#083 – “The system never had any room for me” – Jean-Luc Martel

#083 – “The system never had any room for me” – Jean-Luc Martel

Jean-Luc Martel introduces himself well.

“That’s Jean-Luc, like Captain Picard for you Star Trek fans out there. I’ve got Asperger’s, I’ve had all my life. That’s the way it works, people.”

“I very happily describe myself as a lifelong rebel because the system never had any room for me.”

This week on the podcast, Jean-Luc shares his experiences with a broken educational system. Even in programs designed for individuals with disabilities, Jean-Luc found that so often there was not an appropriate understanding of how lived experiences and vulnerabilities shaped how he and his peers encountered the system.

Hearing his story first-hand was a good reminder that even when we think we’re designing inclusive education programs, we have to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all for people.

Jean-Luc says what helps him is trusting his own instincts. “I was smart enough to realize when a situation was toxic and unfavorable…You need to know when your body…is literally screaming at you, that you need to get out.”

He credits this, and the support of his “Darth Vader Squadron”, including his mom and other family and friends, with helping him continue to challenge the system.

You can listen to this podcast episode on iTunes or Spotify.

Transcript

Genia:
Welcome to the Good Things in Life podcast. I’m Genia Stephen. Today we are covering a topic that we don’t cover all that often. You know, a few episodes ago, we did talk about college programs that are accepting and supporting adults with disabilities to attend university and colleges in the States. And today I’m speaking with Jean-Luc Martel, a Canadian from my province of Ontario. He’s 30 and his experience, we’re going to be talking about his experiences in the adult education system. Jean-Luc thank you so much for joining me today. And I’m glad to have you on the show.

Jean-Luc:
I’m really thrilled, really thrilled. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for somebody like me. It really is.

Genia:
Well, thank you. And let’s, let’s just back it up a little bit. So you reached out to me because you had you know, listened to some of the podcast episodes and you really felt like the experience in the adult system was a conversation worth having for listeners. And I wonder if you could start by introducing yourself and talking about why you think this is so important, this conversation is so important?

Jean-Luc:
Alright. Well, my name is Jean-Luc Martel. That’s Jean-Luc, like captain Picard for you Star Trek fans out there. I’ve got Asperger’s, I’ve had all my life. That’s the way it works people. And I’m 30 years old. I am a resident, as she pointed out, of Canada, Ontario, and I live in the city of Hamilton. And yeah, well, here’s the thing with adult education or rather education for adults with disabilities. Now, there really isn’t any, in terms of like, accessibility’s, I mean, as anybody who watches, listens to this podcast knows, or anyone who’s been through the system knows it’s already pretty God awful to begin with, but as soon as you throw in, you know, you’ve got Asperger’s, therefore, your ability, your disability. I don’t consider it a disability, first of all, but they do.

Jean-Luc:
That’s what matters is that it’s invisible. It’s not something that can identify on your face, you know, you don’t have a huge physical issue or whatever, you know, so that immediately puts you in an extremely uncomfortable position because everybody just assumes that it’s attitude. That’s a lot of what I get. It’s like every, and I do mean like everybody I’ll other parents, teachers other students, although I found that I actually am rather well-liked by law students, but that’s, you know but you know, the point is that people would Asperger’s they there’s, there’s a huge number. Like there’s no such thing as one Asperger’s like every single person I’ve met, they’re completely different from the children. They’re like cats, you know, like all dogs tend to be kind of, you know, similar in a lot of ways, but, you know, cats are completely individualistic.

Jean-Luc:
We’re like cats basically, you know? And we’re well, one thing, a lot of people that Asperger’s do have in common that we all have them come well, very smart. We’re a very focus on one, two, or some very rarely three or more areas of very specific interests, very specific, very focused, very hard to get us out of that type of thing once we’re stuck in it. Another thing that we all have in common is that, like I said, it’s “invisible”. So it’s not something you can tell to look in their faces which is one of the big problems that leads to love discrimination. And so for example,

Genia:
May I ask a few question about that?

Jean-Luc:
Yeah, sure. Go ahead.

Genia:
May I ask you a question about that? So, so prior to graduating from high school you know, we’re, we are going to focus this conversation on, on, you know, your experiences in adult education, but I’m interested in your backstory a little bit, you know, you’ve talked about far being invisible. You know, it’s not, it’s not on your face or, you know, easily identifiable when you first meet somebody and, but you are really you’re really focused on your ex your experiences in the adult system, but I’m curious about how that was different or better in the earlier education system for you. And I wonder if you could just tell me a bit about that story.

Jean-Luc:
Yeah, well, yeah, I’m sure. Yeah. I mean, backstories are important. So like so I’ve liked like everybody else in that lives in Ontario, I’ve been through the whole Grindr. That is our “system”. And my experience has, I would imagine that a lot of people would be sympathetic with this point of view is that it’s essentially designed to grind somebody down to the point. It’s like a traditional warfare it’s designed to grind you down and grind you down and grind you down until there’s nothing left. Well, there’s the analyst layer. I mean, I could, there’s a huge list, but a top things that come to mind are the endless layers of bureaucracy that just go around the lack of centralized care, the lack of centralized services. I mean, nothing centralized that’s when the big problems, there’s no like one place in every city where you can go to where everybody’s just there, you know, they’re all spread out across the whole freaking city, you know?

Jean-Luc:
There’s, you know, there’s so that’s, there’s a lot of when you’re, especially when you’re dealing with Asperger’s or autism in general, it’s like, you know, there’s a lot of specialists, people that get sent to, and a lot of the time, those people are in completely different cities. So you have to, so you really have to go out of your way just to get to these people. And I’ve my experience with that has been, and my mom’s experience with that and has been at most of the time, they’re not very helpful. In fact, more often than not, they were very unhelpful and on some cases, quite aggressive, just plain nasty people. Well, it’s been a while since I’ve had any of those encounters. So, but like for example, I should know which is is a hospital open mountain that I went there, like when I was very, very young like I was in my early teens at that point.

