“I think I’ve done pretty well for myself.”
“You could’ve done even better.”
— my conversation with a family member who shall remain unnamed
I’ve had to change a lot to hit a point where I could tell my stories and be proud of them.
The benefit of sharing stories online as long as I have is looking back and seeing just how far you’ve travelled down your path, learning from your experiences and seeing how they’ve shaped the life you have today… hopefully learning from them and inching closer to the goals you really want to hit in your life.
A decade ago, I was a hollow shell of a man. I’d recently parted ways with someone who’d been the centre of my world for several years; my grades had seen better days, the program I studied more of a pain in my rear than anything I wanted to turn into a career; and I careened through life, trusting my friends and family to fill my schedule with interesting things to do, rarely choosing things of my volition and depending a little heavily on everyone around me.
It was a far cry from the kid I’d been in high school: confident, accomplished — and perhaps a little too cocky — but much had changed since those days, challenging the way I saw the world and the things I expected from it.
But it’s probably because I spent too long letting others tell me how to live and not spending the time to figure it out for myself.
My parents — like many others who’ve come to Toronto from every corner of the world — wanted better for their children than they had themselves. They gave me everything I’d need to be successful — piano lessons, computers, a private school education and a plethora of volunteering and networking opportunities — my life was meant to give me an excellent future by design, but as I grew, I realized that my definition of success might not quite jive with the one I’d worked toward ’til then.
You see, as just about any child of immigrant parents can tell you, our parents came to Canada with a firm idea of the careers that’d make their kids successful — doctors, lawyers, engineers and chartered professional accountants*. A set of jobs with extra schooling and letters behind my name in a world where Drake and The Weeknd can drop out of high school and make millions.
I mean, I didn’t notice it much back then, but my time in high school massively shifted my perspective, coming out of my shell as a very visible minority as puberty hit (as in one of 3 Black kids in a school of 600!) Having everyone automatically know who you are changes you, making you want different things than what you thought you’d wanted all along. I sought a life less common, working toward goals that’ve taken years to show value to anyone who’s known me since I was little. I knew excelling at a desk job wouldn’t satisfy me, always wondering what more I could make of my life, never wanting to settle for “good enough”. Though others wanted me to drown in the conformed sea of well-formatted spreadsheets and excessively-detailed documentation, I still ached to create and prove that I was more than any degree or résumé could tell you.
Despite the world telling me to give it a rest and settle for a lifestyle that’s just like everyone else’s, I knew there was more within reach — I just needed to believe in myself and build the path to get there.
And this blog? This blog will tell the tale of how I accomplish just that.
Taking Control of My Destiny (‘Cuz No One Else Will do it For Me!)
“I told my ████ if you hold me back
From pursuin’, ain’t no comin’ back
We gon’ catch these Gs, now watch me do just that
Make these monies easy, watched ’em grew in fact…”
— Jay Rock, “Money Trees Deuce”, 90059 (2015)
So while I might not have the lifestyle my family expected — the one at Harvard Medical my Mom still reminds me she would’ve gotten on her hands and knees to clean every house in Toronto to make real — it’s a life I’m decidedly living on my terms, finally holding myself accountable for just how far I make it on my path. We’re the ones who have to live our lives, so it’s important that we find the success that we need to approve of ourselves, lest we always find our lives… lacking.
Though I’ve wound up differently than the Casey Palmer my family expected, I think they’re finally getting used to the one they got, relying on the things that once made me happy to do it all over again. It’s all too easy to take the easy path and tell ourselves we’re doing just fine, but imagine how much more satisfying it’d be to one day look back at a life where you took the chance to live a little differently, making your life uniquely your own in the process?
I don’t know about you, but I want a life worth remembering when I’m done with it — why settle for anything less?
Until the next,
* Thanks goes out to Lily for catching that “chartered accountants” are no longer “chartered accountants”, but instead “chartered professional accountants”. Lily, you have earned yourself one gold star to be redeemed for one exemption from a typo at any point in the future. However, it is awesome that my friends read my stuff, so there is that 😉