant improvements including eating, drinking and using the litter box regularly, Orion woke up with extremely laboured breathing and was unable to walk at all. I had to carry him to his food, water, litter box and bed. A technician from the vet that has been helping him since the fall of 2017 by providing him with fluids after he suffered a bowel blockage notified us that he was losing colour and that his breathing was becoming more and more distressed.
Around 5:00 pm, I had to bring my beloved cat, my best friend, and the little guy who has been with me since my sister passed away, to the vet to be put to sleep. The mass around his stomach had ruptured and was bleeding internally, leading to extensive pain in his abdomen and there was nothing that could be done.
I held onto Orion from my house until he passed away alongside his favourite foam ball, a bag of catnip and his toy mouse. Just before the doctor came in, he started purring as my father, mother, our technician and I pet him, kissed his head and cried terribly. I can barely get through typing this so far. The worst part was signing the euthanasia form for consent, while classical piano music by Debussy, Satie and Schumann played over the speaker in what is essentially the death room. Many of those pieces were part of my repertoire and I have no intentions on ever playing them again.
He was so good, with his eyes bright and looking so content on the outside when the process began. My mother had to leave the room and I held onto my little buddy until the doctor informed me that his heart had stopped, and I still stayed there until the involuntary movements ceased. Because the ground is frozen, the vet is going to keep him so we can bury him in our garden alongside our dogs beneath a heart shaped rock when the thaw comes.
This cat came into my life at the perfect time, just a few weeks after my sister passed. Our old dog Jackson had gotten groomed, and they were giving away kittens with each grooming. Knowing that my family was going through, they asked if we wanted a kitten, and we agreed. He was the cutest little fuzzball who came running into the house with a little blue bow and bell around his neck and the most adorable white tip on his tail. After running around for a few minutes, he hid behind our couch and let out a huge meow, the only time in his life he ever did so.
We debated a few names, and I had jokingly thrown out Zoidberg in reference to Futurama, but I chose Orion because the little bell around his neck reminded me of the Galaxy in Men in Black. He would always come to me, sleeping on my bed, getting into my drawers and throwing my socks all over my room. When he first arrived, he came with what was then his favourite toy, a blue wand with a red string attached. We played for hours each day, and he would always sit on top of my desk when I was writing a paper for school, or would curl up beneath my piano as I practiced.
Orion was the nicest cat I ever knew or had. He never growled, hissed or scratched. His one vice was food, and he quickly gained a reputation as the fat cat, nicknamed Chubby, as the grams were laid on. At his peak, he was a whopping 12 kg. It was only in the last two months he finally lost enough weight due to a rigorous diet that he got down to a normal weigh and he didn’t look so much like a pumpkin with a peanut for a head.
Whenever I had a bad day, he would always curl up next to me or in my lap for hours at a time, purring away. He’d only move if he had to use the litter box or to eat. We had a connection that I have never had with any other animal. Orion always knew when I needed him, and vice versa. When my high school ex (the one that was later stalking me) and I broke up, he stayed with me for hours as I cried, or would get my attention off of her by carrying his little blue ball over to me for a game. He loved that ball, and would carry it all over the house like a dog. I now have it in a box of all my special items and pictures, always keeping him near my heart.
When Orion was about a year or two old, he decided that our laundry basket would be his new house. I always had to keep it on its side so he could curl up inside it on top of an old towel or blanket. The first time he was ever really sick, I knew right away since he didn’t want to use his laundry house, instead running up the computer desk and trying to isolate himself. Nobody believed me that he was sick, but I kept pestering to take him to the vet and sure enough, he had a fever from a minute virus that cleared up in no time.
If I were sick with a sinus infection, he would always come over and curl up next to me. Even just three weeks ago, he did this while I was suffering from sinusitis again, placing his head over my left leg and reaching over me while I cupped his ears.
Orion loved to watch television and video games. His favourite television show was Meerkat Manor. He would sit in front of that TV for an entire episode atop a footstool, watching the meerkats popping out of their holes and running about. If I played a game on my PlayStation 2, he would always come into the room to watch the screen. He loved watching Star Wars: Battlefront (the original, good one) the most, with all the soldiers running about in battle. It was captivating for him.
When I stayed in Boston with my cousins for a weekend in college, he was so upset that I wasn’t home that he slept outside my bedroom door, and then on my bed until I came home two days later. He followed me everywhere for weeks after that.