Jean-Luc:
And the doctor there literally was like, Oh, you just attention seeker? That, that was his take, right? Yeah. And like, you know, it was a lot, actually, it was much more nasty about that, but that was just, he did not, he didn’t want to give me the money. Me, my mom or my dad and time is what it came down to. And you get that a lot. You really do get that a lot. And now I don’t know if it’s something that only people would like to have a whole invisible thing go through. But I would imagine not, but I would imagine I would also imagine based on my, yeah, I would imagine that based on my personal experience and experience with my mom and seeing her suffer, you know, and being completely isolated. Cause we one of the things now, a lot of people aren’t able to understand is when you don’t have a family, I don’t have a huge extended family.

Jean-Luc:
It’s been me, my mum, my dad, who’s no longer around. And by that, I mean, we got rid of him cause he wasn’t a good dad. Simple as that. We’ve got a better dad and Armenian and Armenian a Turkish-born Armenian. It’s a really great guy. And yeah, so that’s a whole other story that I want the two massive improvement because adopt each other in a way. Yeah. So, but yeah, like so huge sorts of like if you don’t have a fan, a lot, people just don’t understand how difficult is not a family. Right. If you don’t have a family, you’ve got nobody to fall back on because the system is going to help you. And if this system is going to help you and you don’t have family, it’s just you and your mom, you know? Yep. Absolutely. So

Genia:
Jean-Luc, you did was any part of your, you’ve talked about the system and the bureaucracy and the, and the specialists. And I hear you, I think your story is important but certainly not unique. Like I think many of us can relate to that. Was there any part of your educational experience prior to high school graduation positive?

Jean-Luc:
To be honest me, not really, you know part of that, part of the reason for that would be, sorry, I’m just looking, I’m just getting to a place it’s got some better lighting. Part of the reason for that would be well, to put it bluntly, is that I was a lot more, I was a lot more of a wild child at the time. And some things have sort of, kind of improved since then. Like for example, the com person that you’re hearing right now was a lot more, I mean, well, I was young, younger first starters. So obviously there’s that, but you know, at the same time I’m in, you know, I’m all at the same time. And I see that all the issues with youth compounded all the issues of the crappy system nail compounded with black, like not having a family and I as an individual, I have, I’ve improved a lot like I, but I’ve had to do almost entirely on my own. I’ve had very little, I’ve had next. I’ve been very lucky individually that I’ve had to a lot of really lucky and fortunate runnings with, with real role models because that’s one thing I really lacked in the school system. There are very few positive role model. At least for me, there were very few positive role models in the education system. They didn’t exist.

Genia:
Oh, sorry. I think I just cut you off there. I didn’t mean to correct. I was, I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how positive role models have affected you, although like how they’ve positively impacted you. Although I’m curious about the time in your life. Like I was going to ask you when you were graduating from high school, like, what were your hopes and dreams about what was coming up for you? Because I think that’s important and understanding, you know, like you went to try to at all the education and it was not a good experience for you. So I want to just help myself and listeners to get a sense of what were your dreams like? What were you hoping for, not for school, but for your life?

Jean-Luc:
Well yeah, the irony of hoping for a life period when you’re an adult with a even w w even with extremely high functioning levels of Asperger’s, which I happen to have, fortunately, I am, I, I’m more than willing to, and happy to admit that I have definitely got the most, I have gotten most of the good from the iceberg, like the Hine toll gyms, that sort of thing, and fairly little of the, that the really heavy stuff that can come along with it. Like, you know, social basically completely social, very awkward, you know, for example, that’s something I also struggled with for a long time, but I think that was more the environment and not, and, you know, not the Asperger’s as well, cause they just listen to me now. Right. I was constantly flying off the handle because I was an extremely stressful environment, extremely unforgiving unforgiven, constantly being bullied, constant, being harassed, you know?

Jean-Luc:
And, and the one thing that I have to really make clear is that most of the bullying and harassments did not come from students. It came from the system, it came from the teachers, I was mercilessly, bullied and harangued, and just, you know, fobbed off. They didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I was a pain in the ass, a nuisance, the problem child, you know, all the stereotypes, you know, essentially, you know, they decide five seconds after you walk into classroom, they just write you off and that’s it you’re screwed. You know? So, yeah, that was a, so what I hope for that in to answer the question, what I hope for in after high school was that I wouldn’t have to keep going through that same cycle and well, cause I was told that, you know, the grass is truly greater on the other side, you know, and of course when I got there, you know, at least for a few months it was greener.

Jean-Luc:
But then because I noticed stuff, I started noticing stuff like I always do. And quickly began apparent to me that not only had nothing really changed that much, but it seemed that most of the same problems were very much there. The you know, the complete lack of accessibility, the complete lack of any sort of common, you know, there was no plan evidenced and Mohawk college in particular, like just the design and layout of the actual building is nightmarish. Like it looks like a three year, a bunch of three-year-olds with legal and connects and stuff got together. And basically just threw down some random building plans.

Jean-Luc:
I’m pretty sure most two-year-olds could do a better job. There isn’t a single spring line in the entire building that goes farther than 10 meters. There’s staircases all sorts of weird places that shouldn’t be there. There’s no ramp. There are very few, if any ramps, and the ones that they do have are very badly designed. Like they’ve literally because these stupid rails that are seemingly designed purely to trap people’s like they got changed or whatever. I actually saw a guy almost faceplant because his King got trapped in these bizarre vertical supports for the rail because instead of anchoring it to the wall, they anchored it to the floor. So it’s like literally designed to catch the cane or whatever your mobility, this distance device is. And I literally had to hold a guy cause he was going to go face. He’s going to face plant.

