May 23 – welfare words of wisdom

303/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   One of the best jobs that prepared me for life surprisingly wasn’t teaching.  After finishing my Bachelors of Commerce degree and realizing that a career in business was not for me, I quit and started on a career search contemplating many paths (even a prison guard!!).  I eventually ended up working at Social Services & Housing or more commonly known as the Welfare Department.  I have written a couple of gratitude posts about a secretary, a part-time employee and a client from there who had an impact on me but tonight it’s about the co-workers I had.  If not for them, I really don’t know how this young 20 something got through one of the most stressful jobs there was (I worked in every office in Vancouver – Skid Row being one of my long term stints).  I remember John and Dorothy both well in their 60s working at the Renfrew office.  I learned two things from them – John had compassion and care for his clients and Dorothy was just doing it for the pay cheque and of the two, I knew who I wanted to be.  There was a funky lady who would come down from Brackendale every day to work in the same office – she was biding her time until a position close to home opened up and I learned from her that sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to do what you want to do.  While working at the offices on Robson & Denman, I met co-workers Rena and Xanthy who were polar opposites – an older black lesbian and a young, Greek diva – but both of them had a passion for life and living in them and no matter how depressing/demanding the job got, they knew that there was more to life and I learned balance from them.  Sid was an easy going, classy guy who also happened to be at the Davie Street offices.  He gave me the best advice – don’t let the job consume you and remember that you have to leave things at the office.  I haven’t seen or run into these people now for nearly three decades but there advice and words (as well as others I didn’t mention in this post) still live with and give me the perspective in teaching that I need.  Thank you my Welfare co-workers for the impact that you had on a guy just starting into the work world!  I needed it.

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May 13 – Expo 86

293/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  30 years ago, I got the job that changed me forever.  The job that got me out of my shell.  The job that gave me confidence.  The job that basically set me on the path to becoming who I am today.  Yes, I worked at McDonald’s and Bootlegger and A&A Records and yes, they brought out or refined qualities in me but the job that had the greatest impact was my work as a host for the BC Pavilion during Expo 86.  It was not the job itself entirely, although I learned all about British Columbia, but moreso the people that I worked with.  I had very little confidence but I managed to ace the interview and be the first host/hostess to be hired months before official interviews (long story).  I was a bundle of nerves when training started before the official opening in May of 1986.  Here I was with all these older people – most of them my fellow hosts/hostesses.  I was just 20 years old and knew I got myself into something way over my head.  I have written a gratitude post about Frank who got me out of my shell with his ingenious method of making me completely uncomfortable LOL.  However, there was also Ian who was this 6 foot 6 guy who had a cool car and would take me and Cindy for rides.  I remember drinking for the first time with hosts and hostesses and being at parties (okay maybe one or two of the many that the rest attended) – something the nerdy, geeky, overweight Randy of high school never did and was never invited to.  I remember staying at the residences for the host for a couple of weeks to bond and connect.  I remember hilarious Kim who would say things to me to see if she could get a reaction out of me – she did.  I remember very nice Rob who was kind and genuine towards me.  I remember supervisors both great (Rick and Lois) who gave me an indicator of what awesome leadership was and I remember supervisors not so great (no names mentioned he he) who showed me what just being powerful was – and that was not good.  I remember being surrounded by some of the most stunning males and females – great marketing EXPO 86 🙂  I remember some of the nicest hostesses like Jana, Susan, Maria and Tess who made me feel very comfortable in my own skin.  I also recall some wild characters who I shied away from like George, Marita, Jamie, Doug and Trish but secretly was in awe of because they were so very cool.  I remember working with the Southam press heiress and a guy who would go on to be on One Tree Hill and Mad Men. Yes, that was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad that I was host for the province of British Columbia – the best job to have had at EXPO 86 of the thousands that were available.  Yes, there were still mean/not so nice hosts and hostesses because my awkwardness still shone through and I was shunned by some but for all of you who accepted me (like Bina, Haneef, Ken, Lana, Jamie, Sandra, Karen, Coniah, Greg, Sergio, Blair, Windy, Jayni, Anne-Marie, Vicky, Stephanie and the many, many still unmentioned by name in this post – I’m sure I’m going to offend someone because I forgot them) and made me feel a part of that great experience, I thank you and I am glad that through Facebook, I have discovered many of you and rekindled or created new friendships as mature adults.  Something sure was Happening there for me!

