“Never blame anyone in your life. Good people give you happiness. Bad people give you experience. Worst people give you a lesson. And best people give you memories.”
– Zig Ziglar, American Author, Salesman.
I was born in Toronto to a young couple who were still learning about who they were and how to navigate the world. At the time, their idea of what family meant was highly influenced by a centralized media narrative that was artfully designed around the perfect nuclear family. At the opposing side of this idealistic narrative was the reality of their real life experience in an unstable and dysfunctional family environment. Their parents, my grandparents, were ill prepared for navigating the world that was unfolding in the 1960s. Both my parents grew up in poverty and never had the opportunities to form strong relationships with their parents, peers and siblings. Needless to say, this volatile family experience made them vulnerable to the world.
Against this backdrop, I was born in Toronto and shortly after found myself being raised by a newly divorced, single mother whose trust in relationships (and arguably in people at large) had been permanently damaged. I was lucky though, my mom stopped at nothing to make sure I had the opportunity to see the world, get an education and know what unconditional love meant. My mom, who was very undereducated, always stressed the importance of an education and always made sure to define education as my ability to learn whatever I wanted. She gave me the confidence to pursue my ideas and the faith to believe I could succeed at anything I put my mind to.
My mom taught me how to use a library (which I would often visit on the way home from high school), she bought me my first computer when I was 6 years old with money she saved from her social assistance cheque, I got my first programming book when I was 12, and my first internet connection when I was 15 with a 56K modem. My mom sacrificed everything for me all while ensuring I had the confidence, love and support to navigate the world.
My father was not in my day to day life when I was growing up. He had moved to the other side of the country with his new family. I believe this was a tough decision for him and was not made without a heavy heart. Of course, as a young man growing up you need a father figure and for those earlier years of my life I resented him for leaving. Reflecting back, I realise I also resented not being able to grow up with my brothers and sister whom I would always think of but never had a real relationship with.
Ultimately I did have a father figure growing up though, my step father would step into the role and taught me many valuable lessons. He taught me how to skate, play hockey, baseball, he bought my first programming book and probably 10 or 15 computers over the years, he was there when I got into trouble and helped me get out of jams. Although we could sometimes fight like cats and dogs, I always knew he would drop everything to help me, and still would.
It would have been easy for me to be another statistic of the socially economically disadvantaged. My curiosity, willingness to try and fail, ability to understand how things work and relentless ambition to break out of my likely fate drove me to succeed where so many others fail.
This is how my life started.