Jean-Luc:
That was last year. So just to give you an idea of how badly physically designed now, now add the normal. So that’s just the physical problem right now. And then you get into like the HR problems and, you know, the I mean, like I won’t I did meet some pretty good people there. I will not lie, but those people were people who were working in a broken system that simply did not want to be working, you know I’m going to do some shows, but you know, and that Sims, gorgeous, beautiful a woman, a great teacher you know I’ve stayed in contact with her while she was at Mohawk. Yeah, I got I got backtrack. So at Mohawk, when I went into Mohawk, I went into this thing called CAC, which is community integration through cooperative education.

Jean-Luc:
I think it’s what it stands for. It’s very much, it’s hard to remember. Yeah, it’s hard to remember, but and essentially the program was, it was supposed to be like a school within the school. So essentially the way I viewed it as at least until I started seeing the many, many problems with it was that essentially it was like people that have been through the hell of, of the, of the posts of the secondary and elementary school system. This is kind of like rehab for them. It shows them that, yes, there’s actually a place you can go to that safe that will treat you like crap from the, from the word go. And at least for the few, first few months, it actually lived up to that. But then I started having conflicts with some of the let’s, shall we say personalities that around the place? And yeah, it’s a, there was a, there was an extreme, there was an extremely bad fallout at, especially at the end. I was a budding into more and more people had that, had that quite frankly, had no business being anywhere near a normal school, “normal students”, nevermind ones who were, you know, who were much more psychologically vulnerable.

Genia:
Okay. I just want to ask a couple clarifying questions if that’s okay. So what were you studying?

Jean-Luc:
Well, seriously he was a unique program in that it wasn’t so much, it was designed to give you a much more, it was designed as a slow intro. So it didn’t just pause and deepen and let you sink or swim. Which was probably the only redeeming feature about it. Now that I think about it. So like, you know, it seems like a good idea and it was, it wouldn’t have been a good idea if they’d had the system that was behind a good idea.

Genia:
What, what, what were you supposed to be learning?

Jean-Luc:
Well, what, the stuff that we were taught was a lot of, it was basically like, you know, stuff that would help you out with like practical stuff, like you know, basic computer skills stuff that would help, you know, like in real life and it works and stuff, they don’t teach you in high school, for example. So a lot of it was very much, it was practical. It was helping people that didn’t have any, but essentially life skills you’ll get life skills, stuff that they could apply in real life. Cause I found out later that most that a lot of the students like men, some of them went into the, into Mohawk proper, like the post, the postsecondary, a lot of them, I probably say more, most of them did not. And the point of the program was to get you adjusted for what, whichever one, you were, what you were going to go for, whether you wanted to go out and just, you know, have a life or whether you wanted to go further into the education in the public, they post-education stuff. It’s complicated, but essentially that’s what it was. It was, it was, it was a bridge, it was supposed to be a bridge right across the problem. Wasn’t the bridge had a faulty design. Right.

Genia:
So you said that most of the people in the program probably didn’t end up in one of Mohawks, Mohawk, college’s general curriculum programs, where do you know where they did end up? Like if they transferred out of that program, what were they transferring into?

Jean-Luc:
I don’t, I didn’t know most of them particularly well, but I do, I, I do know that the vast majority of them would have probably just gone to like flipping burgers McDonald’s or I don’t know, but whatever, you know, their, their day jobs were, you know, essentially once they got the skills, one thing that the program did do well, I will, I have to admit was they did some very, they did some fantastic, at least for me, I heard a lot of contradictory stories from other students, but at least for me, there were some fantastical obstacles. So that was one of the things I think it was fairly unique that it did actually do well. I got hooked up with some truly unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that have done. I did very well by but that that’s pretty much that and that the general quality of many of the faculty, the teachers but that’s pretty much where the good ends and that’s where the system comes in and starts wrecking everything.

Jean-Luc:
Right. Can you tell me well one of the things I wanted to do, because I’ve been a lifelong, I’m a very happily described myself as a lifelong rebel because the system never had any room for me. So I had no choice, but to be a rebel, well, I wasn’t born, I wasn’t born wine to be a rebel, but this hasn’t been much of an option, you know? So so I was a rebel born into a pause kind of, you know, and so I want, so one of the things I’ve been very passionate about more and more over the last 10 or so years as venue on the politics of the way of systems, what works, what doesn’t, you know, and why Canada and specific seems to be so contradictory and so broken. And, you know, we’re, we’re very good at telling ourselves in Canada. I have to say that we’re very good at telling ourselves that we’re better than those guys across the border and bottles were, of course, I mean the United States, but in a lot of ways, we’re just, we’re, we’re, we’re, we’re diluting ourselves very much in many ways. We’re very good at play-acting that we’re better, but we’re not a lot of ways.

Jean-Luc:
Yeah, exactly. You know, and we just look at, if you just look at like some of this stuff, our PM’s gotten, so gotten, gotten caught up in you, it’s just like, yeah. Yeah, yeah. So tell me about your co-op placements. Well, so the first one, the first one, and the one that I did the best buy was with a guy called Ken stone. And I highly recommend you look this guy up because he is a, he’s a lifelong human rights activist. And unlike a lot of the so-called human rights activists, this guy did not allow his cause to get hijacked or, you know, or go down some, you know, political you know, blind alley or whatever. Cause a lot of these things are these. They, they start off with good intentions, but they get hijacked. And that’s one of the things that I learned from him was that a lot of these things it’s kind of like union, so they start off with good intentions, but then it becomes more about the bureaucracy and not about, you know, doing the job that they’re supposed to do, which is to protect the workers, you know?

