Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Turning 30-Years Old

As I sit writing this post, I am currently on a plane to Marseille, in southern France. I am flying down to attend a one-day conference on “smart shipping”, in which I am moderating a session and learning all that I can. While I plan to write a separate post about the trip, this situation is a good frame of reference for this post here, where I am in my life right now, turning 30-years old.

I have come a long way. Born in a small town in the province of Ontario, Canada, I was instilled with a powerful sense of family, community, and decency. Life wasn’t always easy, but I learned the value of teamwork, and that the river of life’s events can be waded, can even be redirected if you’re stubborn enough. We lived hard, but we lived together, and it must be true that adversity builds character, because my family is full of colourful characters.

Despite a strong pressure from history and community, my parents never gave in to settling for anything less than the best, anything less than the life they wanted us to live. When their son came to them saying he wanted to work at NASA, and their daughter said she wanted to be a geologist, they didn’t present the obstacles as limits, but as challenges to overcome. When their children’s heads were above the clouds, or among the rocks, my parents made sure we understood the world around us, and could provide for ourselves. 

My love for space is a defining characteristic of mine, one I’m always working to refine. It started from a very early age, raised on Star Trek, and dreaming of a life of technicolour discovery. Exploration, science, working together, these were the earliest tenets I gained from the franchise, and I embraced them in my everyday life.

For the longest time, I pursued the nebulous idea of “the life I wanted to lead”. On the one hand, I had things better than most, since I had a very specific field of study in mind. On the other hand, I had little guidance, and it was very frustrating. No one in my family, or even in my town, knew where I should go to pursue my dreams, and many were skeptical of my ambitions. I have been told, and have heard it commented upon in my direction many times, that I would never succeed, that I was crazy, stupid, blind, a dreamer. Even with the best of intentions, many people did not think what I wanted was possible, so they persuaded me not to waste my time.

But my time with family had taught me many things: stubbornness, the value of hard work, and the audacity to dream. Sounds so inspiring, and it was, but forgive me here. Reading this, time and again on my blog may be tiring, but it’s important. I have made it a strong effort of my life to help people realize their dreams, and I want my message to be heard. 

So, stubborn me pushed for good grades, and an involvement in my school’s community. I learned a lot from my teachers, too much to mention here, most of it from outside the classroom, and I still visit the school often to catch up. Things have changed greatly since those days, and my teachers have shared some of their struggles. This was life before cell phones, so answers were hard to come by, and the pursuit of study seemed more valued, even by my rambunctious generation.

A fateful trip to York University convinced my family and I that it was the place to be. We saw radar antenna control rooms, laboratories, and a satellite vibration test facility. The environment was lively, and enthusiastic about space, and even my parents almost signed up for classes.

York was my home for a long time. I made so many great friends, and learned so many amazing things about my career, the world, and the people within it. Again, I became involved in the community, learning to share my love of all things nerdy, and learning more about the value of a good team. Those were great times, always full of fun and friends, but also full of struggle. Like so many, my grades initially dropped, and my connection with my family became distant. There was too much happening, right in front of my face, and it was tough to see beyond that.

Halfway through my time at York, I hit a low point. So many assignments, always asking for the impossible, never enough time, and the guilt of family distance and cancelling on friends was getting to me.

I went back to the beginning. I asked myself why I wanted to be there. What was my goal? Graduating? Getting a job? No. My goal was to become the best damned space engineer I could. I had worked hard to get there, I owed it to myself, to all who supported me. So, yes, some classes were boring, some assignments were impossible, but how else could I become a “miracle worker”, like my idol, Scotty, if I didn’t embrace the challenge? Pictures of my idols pushed me forward, pictures of my family reminded me to reach back.

Toward the last year of university, I took a trip to western Canada. I learned so much there, even though I took a break from school. Scheduling conflicts gave me an 8-month gap in studies, so I got a job with Shaw Communications, and pursued a relationship. The job taught me more about telecommunications, and the relationship taught me a lot about myself.

The relationship ended poorly. It was foreseeable, but it still hurt a lot. While we both knew the relationship wouldn't last, the truly hurtful thing was how it ended. While she was working toward her Masters degree in Law, I had not yet finished my Bachelor’s degree. While her parents seemed nice enough, they didn’t think I was “vocationally mature enough” for her, basically they didn’t think I could or would be successful in my pursuits.

While I expected that from them, I didn’t expect that from someone who knew me, but family pressure is one hell of a thing.

I hit emotional rock bottom. I was alone out there, working all the time, and I was confronted with yet another voice saying I would not succeed. Were they right? What was I doing? Questions I asked myself as I ate fast food and binge-watched TV.

