Don't Skip the Journey
Lately it has occurred to me that there is no such thing as destiny.
Destiny is really the road we travel while we follow our hearts. There is no ‘thing’ out there that we are trying to grab hold of. I think that’s the thing that totally screws me (us) up day after day.
What is my life purpose... my destiny?
I’ve come to believe that our life purpose… our destiny is truly the thing we align with when we’ve stopped distracting ourselves with those things that keep up from living a life with meaning. I won’t list them, you know what I’m talking about here.
Life purpose is just living a life with purpose.
We are mostly afraid to live. That would mean we would have to feel things deeply. Feeling things deeply, especially sadness and anger and fear are killers. So, why not avoid them. Let’s just feel happy. That’s what life and commercials and the endless feel good messages on our social networks tell us to do. Hell, it’s the leading semi-conscious decision for people to take drugs to get high or to completely disengage from life altogether. Fuck the bad feelings and just feel happy and light. But we really can’t truly live if we just focus on ‘happy’. We live in a world of polarities. Heck we’re on a big magnet (earth). In order to feel happy or to even know what happy is, we must feel sad, just to know the difference. ‘Oh, I’m soooo happy!’. It’s because we know what it is to feel soooo sad. We wouldn’t know the difference if we did not have the opportunity to feel both. That also goes for every emotion. If you haven’t noticed by now, every emotion has an opposite. To feel one, you have to have experienced the other. Or you could just be on lithium all day and not experience any.
So why do we fear our feelings?
They are our truth. Our roadmap to our soul. Our path in life. Without our feelings we would not know what to do next. They are hooked into our desires, act as our compass and direct us to move forward. They guide us on the road map of our life telling us where to go next (and what or whom to avoid).
We have to trust our feelings. Though many of us don’t. We fear they will lead us astray because we got hurt, deeply hurt when we followed them in the past, especially when it mattered. We followed our feelings of love and then we got them stepped on when our love was rejected. We said, fuck that shit. I will not love again. We closed our hearts. We likely still have them closed right now. I do, not entirely, I’ve been working on opening my heart. My kids help with that, so very easy to love. Though each presses my ‘buttons’ in their own way. My daughters' love for me frightens me (good therapy) and Tommy provides me endless opportunity to prove my resilience to his strong will. Thank God he is one of the most delightful kids on this planet. Both of my kids show me who I am and more importantly who I’m resisting to be in my life.
Resistance btw is not stuck energy. I’m emphasizing here because it’s really important.
Resistance acts as a flag pointing the way to the thing that when you undertake it will allow your soul to experience exponential growth in this lifetime.
Speaking of resistance, I’m afraid to be big… not over-weight, but BIG. Like play a bigger game. Like attract attention to myself. Please don’t laugh (shame on you). I’ve got lots to say, to offer, to help out with… but truthfully, I’m afraid of ridicule… judgment, not being accepted as I am. Very basic human stuff.
So, here’s the rub, I’ve been resisting my new business, 3 Keys Therapy, for over a year. Likely because it reveals who I am (and my secret super power) and if I want it to be successful, I know in my heart, I will have to play outside of my zone of comfort, get out of my comfy box and play a bigger game.
Let me explain.
I’ve worked at 39 different jobs.
Yes. You read that right, 39. They’re written below. Skim or scroll, they will provide you a rare and exciting glimpse into my world, to perhaps compare with your own. You’ll likely find an interesting theme running through it. What makes this list more remarkable is where I ended up and what I had to do to get there. God has such a good sense of humour.
It began in Brockville at the age of 15.
Brockville, Ontario, Canada
1. Age 15 +: On and off part-time sales associate Holmgren Furs. My father was a furrier. He and his staff (including his brother, Uncle Harry) made fur coats by hand. A trade he learned in Belgium working with his family before the 2nd World War sent them to Canada. He and his brother were remarkable at it. My father wanted me and my 3 sisters to carry on the family business. What can I say? 4 girls running a fur business in the 90’s and beyond? You do the math.
2. Age 17. House cleaner/maid for a summer in a historic mansion down the street from our house. Highlights, Thursdays were reserved for cleaning the silver, I served breakfast every morning to ‘Granny’ the owner. (Consequently got sacked when ‘Granny’ caught me sleeping with her grand-son who was living on the third floor…).
3. Age 18. Bakery person* at IGA grocery store (*I think bakery person is an appropriate title for this position as I really just put frozen pre-made bread dough in oven and then in bags after it was baked. Oh, I also sliced bread for customers using the automatic bread monster that would eat you alive if you got too close. I would go to the local pub after work and drink my wages away underaged with my friends/boyfriend).
