Day 197 - Mark

Day 197 - Mark (2nd person I approached)
July 16, 2014 - I saw Mark at a local deli, with a bowl full of healthy food. I figured he would be sitting down to eat it and that’s time enough to hear a story or two. I approached him and told him what I was doing. It turns out Mark's heard of The Stranger Project 2014 through the VanCity Buzz coverage (and support) that I’ve received. He was on a quick lunch break but agreed to chat with me.


Mark was born in Toronto, and is an only child.

“My father was in construction so we moved around a bit until I was about six years old when we moved to Buckhorn, Ontario,” he said. Buckhorn is in the municipality of Trent Lakes, about 90 minutes northeast of Toronto.

“It’s a very small town with a statue of a buck in the centre of town and about maybe 500 people living there. I had some issues with being an only child, compared to my friends who had brothers and sisters. But because of that, I drew my friendships in closer to me,” said Mark, in between eating forkfuls of an extraordinarily healthy lunch.


From an early age, Mark enjoyed music.

“My father was into music, and I took up playing instruments as well. By high school I was playing guitar, drums, bass and I played trumpet in the school band. It was either get into trouble or go to music lessons. I would go to lessons three or four times a week. I guess you could say I was a bit of a loner but in a small town that’s almost virtually impossible. So I played music, it was better than getting into trouble,” he said. Mark’s parents separated when he was around thirteen years old, and that drew he and his mother closer.

“My Dad left and was moving around and spent a lot of time in Texas. My mother and I spent so much time together when it was just her and I.”


At eighteen, Mark moved to Toronto.

“I moved there with my girlfriend. I just wanted to get out of small town Buckhorn. We broke up about a month after moving to Toronto, but I stayed. I lived there for about five years. I got into the party scene, music and dancing, you know. Big city life. I also took some courses here and there,” he said.

“Then I went to George Brown College and took a two year diploma course in Business Administration. I finished that and then didn’t do anything with it. Then I went into Mechanical Engineering. After about two years I knew I didn’t want to do that. I was unhappy and had gained about sixty pounds. I saw a class of people in school that were taking a fitness course. I kind of envied them getting to work out all the time,” said Mark.

“That inspired me. I took a course, not like full-time but maybe more of a weekend or sixty hours, of fitness training. That started my interest in health and working out. Ive been doing it for about nine years now.” 


Mark made a spontaneous decision and bought a one way ticket to Vancouver, and three weeks later, was on a plane.

“I have a  tendency to, I wouldn’t say run away from problems, but rather I run toward opportunities. I wanted to start something new.” As Mark was eating, I could smell vinegar. I asked him if that’s what I had seen him pouring on his food when I first approached him.

“It’s apple cider vinegar. It’s a good appetite suppressant and helps clear out toxins. I try to make the first big meal that I have a very healthy one.”


His plan for Vancouver was to have some fun and enjoy himself here in the new location.

“I met my girlfriend two weeks after arriving here!” he said smiling warmly. “And that’s fine. It worked out really well. She’s a great person and we’ve been together now for five years and got engaged last November. We have a wonderful relationship going on.” Mark continued to work in fitness and got a job working with a local fitness company.

“I worked my way up and became a personal trainer. I got involved in management and did that for a few years,” said Mark. There were some changes that happened in the structure of the company and Mark realized that he wasn’t as happy there as he had been.

“Life is too short to not be happy. It felt like it became more about money and less about ‘How are your clients doing?’ and that’s not what I’m doing this for. So I made a move and now I work at a private facility. I get to work with my clients and their success is my focus. I can't believe I get to do this. To work with people and help them achieve their goals, whether it be to get stronger or to reach a certain goal they have. Or to do something they couldn’t do before. That’s my satisfaction, the feeling and watching people succeed. And I get paid to do this. If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life, right?” We talked a little bit about balance in eating, and cravings versus control.

“Ice cream is my weakness. I’ll allow myself a cheat meal, no, a reward meal every now and again. I’m ok with eating a full tub of ice cream, it helps with the cravings too. But then I don’t touch ice cream again for two weeks. And better to have a generous serving of it then nibble away on a tablespoon a day. You just feel guilty all the time doing that. I believe you have to reward yourself and it’s about eating well, not cutting out everything you enjoy,” he said.


I asked Mark if he still played music.

“I didn’t for the longest time. I just got so caught up in things and then not being happy, and then moving. But about three years ago, I went out and bought myself a guitar. It’s funny ‘cause it was like my brain remembered how to play, and my fingers were moving on the chords and strings. So I’ve been playing around with that. But no, no drums. We live in a five hundred square foot apartment. That wouldn’t work,” he said. We talked about tow people living in close quarters and how that can be a challenge.

"It works out well for us, because my girlfriend starts work a few hours before I do, so I get to have a few hours at home by myself before work. An as an only child, I do need that alone time. And then when my girlfriend gets home, I’m still at work for a few hours, and she gets her alone time. It’s a good balance, and probably a healthy aspect to our relationship!”.


I thanked Mark for letting me chat with him while he was on his lunch break. I asked what he would have been doing if I hadn't been there asking a bunch of questions.

“I would have been flipping through Facebook and surfing the internet. I don’t often get into conversations with people when I’m by myself. I guess that’s because I’m not approachable.” I asked why he felt he wasn’t approachable.

“Well, I think because of the tattoos, the shaved head and I’m well built?” I laughed and told him it all worked for me, and that maybe people would want to talk with him because of those very reasons! He smiled. #notastranger