Jean-Luc:
And so like he’s very much, and he’s also a very multifaceted, so it doesn’t just, you know, focus narrowly on one specific area. Like basically whatever, there is a human rights issue, he will get into it. And, but he’s, so he’s very much like a multinational as opposed to just focusing very narrowly on one specific thing. So he’s in indigenous rights, he’s in, you know, he helped me out personally, like a lot. He was very much he helped me in like I’ve got an ongoing dispute with Mohawk. And he helped me out very personally, a lot with that. So he was an advocate for me and he taught me, let’s just say that he taught me a lot of stuff that will that’s, that’s been very useful to me. And he’s, we’ve remained friends. He really got me into, I had a PA I want to be a journalist.

Jean-Luc:
And ironically enough in a system that had no world of journalism journalists and basically collapsed. And of course, I wanted to do the one thing that nobody else was doing, which was looking at the small issues in Canada, you know, the things that get ignored by the law, by the big corporate media. And that’s one of the things I wanted to do. Like my, the way I explained to them was like, there are all these small, local things that are basically being ignored. Like I don’t have to go to freaking random in certain name, random country here, you know, like this plane is literally right outside my front door. That’s just glossed over, you know, that’s the stuff I want to cover. Yeah.

Genia:
Yep. So you spent some time with Ken stone. So I did just Google him just while you were speaking there, just because I was curious and so Ken stone has been a leader of the anti-racist movement in Hamilton for, you know, 30 plus years and is involved in community coalition against racism. So is that the organization where you were doing your co-op placement?

Jean-Luc:
No. it was more one, but because the organizations, it was very, very small. They had a very much a shoestring budget. And yeah, so he was the, it’s actually the organization is the Hamilton coalition to stop the war. That’s what they call themselves. And they said that they, they started up about 30 odd years ago. They started during the Bush administration and they never saw the need to change the name. Cause the war never really ended. Right. Got it. Just cut. It just got handed on and handed down and handed down.

Genia:
That sounds like a really cool, like you said, once in a lifetime co-op opportunity. So then what, what happened? So, so you had some good experiences in so far as you had some really good instructors, good people, you know, doing a good job in a broken system, you had some good co-op opportunities. You felt when you first joined the program like it was going to be like a safe bridge to future college opportunities there. So what did you need that you didn’t get or what did you receive that was harmful or undermining of your success?

Jean-Luc:
Well, I may have made cell-like, it’s like it’s a love, roses, and sunshine, but unfortunately, like I said, they were the stuff that did happen. That was good. It was, it was isolated. It was just, I just happened to be thinking, I think I just have to be extraordinarily lucky. For example, I heard from a lot of other students that their co-ops were absolutely disastrous. I do know for example, the, one of the things that they did not do was they did not do due diligence on a lot of the co-ops and that’s when, and so like it didn’t like check out these people before sending emotionally vulnerable people to them. So a lot of the, you know, so like, fortunately, I’m very resilient, a lot of people that were at CIC work while they weren’t simple as that. And so, you know, that that caused a lot or there’s a lot of dissatisfaction that I did not pick up on until, you know, you’re, it’s a two-year program.

Jean-Luc:
So there a lot of stuff I did not pick up until roughly six months in. And that was like, so that would have been second term. And then I started noticing patterns that were repeating, you know, and one of the things that Asperger’s is you’ll notice stuff that nobody else notices without even trying a lot of the time and it can be annoying sometimes, but it’s, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be journalists. Cause I notice stuff that seems to fly around or, or just that’s the defining thing. I think that Asperger’s, we don’t have a, what I like to call the bullshit filter if you will, we were not able to put, we’re not able to hide reality from ourselves or at least I’m not. And so, so like for example, there were other people, there were at least two or three other students at CAC that had clearly had high functioning Asperger’s.

Jean-Luc:
And I really enjoyed being them cause you know, there’s nothing like being around people who are like, you know you know, because, you know, it’s kind of like, you know, it’s nice to know you’re not the only one. No. Yeah. And so yeah, and off and yeah, so I had some good experiences aside the but the system, everything that was underneath, all of that was as corrupt and broken as you would probably expect from a place in a building that badly designed. And yeah. It turned out that the glorious leader of the program was a very much somebody who was in it for the career and not for, because they wanted to do their job, you know, there.

Genia:
So how did that show up for the students?

Jean-Luc:
Well I personally, I can tell you what happened to me first and what happened. The person was fine. I had some extremely, well, let me put it this way. Okay. I was called into your office one time and I was basically dragged out in the coals on the coals for something I knew full well, I had not done. I knew exactly where we’re coming from. This is where I knew exactly what, who, what, and where had gone had happened. I knew who would report this. I knew it was complete nonsense. It was essentially, it was about because one of the things they did was they, they, they had a they had, they called them electives and what they liked is where they were they were, they would try it. They were, they were, they would have, you essentially attend a regular college course, you know, and you could choose other go full in or, you know, would be like a kind of an observer to basically dip your feet, your toes. Right.

Jean-Luc:
Yeah, exactly. And so I thought that was a really clever thing problem was that it was sabotage for me personally, I think for most of the other students by Eagles, by egotistical teachers and staff. And like I said, the system was broken. I personally had the first one I did, the first one I did was it wasn’t so I actually enjoyed the subject matter. It was I forget, I, ironically enough I’m forgetting what it was now, but it was Al it was a study of, of it was a study of media culture and misinformation. And that’s one of the things that I liked about the, talked about you’ll just information away. It’s been known. So throughout history, what to, like when you’re going through news, for example, what you look for to note, to tell how real the story is, or the sport, you know, how manufactured is. So

Genia:
Sounds like a great course for somebody who wants to be a journalist.

