In 2017 I left the cold of Invercargill for the last time amidst frustrations and disappointments, and extreme mental tiredness that was bringing up the same old thoughts of suicide that have plagued me off and on for years. I moved to Motueka in the hope of a new start among the apple orchards of Riwaka. A new flat came, a new flat went, a new out-house abode came and gave me time to work on Dim Day until the owner no longer wanted me there during the day time and I was forced to start looking for a new home again; a house, advertised as a "flat" but resembling the conditions of a boarding home and owned by one of the most neurotic people I've met, was taken up but after only 2 weeks the owner and I were butting heads due to me being unemployed again, and this was completely unacceptable to her. Unemployed, that is, apart from the one-day-a-week guitar tuition I had committed to at Motueka High School. I no longer had enough work to sustain the cost of moving into a house that I had found, and at this point I was trying to return to teaching one more time to get full registration, which I had failed to get across the first six years of teaching; so, was thus relying a lot on the support of the music teacher and the principal, and supportive they were!
When it came time to move again, knowing that I didn't have enough work to truly afford it, I decided with absolute certainty that I would move into the car and find a parking spot somewhere out of town where I wouldn't be hassled by the council for freedom camping. I found my spot about 10km out alongside the Motueka River. This meant of course, that I had all my belongings - my stereo, my electric Ibanez "Exotic Explorer" and Vox amp, all my clothes, and a PS4 either in the boot or in the back seat. I needed to get some of this stuff out! I simply could not take the risk of getting my car broken into, so, made the decision to move the guitar and amp into the school music storage room. This I did on one of my tuition days, but that day just happened to be a day when the teacher was not present to ask first if this was okay.
The following Friday, I had been asked to come in for some Teacher Aide work and was soon asked by the music teacher to meet her in her office. This is where it was revealed to me that a student had found my guitar case, looked through it, and found a glass container of magic mushrooms inside one of the guitar compartment cases (under the neck). The ball rolled, I took responsibility, the Board of Trustees met, and I was consequently dismissed.
Q: Why did I have a glass container of magic mushrooms in my guitar case?
- and why did you not take them out before taking the guitar in???
- A: I forgot they were there.
A: Back in 2013 I moved up to Auckland to teach in Otara. I had a friend who had become very interested in magic mushrooms and gaining the "purest experience" through them (paraphrased quote - he had had an awesome trip once, and wanted that repeated). He told me a story about finding mushrooms about 100 metres down the road from Albany Mall, right out in the open on a patch of grass alongside the drive that cars leave by. He did his research, he returned at night, and he plucked as much as he could. And of course, he asked me if I wanted to try some. I said "Yes, of course I would" (paraphrased), but that I was teaching at the moment and would not want it to interfere in any way with that. So, I took the small amount I was given in a glass container, and popped it in the guitar case where I felt it was a pretty good place to keep it hidden, since yes, it is an illegal substance. And since it was in it's own little compartment, I promptly forgot about them (generally speaking: occasionally I went into the compartment to look for guitar strings or picks, saw it there, laughed, and carried on with my life).
I made the following statement to the Board of Trustees: I do not believe I have done anything morally wrong as it is my right as an adult to choose whether to do drugs or not, and since the incident occurred because of a simple mistake and no malicious intent was meant - I forgot the drugs were there and never intended for any student to find them - I did not believe that it was necessary that I should lose my job, or at least, I should be able to stay on as a Teacher Aide. However, the BoT saw the incident as a complete lapse of judgement and felt that I could not be trusted in the school any more. I accepted their response and to have my employment fully terminated with immediate dismissal. After all, they did have to present some sort of definite resolution that sent a message to the students, and so the message was the hard line of absolute non-acceptance of drugs (illegal) on the premises. I was okay with this.
This job was the final nail in the coffin for trying to find stable work. During this period at Motueka High School I did about six weeks of full-time work with overtime standing at a conveyor belt watching the attached machine make boxes for the apple orchards. Had I not had to pay out rent and bond, I could have easily made $4000 in the hand, but ended up with half that. This was one of the motivating factors for me to move into my car: I was sick of having to squander income to society instead of being able to use it for my own good - recording music, writing, and publishing. Twenty years have passed since leaving home, 270 songs written, nothing recorded professionally; chasing musicians when I should have made them chase me; not writing so that I could earn an income because "that's what you have to do". I was so sick of it all. I continued to live on the river side, sleeping in my car, visiting the libraries in Motueka and Richmond while writing a great deal of poetry that will appear in my upcoming book "The Tasman Journey". I was suicidal prior to moving into my car, when stresses were starting to get to me, and a few times after during the incident meetings, but after that all passed and it was just me and the river itself to deal with, I was never happier or more content. I met a beautiful, loving, intelligent, and hilarious woman who loved the idea of me living on the riverside, and she came to visit me often, and I got to cook over an open fire for her.
I don't regret any of the decisions I've made. I look back and think Well, if I had taken the job offered at Whangamata, I would have had my full registration the following year, and perhaps be on a completely different path. But then again, I always wanted to return to Invercargill to make music with my mate, so probably would have ended up back down there anyway. Perhaps things all would have been different, and if so, I would never have met this wonderful woman who I am still with and love dearly.
Perhaps I should never have gotten into teaching in the first place, but far worse teachers than I are still teaching - some even make it to Principal!
I am a writer. I always have been, and I always will be. I write because words are what fill me with a sense of purpose. Invercargill gave me a novel, teaching gave me a novel, and so a year in Tasman gives me a book of poetry.
I am not ashamed, I am not embarrassed; but I am thankful that no students tried the mushrooms (after five years in a glass container with no light or moisture, would they still even have any affect?). My statement never changed, I took responsibility, and I dealt with the consequences.
These are my words, because the Stuff article does little to extrapolate on any of it, and we all know how good people are at casting judgement on so little information. I asked for name suppression, but it was denied. Weirdly, teachers who are facing the tribunal who have done far worse are getting name suppression. I also made a statement via email to the Teachers Council/Tribunal/whoever... that I was happy to have my registration cancelled. I'm done with teaching. I hope I did something positive for the growth of students, intellectually and emotionally.
Kia kaha. Destiny is in your own hands.