By James W Breckenridge. I moved to Abbotsford 20 years ago to provide the key support in my brother’s sobriety plan.
The key to his plan was starting his day with the 6:40 AM attitude adjustment meeting at the Alano Club. Divorced, with custody of his two young children, he needed someone who would be considered appropriate and responsible to leave his children in the care of should the matter of custody end up back in court.
It was considered unlikely that any judge would feel leaving the kids in the care of his big brother, the children’s uncle, a Chartered Accountant, was irresponsible behaviour.
In those twenty years I have been a professional Chartered Accountant, The Boss, a business and systems consultant and a small business owner.
As a result of mental illness several of my 20 years in Abbotsford were spent homeless on the streets of Abbotsford.
Stubbornness, the love of reading and learning instilled by my parents and luck allowed me to overcome the barriers raised by homelessness and achieve mental wellness; which in turn permitted me to become and stay housed.
It was a journey that resulted in knowledge and understanding of homelessness, mental illness, poverty, addiction, people and life that I had had no interest in learning, but that could be gained in no other way.
Achieving mental wellness required me to learn not simply about mental illness but to be conscious about who I was, who I wanted to be, the type of person I wanted to be, to heal old wounds, to change negative, harmful negative core beliefs to positive beliefs and to practice good mental hygiene.
It is a journey that has made me comfortable in my own skin, allows me to laugh at myself and accept my quirks, sense of humour, thought processes and creativity.
It also, in a very real sense, hijacked my life. Looking for employment I have accumulated a stack of ‘thanks but no thanks’ letters stating I am too ‘over qualified’ for the job; with prospective employers with employment that fell into the ‘qualified but not overqualified’ category the stigma resulting from the public perception of mental illness resulted in the prospective employers being to nervous about mental illness to give me the opportunity to demonstrate that dealing with mental illness had a positive effect on me and my abilities and my performance.
I am not sure what would have been the result if I found myself in the same frustrating, no employment, no prospects of employment, grinding poverty, homeless state of affairs before I had taken my journey of self discovery but it would not have been pretty.
Although I was living in my car, I took advantage of my one hour of internet time a day at the Library and started a blog/webpage about my view from the street and became involved in the community and issues; found a place to reside and achieved a precarious financial balance.
Comfortable in my own skin I found that I could run for Abbotsford City Council, where once even the thought of doing that would have terrified the old ‘before’ me. That not getting elected, while frustrating because important issues were not getting addressed, did not defeat or crush me.
I believe that the business and finances of Abbotsford need to be run responsibly, prudently, professionally; with solid planning and budgeting to ensure the city has a sound and sustainable financial foundation.
I believe in responsibility, not in excuses; in doing the right thing even when painful; in delivering, not in grandiose false promises; that if it is happening in Abbotsford council is responsible for seeing an issue is addressed, not in pointing fingers at other levels of government.
I believe that city council and government needs to deal fairly, with a level playing field for all citizens; that no person or group of persons should be ‘more equal’ than others.
Sitting on one’s posterior allows problems and issues to grow unmanageable and wastes the valuable commodity of time; repeating the same behaviour over and over as if this time the outcome will be different not only can be defined as insanity but it allows the problem and/or issue to worsen and wastes resources.
If you cannot think of a different approach, take a look at ways other municipalities and governments successfully addressed the issue; ask the residents of Abbotsford for ideas – as Linus Pauling said, the best way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas.
With people in the equation, the probability is that it is NOT going to be neat and tidy.
Sometimes you have to feel the fear and act anyway.
I believe in writing about issues; in using good ideas; that you do not TELL people how to behave, you SHOW people by the way you live and behave; in leaving Abbotsford in better shape than it was when you came into office.
Once again I will try to convince voters that Abbotsford needs solid financial understanding and actions; that Abbotsford needs a variety of backgrounds, understanding and lived experience on city council; Abbotsford needs responsible, rational decision making that takes into consideration the future and future consequences of actions.
That Abbotsford cannot afford the outcomes and consequences that were a result of the decisions, actions and behaviours of the current [and recent past] mayors and councillors; that a change in mayor and councillors is a must.
I will ask that voters to allow me to actively participate in bring about the needed changes by electing me to Abbotsford City Council.
A few background facts:
I was raised and went to school in Georgetown Ontario, a community a little north and west of Toronto; attending Holy Cross Separate School and Georgetown District High School.
After graduating from Grade 13 I went to the University of Waterloo to study Mathematics, then moved to Saskatoon to study Commerce at the University of Saskatchewan. I chose the U of S because of the excellence of its reputation for Accounting, although when my father told me an old, good friend of his was the Dean of the College of Commerce at that time I took it as a positive sign it was a good choice.
I articled with Coopers & Lybrand in Saskatoon, wrote and passed the Uniform Final Exam earning the right to use the designation Chartered Accountant.
At the time Fate sent my life off into strange and unfamiliar territory I had 25 years of progressively challenging business experience.
Those 25 years and my experience with mental illness and homelessness result in me viewing and analyzing life and events from a unique point of view.
The best gift my parents ever gave me is a love of reading; a love that has saved and benefited me in a number of ways; a love that led to my passion for science fiction and fantasy and a collection of truly bad science fiction moves from the 1950’s and early 1960’s; a love that has left my home somewhat crowded as a result of having every science fiction and fantasy novel I have read.
I believe that if you live in a basement suite with children living upstairs it is unreasonable to expect QUIET; that if the jumping and playing for the children causes your ceiling light fixture to flicker – go to a thrift store, buy a floor lamp and don’t use the ceiling fixture. It is the job of children to play and be noisy; it is the responsibility of adults to encourage them to play, explore, learn, grow……..and be noisy.
While I enjoy people who know me, have read my words or have had someone tell them about me telling me that they will vote for me for Abbotsford City Council, I still am surprised; hopefully a good sign that my ego, while admittedly healthy, will not drive my decisions and behaviour if elected to council.
I was born in Canada; I am a Canadian citizen; most importantly – I AM CANADIAN.
Several hundreds of thousands of my words and thoughts can be found at www.jameswbreckenridge.ca
James W Breckenridge
dedicated to nonconformity and creative maladjustment