I moved to Kingston Ontario at this point, taking Graphic Arts at St. Lawrence College, living with my two older sisters. Consequently, I dropped out after 6 months when I spent my college grant on a Gucci watch (and ridiculous amounts of alcohol and just plain fun… I was free).
4. Age 19. Full-time Sales Person at Athena, art + picture store (reflecting on this job brings bile to my throat…)
5. Age 20. Full-time sales person at Thrifty’s clothing store (lots of laughs, good people and good memories here, Wendy, Rob, crusty white bread, yarlsburg cheese, dinners, and great music).
6. Age 20. Full-time sales person/custom picture framer at Kingston Frameworks. I loved this job. We framed pictures for everyone in Kingston including the University, hospitals etc. Fun, relaxed, downtown, filled with creatives, and Queen’s students. I found my ‘art’ and lived by myself downtown for the first time. We partied, we organized an art exhibition for the employees inviting anyone who would come. After a couple of years, I knew it was time to leave. I said ‘goodbye’ and visited a friend in Arizona for a few days.
Around this time, I attended a psychic fair in Kingston and met with a very special (unassuming) man wearing a beige shirt, khakis and a hat who appeared to be going on expedition. He was a kindhearted ‘old soul’ who sat with me for 1/2 hr and read my palm. I was fascinated that he could see into my future based on the lines on my hand… revelling in everything he had to say. He would be the only person to that point to tell me that everything will be ‘ok’. I would have a ‘great life, get married, have awesome kids’, and ‘succeed on my own terms’, whatever that meant. He said that ‘I had energy you don’t find in 100,000'. I was enthralled. I asked him what I would do in life, he replied not to worry, that I would be ‘told what to do‘ mentioning that when I took a job, I was only there to learn, saying ‘who wants to stay at the same job all their life?’ Hell, not me (obviously…hehe)! Who knew that in order to find my life’s purpose all I had to do was to trust my inner compass and simply do the next thing based on what felt right at the time! There was a plan greater than what I could see! I felt relieved and elated at the same time!
7. Age 21. Sold my own line of hand-painted T-shirts in local farmers Market. I was artsy, cool + entrepreneur-ish. This was one of the funnest and freest times in my life… Tonnes of fun, cool friends, Chez Piggy. Lived in 2 downtown apartments for the summer. (Rob Baker, from Tragically Hip lived across the street with his girlfriend and their cat).
8. Age 22. Waitress at teeny tiny hospital Cafe. It wasn’t called that, the cafe was actually teeny tiny located at the bottom floor of a hospital. I got a job here when I got back from Arizona completely broke. Worked for about a month serving tuna sandwiches, coffee and canned soup. My job ended abruptly as the long-term, full-time waitress made it clear she preferred to work alone… and subsequently had me fired. Let’s leave it there and move on.
9. Age 22. Handmade Christmas card + Jewelry maker. I’ll add this one as I ventured into arts and crafts after my days at Kingston Frameworks, making stuff out of painted mat-board and watercolour. A few cafes decided to hang my paintings, but they didn’t really sell. Funny part was that when one did sell, I couldn’t help but think that I’ll never see that painting again and start missing it obsessively… I still reflect on those paintings to this day. The earrings and cards made nice Christmas gifts for my family and friends.
10. Age 22. Waitress at a Mexicali Rosa (Mexican Restaurant) (only because my cousin managed it) I sucked at this job. Crossed waitressing off my list after dropping a tray of mini pots of salsa all over the floor…not to mention asking customers to kindly switch seats because I couldn’t lift the massive hot plates of food from the table once set down… ya, I know.)
11. Age 22. Sales associate for Brown Bear gift shop, not one, but two locations. Owner had an anger management issue who placed his staff in a constant state of fear… Not sure if I got sacked or if i quit… I hope the latter, but I had very low self-esteem, so not sure on this one.)
12. Age 23. Filter Queen Vacuum Sales Person. Cold called people on the phone from a dark, dingy and stinky carpeted room asking random home owners if they wanted a vacuum demo… quit after one day. Kill me now.
13. Age 23. Door to door coupon book Sales Person. Quit after 3 hours… perhaps hit bottom job-wise here, (guess I didn’t learn my lesson from the filter queen stint above).
14. Age 23. Picture framer for Keirstead (fine art retailer). Road my bike 5 km uphill to Keirstead factory to paint glue on frames wearing a very uncomfortable face mask to prevent falling over from the fumes. Met really good guys there where we played the card game ‘Ass-hole’ every lunch hour and laughed our pants off. Sprained my ankle stepping down from a bus into a massive divot in the grass during the winter and blacked out momentarily. My friend George ‘saved me’ by driving me to the local hospital 8 km away (turned out he didn’t have a driver’s license or even know how to drive! I have vivid memories of reaching over to grab the wheel in fits of panic to help stay on the road while trying to stay conscious because of my torn ankle. Thank God it was 7 am in the morning and no cars were around… or police for that matter.)
