Day 147 - Stevie (2nd person I approached)
May 27, 2014 - The first gentleman I approached, declined my invitation to chat. As I was walking away, he politely asked me what the name of my project was. I told him, and I could see recognition flash across his face.
”Ahh, were you on the news the other week, on TV?” he asks. I tell him yes, and though he still doesn't have the time to chat because of timing, he tells me he likes what I’m doing. A nice chance encounter.
Stevie was eating her lunch, sitting with her feet resting on a chair opposite. I sat down and we started chatting immediately. She was on a break from work, and as happens, I discovered that she works with Donivin from Day 128 of The Stranger Project 2014. That’s a first that I’ve spoken with two people who know each other!
Stevie comes from Burlington, Ontario. I soon learned it is NOT the home of the Burlington Coat Factory. She is the oldest of two children, both girls.
“I definitely felt responsibility. I was the oldest. The first child born to my parents, my aunts and uncles. I was the one who broke the ice for everyone else. I set the tone and ran all the experiments. My sister had it much easier because of me. My parents punished us equally as well. It didn’t matter who started the fight, we both got punished. We learned to be friends, it was easier. I think that stayed with me as it's just better to make friends with people in general,” said Stevie.
The sisters started dancing at an early age.
“I was into ballet and jazz. I continued dancing right into university. My sister stopped after high school,” she said. Stevie would go on to compete in dance. However an injury that she had sustained got worse over time.
“It was tough because I had to keep dancing to qualify, but it wasn't getting any better. I just had surgery to repair and replace ligaments in my right knee. I waited seven years for the surgery. But at least now I can move again and do things. I started doing yoga to at least stay fit and active,” she said.
Immediately after high school, Stevie went to university in St Catherines, Ontario.
“I didn’t even know what I wanted to go to university for. I took Psychology, at the suggestion of my parents. My mother went to university, but no one else in her family or my father’s family had, and I was going. That was that,” said Stevie.
After one year, she took control.
“I told my parents I didn’t want to go to university any longer. It just wasn’t working for me. I wasn’t interested in it and I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to travel. So I quit university and got three jobs and worked really hard for about nine months. I paid back the money my parents had put into my schooling, saved some money and went travelling,” she said. Stevie had met a friend while working and he suggested she try Fiji.
“I told my parents I was going to Australia, that I had friends there and a place to stay. Then I went to Fiji where I knew no one. A week later I called my friend in Australia and headed to Sydney. I stayed there for about six weeks. Then I moved on to Byron Bay for about four months. I met a couple of other Canadians that were travelling around and we basically hitch hiked all up the coast. We would stay in the most random of places, sometimes for one night, sometimes for a few weeks. I spent about a year and half traveling around Australia. On my way back home I stopped in Taipei, China for a week,” she said.
Life back in Burlington wasn’t the same for Stevie, after traveling.
“I moved to Toronto for a while and got a job, but I didn’t really care for Toronto either. I thought I’d move to Banff because I thought it would be fun to work in a ski resort. My dad laughed and said that I should not be thinking about living in an tourist ski resort. I went anyway. It’s expensive living in a tourist ski resort! So I moved to Whistler. I got a job working with the Olympics, greeting athletes and doing various hospitality jobs. I also got a bar job, so at least I was able to afford to live there,” said Stevie.
Throughout her moves and travelling, there was always a young man in the background. Someone she had dated since before university. He had moved around to be with her, Toronto, Banff, and Whistler.
“We decided to move to Vancouver. We were living together in Kits and one night we had plans to go to a big party at a friends but it ended up getting cancelled. We had taken time off work and wanted to go out and have fun, but we couldn’t find anyone to party with, so we ended up going home. When we got home we could hear a smoke alarm going off in our building. I went to investigate and a neighbour did the wrong thing and opened a door where the fire was. By the time I ran to get our cat and yell for others to get out, the entire place was engulfed. It burnt to the ground and we lost everything. But we had our cat. I’m so glad we didn’t go to a party that night,” said Stevie. They didn’t have insurance and went into debt in order to rebuild their lives.
“I worked for a bank when I was back east and I had gotten a job with the same bank here in Vancouver. I got a good rate on a loan and we both worked hard to play catch-up. We’re no longer together but he’s a good guy and we’re still friends. He also paid his share of the debt too.” One day she decide that the bank wasn't the environment she wanted to be in and quit. She got a bar job. Stevie went back to school and studied to become a nutritionist. While in school full time, she also worked nights full time in the bar and then part time in a nutrition supply store.
“It was a two year program that I managed to condense into one year. I’ve always worked hard. I’ve always been that leader type person with no one to follow. It’s just what I do.” On December 26th of last year, Stevie finished paying off all her debts, including her full tuition. Today, not 30 minutes before we started to chat, she got her confirmation email. Stevie had passed her certification exam as a Nutritionist. After telling Donivin, (from Day 128), I was the second person she had shared the news with!
When I asked Stevie what was next, she told me,
“I’ve given myself permission to not think about what’s next. I’ve got two jobs which I love, I got my degree and the summer is going to be all about having a good time. I’m letting myself not think about what’s next. I’m going to enjoy what is.” #notastranger