Jean-Luc:
Yeah. Now my cat jumping up on the keyboard yeah, here he is big black lug and Hey ropy. And so yeah, but, and I would, we would, each student knows enter these things. It would be sent with an aide from the program. And up until this point, I hadn’t had any serious problems. But literally, after my very, very first audit in class, did you put it, which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way, I stayed completely quiet, which is very rare for me because you have to be really good to keep my kid completely get my attention, but I knew that I couldn’t afford to screw this up. So I stayed quiet and I really enjoyed it. And so when I came back about two or three weeks later, completely nowhere which is often where these things work, you do something new that we were not and that something has, should, that you think was if it was such a big issue, they’d make you aware of it sooner or at the time.

Jean-Luc:
But once again, three weeks later, and I’m pulled into, into the office of the little principle, that’s a historical reference for anybody who gets that one. And she proceeded to drag me over the coals and they’re very public place where everybody could hear what was going on. I might add she, her office was in a small, tiny little cubicle amongst a bunch of other cubicles where all the other aides and teachers were, so everybody could hear what was going on. And there was no privacy. And she basically grilled me said that I had the idea. She said, she’d heard I’d been loud and disruptive and bunch of other nonsense, but those are the two main ones. And well, quite frankly, I hadn’t been, I may, I was very, like I said, I was very conscious of the fact that I did not want to screw this thing up from, you know, my soul, you know, and here I am three weeks later being told I did the exact opposite of what I know I didn’t do.

Jean-Luc:
And she was very aggressive about it. And I was like, I was being interrogated. It was as simple, I was being told I had done something wrong and you’re going to shut up. Well, I interrogate you and regular, the Cole’s new, very small confined space that gives you no breathing room. And, you know, it was an extremely hostile encounter. And like I said, it wasn’t even a private place. Like everybody can hear what was going on. You know, there were people literally right across the cubicle from me, very small space. So, you know, like this, I like that. That’s the point where I realized, wow, this woman clearly has no idea how to deal with this kind of thing. You know, she immediately went on the attack. I was not given the opportunity to, to, to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to UN a new used some court speak here, but I was not given the opportunity to face my accuser. And I knew full well who the hell the accuser was. And I knew that, you know, that’s, besides the point, you know, I was being grilled for something I knew I had not done.

Genia:
Yeah. So what were the consequences?

Jean-Luc:
Well, the consequences were that I realized that everything I thought had been great up that point was about to be turned into a living hell and that six months of, of relatively smooth sailing, I just turned into, Oh my God, look, I’m back in high school all over again. And it put me back. It just completely emotionally devastated me. I mean, quite frankly, I almost left the program right then and there because yeah, I was like, wow, like this, this completely came out of nowhere. And all of a sudden, the woman who personally recommended me for this course is now growing me. It made no sense, you know? And then, and then w w and then I was basically officially credit card. And I started, fortunately for me, I had people outside the school system who were able to, who was able to call on reinforcements.

Jean-Luc:
I call them my heavier jewelry on all of them are women. I might add. It’s always good to have some strong, powerful woman who knows her stuff on your side. Yeah. And that’s one thing I’ve been, had a great, I have a great respect for it because, you know, I never had up until fairly recently. I never had a good father. It was my, it was my mother the whole time, just basically. Yeah. And so I’ve been born with I was raised with a very healthy respect for, you know, strong of female role models. And so, you know, so I’m, yeah, I’m a feminist and my mommy’s boy deal with it. People. Yeah.

Genia:
Like everybody should be like, everybody should be. So I just have a couple of questions about your experience. So what did you need the EA for? What kind of support did you need from the EA in order to attend that media class?

Jean-Luc:
Well, that’s the thing. I think they were mostly there. I think the idea was that they were supposed to be there to, you know, to help you feel more comfortable. Like I said, you know, to dip your toes in and they’re there to help, you know, and do some of the work or whatever, you know, keep you on track if you start going off. But, you know, Brittany from being overly disrupted, that sort of thing, and like, was any of those things, at least not in that first class. But, but point was that the guy, she said nothing to me, the whole class, and next thing I know I’m getting used to the luge. Like I said, I’m getting ready to go to the polls for, so, yeah. So I don’t know what the hell the guy thought his job was, but apparently, it was to spy on me and then report back a bunch of nonsense, which is kind of ironic. Considering the subject matter of the class was, you know, this, this information,

Genia:
Right. Totally. Yeah.

Jean-Luc:
No ironies and Rumpy get off the keyboard. And he’s my cat. And it’s just like, you know, whether you all happening, you know? And I so yeah, that was a very rude awakening to, Oh, well, crap I’m right back that, like I said, it could be right back in the, I’ll grab him back and I’m back in high school again, you know?

Genia:
So did you ever go back to that class

Jean-Luc:
Specific that specific yeah, I did because I enjoyed, I liked the teacher. She was very good. She was, she had a big auditorium, but she was able to completely command. Like she really got attention. She was clearly very passionate about. And I had to be honest, that is extremely rare quality. Most of the teachers I have met have been completely, they don’t come across people who care about the subject matter. They come across people who are doing their 20 years and just want to get on with it and pick up their pension a week. And that’s been my personal POV, at least.

Genia:
So you, so you went to the, you went back to the class and, and what happened after that?