15. Age 23. Seasonal Sales Associate for Calvin Klein fragrances at Sears. Sold appr. $10,000 of perfume and cologne over a 2 wk period during Christmas, got paid $12/hr… no commission. I had a knack for selling perfume turns out!
16. Age 23. Seasonal Sales Associate for fragrances (I forget brand for this one) at Hudson’s Bay
17. Age 24. Full-time sales associate for Neon clothing store that sold Doc Martens. Became Ass’t Manager, then Manager. I guess the owners saw potential… I loved selling shoes, strange, I know. Doc Martens were the bomb! Highlights include, a trip to Montreal for training, being interviewed by the local TV station getting my opinion on Sunday shopping (I said ‘no way, I was against it’, my opinion obviously meant something…), Colin James who was playing in Kingston that weekend, coming into the store to do some shopping. He tried on a pair of red Levis and made fun of the music coming out of the speakers (the year was 1991, we were playing the latest REM I think). He asked me if I listened to his music. I casually said ‘no’. I may have offended him, but I did not listen to his music, what could I say. I remember him coming back the next day all dressed up in the red jeans, hair spiked, looking more like a rock star. I think I got under his skin somehow… Got sacked when the owner accidentally overheard me make fun of him during a phone call. That’s all I can remember. Who was I kidding? Doc Marten sales phenom or not, managing a retail store was not my calling.
I was living with my then boyfriend, who I met at Frameworks. He was a Queen’s University graduate + photographer. He moved in with me and turned the apartment into a photography studio, my bathroom into a darkroom… After my last job, I didn’t work for awhile… so we ended up sleeping away the day, walking around taking pictures, and hanging at bars. His depression may have contributed to this lifestyle change… I consequently kicked him back to Toronto where he was from. I joined him months later where we shared a one bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto for over a year. We had fun in Toronto, we got into cycling around the bike trails in the city. Hung out with his artsy friends from Queens University (Gord, Drew + Tom Cavanaugh from ‘Ed’ fame who gifted us with 30 rolls of toilet paper at our housewarming party). Spent our evenings at the Arts + Letters club on Elm St. (made famous by the group of 7 who used to hang there in the early days) where he played saxophone for his friend’s Play he was currently directing there.
18. Age 25. Full-time Sale Associate at Wild Goose Aviation Company, Hazelton Lanes (I found this job from a Toronto Star job listing — from the actual newspaper — when I first started job hunting while traveling back and forth from Kingston to Ajax to stay with Rob at his parent’s house. Rob got a job at an art gallery in Yorkville, I conveniently got a job on the same street turns out… just 3 blocks from our apartment. At this point, my life was about to change dramatically…. This is where I met my now husband John. John’s sister and brother-in-law owned WGAC and John worked part-time after attending University during the day. It was love at first sight, well at least on my end... I knew in my heart that we would be married one day. Life was getting complicated at this point. I knew it was time to move on. I believe I was there to meet John.
19. Age 26. Freelance Production Assistant. So, while I was working at Wild Goose, my friend Jen was helping me ‘break into’ craft service and production assisting. It sounded so extremely cool to me (coming from a small town). In order to work in craft-service I needed to have full out food serving credentials apparently. So we conjured up a story that I was a caterer who owned a company called ‘Broccoli on Wheels’ (yup). We crafted a resume with fake gigs and I forwarded it to the Production Manager. He kept putting me off, telling me to call him once every week to see if anything had come up. I persisted for about a month and I finally landed my first film shoot. A commercial for Molson Beer which had 100 extras a large budget and 2 craftspeople. I just required a driver's license. I had a temporary license at the time and just failed my first road-test days before in Kingston… darn crossing two lanes at once rule! There was no way I would let this opportunity slip by! I just couldn’t say no after all that! It was to be a day I’ll never forget. I quit my job at Wild Goose and pointed my ship to film. The other craft person (whose name I’ve forgotten) filled 3 shopping carts with enough food to feed a small army. Egg and tuna sandwiches were made by the boatload. The day of the film shoot would go on for almost 24 hours with 2 location moves across the city. At the end of the day I felt as though I had gone to war… I remember sitting at a the bottom of a city pole waiting for the bus to pick me up and drop me home. I could barely move. All for $100 (after taxes). I’m not sure how it happened, but I got another film job for Kellogg’s the day after working on a circus film set. Just 8 hours after the first one… I still had to make sandwiches! All in all I ended up working for a variety of film companies in a variety of production roles on a variety of commercials including, Shoppers Drug mart, Twix, Advil, Colgate, Rankin Family music video, and Milk driving around the city in rented cars, cube trucks and vans with a learners permit… I was a mad woman. I remember running late for a shoot and having to drive 6 famous olympic athletes in a rented van from their downtown hotel to a shoot way across town almost driving straight through an intersection before coming to a screeching halt! The looks on their faces said it all. I was a lunatic… (and very lucky).
