Steve shares his story on striving towards life balance.
Last Updated: December 15, 2020
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Life Balance: Steve’s Story
The Early Days
I was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1971. I was raised in a middle-class home with two very loving and supportive parents. Looking back, I remember being so happy and playful as a child. I was very curious, always wanting to experience and learn new things. I wasn’t shy and would talk to anyone who wanted to hold a conversation.
Attending my first year of public school was an exciting new world filled with new friends and the challenges of building an education. Unfortunately, I failed my first year of school. My teachers said that I was having difficulty in reading and comprehension.
My parents brought me to an eye doctor that summer, and it was discovered that I had a mild form of dyslexia. Throughout the next school year, I was on a daily regimented schedule of eye exercises and worksheets designed to correct my dyslexia. By the end of the year, I had passed grade 1, and the dyslexia was nearly gone.
Sadly, this had a huge impact on my self-confidence. Throughout my school years up to grade 12 graduation, I struggled with learning new things academically. I was so incredibly fearful of trying to learn new things, and then “FAILING”, because I wasn’t smart enough. So I tended to avoid courses that I deemed “too difficult”.
I did however excel in athletics. My grade 4 teacher noticed my aptitude for gymnastics and recommended to my parents that I pursue the sport. My decision to join a local gymnastics club helped change my life. It taught me that hard work, discipline, focus, and confidence are essential in achieving your goals.
I eventually competed provincially, where I won gold in the all-around at the Alberta winter games. A year later, I competed nationally, where I made the Alberta team, and competed at the 1987 Canada Winter Games.
I retired from gymnastics in 1988 due to mounting injuries. Unfortunately, I could not apply or see the parallels between athletic and academic excellence, until I was in college.
I have always had a love and fascination with food. I attended culinary arts courses throughout high school. My first job out of high school was with Earls Restaurants. I completed my cooking apprenticeship with Earls, where I graduated with an interprovincial Journeyman Certificate in cooking. I enjoyed an amazing career with Earls advancing to Kitchen Leader (manager) and then later promoted to their flagship store in Calgary, as the Kitchen Manager of Earls Tin Palace. I was now applying the drive, motivation, confidence, and personal development skills that I learned in gymnastics towards all aspects of my life.
My mother was the kindest most loving person I’ve ever known. The top priority in her life was family. Nothing meant more to her than the happiness and well-being of her family. She would drop everything, “In the blink of an eye”, to ensure the family’s needs are met. She was at every gymnastics practice and meet. She drove me tirelessly from school to the gym club every day.
In 1995, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She fought so hard but passed away later that year. I was completely devastated, and couldn’t properly mourn her loss. It was too overwhelming. I dove heavily into work at Earls to compensate for this tremendous loss. She’s the best person I’ve ever known. I still think about her every day and mourn her loss.
I resigned from Earls in 1997 to start a new life with my fiance in a small town in British Columbia. We fell in love in Calgary, while she was finishing up her Education degree. We decided her teaching career would take off faster where she had family and connections within this small town
After repositioning myself within this small town’s restaurant industry, I found it wasn’t meeting my drive or passion that I held at Earls.
As a student who struggled in the academic setting, I thought I had something special to offer students. I could really understand what they were going through.
Against all the fears I had, I decided to go back to school and get my education degree. I was going to be a teacher! I attended Northern Lights College, where I completed all the prerequisite courses for the education program from Simon Fraser University.
I now had the confidence to re-enter academics, I still had this small internal fear that I would fail at this. I overcompensated by basically living with my head in a book studying. My hard work and dedication to doing well were paying off. I was able to finish near the top of my class in most courses. I was proud of myselfand realized that I was good at learning academic material. I just needed to work hard and apply myself.
Ironically, the very fear of failing in school contributed to the downfall of my marriage. I did not create a balance in my life and put way too much emphasis on school. For these reasons, we grew apart and were divorced in the spring of that year.
So now the success and feeling of achievement were met with feelings of failure and self-doubt.
At this point, life seemed to be at an all-time low.
That summer I moved back to Calgary to stay with my Dad.
After moving back to Calgary, I was in a strange place in my life. I had lost the zest for restaurant life, and the dream of becoming a teacher was packed away with the separation from my ex-wife.
I had gained weight while attending College. There was too much emphasis on school, and no priority for a healthy lifestyle. My faith in the institution of marriage was nonexistent, and I had no interest in developing another relationship with someone.
