I recently ruptured my Achilles tendon and tore my ankle ligament in what I would say was a desperate attempt at “self-care.” I got injured in a basketball game — playing basketball brings me peace, especially in my busy life — but while I was getting triple-teamed by the opposing players, I jumped and heard a snap. I was on the ground and my foot went numb.

Being a cis-gender male engulfed in toxic masculinity, I’ve always been convinced I must do it all. Before the injury, I worked 12–14 hour days, which consisted of my 9–5 job with the school board as an Intervention Support Worker, then my personal businesses as a Youth Coach providing academic and socio-emotional support to clients, and running a basketball skills training program. My days would start at 7:45 am and I wouldn’t get home until 11:00 pm. In addition to that — yes, in addition to that —I frequently weight trained and played in two competitive basketball leagues, subsequently making the “All Star” Class in both leagues. 

Things were going great! 

“There was already some underlying tension and unexpressed anger towards my chosen lifestyle.”

However, just a week before All-Star festivities and the Montreal trip I had planned with my partner, my body gave out on the basketball court. 

Before we go on with the story, did you notice when I mentioned the 12–14 hour days? None of this included any time spent with my long-term partner. So you can guess there was already some underlying tension and unexpressed anger towards my chosen lifestyle. One can only imagine the emotions when I made that phone call.

“Hey babe, are you still awake? Can you take me to the hospital right now?”

This is not what anyone wants to hear when they’ve been waiting for you to come home. Words cannot express the look my partner had on her face when we were in the emergency room. 

It took months for my body to heal, and during this time, there was a lot of critical self-reflection and countless conversations with my partner. My healing was delayed for the first month and a half, as I was misdiagnosed. It was first ruled as a high Achilles sprain and it was not until almost two months after that I was diagnosed with an Achilles rupture and a torn ankle ligament. This delayed my healing process and kept me immobile at home for the next six months, giving me time to sit and reflect.

“I was programmed at a very young age to believe that men are only conditionally loved.”

Why did I work 14-hour days, seven days a week? I was programmed at a very young age to believe that men are only conditionally loved — i.e., they are only loved if they can provide. My worth, I was told, was directly linked to how much money I made and how many things I could own. 

The sad reality is that this, to a degree, is the truth. Coming from an immigrant and low-income household in a high-priority neighborhood meant pre-existing barriers existed. I grew up surrounded by drugs and gang violence. I’ve since overcome these obstacles, becoming the first person in my family to attend university and graduate with a degree. 

My family always struggled with financial issues. And my father had few financial literacy skills and a gambling addiction. This left me with a bad relationship with money and perpetuated my fixed mindset and lacking mentality that I’ve been carrying until now. At a young age, I was told that because my father didn’t amount to anything, I wasn’t going to either.

I destroyed my body and put my happiness aside to create a life for my partner and me that would be farthest away from my upbringing. My resentment for my father and striving to never be in that similar position again inevitably kept putting me in the same situation: broke(n). Only now do I truly know what it means to change my lacking mindset in order to live in abundance. 

“I was simply chasing an illusion, chasing something I had already possessed.”

It’s taken me 30 years, but I can proudly say I forgive my father. I carried this resentment for many years, and the sad thing is, my father doesn’t even realize that he did anything. My lingering resentment perpetuated my financial demise despite my goals to avoid it. I absorbed his fixed and lacking mindset, not realizing that I am not the same person or in the same position. I now see he was an immigrant whose only job was to provide and survive. There was no ability to self-actualize and live beyond fight or flight. His mindset, whether I agree with it or not, allowed me to become who I am today.

I can self-actualize and freely decide what direction I want to take because of the basic necessities he was able to provide. I am now at a different stage where I can make decisions that don’t affect my immediate livelihood. I can afford to miss work because of my education and high-paying jobs. I lived in abundance already but could not see it. I was simply chasing an illusion, chasing something I had already possessed.

Phu H. Ta is a Toronto-based artist with a decade of experience in the Social Work Field, specializing in Mental Health & Wellbeing for At-Risk Youth. He is a proud owner of Your Honest Coach & Legacy Hoops Basketball League. Follow his journey on Instagram.