20. Age 26. Office Manager at McWaters Film Production Co. I was a good PA plus I cut my teeth on office admin (and computers) while working temporary at Dalton Films. After that I got 2 offers to work as a full-time Office Manager. It was really a roll of the dice for me which one to take and I really needed the stability as running around from shoot to shoot was becoming a drag, loads of work for little money. I knew someone from McWaters who was the book-keeper, she insisted that I work for them and I took the job. The location was decent, offices very nice. They just failed to mention that they were officially ‘closed for business’ and not producing commercials any longer. I learned this a few weeks in noticing that nothing was going on… crickets. Just me messing around with the computer, enhancing my skills and serving tea to the owner every morning. I worked for them for a few months helping them close and then out of their home in Rosedale after they gave up their offices on Yonge St. One of their clients was Henry Winkler (my childhood hero, Arthur Fonzarelli, from Happy Days). It was interesting seeing his name on a letter I would place in the mail to let him know they were closed.
21. Age 27. Receptionist at William F. White Film Production Equipment. Yes. I met the famous William F. White via the Book-Keeper At McWaters. He needed a full-time receptionist to do one thing only, answer the phone. Natch. I can do that... turns out I couldn't. You'd have to have a Masters Degree in answering phones at William F. White, Canada's largest and most successful production film rental equipment company in one of the fastest growing industries at that time. The phone had like 50 lines and at any given time 10 of them were ringing... all day! I remember I didn't know who everyone was so I couldn't direct their calls... I also had a bad memory so when I placed a call on hold, I forgot who they asked for... you can see where this is going. Overwhelmed and defeated, I walked into William's F White's office at the end of the first day and resigned.
22. Age 27. Freelance Office Temp. After saying farewell to the exciting but miserable world of freelance film production, two things happened. I was introduced to the brave new frontier of office temping and Employment Agencies. Since I had solidified my skills in word processing at McWaters and Dalton, I was employable as an Admin Assistant. So, I did that for a little while for a couple of downtown offices (I totally forget the names of the first couple, they ended quickly. After I got more proficient and computer literate (I was a super-fast typer and excellent speller. Great skills to have in life) each job lead to a bigger and better job… Temporary almost always lead to full-time for me somehow.
23. Age 27. Partner, Liquid Eden Cafe. It was around this time that I met a friend who owned a used book shop on Eglinton Ave West. We became friends and decided to turn her book shop into a book shop + cafe. We called it ‘Liquid Eden’. We added tables, chairs, and of course, coffee and muffins. We hoped it would catch on! It didn’t. With no money in my pocket and no pay cheque, there was little reason to stick around… we parted ways.
24. Age 28. Office Admin. LaCure (lacurevillas.com). I was a temp here for about a month. Their then office was located very close to Casa Loma in Forest Hill. I lived in Forest Hill so it was a quick jaunt down the hill. LaCure was this unbelievable travel company that rented exclusive villas to the rich and famous (Oprah was a client at the time). They were looking for someone to attend the villas to ensure everything was satisfactory before their guests arrived... Yes, that was the job and the job for me! I applied for it with, what I would call the best resume I ever created (it contained a treasure box hand-crafted by me, filled with the coolest items I found at antique stores. I wrote the resume in calligraphy on a parchment scroll...). It was magnificent. Why I didn't take a picture, I'm not certain. If I got the job, I would be on Necker Island drinking Kombucha with Richard Branson... but, alas, I didn't... Turned out you needed experience in the travel industry.
25. Age 28. Office Manager at Fleet Aerospace. Yes, that’s right, I worked as the Office Admin for an Aerospace company downtown on York St. Placed by a temp agency. Me and 3 men. It paid ok, I was good at my job, enjoyed running errands around Bay St. The Honourable Bill Davis was on the company's Board of Directors. I needed something else (even my boss at the time questioned why I would stay…).
26. Age 29. Sales Coordinator, The Postcard Factory. I truly enjoyed this job. The Postcard Factory cornered the market on postcards depicting cities across North America. I created ‘picking sheets’ for the Sales team to use while placing orders with their clients. It was the opposite of the last one… I excelled at excel! Though it was quite far from downtown. The bus ride killed me. I eventually got a car (and yes, I could legally drive).
