Note from Admin:
Some time back, I conducted an interview for a “What’s Your Story” piece with an old friend that I have known for over 25 years. I originally wrote the piece alternating between his quotes and my takes on what he was speaking on. It just never felt right as I wrote it, and it didn’t read right to him as he read it back.
After a couple of rewrites, and further conversation, he broached the idea of writing it on his own, with me adding what I wanted to after he had finished. That felt so right to me. I’ve known him to be fantastic at being able to create a written scene, so much so that I’ve had zero issues with visualizing in my mind what he can build through words. When you have someone with that skill set, the best solution is to put the ego down and just get out of his goddamn way. I am glad that I did that, as you will see below.
Other than this introduction, I feel like I should continue to let his words stand on their own. It’s ultimately his story and I don’t desire to pull a Michael Scott and turn it into something about me. There is plenty on here that is about me, and there will continue to be in the days ahead.
In the process of this piece coming to life, I extended an invitation to him to become a contributor to Beacon Road in the future, as I wish to expand this part of the project to include a talent showcase, including other written pieces. I hope that works out.
And now, for your pleasure, Timothy Boilard, AKA “The Destroyer.” Thank you kindly my friend, was a pleasure collaborating again.
It could be asked of a person, “What one word describes you as a person.” My one word answer is clear and unequivocal. It’s a little frightening to some people, and even to myself, at times, and with good reason. But I didn’t ask to be who or what I am. I can embrace my life, myself, my role, my very nature, or I can live a life distanced from myself, with all the turmoil that will bring, only to come back home again anyways, eventually. The fact is …
I am a destroyer.
As much as we’d like it to be, or like to pretend it is when we know it’s not, life is not a safe place. It never has been, never will be, and perhaps was never meant to be. Whether we like it or not, life has its hazards. There are many things that can pose a hazard of one sort or other, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially, socially, or in any other way. The things that can endanger our well-being can be people, but also situations, our own habits, illnesses, injuries, or any other force or factor in life. When our well-being, or that of others, is threatened, it behooves us to take action to put an end to that threat. There are many ways this can be done, and most are not a literal and physical act of destruction (thank God). But whether the need of the moment be an act of true, physical self-defense or defense of others, or a metaphorical “destruction” of another sort of problem, there is no doubt in my mind, at all, that my existence can best be summed up in the word “destroyer” towards those things, and I’d be lying if I said I don’t deeply relish the role.
I don’t say I am a “destroyer” in the sense of “Conan The Destroyer,” a violent, uncontrollable thief whose purpose in life was to “crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women.” I use that word in a way that could be likened to a military vessel, a naval “destroyer,” possessed of sophisticated equipment to find hidden enemies in murky waters and reliably distinguish friend from foe. Captained and crewed by highly disciplined people able to make tough decisions under pressure, so as to fire unfailingly at an actual threat, and never a single shell even in the vague direction of a possible friend or bystander. And yes, loaded with the firepower to turn an actual enemy into a collection of scraps of twisted metal once it has been positively and reliably found and identified as an actual enemy. It is with this sense of discipline, self-control, and commitment to discernment between friends, bystanders, harmless situations, and threats, that I use this word to describe myself as “one who destroys.”
Life as a “destroyer” is inherently rough (duh!), but you also have the tools to weather it. When I was very young, one of the first lessons I learned in life was just how hazardous life can be. I faced literal, physical battles, constantly, with peers who had no real self-control or respect for others, and on a couple rare occasions even came close to death at their hands. In those moments, I learned just how important it is to be able to meet a threat head on if need be and stop it from doing its damage. When the situation is “succeed or suffer,” there is no room for wavering, hesitating, second guessing, holding back, or anything less than full commitment to overcome, no matter what it takes, nor any room for a lack of firepower to prevail. When the chips are all on the table, you play a strong hand, or you lose. So in this way, the first thing I learned as a “destroyer” is the necessity for firepower.
As time went on, once high school came around, I started to get physically stronger, and thus my “firepower” increased. I found very quickly at that time that once you have the firepower, you don’t really need to use it in full measure all the time. Once I had the big guns on the deck, I found that a warning shot across the bow was enough to back a potential enemy down, often enough. Sometimes even a verbal warning would suffice. But I also know from previous experience that without the firepower to sink the enemy ship to the bottom, you can warn, or plead, or do anything you want all you want, and you’re only going to get shelled and torpedoed. So, I did learn at that time that a “diplomatic solution” does depend on your potential enemy being aware that it’s in their best interests to negotiate, and your having the strength to make that a reality.