The new priorities in my life were finding a fitting career, getting back in shape, and finding time for myself.
My best friend and brother were both electricians. They both appeared to be happy in their jobs, and I was interested in the electrical trade. I landed a job with a local commercial electrical company with the help of my best friend. I dove heavily into work and started electrical trade school a year later.
I was in the gym every day focusing on losing weight and following a healthy lifestyle. I managed to lose 40lbs that year, and I felt great.
Two years later, my brother connected me with a job as an industrial oilfield electrician. I completed my electrical apprenticeship and graduated with an interprovincial Journeyman Certificate in Electrical.
I was also spending more time developing my passion for fly fishing and traveling to amazing locations like Caye Caulker in Belize, Campeche in Mexico, and Patagonia.
I spent the majority of my spare time fishing the world-class Bow River in Calgary.
Life felt like it was starting to get back on track. I bought a townhome and was promoted to electrical supervisor at work.
Balancing the Scales…
Over the course of the next 10 years, I was very focused on my career.I was fortunate enough to work with some very talented electricians, who taught me a tremendous amount about electrical and controls. I was making good money and living a comfortable life financially. I bought a second house and rented out the townhome.
Things were great, so I thought. Similar to my college experience, I put all my focus on work, and neglected a healthy lifestyle. My health and fitness were really starting to decline. I was heavier than I’d ever been at 290lbs. I had little to no social life and still hadn’t focused on any kind of lasting relationship.
Life again was not balanced. I needed to make health and fitness not only a priority but a lifestyle. I was, for the first time in my life, actually scared and concerned about my health. I was short of breath walking up a flight of stairs, and I had to hold my breath to bend over and tie my shoes. It wasn’t a choice to change, it was a must to change.
So I set out to make this a lifestyle. Every morning I started work at 6:00 am, and I was exhausted after working 12 hour days. I was not going to use this as an excuse not to take care of myself.
I made a healthy meal plan and prepared my meals ahead of time to cover the week. I was far too tired to prepare a meal for supper. I got rid of all the junk food in the house and filled it with healthy snacks such as grapes, blueberries, apples, and carrots.
I went to bed every night at 8:00 pm, and I got out of bed at 4:00 am to go to the gym. I worked out 6 days a week for 1 hour and took Sundays off. I allowed myself 1 cheat meal on Sunday night. This was a very positive change for me.
I lost 120lbs in 11 months.
I got down to 170lbs from 290lbs. Once I’m committed, I go all in.
I stopped eating anything with gluten, and refined sugar. I limited my calories to unhealthy levels and my weight loss was too fast and extreme. This was not the healthiest way to lose weight.
I was again so afraid of failing that I stopped at nothing to achieve my goal. I realized that this was not healthy and started to eat a lot more calories and healthy carbs. I started resistance training 3 days a week and limited cardio to 3 days a week.
Over the next year, I gained approximately 10lbs of muscle and was down to about 12% body fat. My total weight was between 180 and 185lbs.
I never felt better in years.The last time that I felt this strong and vibrant was when I was a competitive gymnast.
Doing cardio at the gym was starting to get boring. My best friend just purchased a road bike and loves it. So I followed suit and bought a road bike as well. I absolutely love cycling.
In the summer of 2017, I rode in the Ride To Conquer Cancer with my best friend and his girlfriend. What a great event for a great cause. The event is filled with amazing people with amazing stories, so inspirational.
In 2018, the industry I was working in started to feel the pressure of a declining oil market in Alberta. Large electrical and control projects in the oil field were becoming hard to find. As a result, I found myself doing a lot more electrical service work out of town.
It was becoming a lot harder to maintain any kind of regular workout routine. For instance, it was not uncommon to arrive in the gym, and 10 minutes later having the phone ring, and be sent off to work. I found myself eating out a lot while being on the road. I could fit in the occasional workout, and sprints of eating well. But it was hard to maintain anything that was consistent.
Around this time, one of my best friend’s Dad passed away from Cancer. He was an amazing man and is greatly missed. He had a wonderful funeral filled with friends and family.
I was reunited with a really good friend, Michelle from my early days. I originally met her at a local bar that all of our friends frequented back then. Michelle became very good friends with all of my friends, and we would all hang out regularly over a period of 5 years or so. Michelle and I also worked together at the same Earls restaurant and shared all kinds of entertaining stories with each other about the Earls days.
Back in these days, Michelle dated one of my best friends. They remained good friends, even throughout their many breakups. Michelle and I always had such a natural and fun friendship.