27. Age 29. Licensed Project Coordinator, The Postcard Factory. I did such a great job as Sales Coordinator they promoted me to Licensed Project Coordinator when the Olympics were hosted by Atlanta, Georgia and they landed the contract to sell postcards depicting the official Olympic logo. Unfortunately, I was not trained for this position. My boss had to work out of Atlanta and I was left to figure it out alone. It was not figureoutable. So I was consequently sacked.
Woodstock, Ontario… ahem.
My boyfriend John (guy I met and present day husband, see job #18) decided to go to college in Woodstock to take a Waste Management course. I followed him. Why? Because I was ‘in love’ (and stupid). There were no jobs in Woodstock, 5 Tim Hortons, but no jobs. After 6 months, I desperately wanted to go back to Toronto but did not have enough money to rent an apartment. A new friend of mine back in Toronto named Kelly (a spiritual healer), helped me understand through a healing session, that I should not place my life on hold and that my soul was pointing me back to Toronto, with or without the love of my life. I decided to take a risk and get the hell out of Woodstock, John or no John. So, I decided the only thing I could do was to create something and sell it.
28. Age 30. Picture frame artist, Entrepreneur. (Cont’d from above) No better time than Christmas to sell my wares, so I sourced a 2-day Christmas craft show and sale in the Annex (Toronto), then came up with a plan to utilize my latent picture framing skills from job #6 and hand-paint one-of-a-kind 8 x 8 and 11 x 14 picture frames! I found a framing place in the town and as frames can be very expensive, I negotiated a deal where I simply buy the wood and do everything myself (measure, cut, glue/nail the frames together). I made two sizes to keep things easy, about 50 frames altogether, each frame uniquely designed. I used different materials as I went along, acrylic paint, textured paint, fake flowers (didn’t look as tacky as it sounds), cut up painted mat board, etc. Some of the little ones I made into mirrors, but most I placed a very simple drawing of an angel (below) just as a placeholder. They needed something in the middle.
I drove down to the city and stayed with John’s parents. I set up my stand with the other vendors (in a cold warehouse space) and charged $25 a piece. I ended up selling half of my frames the first day! When I went home I came down with the chills and a fever. I had the flu! I was so determined to go back to the show the next day, I sat down in the kitchen while John’s brother Chuck help me create the nastiest concoction of hot water, apple cider vinegar, honey and garlic. A remedy I’ve had great results with. I downed it and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night in a huge sweat. I soaked the sheets. The next morning my breath was rank, but my fever was normal! I hopped in the car and drove back to the show. This time my booth was outside and it was snowing. I ended up selling every single one of my frames earning myself a sweet $1,200! Enough for first and last month’s rent for an apartment in the city!
I’m proud of this story: While creating my frames, I also worked on my resume. If I was heading back to Toronto I would need a job right away! I utilized my design skills to create what I would call an unforgettable graphic resume. It took me a long time. It was truly one of a kind. I had to stand out. It basically showcased my experience plus my creativity in one shot. After a few sessions with Kelly, my friend and spiritual guru, I decided that I would get a job with just one single resume. I know, a very bold statement. But, I had a feeling that I was more in charge of this process than I knew. Even when I went to the printers to print it professionally, the printer dude (helper) looked at me in shock when I said I only needed one copy. I boldly told him that one copy is all I needed and that I would get a job with just one resume. The look on his face was priceless. I truly did not have a doubt in my mind. I also started writing down and imagining the job I was going to get. It had to be creative, fun, great people, good pay. I imagined it and knew with every ounce of my being, it would happen. I also did the same exercise for the place I would live in, Kelly and I decided to share an apartment. So we both wrote down a very clear and detailed description of our ideal apartment. Nice kitchen, bright, fireplace, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, etc. knowing without a doubt we would find it. And we did, exactly as we had imagined it, and even better. Life was getting interesting.
I boldly sent my single resume to three different employment agencies scheduling three separate appointments in one day. I had to be practical, as I was only in Toronto for the day! While at the second appointment, I received a call from the first agency who told me ‘something has come up that could be good fit for you and if I could be there in an hour’? She mentioned a Production Coordinator position at Walt Disney Animation Canada…! I said, ‘I didn’t know Walt Disney was in Canada…’ Turns out they had opened a new Animation Studio on Front St. A rush of excitement ran through me like a lightening bolt. I mustered up a ‘Sure!’ and jotted down their address.
