As a senior in high school, I remember discussing with friends what would be my impactful, thought-provoking quote to be forever ingrained in the minds of all those who happened to pull out the 2007 school yearbook and navigate to page 57 where my face and quote would be displayed among 150 others. Much like a great barbecue, I was convinced that is process could not be rushed. So it wasn’t surprising that when came to me while I was lounging in my sweatpants on a cold, Winnipeg winter afternoon after binge watching movies.
“My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” — Forrest Gump
Little did I know that Forrest Gump’s words would ring true. I was in my final weeks of high school preparing for an eventful summer before shipping off to university. But before we move forward, I want to jump back 18 years across to great Atlantic Ocean where our story begins.
I was born to military parents in the United Kingdom, and spent much of my childhood bouncing across Canada and Australia. You could say that I was forced to learn languages, when I spent the majority of my early education in a French Roman Catholic school, only to learn how to read and write in Australian English with Japanese taught as an additional language.
I like to think that this early introduction to so many different languages and cultures guided me towards an international business degree, which in turn lead me to work across three continents and see the beautiful mélange of culture the world has to offer. However, despite learning a variety of languages including Mandarin and Japanese, I was always fascinated by web development and the infinite possibility that the languages had to offer. Unlike spoken languages, it had strong language rules that had to be adhered to, for without proper care, the message would be broken. That is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of language mishaps, including a particularly hilarious situation in which I mistook “ninjin” for “ningen” in Japanese while explaining that I like to eat raw carrots, but actually saying raw human. This is a story for another time though.
For years, I would casually dabble in coding, but would always get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I even went so far as to create a faux Shopify store about this idea I had of starting an online subscription based chocolate delivery company with the premise of providing chocolates from around the world to Japan while I was living there. But a few months ago, I decided to make the change because of the most amazing person in my life, my wife Yuki.
Yuki and I met in Canada, but we bounced back and forth between Japan and Canada for the better part of 9 years. I often told Yuki that I’d like to make the switch into web development, but was afraid to take the leap. She would look at me and say, “What do you have to lose?”.
Five months ago, I lost Yuki to cancer at the young age of 29. COVID was a blessing in disguise, as I got to spend an extended amount of quality time with Yuki in her final months. She was always so focused on helping and encouraging others, even as her body began to fail her. A month before her passing, Yuki asked me if I was happy working in sales. That question threw me off and made me question myself. “Was I doing sales because I was good at it, or because I truly enjoyed it?”. We continued to talk about my dream of jumping into web development, to which she once again said, “What do you have to lose?”.
A month after Yuki’s passing, I had become unemployed due to the global pandemic. The funny thing is that it felt so freeing; No longer did I have an excuse to say I had commitments or that it wasn’t the right time to take a chance. I didn’t want to look back in 10 years and think, “I wish I had focused on learning web development and realizing how much I love it”.
So I took a leap of faith, completed some basic courses and am now on my way towards become a Front-end Developer (it feels a little weird writing that). Not only do I feel invigorated because I love what I’m doing, but I know that Yuki is watching over me; cheering me on throughout the journey.
So if you were to tell that 18 year old as he pondered what his senior year quote should be; That he would have a plethora of unbelievable adventures and painful heart-breaking moments, he wouldn’t believe it for a moment. However, I know that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.