Day 317 - Kevin

Day 317 - Kevin (1st person I approached)
November 13, 2014 - I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to meet anyone out on the street today. It’s too cold for me to want to stand and chat with someone, and I was dressed for the cold temperature today. I can’t imagine a stranger agreeing to stop and have a twenty minute conversion with me outdoors, no matter how bright and sunny it is. Perhaps now through to the end of The Stranger Project 2014, all of the remaining forty-eight stories will be found indoors. Time will tell. 


Kevin looked like he was studying, sitting at the window of a nearby deli. He had headphones on and was doing some work on a computer. While explaining to him what my project is about, he told me that he had heard of The Stranger Project. He was considering attending TEDxRenfrewCollingwood last month. I was one of the speakers. Unfortunately he didn’t make it to the event, but I still spoke with him.


Kevin was born in Shanghai, China. His parents came to Vancouver, (British Columbia) ahead of him. He stayed with his grandparents in China, while his parents got settled here. He was five years old when he moved to Vancouver.

“My parents worked really hard to get established here. They are both university educated, and when they arrived here, they took jobs in restaurants to get started,” he said.

“I learned from the experience of my parents being immigrants. Their hard work got them where they are. We moved three times while I was in school. Each time we moved, I went to a better school,” he said. Kevin has one sister, who is thirteen years younger.

“I wasn’t a planned child. Once things were going well here, my parents decided to have another child. My sister and I do things together, like go to see movies and things like that. I do what I can to stay connected to her,” he said.


“I did okay in school, I guess,” he said, with a modesty I could hear.

“I’m Asian, it’s expected that I do well and go to university,” he laughed. “But I didn’t care much about school. I knew I’d be able to meet my obligations,” he said.

“I was a fat kid, in elementary. I was a chub,” he says, laughing again. “I first noticed I was different or bigger than the other kids in swimming class. I was seven years old. They say that those things that happen to you in childhood stay with you. I wanted to be a lifeguard. I started to get involved in sports and extracurricular activities. I was playing basketball, and baseball. I wanted to play football as well, but my parents wouldn’t let me, in case I got hurt, I guess,” he said. Laughing at his own stereotyping, he told me

“I took up badminton instead.”


Kevin knew that to be a lifeguard he would have to be fit.

“I was out of breath just swimming,” he said. He worked hard, and with the combined efforts of his sports and his own awareness and determination, Kevin became a lifeguard while still in high-school.

“I got a job working at a local recreation centre pool. I did some work at a private pool as well, but the community pool was better. My mother wanted me to stay working there, it was a good job and paid well. But I didn’t see myself being a lifeguard long term,” he said. 


I noticed someone walking over to where we were sitting. It was Mark, who I had met sometime ago. He saw Kevin and I talking and came over to say hello. Mark and Kevin know each other through personal training. Kevin was surprised and wondered how Mark and I knew each other. I explained that I had met Mark through The Stranger Project.

“Yeah,” said Mark.

“I’m Day 197. I’ll leave you guys alone. I just thought I’d say hello,” he said. Such a small world.


“I went to university right after high-school,” said Kevin.

“I wanted to go for sciences, but I didn’t get in. My second choice was Kinesiology. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I went anyway,” he said. Kevin had mentioned that he didn’t much like school as a kid.

“That changed for me though once I got to university. I enjoyed school then. I did my first year of UBC (University of British Columbia) out at the Surrey campus, and then transferred to the main campus here in Vancouver. I moved out and lived alone and went to school,” he said.

“I got heavily involved with a lot of things at school. I was President of the Student Social Club, which kept me busy. I also took time to do a practicum working in a kinesiology lab, which was a great experience,” he said. Kevin spent five years studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. 


After university, Kevin decided to take break from kinesiology.

“I got a job in a bank, as a teller. It was a good way to learn about the corporate world, and that sort of structure. I learned a lot about finances as well,” he said.

“I also learned about lack of finances too.” 


Kevin got into personal fitness training and started to work with clients.

“The extra-curricular events and things I was involved with while in university, helped me with my self-confidence. I had the ability to talk to people, which helped with training clients. I knew though that I wanted to do more,” he said.

“I started my own company with a friend. It’s fitness training for people with specific needs. For example if a client has diabetes, I'll set up a program and do fitness training with that in mind. Or if someone has had an accident, maybe a car accident and they’re going through rehabilitation, we help with that,” he said.

“I’m also doing some classes to up my grades. I’m planning on going back to university and getting my Master’s degree in Physiotherapy.”


We talked a little bit about social media and how I’m using it to share the stories I hear from people who started out as strangers.

“I used to be big into social media,” said Kevin.

“Then I just decided to give it up. Everything, cold turkey. I had just had enough. I felt that the conversations I was having were too structured. Sure you can read all about someone on Facebook, but you’re only reading what they choose to share. If I was to find you online, I could read all about you. It’s considered okay nowadays to do that and it's not creepy. I wouldn’t find out the same things as I am sitting here talking with you. Talking face to face, you might decide to tell me something. Then in conversation other things come up and we learn so much more through real conversation. You learn about me and I learn about you,” he said.


Kevin went for about a year without using social media.

“I’m using it in moderation again,” he told me. I asked what happened that he is back using it now.

“I started back at school. People want to add you on Facebook.” #notastranger