Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Personal Rundown of the 00's: From School To Becoming a Ski Bum

Well 2010 and a new decade is upon us ... good Lord, time flies doesn't it? Seems like yesterday that the World and myself were ringing in the new Millennium, and thankfully putting the rifle down since the Y2K apocolypse rumours didn't come to pass (note: I didn't ACTUALLY have a rifle, lol)

From there to today, a look at the decade that was in my personal life:

2000-2001: Continue living the sweet (i.e. college) life ... ran for sports rep at Aitken House, and won! Huge thrill, and it marked a huge milestone in opening up socially

2002: Won the Man of Aitken Award ... to this day, it is still one of the most humbling experiences in my life.

2003: Graduate from UNB with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree ... Janet is able to make it up to my grad after I made it to hers the week before ... the most intense two weeks of celebration and partying in my life to this day!

Late 2003 - Spring 2004: First gig out of uni was working for an occupational therapy firm as a contract kinesiologist ... it was a learning experience, but for all the wrong reasons, went in promised $40/hr (rate was high due low hours of work in a given month), was reduced to $30/hr (!) at signing, asked no questions and blindly accepted. Work was thinner than expected and spaced out way too far over a 6 month period of employment.

Went in with caviar dreams, whereas I barely broke even after living on a shoestring over that period.

Rest of 2004: Rollercoaster. Searched for work all Spring from my home in Havre Boucher, which yielded nothing but a vandalized car window over 2 months (I had lived in the Crime Capital of Atlantic Canada for a half a year and nothing happened, but one month home and this happens ... lol rural crime!)

Then a big break ... my contacts put me in touch with the biggest ergonomics consulting firm in North America, Humantech. I got interviewed for a position as an intern ... and I was accepted later that afternoon ... stoked!

A cruel twist of fate struck the next month (August) ... four days before I was to leave for Michigan, I got axed due to souring economic conditions! Talk about a sucker punch to the gut!

I was just about to resign myself to the depressing career choice known as telemarketing, but I made a phone call in Oct 2004 on a hunch to Humantech to ask about intern hiring for the winter of 2005 ... turns out they were hiring and they asked if I wanted to come out to Michigan ... snap call, imo.

Jan 2005 - September 2005: Move to Michigan with the blue rocket (my Cavalier, which I still own btw) ... almost get stranded in a blizzard in NS the very first day of travel ... not a good start! I arrive alive though, settle in and turn heads with my work ethic. Days off consist of exploring Ann Arbor, and life in another country.

I find out Americans aren't the pompous jerks the Canadian media likes to make them out to be ... Midwesterners are friendly, honest and hardworking, and most would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. Also, the tax regime (despite the condition of the roads, crime outside A2, etc) rocks! First pay $500 gross ... after taxes $480 ... weeeee!!

I enjoy watching Michigan college sports when they are playing (hockey,baseball, football). Michigan hockey fans are vicious to the opposing team, they put us polite Canadians to shame ... oh and about Football ... I was part of the 4th largest crowd at the Big House ... 111,000 fans ... now that's a crowd!

Rest of 2005: Visited home for a month or so. Partied with the Aitken bros, then hanged at home to decide my next step ... Alberta it was! Untapped market for ergonomics, imo!

Head across the USA on an epic road trip with Dad, enroute to Calgary (the destination). Stayed at a posh hotel in Ann Arbor, saw the Great Plains, Mount Rushmore, great times!

Then I saw the Rockies for the first time in Montana; my soul has never been the same since.

I settle in at my sis' place in Cowtown. I try to search for a career in ergo ... I get leads, but no success. It's like my drive suddenly evaporated; at the time, I had no clue what could have caused it.

I get a Sunshine/Marmot card for Xmas from Janet ... we went skiing a few days later, and I was filled with a joy I hadn't known for 7 years (the last time I went skiing, in high school). I had to do it again, ASAP.

Winter 2006: Alas, it didn't materialize ... $$$ (isn't always about the $$$?) I continued to grind a retail job while I searched for that elusive ergo opportunity. Miraculously, I catch wind of a research opp based out of Edmonton. I jump at the chance, and zoom up the QE2 (aka the AlbertaBahn) to E-Town to set up shop.

May 2006 ... so far so good. I put together a research proposal for Mr. Gordon Lamont, the owner of a startup based out of Lloydminister, Alberta. Now, we just have to wait for the funding, and off to the races we go! ...

September 2006: meeting at NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology). Funding denied. F$#%. Now what?

I drift along in a job that is paying the bills and then some, but it quite hazardous. I work for an environmental cleanup company. We cleaned up a lake in the Spring that was polluted with crude oil, which was fulfilling, but then I worked with cleaning lead and asbestos in the Summer and Fall respectively. Money was good, and I was enjoying life on the weekends (Summer in Edmonton is sweeet, dry heat and long long evenings!), but I was starting to worry at night about the long term damage I was doing to myself.

2007: The dam breaks. I nearly get into a head-on collision with a semi during a storm; my old laptop melts down and catches fire at 3am in my bedroom. Two close calls in a month lead me to seriously question my direction in life for the first time ... by the end of Janaury, I had quit the environmental job.

