It has been a year indeed. My God, as I look back on it I wonder how I have managed to keep my head above water. I’ve gone through some big losses personally in relationships, and life changing family dynamics. It has been a life-changing year already!!! I have never felt feelings as deeply or as truly as I have this year.
Part of the reason for this is because of my work with SWOVA. My work has changed me as a man and a human being. I want to express feeling gratitude. I have felt profound grief, sorrow, anguish, loss, hope, care, love, happiness, confusion, peace and turmoil in ways I never have. As surely as relationships shift, so too do the emotions, and being able to cry in such freedom from self-judgement and shame has been liberating.
I kindly thank-you…all of the women on Salt Spring Island who have made this work possible, and acknowledge how this has shifted for me. My spirit feels lighter and my soul free.
Expressing my truths is one of my biggest challenges that I face as a man. This is my truth though.
Like many men, I’ve sought to assert my manhood by taking unnecessary and stupid risks. When I was younger I drank too much, drove too fast, and considered myself invincible when it came to venturing out onto cold and unforgiving waters. While in Africa I took to becoming a trained snake catcher, even handling venomous snakes. Before coming to Salt Spring Island I took up chainsawing with no experience, as well as climbing ladders because I felt as a man I should be able to.
Because of my work with SWOVA I have been able to examine my participation in systems of hyper-masculinity which take the lives of many men globally, and could have taken mine. I continue to push boundaries in life as we all should, but now more safely than I have in the past. I am grateful to still be here, and grateful to be released from having to prove myself because I am a man. I owe the women of this island for this profound and liberating realization, which up until moving here three years ago was completely foreign to me.
If ever something should happen to me I want you to know that I appreciate your humanity in a truly whole sense. I see you in all your greatness and love, and courage, and recognize the deep and profound impact you have had on young men and women here.
If ever something should happen to me, please let people know that I was doing what I was meant to do in life, fully happy and whole as a person, and loved everyone with as much heart as I had. Please tell people I felt with my whole heart, with complete vulnerability, free from shame and embarrassment. I have felt my humanity and it feels great. I have felt complete acceptance even amongst my own shortcomings, failings and stupid decisions. I have felt belonging.
To say that I have learned a lot would be a drastic understatement. Three years of R+R under my belt with Christina, Lynda, Megan, Juli and all of the wonderful staff in School District 64 has been the most profoundly life changing experience for me. It is something I could never have ever anticipated having in my life. I am a profoundly lucky man, and am indeed so grateful for the work that SWOVA has done in this area. My words cannot express the feelings I have in my body; of being emotionally, intellectually and actually physically open to the effects of this work. I feel light, free, whole and lucky. I am lucky and the world is lucky. This community is profoundly lucky.
I so enjoy the work, and love taking it to a whole other level with youth in as many ways as is possible. I hang on every word, and although I will admit I am sometimes triggered by conversations, and drift to things in my life, I am present in a way that I have never been before.
I also appreciate you all seeing me. I know you do. Thank-you. I hope to live up to all of the things that you want for me.
My intention as we move forward is to move slowly, deliberately, with care, openness, hopefulness, gratitude, empathy, respect and warmth. I feel gratitude to be able to state this intention and will attempt to practice it daily. I would never have been able to state this intention without the hard work of women here, who have made my path as a real man possible. I wrote this with International Women’s Day in mind- March 8th. On this most important of days, the day we celebrate life givers; women, I sincerely thank-you all.
by Kevin Vowles, R+R Facilitator
SWOVA Empowering Youth For a Better Tomorrow