Orion was only ever given the best cat food, spring water and healthy snacks. This didn’t mean we didn’t spoil him from the table. He would come racing when he heard the electric carving knife because that almost always meant turkey. He loved turkey and would pace around the house each time we cooked one, waiting for a piece. I found him on the dining table on more than one occasion where he was successfully stealing a slab of white meat. Every now and then, he’d also get a little piece of bacon or some vanilla ice cream.
Some of the funniest moments I had with him was the time he got tangled in a shopping bag and raced around the house several times, peeing the whole time. I had to bathe him in the tub at midnight and scrub the whole house, but it was something to see. Another time, he climbed onto the kitchen counter, onto the refrigerator and fell behind it without injury. My dad and I had to look all over and then we heard little squeaks from behind the fridge, and sure enough he was there, waiting patiently to be found!
This cat was my best (non-human) friend. I was in a deep state of grief after losing my sister that I don’t know what would have happened to me if it were not for Orion. He filled a hole in me, in my soul, and gave me hope to keep going. He gave me companionship on sleepless nights and would hang out in my bedroom until sunrise on nights where I couldn’t sleep at all from night terrors.
I feel so alone right now after today and my chest hurts terribly from constant panic attacks. I feel like his declining health was my fault, and I feel awful that this had to happen. I was hoping to get at least one more night together on the couch with him or even carrying him onto my bed and snuggling up together. If he passed in the night at least it would be with me. Staying with him to the very end at a vet’s office was the best I could do for my little buddy and lovebug.
Of all things, I just didn’t want him to be alone.
I know that my sister Hannah is taking good care of you, Orion. I promise that I’ll see you again someday. I’ll love you forever.
This is a blog post that’s been a long time in the making and is something I have wanted to write for over a year. After I finished my undergraduate studies at university, I began to take some online courses with The Berklee College of Music for a graduate certificate. At the time, I was still finding my voice as a composer and was very timid about working as a musician fresh out of school, and I thought that some additional training in advanced orchestration and audio engineering would give me more usable skills and help me find myself in a career driven society.
While there, I very quickly discovered that commercial composition, which I had wanted to go into for years, was not my cup of coffee with its incredibly tight deadlines (four weeks or less, even for a feature length film score), the constant desire for your work to sound as close as possible to someone else’s without infringing copyright, and the fact that the music I was writing for these types of projects was nowhere near my best. I also had to trudge through eight or nine weeks’ worth of material that I already knew just to get one trinket of information that I could have found in a book, online, or in a YouTube tutorial.
Despite this I still received my Professional Certificate in 2012, though with less money in my pockets than when I started two years prior. I received my physical paper on my 25th birthday, and presented it to my mother with pride while she was recovering from a fall in the hospital (that’s another, more amusing story that I’ll share at another time). Even though I had gained only a little in new knowledge and ability while studying with Berklee, I justified the time and expense by thinking that this slip of paper from a world-renown music school would be a huge advantage in my career.
Then the horrors came to light.
All of my studies with Berklee were online, I never actually set foot on campus while working towards my certificate. It’s more likely that I would have heard the rumblings sooner than I did had I the opportunity or proximity to attend classes in Boston. But like most people, I first heard of the sexual assault crisis after it was published by The Boston Globe.
For over a decade, The Berklee College of Music secretly fired nearly a dozen professors and teachers who had been accused of or charged with sexual misconduct and assault against students. In addition to this, there was a report of an on-campus rape that was shared over social media where Berklee merely suspended the assailant for two semesters before allowing him back into the school alongside his victim and keeping the case quiet from the Boston Police.
I was shocked and appalled, and was stuck having to answer impossible questions about Berklee and this aforementioned practice by my own music students, many of whom quit in the aftermath simply by my association with the school because of my certificate. Needless to say, I quickly removed that piece of paper from my studio walls and stuffed it into the back of my filing cabinet where it stayed until last week.
After much internal debate, I decided that I wanted nothing more to do with Berklee because of this atrocious behaviour and treatment of sexual assault survivors. I wrote a letter to President Roger Brown, who oversaw all of the secret firings of faculty, and mailed back my certificate to the school. This is what my letter said:
“Attn. President Roger H. Brown:
I am writing this letter as I can no longer be a bystander amidst the atrocities occurring at and on the campus of the Berklee College of Music and its affiliated properties. I am referring to, of course, the plague of sexual assaults between faculty and students that was exposed by The Boston Globe on 17 November, 2017 where it was revealed that eleven faculty members had been secretly terminated over the span of thirteen years for inappropriate interactions between themselves and students.
