In 2006, I had a vague feeling of unease. I felt like something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I was playing poker professionally and making a good living, but I yearned for more. More fulfillment. More excitement. More purpose. More joy.
It’s been over half a decade since, and today I’m making a living doing what I love. I’m absolutely in love with the work I do and my life. But the journey there was filled with stumbling into pitfalls and getting shoved back by walls. That’s why this article is all about the mistakes I made during my path.
I ran my first kilometre when I was in Grade five. I hated it.
I was in Mr. Pawlak’s class that year. Mr Pawlak was the resident health nut at our school. He wore gym clothes when he taught us Math. It was 1981, right before the huge Adidas bag craze that hit in grade six in 1982. He wore Adidas short shorts – the ones with the white stripes down the sides – and he paired them with a tight striped polo t-shirt.
He created something he called the Health Hustle for gym class, which was essentially low impact aerobics set to music. Personally, I blamed this new daily physical torture on Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” album. Fitness – and 1980s workout wear – were all the rage back then and Mr. Pawlak wanted to make sure we were fit. I was a skinny kid when I was 11, but I wasn’t fit. Seriously, whenever I heard “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” or the instrumental “Popcorn” songs outside the four walls of our school gym, I would start to sweat involuntarily and breathe heavily like a Pavlov dog.
I grew up in a small rural town on the prairies of Canada – the town had about 300 people in it. I knew I was ‘different’ while in school but I didn’t actually know I was gay until university. I did my 3rd year of studies over in the UK and that’s when it all started to make sense. When you’re in a different country, all of a sudden you inherit the ability to re-invent and it was magical.
Back in Canada and all done university, I had moved to Toronto for a job I had at the time and was traveling back to the prairies to visit family from time to time. I had come out of the closet in my Toronto life but hadn’t really told anyone back at home on the prairies – it was easy not to, as they were so far away. I had experienced the art of telling people I was gay in Toronto but there was something about telling your parents and closest childhood friends that was a bit terrifying, I have to admit.
I was a junky kind of person for a long time. I was also unhappy with my lot in life, unfulfilled in my romantic relationship, and out of shape. My home was as cluttered and dusty on the outside as I felt on the inside.
These things are not necessarily true for all cluttered people, but there was a definite link for me. My grandmother was a hoarder and a very unhappy and unhealthy woman, and I wondered if it could be genetic. It wasn’t until she told me I reminded her so much of herself as a young woman that I was scared straight.
As I write this post, I was brought into this world 30 years ago today.
Even though 30 is apparently the new 20, and some days I feel like my real life is just starting to get interesting, I find myself reflecting on the experiences of the last 30 years, and all of the lessons I’ve managed to learn along the way.
So here they are, (well 30 of them at least) categorized to help readability, but in no particular order of importance.
I was a good kid. I was respectful of my parents and obeyed them. I would rank in the top few in class during school.
I kept friends happy by saying things they would expect me to say. I listened to my dad when he suggested I take up engineering in IT followed by masters in marketing.
I was a good kid. Or was I?