The Bumpy Ride
In 1982, Canada was in the midst of a full blown recession. Unemployment was at a high of 13% and the only time it was higher in our country was in the dirty 30’s when at its worst, hit around 30%.
I had just turned 18 and had already been on my own for a couple of years. No high school diploma, no skills and — no work. In the two years prior, I went from one PT job to the next trying to find my way and keep a roof over my head.
The despair is hard to put into words. My closest family was in Ontario and I remember walking the streets of downtown Calgary. It was early January. It was cold and windy like Calgary gets in the winter and I was barely dressed for the occasion. My toes were stinging in the cheap dress shoes on my feet and I came to the sobering realization another unsuccessful day of job hunting had ended.
I clutched my too light jacket closely, trying not to think about how cold my face and fingers were, imagining I could quietly freeze to death in a back alley and nobody would notice. I managed to find my way to the temporary lodgings which were in a basement suite, shared with two strangers. We each had our own bedroom with a lock and shared the rest of the space, which was a windowless kitchen and, a bathroom. It was part of a social services (welfare) deal where they gave me a small check and subsidized my rent until I could get on my feet.
Those were the darkest times I remember. The lowest was sitting on the ledge of a bridge, one late night, overlooking the Bow. In my mind, I would just let go and the cold, freezing water would take me away. It would be painless, so I believed. People honked as they passed and I remember one voice yelling out in the frigid darkness— “jump!” In that most desperate moment, it made me chuckle. Perhaps it was because I realized nobody was coming and the most support I had was from the passing stranger who wanted me to succeed.
I climbed down off the ledge, let out a long, angry scream and walked home assuring myself I would never think of taking the easy way out, no matter what happened.
The very next day, walking down the street, I noticed a help wanted sign in the window of a sex shop. What did I know about these things at my age…as it would turn out, not much. But I think Gerry, the old gentleman with a giant bear of a voice and personality to match must have recognized the orphan who walked into his shop that day.
He offered me the job on the spot and immediately put me to work. I would spend the next couple of years, making a pretty good living which allowed me to eventually transition into a full time DJ. To this day, I still share my favorite stories about one of the best jobs I ever had and how the experience shaped me in how I see the world and, the people living in it.
Since those days, my DJ persona/career has intertwined numerous stories of success and — failure. My competitive nature combined with unrealistic idealism spurned me on, in all adversity, both from outside forces and those self-inflicted.
Exactly how much life can one person pack into 56 years?
I have done the following, in no particular order — a purveyor of porn, a construction worker, a security guard, a busboy, a topless waiter (not kidding), a roofer, a pipe insulator, a pot dealer, a clothing store manager, a private detective, owned a international brokerage, owned an indoor paintball facility, owned a bar, owned another bar, owned a music distribution company for 17 years, was a radio personality, owned a social media company, managed a lumber store, was a courier, a janitor, managed a golf academy, actor (a terrible one), a ground handler for an airline and most recently — Vice Chair for an employee association… and there are a few more, not so noteworthy jobs (anything that pays for services) I have done going back to 14 years of age.
Everyone will have a different opinion of this list. Some may relate and many won’t. It’s not for everyone but for me, it’s been an amazing ride so far. There are few regrets and I often joke I’m the most fired person in history. Ironically, my passion which is as a DJ represents 89% of the terminations and is just part of what all DJs accept as the job. I could go through a list of some of my most epic firings in 38 years, as a DJ, but I’m starting to get away from the point of this flog.
Depression hits us all. It’s a part of life and as I’ve come to accept; it’s necessary to truly and genuinely appreciate the wins. I never feel sorry for the homeless person in the street. They have stories and many are living life on their own terms. And it’s not to condone homelessness. I feel as a society, we should help everyone we can and we will eventually get that generosity back ten fold.
The people I feel sorry for are those who are trapped in a construct of their own design. I used to read the obituaries every day (I coined the term “obituary tourist” on urban dictionary) after I had missed a few funerals. They became utterly depressing to read because I couldn’t get my head around the whole of a person’s life being given to one company and it being the most interesting thing that had ever happened to them, or least the best their family could think to write.
I worked with such a person. Their life mapped out — managerial job, 2 kids, home paid off and retired at 60. That was it. How to achieve? His philosophy actually shook me, even to this day… “the important thing is to look busy, like you’re doing something and that way, you’re less likely to have anyone notice or bother with you, including the boss” How did he achieve this? A simple prop: a clipboard under his arm, walking through the aisles of the store he managed with a gait just fast enough to suggest he was in a hurry to get somewhere. I kid you not.
There are so many stories and interpretations about what success is. Everyone has a different philosophy and no two people will have the same outlook on what it means to be — successful.
The one thing everyone can agree with is once you’re dead, the timer stops ticking so success, or lack of, becomes a moot point. And we’re all going to die. Some sooner than others. Some will have money in the bank, to leave to loved ones. Some will have nothing. Some will die alone, without a memorial or footnote in history while some will die with the world acknowledging a life well lived and all the success that they won’t be taking with them to the after life.
We’re born naked and with nothing. We leave the same way.
Everything in between is an exercise in futility. Control is the illusion that comforts us a night, allowing for peaceful slumb…
I can’t finish this sentence. I am breathing rarefied air. Sleep comes easy to me and by this I mean — my head hits the pillow and I’m out. 6 hours is the sweet spot and I’m rested for another day. No drugs, no anxiety, no pain (it’s like I’m a freak of nature according to my doctor) and the most important thing is — no regrets.
And to my segue.
?The last 18 months were overall, pretty shitty. I’m referring to professionally and my employment. It wasn’t the job or the company but rather the people I worked with who thought, being in the position I was, made me fair game for any and all bad behaviour. I often thought of myself as McFly in Back to the Future with the “kick me” sign affixed to my back. It was often horrible, made me anxious and at times depressed but I always remembered to look back at the journey and the struggles that got me to this point in time. Peers would often ask me how I was able to do it, handle all the abuse and my answer was consistent — “it’s part of my journey, my growth and my learning” confident that with everything in life, it would pass and I would be better for it.
The universe conspires…this should be my epitaph when all is said and done. Covid-19 rushed in and played my hand or should I say hands. In the course of a couple of weeks, I considered my demise from having what I believe was the disease, to canceling a once in a lifetime opportunity to DJ on a mini tour in Germany, to and end to my employment with said airline I won’t mention in this blog. In the blink of an eye, all resources for meaningful income were gone. And yet, I was happy. Like a weight had been lifted.
Life isn’t about what you do. Everyone can do. It’s when you can let go of the anger, ideas about what is fair and most importantly, when you can forgive that life starts to come into focus. We’re all incredibly flawed. Understand this and you will understand success. It’s a frame of mind and is not attached to what you own or what you’ve accomplished. It has more to do with being able to see the potential in every situation and every person around you.
I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow. The universe is yet to conspire and show me the next hand. So I will continue doing what I do in supporting those closest and focusing on what I love, which is music. Last night, I played my first gig in 3 months to an appreciative friend celebrating their 40th birthday. It was 20 or so of their chosen closest (sans family because of social distancing and travel) and it was as rewarding as those times I’ve played to a packed club of joyous souls jumping up and down all night.
What I want you to know, if you’re still reading is nothing is as important as the one thing that gives you joy. Chase that one thing and everything else is just luggage you take on the journey. Do things you love. No excuses. Don’t say there’s not enough time or you’re tired. It’s borrowed time and you can’t stop the clock. If you can follow this simple philosophy — the shit you own, the responsibilities you have won’t define you — the way people remember you will.