I am also well aware of an incident on the Boston campus where a female student was viciously sexually assaulted by a male classmate, and that Berklee merely suspended the assailant for two semesters before allowing him to resume classes alongside his victim, and that this incident was kept away from the intervention of the Boston Police by the Berklee Administration.
As a member of RAINN, as a friend and relative of individuals who have survived acts of both physical and sexual violence, and as a sexual assault survivor myself, I can no longer support or stand to have any sort of affiliation with the Berklee College of Music as a result of the above incidents and other, undocumented cases that have yet to surface.
I am hereby returning my Certificate to the school and administration out of protest and as an act of solidarity with the victims.
I will no longer recognize any connections with the Berklee College of Music as a student or alumnus, and will not seek any form of collaboration, references or interaction with said school as a result of my protest. I spent a year debating whether or not I should write this letter and return my Certificate, and after much thought I have concluded that there is no scenario where I can keep that piece of paper or consider myself an alumnus and not feel nauseated considering what has transpired over the past decade at this institution.
I feel, Mr. Brown, that in light of The Boston Globe’s reporting, and that these secret terminations of sexual predators from your college all occurred under your supervision, that you should resign your position as soon as possible. You have clearly demonstrated that you can no longer be trusted with the protection of your student body.”
The letter was mailed to Berklee, alongside my certificate, last Wednesday on 6 February. I have not and do not expect to receive a reply, nor do I want one.
President Brown’s lackluster apology for his criminal actions is not enough. Berklee’s meaningless responses in the wake of The Boston Globe’s revelations do nothing to protect or help students. They are clearly only interested in saving face and making more money for the administration.
Whatever prestige The Berklee College of Music once had is long gone.
I'm just going to start by saying that I hate myself. I'll explain this in more detail as this piece goes on, but it is a critical part of my personality that keeps me writing anecdotes, articles and more over utilizing video.
Currently, the denizens of the internet are happier with a video first experience over reading. With the massive growth and popularity of YouTube it is not surprising to see websites originally created in the late 1990s and early 2000s gradually shifting to such methods for the distribution of content. There's nothing wrong with this; it is honestly more engaging and provides people with a way to experience content while multitasking (how often do you play a video just for the sound while you are browsing a different website?), but it's just not for me.
I might be old fashioned, but I simply prefer reading an article or book to watching or listening to one, and it has nothing to do with a certain American leader who may be illiterate or some misguided, narcissistic sense of pseudo-intellectualism on my part. As a result, I also prefer to express myself in writing over producing vlogs or podcasts but there are other issues that I have with myself that are responsible for this approach to communication.
I have a lot of body image issues that prevent me from making video content. When I was a kid in middle school, my weight fluctuated a lot due to the asthma treatments that I was undertaking. In one grade I'd be the tallest and thinnest kid in my class, the next I'd be a pudgy butterball that still managed to tower over my peers. Yes, even the girls. This was due to the overprescribing of prednisone by my pediatrician which is notorious for adding pounds when used frequently. And I was taking a daily regiment for over a year at a time. Yes, this is horrible for your health but they didn't really know any better in the late '80s and early '90s and my pediatrician was awful (she nearly killed me twice with a misdiagnosis of pneumonia and again with the wrong dose of allergy vaccines that sent me into anaphylaxis).
I was given every foul name in the book starting in the first grade and up until high school. By then, I had developed anorexia and was over 18 kg underweight. I was 190 cm and weighed only 65 kg. By my junior year in college, I had gained over 20 kgs after my medication and diet changed. I was just over 95 kg, and this was at the same time I started to make myself more visible online. My YouTube videos were filled with comments where I earned such flattering nicknames as "Tits Boy," "The Rack," and "Shitty Titty."
Today, I am 79 kg and still 190 cm, but I still feel like a bloated, ugly puss bag. The idea of showing myself on camera brings back all those YouTube comments (this was 2008, I was in my 20s and didn't know any better) and the heckling of children on the playground. I get so anxious at the idea of being seen in motion pictures that the only times I allowed it as of late was in Deliverance Chips where part of my face is visible for only a few frames, and for a brief instance when I appear in a Slender Man costume as a gag. Irony.
Adding to my body image issues, my hairline has thinned quite a bit over the past several years. This has been mostly due to exceptional anxiety (see the previous posts about my experience as a stalking victim to understand why) and, again, misuse of my asthma medicine. For most of my life I only took albuterol, and was taking my rescue inhaler and a nebulizer several times a day (14 to 25 for the inhaler, twice a day for the nebulizer). My blood pressure was high, my heart racing and my stress became worse as they fed into one another. As a consequence, I have a thinner spot of hair in the back, and down the middle.