Back to Toronto, Ontario
29. Age 30. Production Assistant, Walt Disney Animation Studios. I was the third person hired in Pre-production, the development studio for Walt Disney Animation Canada. The production studio, one floor up, was in full swing working on the sequel to Beauty and the Beast, The Enchanted Christmas. I landed what I would deem ‘my dream job’. What could be better than working for Walt Disney? A small town girl from Brockville Ontario working on Disney movies… unreal. There was just me, a producer from LA and a storyboard artist, named Frank. We were given the task to develop the sequel to none other than ‘Hercules’ which was a box office hit currently in wide release. What the hell did I know about animation or movie production, much less block-buster features? My resume must have impressed?! My first job was to help coordinate the hiring of the rest of the dev crew. They came from everywhere, the best and brightest, Charlie Bonifacio, John Kleber, Ted Collyer, Adrian Thatcher, Frank Lintzen, Luc LaTulippe, Robin Budd, Sylvain Chomet, Jessica Zwaiman, Irene Lee… I called it the dream team mixed and matched from other studios and countries near and far. Artists, animators, character designers, painters, renderers alike joined forces to bring Hercules to life. My roll changed to Artistic Coordinator, scheduling design meetings, creating model sheets which would be circulated to animators once the movie was designed, and assist the production designer photoshopping background keys. We had a blast! The bottom dropped out when we were told that Hercules was to be placed on the shelf. After 6 months of development, word came from head office in Burbank that Hercules II was no more. We were shocked but relieved all at the same time, truth is we were locked in ‘story hell’ for months. Before we could fully integrate the news, there was another announcement. Peter Pan was to have a sequel and we were assigned to develop it! The energy shifted dramatically, the team was elated! Who didn’t love Peter Pan? A new director was hired and life began to shift into high gear again. We said goodbye to Hades and hello to Captain Hook! We steadfastly worked on “Peter and Jane : Return to Never Land” for the next 18 months. The movie took place during WWII, the London Blitz. My job grew to include researching the London Blitz. I sought out as much info I could find to help the artists create the scene. Not an easy task in those days as the internet was in it’s infancy and Google wasn’t around. We even invited Ben Wicks (cartoonist) into the studio who recounted his days as a child living in England during the war, when he, along with over 2 million children who lived in London were taken away from their families to stay with relatives and strangers.
On Tuesdays we’d gather in the multipurpose room for Tai Chi lead by Charlie Bonifacio, our Character Lead. Every fourth Friday, the entire studio, about 150 of us, gathered in the multipurpose room to celebrate the end of another month of hard work. The studio brought in wine, beer and pizza. We chilled over loud music, and getting to know one another. A small group of us would escape to DIP (Digital Ink and Paint Dept) drinks in hand to play a networked video game called ‘Tank’ bombing each other’s tanks from our desks… We had a blast!
One of the most memorable moments was when Roy Disney came to visit the studio. Walt Disney’s nephew. He was in charge of bringing old episodes of Mickey Mouse back to life which was currently in production at the Toronto studio. He was cheerful, approachable and looked just like his famous uncle. He shook my hand and made my day! A magical moment, indeed.
Me, Jessica Zwaiman, Roy Disney, Irene Lee
We received the announcement that Peter Pan II was to be released in the theatres. It was only to be ‘direct-to-video’ originally, so you can imagine our excitement! It took another 18 or so months to finish development before production. We were disappointed when the decision came down that production was going to be transferred to LA and not in the Toronto studio. My job had ended once pre-production stopped. Eventually the studio closed down altogether… I said goodbye to animation.
‘The day Kristin wore braids’ by Joe Giampapa, 1999
30. Age 32. Web Designer, Admin Ass’t, Public Relations Coordinator, NetPotential. While at Disney, I cut my teeth on Photoshop and got pretty savvy with a Mac. The internet was still at it’s infancy, and I really wanted to be a web designer. I noticed an ad on a cafe community bulletin board seeking a web designer, admin assistant for a small home-based Web Design company called NetPotential. I gave the owner a call and she gave me the job. We struck a deal, I would live at her house (she had a room for rent), help her with her business (office admin/PR) and design her website! she new I was just learning how, but she took a chance with me. It was a very interesting arrangement. Veronica and Ian were a fascinating couple with one child at that time. Veronica ran a business and her husband Ian Lazarus was an artist trained internationally who worked on a large scale installations around Toronto. I ate there, slept there and worked with them. They made dinner sometimes and I helped around the house. Ian and I talked stocks and helped me figure out coding. After launching the web site, I knew it was time to go.
31. Age 33. Freelance Web Designer. I honed my web design skills taking small jobs via referrals and job boards. Most of the jobs were small, but enough to get me the next gig.
32. Age 33. Web Designer, Equity Retirement Rewards. This was my first real role as a web designer at a start-up hired on a temporary contract through an employment agency. They offered retirement rewards via a loyalty program. My job was to design the company web site. I met some great friends who I’m still friends with today. This contract ended 8 months later and provided me the ability to travel Europe with John and help buy our first house!
