What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Or I guess, more to the point, what’s the best advice you can recall?
For me, there’s a few: there’s the guy I went to college with that once told me to “never settle”. To this day, it applies to so much in my life. Always aim and reach for a goal and never be satisfied for anything less.
There’s also the story, which I can’t remember how I ever got exposed to, where the ancient king asks for all the knowledge in the known world and continues to ask for it to be smaller and boiled down until it results in “this too shall pass”. A valuable lesson as well and one that has been a guiding light at times. Something to anchor some hope to.
But oddly enough, when I think about advice, it always comes back to a plumber.
When I was in college, in first year, I stayed in the basement of a house owned by a woman named Doreen. I never really saw eye-to-eye with her, but I can distinctively remember one day when there was a plumber in the house to fix some problem and instead of being at school and earning an education, I was hanging around the basement. So a conversation struck up.
In the conversation, two key pieces of information were passed to me. This was almost 10 years ago, but they stick with me to this day.
This first was this: Halifax always supports a winner. Which makes sense, given my experiences with sports over the last decade. The city, as a whole, seems to be tied to the idea of ‘being on a map’, attracted to success. This is why the Mooseheads make money and university hockey doesn’t, one of them is a pipeline to future big league domination, and the other is essentially what happens to those who don’t end up being sucked down that pipeline. This is also why the Rainmen aren’t particularly successful, but the arena will fill when it’s university basketball or a Raptors training camp. It’s a shame, but it rings so so true. The city loves a winner and is full of fair-weather fans. Halifax has arguably the best CHL team in the country this year and no surprise, the arena is packed and jumping each night.
The second piece of knowledge is a bit more personal. To understand it, I need to share a bit about where I was when I had this conversation. As I mentioned, this was first year of college and it was shortly after I interviewed George Davis, a Mooseheads player who was drafted by the Ducks. It was the first interview I ever did and it was the first time I really considered journalism as any sort of serious possibility. At the time, I wasn’t necessarily satisfied with my college program in computer programming, but I hardly had any idea what to do with my life as an idiot 18-year-old.
So hanging out in the basement with a plumber, he threw me this nugget: “I figure, if you’ve got most of that stuff figured out by the time you’re thirty, you’re in pretty good shape.” He went on to explain the checklist, which is something that, I can admit, I’ve been chafing against a bit since then: the whole idea of getting a job you can live with, an idea on what you want to do with your life, maybe an idea on who you want to spend your life with, where you want to live, what kind of person you want to be.
I don’t really subscribe to the checklist idea, the thought that you get the job, get the girl, make her the wife, then the house, the picket fence and the family. Maybe, eventually I will, but for me, right now that’s not what I’m about. But that in itself is also a self-realization I didn’t have 10 years ago.
Which brings us to now. Now all of the sudden, I’m 28. I’m not a computer programmer, because I was right, that wasn’t for me. I’m also not a journalist, because that’s not a viable path either. But I feel like I’ve found some direction (this is the point where I gush about my job, I guess). And to me, that’ s a bit of a relief, because it harkens back to the plumber too. Here I am, two years away from a silly arbitrary deadline and yet, I think I know my path and as long as I keep running, as fast as I can, along that path, I feel that nothing can touch me, let along stop me. At the very least, I know what kind of person I want to be and perhaps even what I want to do with my life.
The past two months have been extremely busy and in many ways they’ve been the culminations of work that I’ve done over the past five years, if not the past decade. But it feels like it’s all worth it and it feels like as long as I keep sprinting, keep going down this path, everything else will start to untangle and figure itself out as well. It’s all at an unsustainable pace and I know that, but more importantly, I appreciate that it feels like it’s the correct path, which is some direction I think I’ve lacked for quite some time, and at the same time, it’s also the precise sort of direction that a plumber once told me about, when I was just a kid, sitting in a basement, not wanting to be a computer programmer.