Jean-Luc:
To me, she didn’t have any problems with me. So, you know, like the fact is that she did not have any problems with me. I had no problems with her. So, you know, all of, all of the issues were coming our way, sonically enough from CAC. Great. Like why, you know, and this has been this, this exact same pattern has repeated itself throughout my life. The people who are there to “help you” are usually the ones who will sabotage you and I’m like, and by help you out, I mean, they’re self-acclaimed and not people that you just meet, you know, like, like organic. Yeah, yeah. Then the service providers are almost every single time without fail. They will say, they’re there to help you. And then they will do everything in their power to make your life difficult. If you don’t conform to their specific vision of how you should behave or be basically they want to force you into a box.

Jean-Luc:
And if you don’t conform that ball cause seen over and over and over again, then you’re not welcomed and you can leave. And that’s exactly what I did more. I would have my headbutt with them. And that would be like, you know what? You guys are wanting to help me. You guys want a charity case. Well, I’m not going to be a charity case I’m leaving, you know? And yeah. I mean, as soon as basically, as soon as you have any idea, that’s contrary to what their idea is now that there’s no discussion, it’s just immediate right. Hammer meets wall compliance. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Genia:
I, it’s interesting because the two things that you’ve raised them make the same point to me, or like raise a really important point. When you talked about the other students that you spoke to many other students and their experience was that there was nobody making sure that their co-op placements were going to be safe, positive experience experiences, and that, you know, that recognition that we’re talking about vulnerable never been interrupted by a cat before on the podcast. That’s funny. I got to have a very cute, very cute, very cute. So that, you know, this idea of, of just recognizing that if you’re going to support people with disabilities or people with neurodiversity, you have to recognize that that’s going to come with some vulnerabilities. You know, that life experiences are going to create some vulnerabilities. And then your personal story, you know, when you were saying you know, she, she was raking you over the calls and it was like immediately, like you were right back in high school, you know, again, that’s another example of like, not really considering how people’s life experiences create, you know, wounds and tenderness and vulnerabilities that need to be

Jean-Luc:
Yeah, exactly. And I’m not afraid to admit that I had an almost complete emotional breakdown. Right. Then there I was so furious and angry and I was just, I felt like I had been completely betrayed because that’s what it was. It was a betrayal, everything that I had been promised, I’ve been told, you know what? It’s going to be better this time. It’s going to be different. And lo and behold for the umpteenth millionth time, I find out surprise, no, it doesn’t get better. In fact, it only gets worse, you know, and quite frankly, I have learned that the only way to stay stain as an adult, but with any kind of disability, especially if you’re a smart adult with a disability, that’s when you really get in trouble a lot. The one there’s only one thing, they, they, they, they dislike more than a charity.

Jean-Luc:
They, they love this may, this may sound rude and blunt, but it’s true. They love the “charity cases”. The people who have this very severe, very obvious, still physical issues. In other words, people that can talk back and defend themselves that can provide their own input, you know, but as soon as they deal with somebody, who’s actually, you know, who’s “intelligent”. And by intelligent, I mean, in this version by, by intelligent, I mean, they actually are capable of standing up for themselves, you know, not necessarily literally, but you know, they’re capable of speaking their own piece. Then as soon as that happens, they want you gone. It’s that simple. They don’t, you’re like their, were, you instantly become worse and abuse. And that has been overwhelmingly. My repetitive experience has been that they do not want smart, intelligent people who can advocate for themselves because you always end up cause my mom and I always ended up having to call other people from outside because the people on the inside did not, well, rather the people on the inside it had all the power did not want to deal with me.

Genia:
Right. So I both agree with you, but take issue with your choice of dichotomies there as far as intelligence and charity cases. But I think your point

Jean-Luc:
And tells you what, I mean, you clarify, let me clarify by, by charity case. What I mean is, I mean it, and I mean, like, I know what it’s in derogatory, but I’m using it as that. That’s, that’s how they view I get, I tell them

Genia:
I get it. I think that though, so what I do agree with is that people who are easy to support because they don’t make things difficult for people get treated a lot better than people who are harder support, harder to support because either they stand up for themselves or in some other reason or some other capacity make the experience difficult for the supporter. And I think that that is that’s, it’s not just your opinion or my opinion. That’s born out by data and research. And, and so in that capacity, I totally agree with you. I totally agree with your point. Yeah. So Jean-Luc, as we.

Jean-Luc:
Yeah, and like

Genia:
Go ahead. Sorry.

Jean-Luc:
Oh, so yeah. Well, I just have to say that I have noticed a specific personality type that always seems to get to the leadership positions in these situations. And they’re almost always self-centered narcissistic social path types. Every single time I would peg them as one of those three or all three. And the one that COC was definitely, she was completely, you know, she was in it for herself. There’s no other way to put it. She was very much in it for herself and anybody that made her that, that made her actually have to do work for a living beyond the bureaucracy was like completely unwelcome. And after my class, after my first class, I had other ones too. But after that first one that was representative of pretty much how she could interact with anybody else. There’s, there’s a friend of mine who was also at COC who had went through far worse discrimination, even I did, which I didn’t think was possible.

Jean-Luc:
But she did her and her boyfriend were put through absolute hell. Like she said, literal segregated classes. I didn’t know that was a thing. But they’ve got, they’ve had, they’ve had a class action court a human rights thing going for like four years against Mohawk because they were put through absolute hell and she’ll. I talked to her recently and I was like for three hours, you know? And like, I couldn’t even, I mean, I’ve found a onetime. This is the level of care that was provided. I found her one time and she was literally crumbled in like people was walking right past. And this woman says, and she was right next to one of the classrooms and a bunch of people’s walks were pestering. There’s this crumpled ball of fabric, just like that look completely out of place. I’m like immediately, what the hell?