33. Age 34. Web Designer, CCH Canadian Ltd. This was my first entry into a corporation as a full-fledged web designer, the only one on staff. Web design jobs were fairly new to any industry. The web was growing rapidly especially when Google search arrived. My job grew to include UI (user interface) design. I worked with cross-functional teams across the company designing marketing sites, eNewsletters, company intranet, portals, anything they could throw at me. My interests grew to include user experience design and web analytics. It was an interesting time and would mark the longest stint of my employment at any one job! John and I got married, my daughter was born. My role
changed after mat leave.
34. Age 36. eBusiness Solutions Consultant. Yep, that’s the title they gave me the day I got back from being off with my daughter. I leapt from Web Designer to eBusiness Solutions Consultant. It was a ‘lateral’ move. You know what that means… more responsibility, same pay! I had a new boss who placed me in charge of digital transformation. Transforming old digital stuff to new digital stuff. Streamlining email, rebranding, adding a Sharepoint site, etc. It was fun and stimulating! I cut my teeth on web analytics at this time. Loved the idea of knowing we could measure traffic to understand how to make the user experience easier. I willingly dove right in introducing ‘User Experience’ to the company. During this new role, I had come to realize that I truly enjoyed creating change… bringing in the ‘new’, shaking things up! Whether consciously or unconsciously, I created change wherever I went! It was a theme throughout my career, one I would bring to every job as I moved forward.
The day I knew my time at CCH was over was when I was asked to design a user interface for an application and drop everything I was working on. I felt I was taking a step back. I ended up working from home full-time and generally lost interest altogether… my designs were OK, but my heart was not into the work. I called into Hayhouse Radio and got to speak with (the renowned ‘follow your vibes’ maven and mentor), Sonia Choquette, who confirmed that I was an artist (though I absolutely resisted this when she told me! You’ll laugh when you see job #37) it was indeed time to bid farewell! Bid I did!
35. Age 38. Senior Analyst, Channel Analytics, TD Wealth Management. I became very interested in web analytics at CCH and decided to pursue a role that would allow me to explore that full-time. So I did. TD Wealth, the private banking/wealth planning arm of one of the largest financial companies in Canada (TD Bank) was building a new web strategy team whose sole purpose was to re-invent the online customer experience for all of its sites including Web Broker (online brokerage site) and tdwaterhouse.com (consumer site). My role as Senior Analyst, Channel Analytics was to help determine which Web Analytics platform was the ideal tool to use to measure online activity, to replace the existing analytics platform (WebTrends), as well as to create a monthly activity dashboard that was distributed to execs. The job was both exciting and challenging. It was a tight team of just 5 of us which grew to 6. We occupied the 51st floor of the TD Tower for the first 6 months, which provided the most awesome, panoramic view of the city and Lake (Ontario). We were one floor above the famous restaurant ‘Canoe’. I became pregnant with my second child and knew I had to leave before announcing it. I consequently got sacked.
35. Age 41. Manager Digital Strategy, Business Segment, Rogers Communications Ltd. After mat leave I got a job at one of Canada’s largest communications companies as the digital strategist for the newly formed business segment. New team etc. We had a great leader, who really had a great vision, huge responsibility and a great drive to go with it. The company had just gone through a big lay off of thousands of people when I arrived. I was at the main campus as they referred to it. Bloor and Jarvis. Huge headquarters, with all the amenities you could think of, gym, huge caf with a variety of interesting food stations, Tim Horton’s restaurant, starbucks coffee, a doctor’s office, massage therapist, it’s own theatre for super-sized meetings. I noticed how dressed up everyone was, even more than TD Wealth… Everyone was always super busy on their way to super important meetings… crammed in elevators. I couldn’t count the number of meeting rooms it had. We had lots to do and prove as a team. I was challenged with coming up with a brand new business strategy for all Canadian business customers. It was a daunting task with what around 100 internal stakeholders. I bumped heads with another dept who was seemingly doing a similar task… needless to say, I was, in fact, not in charge of the online business strategy. I knew my days were numbered after only 8 months of working there. I faced my own demise and I quietly packed up my desk when no one was watching. The day before ‘the call’, I drove my personal stuff home and went back to the office and waited. I got ‘the call’ as predicted and bravely went into my boss’s office. I sat down and heard the words ‘laid off…’. (awesome!) mentioning that they’re dissolving the position. I wished my boss ‘good luck’ and was quickly escorted to a small meeting room to discuss severance, etc. She told me she’d give me a few minutes to pack up any personal items from my desk, I told her I already did that. Bewildered, she said, “you did?!” She then asked if I needed someone to drive me home or if she could call a cab (because of my obvious distraught state of mind), I shrugged, “No thanks… I’m good! Actually I’m awesome!” (which I was). I shook her hand and thanked her. She paused for a moment and expressed that I had such an unusually good attitude and was noticeably stunned. I gave her a hug and said “thanks for everything”. I high-tailed it out of there with a swing in my step. I was free.