April 15 – time of Grace

265/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  UBC is when I came out of my shell but I was also trying to figure out what type of shell I had been in as well.  I tried many looks – yes, I sported the asymmetrical hair with the funky patterned shirts and neon pants (total 80s guy).  I also tried on personalities but the true, overexcited, loud, fun person eventually surfaced.  During those UBC Commerce years – probably the most conservative of degrees I could have chosen – I met quite a few people and made friends with a few as people as well.  One of the people who was in my option of Marketing was Grace.  I don’t think we ever spoke as I had my own partners for projects and she had her own people.  We were in a couple of required classes together but other than that, she would have been like any other person in the degree – a fleeting memory.  However, two years later, I decided to change paths and get my Education degree.  I did my practicum at Charles Tupper in the Business department and who was a teacher there?   Grace!   She recognized me immediately and started talking to me and I will be honest, I had no clue who she was but feigned recognition.  I think she may have figured it out LOL but it was great having Grace there.  She gave me invaluable advice about teaching and especially about how to work with my practicum teacher sponsors (her co-workers).  At the end of my practicum, I didn’t really think I’d see her again but we kept in touch via email but fast forward two years and I got a long term sub gig at Britannia Secondary for who – yup, Grace!  She was involved in a car accident and I took over her classes pretty close to the start of the school year.  Of course, I had to talk to her almost weekly about the subjects and what I should be doing and that is when we started becoming friends.  I saw her at conferences and we started exchanging Christmas cards, shared child rearing stories and advice about life, immigrant parents – the list went on.  We made efforts to connect back in the day although it’s tougher now as both of us are busy with life.  Thank you Grace for being that mentor that I needed starting off my teaching career and for being a good friend over the years.  Here’s to reconnecting again.

March 23 – by George

242/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  One of my favourite yet craziest and most challenging jobs I ever had was working for Social Services and Housing (Welfare) when I was in my very early 20s. My mom – the crazy, judgmental parent (at times) told me that I would get killed working with those people!!! Yup, that’s the type of advice she’d give me when she didn’t understand things. However, I learned so much about myself in that job especially growing up on this side of the fence. I worked with many people over my two and a half year career but the people I remember are some of the stand-out clients. The one guy that really affected me was George. He was First Peoples and my client at the Main and Hastings branch that I was a regular at. We had some crazy times in that office – I mean the front desk window was made of plexiglass and you’d think we would be safe when the main Vancouver police station was across the street but no, we had many incidents that required the shutting down of the office. I learned how to set up my office so I could run out if I had to for my own safety!! George would come in high and sometimes homeless losing his cheque over a drinking binge. But he would always be honest with me and own up to what had happened. He’d crack jokes and I felt a fondness for him as he was real and I didn’t feel like I was being used just as a money conduit. He took my advice for rehab classes – unfortunately never really finishing them.   When I switched offices, of course I lost contact with George but one day I happened to be downtown with friends and there was George! He saw me and recognized me and called out my name and I was like “Hey George” – he chatted with me briefly but sadly he was aware of the awkwardness from my friends but I gave him the respect he deserved. He high fived me and cracked another joke and then he was on his way. I’d like to think that I made a difference in George’s life and that he found his way but that’s probably not the case; however, he was one of the reasons that I got into teaching as I knew my role was to make an impact earlier in lives rather than later. Thank you George for showing me that everyone is worthy and to keep me cognizant of why I teach.

February 1 – would you like fries with that?

192/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. Here I am starting a new semester and looking at these wise and worldly teenagers in my classes and it gets me to thinking and reflecting on my past. Back in high school, it was hell but my escape was my job at the local McDonald’s and not just a basic McDonald’s but the very first McDonald’s in all of Canada – at #3 Road and Granville in Richmond. I don’t know what gave me the courage to go and apply for the job and keep phoning back but persevere I did and ended up getting the job. I was the lucky guy who got to bypass lobby – meaning I did not have to be in the restaurant with broom, mop and dustpan and clean up. I also did not want the coveted male job of grill – sweating over a hot oven cooking up burgers – no, definitely not for me. I ended up being counter/window and taking orders which lasted about a year and then I became the first male host talking to customers in the restaurant area and doing children’s birthday parties – easiest job there and bonus – we got tipped!! Over the years, I met a lot of co-workers there who didn’t know the fat, geeky Randy and I was able to shape a new persona – actually, that is incorrect, they shaped my new persona by accepting me and letting me be me. Yes, some of them judged me – and I still remember who you are 😉 – but a lot of them were like me just trying to fit in and those are the people I really want to thank tonight for accepting the awkward, not comfortable in his shell but try-hard wanting to please guy. The Natalies, Jassys, Leannes, Debbies, (RIP) Garys, Mikes, Robs, Traceys, Monettes, Patricias, Claudettes, Julias, Brians, etc etc. I also want to thank the regulars who were the day full time crew that we rarely saw but I worked with during my Pro Ds off from high school. These ladies were the kind moms who gave me love, support and warmth that I didn’t really get and I still remember them to this day. Y’all had a significant impact in shaping who I became because you allowed me to ease into who I was to become. In your honour, I shape an ice cream cone because you shaped me!