Eventually, long after her romantic relationship with my friend was over, our friendship grew into something more. One night we ended up kissing.
Shortly after that night, I told her that this didn’t feel right, and we should just remain friends. I could really see the potential for our relationship to grow into something amazing back then, but I felt way too guilty dating my best friend’s ex-girlfriend.
We never saw each other again, until Michelle’s 30th birthday gathering with our group. After her birthday, I never saw or spoke to her again until we reunited with our original group at the funeral.
True Balance = Connection
I haven’t done the best job of keeping in touch with most of my friends over the years. Michelle made that clear to me at the funeral and said I needed to stay in touch with everyone. She reminded me of how close our group really is and that I would greatly benefit from those relationships. We agreed to message each other a couple of times a year.
I kept up with these friends more, making it a priority to share time with friends at their cabin, or fishing. I was starting to see more balance in my friendships.
Michelle stayed somewhat true to her word. She checked in a year and a half after the funeral and then one other time 3 years later.
Her text came in while I was out of town with work. I was extremely busy with work and hadn’t been getting a lot of sleep at the time. I thought it was best to message her back once things slowed down, and I was in a better head space.
That time never seemed to arrive, and I found myself flat-out busy, until the day I was flying home – 3 weeks later. Regardless of my reasons, I felt guilty and that wasn’t right. I messaged her at the airport and apologized for not responding to her text earlier.
Thankfully she was understanding, and just happy that I got back to her. After arriving back in Calgary, I met some of our mutual friends at their cabin and made a plan to drive out to Kelowna to visit Michelle and some of our other mutual friends.
Balance in Love…
I was a little nervous while driving out to see her. I hadn’t seen Michelle since the funeral. I’d put on some weight since being at the funeral, which l was self-conscious about.
I also hadn’t really spent much time with her since we were young. I was just nervous and wanted Michelle to see the same person that she knew in our younger years.
After arriving at her door, my fears were put to rest. We had a long hug and from then on, everything came so naturally.
Over the next 3 days, we had so much fun together laughing and catching up. We went hiking, toured the vineyards, and walked the Waterfront boardwalk.
The day we spent at the vineyards was really special. We stopped at the Red Rooster Winery for lunch. Our waitress used Michelle’s phone to take our picture.
From the moment I hugged her during the photo, I knew that my feelings for her were changing into more than just friends.
I also got the sense that she was feeling the same way.
The next morning Michelle said that an intimate relationship was too hard for us with me living in Calgary. I agreed, so we both decided to just remain good friends.
I was only planning on being in Kelowna for 3-4 days. I ended up extending this to 10 days. It was just so hard to leave each other. We could no longer deny the love that we felt for each other. We needed to pursue the love that we felt for each other on a deeper level, but we were not sure how this was going to look with us living 700kms apart. But we needed to try.
Leaving Michelle and driving back to Calgary was really difficult.
I completed another 3-week shift out of town with work. This was a really tough shift being away from Michelle. The Industry I worked in was really slowing down. Being away and working out of town seemed to be the only option left for employment.
I decided to take a layoff from the company that I worked for and relocate to Kelowna.
This was an extremely hard decision to leave the electrical oil field industry. Over the years, there were parts of the job that I really enjoyed. But the instability and uncertainty of a declining oilfield market helped drive me to make a change.
I sold my home in Calgary, packed my stuff, and relocated to Kelowna to start a new life.
It was an exciting time settling into the Okanagan lifestyle while exploring opportunities for work. During this time, Michelle and I built an even deeper connection and love for each other.
I proposed to Michelle in the spring, and we set a date for the wedding in the summer of 2021.
The original plan was for me to find a job in Kelowna that allowed me to live a more balanced lifestyle, where I could get into a regular routine of work and a healthy lifestyle.
After giving this a lot of careful thought, we decided for me to join the Best Ever Guide to Life team. It is a chance to combine all of my education and passions into one position – helping others express their passion through food, learning, and hobbies.
I am so incredibly honored and grateful to contribute and share in the Best Ever Guide to Life Inc. Life is an exciting journey filled with ups and downs.
My Best Ever is…
I feel the key to achieving a happy and fulfilling life is to try and find a balance between work, family, relationships, your passions, and a healthy active lifestyle.
Best Ever Lifestyle Guide Inc. is an independent lifestyle guide for British Columbia based in Kelowna, BC.
We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.