Ever since this COVID madness started, I’ve been really pensive and reflecting on a lot of things, mainly because: a) There’s nothing better to do, b) All my short-term plans have been shot to hell (which I’m concerned will affect/has affected my long-term plans too and I’m still not sure what to do about that), and c) For better or for worse, when you’re in self-isolation, you tend to spend a lot of time in your personal headspace.
You tend to ask yourself questions like: What have I done with my life? Have I made a positive difference? What am I superior at? Are these the sorts of things I want to continue doing and if not, what would I rather be doing? What should I be doing with my life? Et cetera, ad nauseam.
Or perhaps that’s the sign of yet another mid-life crisis (which would make it Number 4 now, I think); I have no idea anymore.
Recently, I learned that the Calgary Public Library made available the entirety of the Calgary Herald Archives available online for free via PressReader and ProQuest for members. Prior to that, you had to rely on microfiche and I think most of those got destroyed during the 2013 flood since they were kept in the downtown library’s basement, so on a whim I decided to do a search to see how many times my name appeared in the local paper. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was surprised at how often it did appear; it was a lot more than I thought!
But then again, I really shouldn’t have been. From 2006-08, I was a blogger for the Calgary Herald. And while that was all online OP/ED content, every so often, one of my pieces would be teased in print.
Now, I never knew when that would happen as my editor never notified me when it would get promoted, I didn’t have a subscription at the time, and not all of the things I wrote received the same treatment, but $40 cheques from Winnipeg would just randomly appear in my mailbox every so often, and that’s how I would know that my name had appeared in the print edition of the Herald some weeks prior. So just those pieces alone would boost my in-print newspaper search result numbers by quite a bit.
RELIVING THE PAST
Since a) I’m really bad at keeping mementos of my adventures, b) I suck at tooting my own horn & celebrating my own successes, and c) Because I lost a lot of the newspaper clippings I did manage to collect over the years to age, water damage and other things, I spent a few days last week trying to recollect as many of my old print media mentions as I could while they were still available (because who knows what will happen in the future? Even today, I lament at not figuring out how to rip the online videos of my various live TV interviews when they were still online).
The main delight for me in doing this was finding my name appearing in other periodicals or other places I was unaware of as well.
For example, I gave an interview to The Globe and Mail about the 2013 flood and the Calgary Stampede’s resiliency from a volunteer’s perspective, and while they only used one sentence from that interview (which begs the question: Why even bother? The piece would have been fine without it and I wouldn’t have minded, lol), I didn’t know it actually appeared in the print edition of the paper itself; if I had, I would have purchased a copy at the time.
There was also a nationally syndicated Postmedia News piece on The Awesome Foundation in Canada that got picked up and run by the Edmonton Journal (but ironically, NOT the Calgary Herald, haha) that I had never known about/seen before until recently either (but the longer version is still available online).
In fact, once I learned that, I immediately purchased that back issue of the Edmonton Journal for CAD$2.79 on PressReader, just for that one article. So they made a sale!
All said, I’m happy with the result; It wasn’t easy tracking down the non-Herald articles as those archives aren’t as extensive or go that far back so I didn’t get everything, but it’s also not bad how much documented proof of the last 20 years of my life I was able to reconstruct over a few days using only what is available online today in 2020 that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to access.
As for missing items, there might have been a mention in the Calgary Sun about the 2009 YYC Holiday Tweetup that might have involved me, but I may be remembering incorrectly too (I can’t find any online Sun archives older than 2012 to verify either way) and there was a nice piece that the local Filipino newspaper Mabuhay News Calgary wrote about me in 2015 that’s still available online but I don’t know if it made it to their monthly print edition (if so, I’m not sure where to find a copy of that but would love one if possible).
Still, I got most of them, so I consider that a win!
The somewhat curated trip down memory lane was fun to experience too; I hate watching or reading about myself so while I collected most of these when they came out, this was actually the first time I’ve read some of these articles as it’s easier for me to do those sorts of things after much, much time has passed. It was nice to relive some of my greatest hits, so to speak.
And what I realized by doing this little exercise and came to really appreciate (perhaps even for the first time) was that I’ve done a lot of shit over the last 15-20 years!
What is not represented in print are things that I’ve done from 2015 onward, although that’s partly because I chose to semi-retire from the public eye when I burned out in 2014 and haven’t facilitated or done as many interviews (these days, I try to pass those opportunities to other people whenever they show up; there’s no need for me to hog the spotlight as I’ve literally already had my 15 minutes of fame), and partly because all of those recent mentions have been digital.
However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been up to any shenanigans whatsoever; these days, I just choose to work in the shadows where possible and make other people look good.
WELL, THAT WAS FUN! NOW WHAT?
As I write this, I literally have one year and one month left to nail down something similar to an Avenue Calgary Top 40 Under 40 award. A friend of mine actually nominated me for one back in 2014, but at the time, I didn’t really feel I deserved it so I wasn’t as strong in my written application as I could have been.
However, looking back after doing this exercise, I probably could have made a good case if I had tried harder, even if I still don’t know if I deserved one back then or even now. That said, with hindsight, I do know that I’ve accomplished a lot in a relatively short time and probably more than most people get to do in their entire lives.
But as I get set to wind down my 30s and as the big 4-0 is staring at me right in the face from about a year and a month out from now, I just wanted to say how grateful I am for everyone I’ve met along the way who have either believed in me or offered me a hand, and to acknowledge that yes, maybe I have managed to do a little bit of good with the short amount of time I’ve been around.
To be honest, I don’t know where life will take me either in the short term or the long term, and especially in a COVID context as unfortunately I think we’ll all be living under these circumstances for the next 1-2 years and who knows what will happen with the state of the world being what it is right now.
That all being said, I can’t/shouldn’t really complain about anything; I’ve done a lot of cool things, and the best part is that there’s documented stuff that future historians can cite in a bibliography and everything! I’ve lived a relatively fruitful life (all things considered) and I do appreciate it (and it says so now on the internet via this blog post, so it must be true!). So thank you.
DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES I DID!
Finally, a word of advice: If you’re trying or wanting to document your own adventures, make sure you do it as you go along; it’s much easier to do it that way than to do it all at once years after the fact.
If it’s a physical mention, keep it in a waterproof (and maybe fire resistant) box as you would any other important documents or mementos. If they’re super precious, don’t be afraid to rent out a safety deposit box at a bank or similar.
If it’s a digital mention, keep track of it on a spreadsheet stored in the cloud, and make sure to save a copy on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine as soon as it’s posted (and add the resultant URL to your spreadsheet records as well), just in case the web link dies/disappears in the future.
Future You (and perhaps your friends and family too) will thank you; trust me on that one.
Below is a small gallery of some of my newspaper/print clippings. Check out my Mentions page for a full(er) list of my online and offline mentions too, including links to where you can access your own copies of the clippings in the gallery or their online equivalents.