This makes me unbearable uncomfortable. I know it's stupid and vain, but I feel like I'm opening myself up to further attacks based on these sorts of petty things. My hair has been growing back since changing my asthma medication and relaxing more, but it's a slow process. For an example of this, my headshot on this site is from late 2012, and in any recent shoot I've done I always wear my Irish knit hat or a Red Sox cap. There, I've admitted it.
You might think "Well, there's a lot of people out there who don't use actual videos and just speak over images or stream a podcast, try that if you're too picky about your body image!" I hate to break it to you, but of all the things I hate about myself, I hate my voice the most.
I have this odd vocal range. I can sing baritone without any difficulty, but my speaking voice is noticeably that of a tenor. And not just any tenor, but the sort of tenor that has some shrill articulations that make many telemarketers think I'm a woman when I clumsily answer the phone to their hijacked numbers. (And I am all woman and all man. Two spirits!) Every time I hear my voice in a recording, I intentionally use effects in Ableton Live or with the iZotope Nectar plugin to lower its pitch. It's that embarrassing to me!
In addition, I have a speech impediment. I stutter like Bill in Stephen King's It when I get nervous, and when I'm recording video or audio of myself, oh boy am I at the mercy of Pennywise! I often hold over vowels or consonants like "s" while repeating any sounds with a "p," "t," or "b" in them.
However, I don't have to worry about any of this when I'm writing. I have no obligations to try to capture my disgusting figure before the camcorder, and there is no possibility of me stammering. This reduces the need for excessive jump cuts, transitions and other forms of video editing just to share a short anecdote or tutorial. Never mind that it's much easier to just sit down and write over setting up camera equipment, plugging the microphones into the camcorder, adjusting the lighting, iris, and sound to be presentable for the shoot, and then all the editing. This includes colour correction, audio mixing and mastering and much more beyond jump cuts and any wacky filters to emulate whatever gaming channel is popular on YouTube at the moment.
In writing, I am in control. I am confident and I am free to express myself without excessive work in postproduction, or my personal hatred of my horrible body. I have honestly considered a podcast, but am currently missing additional people to collaborate with. That would make recording my voice so much easier if working with friends or colleagues and provide more entertainment while discussing various topics. While there are solo podcasts out there, it's just not something I can mentally or physically do right now. I mean, look at this, I just wrote an entire essay on why I hate myself!
I shouldn't do that. I should end this on a high note like, "I feel awesome no matter what random people say!" But, we all know that's not going to happen. Let it end like this.
Ho. Ho. Ho. Fuck.
Gods, I just want 2018 to end.
This year, without a doubt, has been one of the most challenging I have faced in my life, and comes in around only second to 2004. For the past 12 months I have enjoyed:
It should come without surprise that the Chelmsford Police are now under a massive state and federal investigation, not only for what I have experienced, but for several alleged instances of egregious misconduct throughout the department occurring over the past several years. Similar scrutiny plagues much of the northern communities of Middlesex County, where Chelmsford is located. Maybe this is just what happens in a state where heroin runs rampant and oversight beyond Boston is little.
Below are his messages. I have only blocked the names of the innocent parties whom he had made direct threats of violence and kidnapping to. His official Town of Chelmsford email was clearly used to log into the comments section, and a VPN changing his location to Paris, France was also incorporated in a weak attempt at hiding his identity. Working with my host, I was able to find this officer's real IP address as the VPN he used was a free, run of the mill, and poorly constructed proxy website. The real IP address shows that these messages were sent directly from a computer inside the Chelmsford Police Station.
Warning! These messages contain highly offensive, graphic and racist language targeting my Jewish ancestry. I am only choosing to show this as evidence against these crooked cops:
Apparently, this guy can't be too good at his job if he doesn't realize that I'm Canadian.
I have closed all comments on my site indefinitely to prevent any future occurrences of harassment.
Now that I am finally safe, I have resumed working in public as a musician and artist, but have made it a point to never perform in or around that corridor of Massachusetts for as long as I live. I will go to Boston, Worcester and Springfield, but I will never perform or show a gallery in any North Middlesex city, town, or hovel. That region is to me what Innsmouth is to the Cthulhu mythos. In fact, it'd probably be safer for me to work with the fish people and cultists of Innsmouth than it would be to make an appearance in that county.
Before I end this article, I must share some very important information with you:
I hope my story can help others find the strength needed to overcome whatever challenges you are facing. Please remember that you are loved and take care of yourselves this holiday season, and all year long.