It's a Good Life if you Don't Weaken.
THE TIME IS NEVER RIGHT
Gord Downie died 3 years ago today, October 17.
This editorial genius of a piece has been scraped together, re-written, re-started over and over again, and left ungraciously on the cutting room floor since then. Each revision, re-start and re-do represented my inability to get it "right". Right or ready to lay at the feet of family, friends and total strangers and exposing my imperfections for judgment and ridicule.
That everyone is sitting at their device on the edge of their seat, just waiting for this to be published, is of course, a ridiculous if not wildly arrogant thought. Still, the time was just never right.
Even as little as minutes before I allowed a trusting set of proofing eyes to this, I continue to revise and re-word every nuance so that it will be, well, perfect.
Ironic to be sure, that the philosophical views underlying most of what I intend to pursue and write about are in very stark contrast to this concept of perfection. And so it is with that in mind that I had to let this just simply be what it is; a bumbling, randomly put together and completely imperfect account of myself.
So it would follow then, that along with most aspects of life: the time is always right.
The time is always right to live, share and just be, whatever that means. Tomorrow, everything will change. Living for today makes the only logical sense, because it's the only day that's here, meaning the right time is always now. Is it perfect? No, and it never will be. But as Mark Manson wrote, "Fuck Your Perfectionism". Just do.
WRITING IS A MIRROR
In addition to this juggernaut piece, I've written about a hundred "starters" over the last few years. Amidst the emerging gig economy and blog world, I bet many others have , too. Whether you're a lifer-cubicle-employee locked into a long-term job with a pension or a renegade-bad-ass travelling the world, it's the new age.
Either way it's a great thing. Writing is a means to, at the very least, put your own thoughts right there in front of you - BOOM. Whether you one day publish them to the world or simply ruminate over them on your own time (see; self, also, see; this article) they become thoughts you can read back as though someone else is reading them to you like a bedtime story. This is a scary process, sometimes nightmarish. We become exposed to our harshest critic, ourselves.
Our own words become a mirror, an unavoidable boomerang of truth.
Our thoughts come echoing back at us with vengeance. The irony is that as freely as we judge and create opinions of other people actions or positions, we often utterly cringe at the very real sound of our own..
But even if our written words never reach anyone else's eyes, at the very least they are our mirror. A therapeutic, sometimes unwanted, but very necessary, mirror.
I'd always dreamed that my hundred-plus blog starters would magically ripen and become an inspiration for others. And then finally I realized; that's not the goal. The goal is understanding who we are, what we hope to be, and what we're willing to share with the world. And writing those things down is as effective as any therapy. It's incredible what inner thoughts and fears our brain can concoct, and it's not until they are written down for us to audit do we gain a real perspective on our true selves.
So then really, the goal of all this is to inspire me, not you. Oops, sorry. You're welcome if something actually resonates. Either way, years later, here we are with my first published blog, engineered for me, without any consideration for you.
And if no one reads it, it really doesn't matter one goddam bit. It's the action that does. And if everyone reads it but hates it, that's fine too; all I ask is that you post, tweet and instagram your rage incessantly. I'm well aware of how the adaptive algorithms of social media work, bringing new meaning to the phrase "any press is good press".
And though you will see the inspiration of my family, my wife, my boys in this inaugural entry, there's also a credit to my childhood storyteller, Gord Downie, and you'll see why.
I love the game of golf, and always have. Starting at about age 4, I spent dawn till dusk playing golf. I dreamed of golf. I hit golf balls across a football field with a putter for hours on end until I was old enough to hit an actual course. Golf was my dream. Golf was everything I wanted to do. I was super-cool.
And, though I never did hit the PGA Tour, as an adult I played the game every chance I got and at age 30, completely changed careers to follow my “dream”.
I joined a golf club as a member, borrowing every dollar I could to make it happen. I served as a Director on the Board. I took a job as a Business Development Manager, then Tournament Coordinator, and later to Clubhouse/Food & Beverage Manager. I was living the dream of working and playing the game I loved.
I played the game as an amateur long enough to satisfy my competitive (amateur) nature shooting a course record at Mill Run Golf Club on August 26, 2013. A 63 never to be forgotten.
Later, I'd follow my “dream” once again at age 37 to become General Manager at a wonderful golf club in Peterborough, Ontario. A club full of history and tradition. I was a part in designing and executing one of the most significant transitions in the club’s 85-year history.
I spent my entire life dreaming and building a career that combined my passion and my skill. I had really become "successful".
And then, one day, I quit. I just quit.
Why did I abandon the apparent success in my life? You only live once; the mantra of the hippie-world-traveler. But it has a nice vibe to it so let's go with that.
In the wake of my career "success" since 2014, which had been dotted with small victories, cancer and mental health struggles, I (we) changed the life path. Our lives would now focus intentionally on the most important things in life.
Our life would now be lived as though each day could be our last.
And while that seems like a total cop-out, it's actually true. And while I credit my wife for supporting radical change, and in the depths of my soul I knew it was an inevitable next chapter; it was a single day, and a great Canadian, that finally made me pull the trigger.
It was the day Gord Downie died.
And though I could try to write, edit, and re-write how I felt on October 17, 2017, nothing could really capture it as well as my audio recording that day. Alone, in my car, driving, ruminating, crying, celebrating.
OCTOBER 17, 2017: an audio transcript
Well, this is about, my next blog which will start about Gord Downie, and how I remember saying a long time ago that I feared I would just wake up one morning and they would tell me he had gone.
And that happened today. October 17, 2017. And it hit me way harder than I thought it would.
As I drive back from Mississauga Golf Club, I’m seeing the world differently. Again. There’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s 21 degrees out, in the middle of October. In Canada. The Leafs are playing the Red Wings at home tonight. And everything fits.
And I remember looking back to how I felt watching what we believed would be his final show. And how much I hated every minute of it. Because… I didn’t want a great show. I wanted him to be around for a long time.
And, it reminds me, again, what’s important?
Gord Downie was 54 years old.
And, two years after his diagnosis (and, he made it a long time, beyond when he was supposed to but) a vibrant, incredible human being is gone from the earth.
And behind him are left his family and his friends, and I wonder why the fuck, would I settle for anything but happiness, while I’m here?
I could have five more years, I could have fifty more years. But either way, we never know.
I do NOT want to wake up, ten years from now, have something happen to me like what happened to Gord, and look back and go…
“Goddammit, I knew it. I knew it. When I was 41 years old.”
I knew it. I had to make a change. And I was too scared to do it. Too scared of an outcome that I knew, deep down inside, would never be that bad, even if the worst case took place.
I would be happier. My family, would be happier. And “happier” is in very little relation to how much money you have.
So I better remember how this feels.
And that's what happened. I remember now very, very clearly how it felt.
And so now we face the year 2020 - a year where I can only pray that we all have been able to look at what's really important when shit hits the fan, what our true values really are when faced with change, uncertainty and hardship. And that we have the courage to make our decisions according to those values.
It's a year where judgement of others should cease to exist. A year where we should love, support, understand, and empathize.
A year where we wish, so desperately, to hear Gord tell us one more time:
"It's a good life if you don't weaken."
You never did weaken Gord, and we shouldn't either. Thank you, for so many things. Most of all, for showing us how to be better humans, for showing us what really living was all about.
How we could use your words in the year 2020.