Jean-Luc:
You know? So I go over, unlike that, that does not belong the court. I’m like, I went over there and I’m like, and then I hear somebody crying. Like this ball of crippled fabric was a purse. There was like somebody who signed up, all right. And a bunch of people’s walk, right? Pastor it’s like been the level of houseless. Look like when you walk past somebody who literally symbols out of a, it’d be like, if you walk, if you stop, if you walk, just walk over, somebody died in the street. Yeah. It was that level of pure callousness. And I, instead of doing that, you know what I did, I stayed with her and I provided that, that, that, that, that kind of support that clearly nothing else when nobody was willing to provide, not, not even go to students like I skipped my class. I’m like this, clearly, she just has an intense emotional crisis. And she, I mean, this girl was completely abandoned, literally crumble up into a ball of unrecognizable in the middle of the corridor. I could not make this thing up if I tried.

Genia:
So, Sean, what do you think as we, as we wrap up here, what do you think is the most important thing that you want people to walk away from, from this, you know, listening to your story, the grammar of that sentence was terrible, but are you following me? What’s the most important takeaway that you want people to have?

Jean-Luc:
Well the thing that’s helped me the most, the only thing really that’s helped me at all really has been, was I failed. I had to face the fact that the system was not going to work for me. It was never going to work for me, certainly not in its current form. And that the sooner I accepted that fact and got myself removed myself from that system, the less of my life and Angie, I was going to waste. The other thing that’s really important is if you don’t have a support network outside the system, you’re screwed, you really need that support network. And fortunately for me, I had a loss relationships. Is that what you exactly. I, yeah. And I had some really heavy hitters. I called them. I called, I have a funny name for them. I call my desk log because it had just star Wars, reference, you know, Darth Vader’s personal squashes, jet squadron theaters. It’s there to start a story squad. And that’s what they’re called in Star Wars. They’re basically my people, I call them like when I really need to delay down, you know, basically, the law is like, you don’t screw with me. I’m not going to make myself you if you suit if you make yourself the thing that made a difference between me and everybody else was I did not make myself as an easy target for bullying or harassment

Genia:
And would have your back if you needed them. Yeah.

Jean-Luc:
And that was smart enough to realize when a situation was toxic and unfavorable and, you know, I listened to myself. I did not doubt my own instincts. I didn’t second. Guess myself, if a situation was bad, I knew it was bad. I would tell people like, dude, I’m not the only one noticing this, like, what’s up with this, you know? And I’m also something that you’re going to get a lot. But I certainly saw a lot of, with a lot of petty vindictive, little individuals who like, for example one of my favorite things was I would do something and nobody else would care about it. And then one petty, little dictator would come in and they would be like, you can’t do that. It’s against the rules. And I’ve been doing it literally for hours and nobody noticed, okay. Yeah. And I would be, and this, but this is what these were the LS, the lights, the age.

Jean-Luc:
So, you know what I was saying, this person, one of whom made it their personal mission to make my life hell on my head. Now what I would say this person, I would say, can you actually show me a rule book where it says that I’m sure you can’t produce, by the way, that’d be very smart ass. And my calendar I’d be like, show me the rule book that says, I can’t do this. I would say, give me something, give me something that’s more than because wheezing, because reasons doesn’t cut it for me. I’m like, no, give me the actual, give me a really good reason. Not just because you say, so, you know, you very much take the attitude with these people. Would that would the system, otherwise, they’re just going to shove you around because nine times out of 10, if somebody’s telling you, you can’t do something it’s exactly for that reason because they said so. Not because there’s an actual rule in place. It’s because they personally are a petty, little vindictive, little corporal to use a certain world war two reference now, and they will, and they want to just, you know, boss somebody around and they just decided that they’re going to make your life difficult for no reason.

Genia:
So Jean-Luc, let me ask you one more question. And then we, we need to wrap this up, but my question is what do you want now moving forward in your life?

Jean-Luc:
Well well right now well I had ironically enough right before the, a few, like literally three months before COVID I had been trying to work with Mohawk College. I really had tried to work with the system now, but it became obvious to me that no matter what I tried and there were good people. Sure. But this is someone is so broken. It didn’t matter how many good people or what a system was, something outside of work. And that was a real shame because in the last year there was a really good woman who came in and immediately started kicking ass left, right. And center. She was like, there was, I’d had a against the teacher. One of my other girl one of my those college courses and well put it this way.

Jean-Luc:
The school kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off, putting it off. And this woman comes in and she’s like, you know what? I’m just looking through this. And like, this has been held for a whole year. Like, what the hell is she? Immediately three weeks later it had been taken care of fire. So I immediately said, I liked this person. She’s badass. And I’m so, you know, you want to surround yourself with as many of those kinds of people, people who get shit done, like this woman walked right into the first time I met her. I’m like, I immediately got an oar of badass woman that gets stuff done. You know, that was my immediate first impression. And I hadn’t even said one word for it. And that was absolutely on the money. You gotta trust your instincts because if you don’t trust your instincts, then you’re going to get into lug bad situations for no good reason.

Jean-Luc:
You need to know when your body, when your body is literally screaming at you, that you need to get out. You need to get some distance. You need to get some breathing room, you need to do it. Or you will. I had a emotional, complete emotional collapse, like three months before COVID-19 hits. And I was still trying to very desperately trying to get into the journalism program. And I had all sorts of insane stuff was happening and it’s not worth going into, but it really showed me that it didn’t matter. The system simply wasn’t gonna work for me. And I literally just woke up one day like that one day. And I like when you realized that, you know what my body was like, I felt quite literally, like my body had been emptied out of all energy. I was completely dead. And then I call it my mom.