Motivation is powerful, and motivation borne from self-confidence is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever felt. When I got over myself, and realized what I knew all along, things changed, fast. I didn’t have a table in my apartment, so I bought saw-horses and laid my closet door over it. I bought large sheets of drafting paper, and I filled them with spaceship designs, equations, questions. I read every book on space engineering that the libraries of Edmonton had to offer, and turned my efforts around on my blog. I felt inspired. When I came home, I left nothing behind. I was ready for the next step.

I graduated, and took time to acknowledge that accomplishment. People had changed majors, or graduated a year before or after me, so there were only two of us there representing Space Engineering. But we made it! He has since moved on to making satellites, and I took a different route.

I learned about the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, and I leapt with enthusiasm. The details were tough to work out, including upfront payment of tuition, but I managed it, and I moved across the world! I made so many new friends, and learned so much about how the space industry really works. I stepped up, in my studies, as a leader, but also as a friend. It took time, but I came out of my shell. I interned at NASA, realizing a life’s dream, and learned that there were many wonderful options in this industry.

I met someone, someone very special, but our relationship started so late, toward the end of my time in France. Would we make it? We decided to make it so.

Finding work after the ISU wasn’t easy, but I had extra motivation. I wanted to get back to Europe, pursue this relationship, move to the next stage of my life. Endless days of balancing less-than-exciting work with very unexciting job applications. A year went by. A job was offered, then denied due to visa issues.

Finally, I got a job with NSR.

I moved to France, and was reunited with my love. Despite being in a relationship for over 2 years at that point, we had not been in the same room at the same time for more than 6 months, total. Lately, when I tell her I’ve been writing a blog post, she jokingly asks if it’s about how amazing she is, well, today’s her day.

Life for me is very amazing. Juliette and I live in a fantastic 2-bedroom apartment in Strasbourg, France, and except for the perfect armoire, we want for nothing. We live close to the cinema and a mall, so all my immediate needs are met, and we cherish every day. I’ve always known that I would find my perfect companion, someone who always understood me, or tried to, someone who always laughed at my jokes, or tried to, someone with whom I could share everything. And I did find her, in France of all places. Each and every day, she completely spoils me. While I was busy getting myself set up with work, she set up our apartment. When I forgot to eat, she made me food. Three months in to living together, I realized I did not know where all the food was kept; I had never made myself a meal in all that time. She never complained. In fact, she jumped at the chance to provide for us, and I have to work hard to not let myself become spoiled or too accustomed to that. Besides food, there is constant support, enthusiasm for me and my interests, love, care, and so much devotion. No matter what, every single day with her has and always will be amazing.

As I look back, and as I look forward, I realize how truly amazing my life is. I’ve always thought of myself as an old man in a young man’s body and, for now, that’s still true. I’m a responsible, professional adult. I attend conferences on maritime shipping, and I make videos about video games. I play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, and write articles on the satellite industry. I have finally seen all of the Star Trek franchise (took forever to watch DS9, a post to come later), and I am making a living providing valuable insights to players in various satellite industries. I still stare at the stars, and dream of exploring other planets, but for now, insights will do.

Life does not exist in a vacuum. In the vacuum of my life, things are going well, smoothly. Elsewhere, and with others, things are not. There are many problems in this world, and all the dreaming isn’t going to solve them. It takes more than dreams. It takes a real goal, ambition, hard work, sacrifice, and cooperation. Going forward, I want to reach out and help more. I want to become involved in my community, and I want to share the optimism and positivity I still have for, and with, the world. Every day is a pursuit of self-improvement, and every day, I work hard to be a better employee, partner, brother, son, and friend. Progress isn’t always measurable, or smooth, but it exists. 

I want to thank every single person who has helped me on my way. I am thankful for the love and support of my family, my friends, my girlfriend, and so many anonymous people who read this blog. 

Thanks to you, I am motivated to keep going, to improving the quality here, and thanks to you, I have almost 100,000 page views. I want to post more often, to provide more depth into the space industry, and I am working on these goals. I know the personal stuff can be a bit abstract from your interests, but I hope you have gained something useful nevertheless.

I’m about ready to land in Marseille, and to turn 30-years old. Life still holds so many mysteries, so much wonder, so many opportunities, and I look forward to pursuing them and sharing them with you. Continue to believe in yourselves and the power of cooperation. Dreams become real when you plan and work toward them, and dreams do come true.

So, happy birthday to me!

Thank you all very much for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment