A Discovery of Selves

Ellis selfie

My name is Ellis Obi-wan Hotomani.

It is a name of my own choosing.

I am clever. I am caring. I am compassionate. I am silly. I am irreverant. I am also sad a lot.

I was born in Calgary in 1974, in the old General Hospital in Bridgeland, which was demolished some time ago. I always suspected that I broke the mold when I was born there. I also suspect that I am mistaken about that.

I am an indigenous first nations person, from the Carry the Kettle first nations reserve, in Saskatchewan. I have never lived on my reserve, however. I know that it would have changed a great number of things about myself and I often wonder about that.

Both of my parents are Residential School survivors. Their experiences changed them fundamentally. Intergenerational Trauma tends to pass from one generation to the next, as the name describes. As such, I am also a survivor of that trauma.

As a child, experiencing those inherited traumas, I did not understand them. I just assumed that it was a part of life. People can survive in nearly any environment, it is a strength of our species.

I grew up under these stressors, not even aware of them, yet affected by them nonetheless. I grew up without Hope. I saw it in others as they planned for the future, but never saw it in myself. I could barely conceive of what layed beyond tomorrow, much less plan for it.

I was reckless, heedless even. I had pain that I needed to bury. Alcohol became my friend. All too soon, all I did was work and drink.

I was lonely as well. I was painfully shy, afraid to reach out to someone, equally afraid of what might happen if my affections were returned. I was determined to be unloved.

But I was also clever. I always wanted to understand things, even if I never turned that towards myself. I indirectly learned about myself through several college courses studying native history, which would come in handy later.

My self-loathing was on the rise. I was running towards a dark end, and I knew it. I had no hope. But change happened.

I discovered role-playing games.

Tabletop rpgs. Sitting at a table with a group of friends, working together, solving problems and having fun. All without drinking. I suddenly found a group of people to socialize with without alcohol. I am now a gamer, loud and proud.

More importanly, I discovered Hope. I discovered that I could effect change in my life with nothing more than will and determination. It was lifechanging.

I wanted to learn more about myself and my people. I knew so little about them. I was culturally disconnected. It is an unusual concept. How does one not know where one is from? How many people can say that they know nothing about their people or where they are from?

This is what the residential schools intended. To create an entire group of people with no idea where they are from, where they belong. To my shame, I am a success story.

I try now to learn. I have spoken to elders. I try to connect. I am from two worlds, and to this day, feel that I belong to neither. I have tried to heal, to move past my trauma, and be a better person. I struggle daily against my depression, using medication and psychological training to help me.

I write to express myself and document my journey. I am happier now then I have been in my entire life. I have love, and am now loved in turn.

2 thoughts on “A Discovery of Selves

  1. I think as we get older, we question more and more why we are the person we are today. I was so thoroughly absorbed into the dysfunction of my immediate family for so long, that finally breaking free brought back a flood of suppressed memories. And they were suppressed for a reason, I’ve now come to realize. But like you, I’m endlessly curious and need to know what past history affected my current life so deeply today. I realized a few years back that I know now which people in my life embody true family love… my husband and daughter, niece and nephew… they all experienced the same family dysfunctions along side me, while experiencing many of their own personal sides to the broken family story. They are the ones I hold close to my heart now. No matter how my life has evolved over the years, I’ve always stuck with my personal mandate of “you cannot turn back the clock… every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every month, of every year… has shaped me into the person sitting here today. You just need to keep moving forward, see the good… be the good… and pass the good onto those you meet in life.” And stay endlessly curious about everything!

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  2. Thank you for your thoughtful words, Ellis & for shedding a little bit of light on your darkness. I can relate to much of what you wrote. I too have often felt lost in this world, experienced a split within myself, felt disconnected from family & friends & the world in general. And disconnected from life itself. I spent much of my life running away from myself & avoiding looking within to see & figure out who I am. I’m still not quite sure who I am. I tried different belief systems & religions, including Native Spirituality (which resonated the most with me) but nothing truly fit because I was looking outside myself. Eventually, I found Alanon as I am the child of an alcoholic father so there is some generational trauma in my family, too. But I am a white man & part of the dominant society so I had much in the way of educational, work & financial opportunities. But I also had a dark side to my inner self & I am predominantly an introvert & I struggled with bipolar for 30 plus years. Alanon gave me an anchor, some inner awareness, a spiritual path & some healing. I live by the Serenity prayer & I do my best to live in the moment. But I still prefer to isolate myself somewhat although that is so much better than it used to be when I would frequently get depressed. In any case, I can relate to your story & I thank you for putting it “out there” & for sharing & posting your story. And I am so glad that you & Tamara met!!

    Liked by 1 person

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