January 5 – the Bootlegger boyz

165/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I’ve never been a guy’s guy. And I’m 50 so that’s definitely not gonna change. I basically shied away from hanging with the guys when I was younger given that I was bullied by guys physically so it was just easier on me to not have any contact with the same gender lest I be fooled into trusting and then being made fun/beaten up. I’ve spoken in these posts about how I gained confidence towards the tail end of grade 12 and the first years of university. This was a very strange time for me. I was shedding the fat that haunted me during my childhood and teen years and I was coming into my looks and started getting positive attention from people in the newer situations I was in (university, part-time jobs etc). I was very wary of this attention as I did then (as I still do now) think of myself as that fat kid inviting negative attention to himself. I mean, being put down for so long, I didn’t even know it when someone was making a genuine attempt at befriending me as I always assumed there was an ulterior motive. This was the case when I was working at Bootlegger. There were about a handful of young men my age who were also employed there. Guys who – in my estimation – had it all: girls fawning over them, looks, style, charisma and charm. I was secretly in awe. Then I got asked to hang with a bunch of them one night after work. I didn’t take it as a compliment or an opportunity to have a good time – the skeptic in me thought this was some type of trick and was trying to figure out their ulterior motives. I don’t know what it was in me that gave me the courage to go but it turned out to be a great evening. Yes, it took me a while to get over my hesitation but after realizing that they were genuinely interested in my company and not use me as something to entertain themselves by, I let myself slowly open up and trust. I never became lasting friends with any of them but during my time at Bootlegger, we were friends and that was the start of gaining my confidence with males that I never had. Thanks to those Bootlegger boys, I was able to start working on my social awkwardness and gain a greater degree of confidence in who I was as a person that has directly affected who I am today – no problems hangin’ with the boys now! Cheers to you Bootlegger boys wherever you may be as you made me!

December 27 – service oriented

156/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. It’s the holidays and for someone in my career (teaching), you kind of take it for granted that you get two weeks off to relax, rejuvenate and destress or in my case, eat and drink and gain a Santa belly. You forget that a lot of people actually work during this time and if they are on holidays, they are taking time off during this period to be with friends and family – especially if they have younger children. I realized that this past weekend. On Friday, an internet repair technician came to our house to upgrade our modem as we were having problems with connection speeds. This was Friday Christmas Day!!! I felt guilty that he was working on this day – and internet is not an essential service (although some days it feels like it is!!). I remarked this to him and soon realized that he was a newbie and must have been given this as part of his schedule. I got his business card and asked for his supervisor’s name (told him why) and sent her an email about him and how he helped us out on Christmas Day. My wife’s car has been dead at the airport over Christmas and Boxing Day and we got a technician to come out and look at it today on a Sunday (typical day off for people like me) and during the holidays. Great man who figured out the problem and set us on our way. Yes, there could be so many bitter people who have to work on the holidays but I have not encountered them since venturing out for groceries, the odd latte or a night out drinking beer with friends. Everyone has been so kind and pleasant – maybe it ‘tis the season or maybe these gratitude posts just make me see the world in a different way these days. Thank you to all of you who work/have to work during these days but doing it in such a kind and happy way – your attitude definitely deserves to be rewarded but the least I can do is recognize it.

December 11 – i got the look

140/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. People look at me today and think I just ooze confidence and have always been like this. If you’ve read a few of my blog posts, you no doubt realize that the “me” you see has traveled a hard road to get to where he is today but done it with a smile and never the “woe is me” attitude. At times I feel that I overcompensate with my outgoing personality and attention to detail in regards to my appearance as I feel that geeky, overweight, awkward, teenager will make some sort of spontaneous appearance and unravel all that I have worked hard for – I mean, I see him every so often in the mirror still lurking after so many years. Maybe he’s there to serve as a reminder – and that’s actually a good thing. In my teen years as I was starting to physically shed him, I also started to gain confidence and was able to secure part-time student jobs based on my personality but the first job based more on my looks and how I presented myself was at Bootlegger, the jeans store, in Richmond Centre. I have no idea what gave me the courage to apply for that job but I did and that manager at the store was wonderful. She talked with me and asked me questions about who I am and why I wanted to work in the clothing industry as my only job experience up until then was at McDonald’s. I was honest with her about my pre-teen/teenage years and perhaps feeling sorry for me, she offered me the job. I was ecstatic – this was the ego-boost that this guy needed until I realized who I was working with and the intimidation factor set in: the best looking crop of teenage/young adults preceding A&F by about two decades. I really had to quickly fake the confidence. I was in awe of the people I worked with and just to be basking in their aura – yes, that was how great a deal it was for me. And then, the manager decides to cast me in Bootlegger’s Christmas fashion shows to be held at a few malls in the Vancouver area. There is only so much a person can fake and I really didn’t know what was happening as I was way out of my element. Always the risk-taker, I did it – I got advice, I got taught how to walk, how to dress and undress in seconds, how to turn, all of it and I loved it. I loved the attention I got (which I honestly longed for growing up) all due to this manager at Bootlegger who just gave me a chance and had no clue what she did for my ego. Yes, I may currently put an overemphasis on my appearance – I am the king of selfies and change my look more than some change their underwear 😉 – but it’s because that shy, overweight, unconfident boy is in the shadows always reminding me of who I could still be and this may be my way of keeping him at bay. You might me thinking that this blog post must be the most shallow gratitude post and I can agree with you but allow me this one so you can understand who I am today and what brought me to this point. Thank you Bootlegger manager for making me feel validated based on my looks. I needed that then. It allowed the rest of my confidence to flourish. This selfie is in honour of you!