By the end of February, I took a union job in a steel plant in Refinery Row. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but looking back, it was simply more of the same that led to my quarter life crisis ... but with benefits (life insurance, dennal plan, etc)!!!

Made some strides in my personal life though ... did something I meant to do since high school, I took up hockey (full gear, not pond/floor). Went from totally inept to playing well and contributing in my Aitken Alumni game one year later.

All winter/spring I battled to help save Aitken House from the Forces of Evil (i.e. Res Admin) ... with Aitken safe, we would have a 50th reunion to go to!!

In summer, I travelled to BC for the first time ... my love of mountains/hiking/being outdoors was cemented for good after this trip. The seed had been planted in my head and soul.

2008: Aitken Reunion. Ohmygod what an epic time! If I had felt disconnected to my Aitken family after being out of school for 5 years, this event re-strengthened the connection by a thousand times! Can't wait for 2013!!

Started to get restless in my steel plant job, despite rapidly escalating pay. I make more, but I don't save money, what's up with that? I start searching for a way out. MLM was my first attempt ... didn't work. Started up my ergo consulting business ... despite a small amount of success, I was spinning my wheels, getting nowhere.

Trapped in a dirty job that was not my calling in life. Trying to run a business that I didn't care about.

Eventually, the dam broke again.

I snap quit my job one Monday in August in a wave of emotion. This was it. Either ergonomics/kinesiology was going to work or it wasn't. Crunch time.

By the time late October rolled around, same old story. "Thanks for your interest. We think you're an outstanding candidate, but we have selected somebody else for the position." It would be easy to chalk this up to bad luck, but looking back, a lack of passion was present despite overabundant preparation and optimal performance at any of the 5 job interviews I had.

By now, the stock market had tanked and everybody was running around with their hair on fire screaming "The Sky is Falling!!!" No time for dreams. Back to Any Old Job.

I took a job with a paper recycling facility. But one month in, poking my eyes out with a dull pencil seemed to be more attractive option than heading in to work. This place was Hell, plain and simple. Instead of snap quitting though, I decided to turn this situation into an experiment. I was going to use this "Hell" to push myself into the life I truly wanted to lead. No comfort in this place, unlike the cushy Union gig that I had left 2 months prior.

2009: I needed a vacation from Dante's Inferno. Off to Jasper for 2 days/nights of skiing in mid January. Jasper in January (name of festival)? More like Jasper in April! Temperatures in the 5-10c range made for lousy snow, but the warmth made up for it! Sitting in the hot tub on top of the Whistler's Inn that night, I made up my mind: I was going to live here, come Hell or high water!

I dallied around though for the next 2-3 months though: what about the monnnnnneeeeyyyy?!! Having made $15+/hr over the last 3-4 years, I had a poverty complex to overcome first. As it turned out, most of my current expenses were essentially frivolous lifestyle BS. Secondly, the cost of living out there was much lower than my bloated Edmonton existence. Cost of rent + utilities in Edmonton? Close to $1000/mth! In Jasper, with staff accom? Around $400!

I finally started looking for work in Jasper in Early April, and to raise the stakes and commit myself, I put in my 2 weeks notice at Lucifer's Castle. First night of searching was in a hostel ... met lots of cool peeps from overseas, drank beer and swapped stories until 1 AM. Liking this already!

I continued the search via the net from home, having it complicated by my motherboard in my ACER laptop failing mid-month (!). Despite these difficulties, I land an interview with Becker's Chalets for a housekeeper position ... 5 minute call, and they hire me on the spot ... sweet! But I have an interview with Maligne Lake the next day ... if I succeed, I get to drive a boat for the summer and give tours. The next day, I get hired ... whoohoo!

I start disassembling my Edmonton life, passing the time by watching this new show I came across on OLN called Departures. After watching all of Season 2 twice over, I pledge that I will travel overseas once I save the $$$ needed to make it happen.

I arrive in Jasper, get settled, and begin the summer of a lifetime. 6 weeks of intense, stressful training later, I'm a boat captain (official Master limited certificate holder) ... who would have seen this coming 6 months prior??

Through the summer, I hike almost every bit of Frontcountry that Jasper National Park has to offer ... some time in Late July I had summited the Bald Hills and when I gazed upon the hidden valley on the other side, I was overcome with emotion; only it was positive instead of negative this time. I had went from a personal Hell to Heaven in less than one year.

To close out the decade, I am spending the winter working as a Food and Beverage employee at Marmot Basin (Jasper's ski resort). I am enjoying life as a ski bum, as I have gone from a marginal recreational blue skiier to a technically proficient skier comfortable skiing most black diamond runs. I am halfway to the minimum amount of $$$ needed to go on my overseas trip (South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand are on the menu), and I have never been happier.

What lies in store for me in the 10's? Online business (being an entrepreneur and location independence are essential to me), regular travel, and a home base in Canadian Rockies (Golden, Revelstoke, Canmore are potential settling spots presently) are some of the things that spring to mind.

In general however, I will be pursuing anything that excites me and creates happiness in my life and those I care about.

Happy 2010 everyone.