Jean-Luc:
I was like, mom, I feel literally dead. You know, like I couldn’t feel anything. And then I talked to some people, you know, the strong woman I talked about like Angela Heavey, seriously, amazing woman. And I was like, I made up my mind then and there, I talked to my mom and talked to people. I trusted. I was like, they’re all like, you know what? You’ve got to go. That’s what your body, that’s what your body’s telling you. You got like trust. You’re trusted now. And that’s so ugly three months before COVID came through whenever and everything shut down anyways. I’m probably one of the very few people who were laughing their heads off when Colbert came to it, because I was like, I was like, wow, all that bullshit you put me through and you get shut down by this big virus that comes through.

Jean-Luc:
And I’m like, you know, I’m like, and I was one of the people that saw COVID as potentially a good thing for the education system because now all of these systems that w that had basically been able to ignore all of these problems are forced to shut down. And that means one thing, people are going to actually have the time to think about what they’re going to put through, you know, because they’re no longer at school and no longer an espresso, you know I like to call it the pressure cooker environment. They’re no longer in that environment. So they can actually just take a step back, like, wow, like this system is so completely broken. It needs to change now. And a lot of stuff that’s happening now. Like when they’re talking about retraining, the kid, the students at school and September, there’s no indication that any supports are going to provide the third point and do anything to really, you know, make life any less stressful than it already is at school.

Jean-Luc:
And on top of that, they’re going to put the code in too. So, you know, so basically the same thing’s happening. And I’m really glad that that COVID cancer when did, because it sent a lot of pause, chip people died, but most of that has been exposing the huge flaws in the system. Like you can look at where people die. It’s mostly been due to lack of preparedness government and competence, mismatch, and mishandling of, well, pretty much everything, really like, you know, the longterm care facilities. My mom used to work in those places that the Roslyn and they got completely decimated by. So, you know, I’ve got a wider lens and something else I try to do is whenever I’m in a situation, a bad situation, and I’m advocating for myself, I’m not just advocate for myself. I’m advocating for everybody like me, who I know is in the exact same boat who can’t necessarily advocate for themselves.

Jean-Luc:
So I’m not just doing it for myself, I’m doing it for other people. So that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get on that. That’s absolutely vital because if you’re not just doing it for yourself, that’s really good moral booster. Cause, you know, and you know, and what’s one of the reasons why I was so keen to get on this podcast is because, you know, I want to give all those other people out there who don’t get to do this, a voice it’s like the system is so broken and is so completely broken. And it doesn’t seem like anything has been learned from Cobra. I was listening to one of your earlier podcast, we talked about, you know, how basically nothing really has been no supports provided during this crisis at all. You know, and I, quite frankly, I would have been more surprised if anything had been done. That’s my faith. I don’t have any faith. Yeah.

Genia:
Well, I want to, I have to say is there are some good things that have been happening, but lots of not good stuff as well, but I just want to highlight and thank you for coming on the podcast and telling your story, because you said you know, you’re really speaking a story that’s been experienced by many people and a sport, a story that not everybody can tell. And Jean-Luc, if people want to talk to you further or follow up with you, how would people find you?

Jean-Luc:
Well, there’s my, there’s my email heavenly777protector@gmail.com. Yes. Thank you. It’s amazing email. I’m also on Twitter. I’m on Twitter, under my real name. I’m like, I’m probably like the only person on Twitter who’s under my actual name.

Genia:
I under my real name. You and I.

Jean-Luc:
Yeah. So Jean-Luc Martel, I’m going to actually look at my actual Twitter thing just in case I didn’t want to get people bad info here. I don’t want to get people bad info here. So yeah.

Genia:
Go ahead.

Jean-Luc:
And sign off at Twitter, on Twitter at heavenly77pro. So just if you’re on Twitter, just type in Jean-Luc Martel. My Twitter handle is at heavenly77protector. So like my actual email address is also my Twitter handle. So so yeah, that’s H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y-777protector. So that’s both at gmail.com and

Genia:
Okay. And I’ll make sure that those links and that contact information is in the show notes. Jean-Luc, thank you

Jean-Luc:
I also got a Tumblr. Okay. I’ve also got a Tumblr. Yeah. So I’m going to just make, get, get that, pull it up. Oh yeah. Positive personally. Some on Tumblr at jlmramblings where I post just kind of just random stuff, but yeah. It’s so yeah. Start the recording again. Yeah. So yeah. I’m also on Twitter at jlmramblings. So that’s my Twitter,not my Twitter, my Tumblr. Yeah that’s my Tumblr. And, and, and because I’m not finished yet folks, I’m also on, I’m also on DeviantArt, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a, it’s an artist website. I’m also on DeviantArt under my real name again. And I’m also on Facebook.

Genia:
Awesome.

Jean-Luc:
Also under my real name. So Jean-Luc Martel, just look me up on Facebook.

Genia:
Sorry, Jean-Luc. We’re going to make sure that all of those links are included in the show notes so that if people want to reach out and talk to you further, then we’ll make sure that they all work in the show notes and there’s no, no mistakes there so that you can connect with people, showing them again. Yeah, it’s a lot to remember if you’re listening, but we’ll make sure that people have access to it. Thank you so much for telling your story. I hope that we stay connected. And I just am very grateful for your time and your experience and your advocacy on behalf of

Jean-Luc:
I’m, I’m plenty grateful for your, for you as well. I mean, like, you know, I mean, I’ve, this is my second, not my first, my second interview. And I, I see, we should do another podcast like it’s the first one. You can just really interesting that, that the story about how that happened, but suffice to say involved my mum, my mum finds stuff.

Genia:
Cool.

Jean-Luc:
She finds stuff.

Genia:
Well, Jean-Luc, have a wonderful, wonderful afternoon and we will talk soon.

Jean-Luc:
Alright.

Thanks for Listening!

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Special thanks to JEAN-LUC MARTEL for joining me this week. Until next time!

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