Moving through college and into the adult world, I found that the sorts of threats I would face now were much more metaphorical and non-physical. Things like job loss, lack of promotion at work, social issues, financial expenses, and everything else life can throw at you. I also began to work in education and mental health, and it was there that my true nature as a “destroyer” became clear to me. In that context, the “enemies” I was out to destroy were the problems that held my students and clients down, and my “weapons” were a growing variety of professional, therapeutic, and personally improvised techniques to address those problems. For examples of some of my students’ problems, I had a student that was constantly legitimately too exhausted to do anything but sleep through class all day. Another absolutely could not learn the simplest of mathematical concepts. Others couldn’t keep their business straight enough to know what the homework was (let alone finish it and turn it in), and others couldn’t control their own behavior in class no matter how hard they tried. I think any teacher might try to help a kid solve these problems, but for me, the specific mindset I was in when I went looking for a cause for these problems and remove it is, I was hunting for an “enemy” to destroy. Working in the unseen territory within that student’s brain, reading the signs to differentiate one problem from another, was like watching the sonar for that blip that would reveal an enemy submarine, and tailoring the response I’d make to the exact problem when it was found was like setting a depth charge to just the right depth to blow that sub into a heap of twisted steel. You had very little evidence to go on, and metaphorically, if you set the depth a little too high or low, you miss. I was not problem solving, or in any other such mindset. I was hunting my student’s “enemy” to destroy it.
As I already said, going through life with this sort of personality can be rough, and given the seemingly martial nature of it, that shouldn’t be a surprise. It also makes the lumps hurt, when they come, both to you and to other people. I’ve had times over the years I’ve fired at things that weren’t really threats, missed the target and hit bystanders I meant to protect, taken shells and torpedoes for battle damage and even gotten sunk to the bottom of the sea, more than once. But the defeats, the lessons, the mistakes, and the victories have taught discernment between real threats and imagined ones, and a very real lack of fear to face the next battle. But more than all, it’s instilled a deep sense of discipline and self-control at those critical times it’s really needed, and as for the mistakes and defeats along the way, the only battles I have any regrets about at all are the ones I chose not to fight, but should have.
If I have anything to share with other people about all this from the lessons I’ve learned in life, it’s that defense of self and of those you care about, from every threat that can come, is one of the most basic tenets not just of human existence, but of all life as we know it. Your willingness and ability to defend yourself from anything that threatens your well-being is what makes you alive, the very fundamental kernel that your existence not just as a human being, but as a living being of any sort at all, is built on. Every living being defends itself in some way, and nothing non-living does. If you hit a bear, it will maul you. If you hit a person, they will hit back. If you bite a plant, it might have poison if it doesn’t want to get bit there, or thorns, or who knows what. An amoeba will try to crawl away from harm. But when you hit a rock, it sits there. And you know all this. Self-defense is part of what it is to be alive. In this context, there are those who would discourage a person from defending themselves. What I’ve learned about them is, anyone who has your best interests at heart will encourage you to defend yourself from any threat, and those who discourage you about this, for one reason or another, do not have your best interests at heart. So, if anyone tries to discourage you in any way from standing up for yourself and defending yourself, in any way, physical or non-physical, then that person has identified themselves in so doing as exactly the sort of person you need to defend yourself against.
Being a “destroyer” is a work of love, ultimately. It’s not all about some constant malice towards “the enemy,” or an obnoxiously aggressive attitude. It’s a constant awareness of what is good in life, your own worth, the worth of others, and a willingness to go to the bottom of the sea if that’s what it takes to see us all through, because of your love for what you fight for. When I’m on the hunt for a threat to destroy, like working with my students, or even when I’ve been ready to go to literal physical battle for someone I care about, I’m not consumed with some hate towards “the enemy.” I’m never more aware than those rare, and honestly, precious moments, of the all-consuming love I have for whoever or whatever I’m in action to protect or serve, and it is that thought and feeling that has my undivided, focused attention. If the threat passes, and there’s no need to take out the threat after all, I’m glad that the subject of my service or protection is well without a fight.