37. Age 42. Entrepreneur. Founder of Hubster. A platform for women entrepreneurs to buy and sell their products and services online. I did not have any desire to work in another corporation after my last job. Instead of entering the free job placement program offered to me by Rogers, I decided to enter the self-employment stream also offered by Rogers… I took some classes and crafted this brilliant platform to help women do business together buying and selling each other’s products and services online. They would earn bonuses and trade them with each other. I worked very hard for 3 long years creating the web site. I went to entrepreneurial school through employment insurance program. I worked very hard to get financial backers, I pitched to the BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada), the young lady said she would only provide funding if I was already making a profit. I ran an Indiegogo campaign to raise money (raised a whopping $100 of which I had to use to pay my loyal backers the gifts I promised, shipping proved to be quite expensive). I applied to MARS (Toronto’s answer to Silicon Valley. “Helps companies bring breakthrough ideas to market and scale globally…”) and pitched to a few people there. Applied to their Incubator program, and …nothing. I had a rock solid business plan, and all my ducks in a row… nothing but crickets. I ended up going to my bank and they gave me a business credit card with $5,000 to go nuts. Nuts I went. I relented and folded my non-company, said goodbye to my dream and sheepishly got a job at…
38. Age 46. Digital Channel Strategy Manager, Investments. Manulife. Manulife was about as big as Rogers… massive. It built it’s reputation on Insurance and was founded by Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. You got reminded of that everyday as you walked through the ‘rotunda’ on the main floor that connected the new building with the old building. I got hired as Manager of digital channel on the growing investment side of the business. I loved my team and made good friends. They went through the same massive layoff as Rogers before I arrived. Flattened the company and it was a bit nuts while they got their ducks in a row (which seemed to never really happen by the time I left. They did it again within the 2+ years I was there). I can’t tell you how crazy my job was… Expectations of companies this size are ridiculous, especially in the digital space. Large corporations just can’t keep up with technology, try as they may. I learned many things in my short tenure. At any given time I had 8–10 projects on the go with big deadlines. My teams were in Waterloo and Toronto. I learned a lot about the investment channel, forayed into digital marketing and capitalized on my analytics skills from TD Wealth. I was later placed on ‘Integration’ when Manulife purchased Standard Life Insurance. I got a new boss. I mostly worked from home as my teams were in Montreal and Waterloo. I really loved the Montreal team, great energy, so fun! I had a BIG decision to make (you can read about that here), stay or go… you know the drill.
And so we arrive to today.
39. Age 49. Founder, 3 Keys Therapy. 3keystherapy.com. Yes. I started my own company, again. (Ok, I won’t say again as Hubster never got off the ground). I’m excited about it. It’s a business I never thought I’d start… I resisted the idea for awhile. You can read about that story here (it’s funny, and you’ll be happy to know, not as lengthy).
Before you head off (to read my 3 Keys story, or to the toilet if you’ve been sitting here for 20 minutes drinking your coffee), I’ll leave you with this
There is no wrong turn, there is simply life and living. Our alphabet teaches us that you cannot arrive at ‘C’ until you’ve experienced ‘A’ and ‘B’. One more thing.
You cannot skip steps.
(Sonia Choquette is the first one to tell me this about 15 years ago at a seminar. Only in retrospect… she’s right.)
Dare at you try, don’t! Seriously, why bother?
You did not come here to be instantly successful, rich and thin. You came here (to this planet in this lifetime) to experience who you are and the only way you could achieve that is by experiencing who you are not! And the only way you can experience that is by the people and experiences you encounter and how you show up to greet them! Day after day, good or bad, big or little, hideous or stupid. That’s the ride called life. Don’t trust the media who place our attention on the uber rich and famous. Trust yourself. Trust your feelings, your inspirations, your instincts. Even the people who seem to randomly show up in your life… they are here to guide you, to lead you, to challenge you, to annoy the crap out of you… all for a very good reason. You invited them into your life. Whether you like it or not. Consciously or unconsciously. Every shit job and every crappy boss provides hidden gifts and act as stepping stones on your path. Trust the path. Nothing is random!
Here’s a secret.
You are here to ‘BE’ not ‘DO’. But you have to ‘DO’ in order to see who you are here to ‘BE’.
This is the path of the soul. The soul is all about growth and expansion. Your desires lead you to your destiny, your soul’s path. What you came here to do. They are your road map. They will lead you to A, then B and then C. Slowly and surely, after a few letters (or in my case 38…), you will arrive at your destiny. How will you know you’ve arrived?
You will feel happy just to BE.
Don’t skip the journey.