a week ago
Steve and I met in Kimberley at the wedding of our mutual dear friends, Liz and David. Little did I know that I would have the unbelievable good fortune of being targeted in somewhat of a sting operation that was organized to introduce the two of us. As is unsurprising to anyone who has been lucky enough to meet Steve, we hit it off immediately.
While at the time Steve lived in Sunnyvale and I in sunny Calgary, we had such a great time at the wedding that over the next several months, we visited each other in Sunnyvale and Calgary, and also adventured around a number of other cities during the time that we had together. It was a time in my life that I will forever be thankful for.
When I heard the news, the very first thing that occurred to me was to grab the closest piece of paper and write down everything that I had learned from Steve. Within a matter of minutes, the page was filled with life lessons, big and small, that my precious time with Steve had taught me.
I thought I would share a few of my favourites from the list of things I learned from Steve - with some added stories for context :)
1. Live now. Steve never seemed to put things off for “another time". If he wanted to do something, chances were good that it would be done in short order. He made the most of every day, cramming in time with friends and loved ones, time for projects and experiments, and time for his many passions. While many people (myself included) have trouble juggling/balancing priorities, Steve always seemed to have his straight. Whether it was catching a round of badminton with an old friend, or crafting some incredible old growth cedar shelves on his balcony, he always made time for the things that mattered and that would fill his life with more joy.
2. It doesn’t matter where you are, it matters who you’re with. Steve and I met up with one of his many dear, lifelong friends and lovely family while we were in Chicago, and our plan was to go for breakfast. I was excited to see which of the many delicious Chicago spots we would end up at in the trendy area that we had wandered to, and much to my (initial) chagrin, Steve pointed at the closest place and suggested we all go there. It was a sports bar near the baseball stadium, and definitely not the kind of bar you would visit for the food! The ambiance left quite a lot to be desired, and the staff seemed to be a bit surprised by our desire to eat there despite being the first people to set foot in the place after it had presumably been sprayed down with bleach from the night before. While I was inwardly a tad disappointed with the venue, this soon gave way as I witnessed Steve catching up with his friends. I’m pretty sure we could have been eating breakfast in a gravel pit for all the surroundings mattered to Steve. He cared the most about filling every second of his time together with his friends with asking genuine questions, sharing wonderful stories, and reminiscing about all the memories they had to treasure.
I think about that breakfast anytime I’m seated at a “bad” table or experiencing a minor inconvenience while spending time with loved ones. We can so easily get caught up in the minor annoyances of life and lose sight of the incredible blessings that surround us. Steve was always quick to find and focus on the blessings.
3. Always remain curious, and always learn. For a guy as brilliant as Steve, he never seemed to be someone who thought he knew everything about any particular subject (though I’m certain he was closer in more areas than most!). He always kept asking the next question, looking for the bigger picture, connecting ideas and relating them differently. I had fallen out of the habit of visiting museums when I was in a new city, as I developed a bit of a “seen one, seen ‘em all” attitude. That changed upon my first visit to a museum with Steve in Chicago. We marveled at dinosaur footprints, learned about meteors, and filled our heads to the brim with new facts and ideas. It was like being reintroduced to my own imagination and capacity for curiosity. I now make a point of visiting museums, aquariums and science centres whenever I get the chance, and of choosing curiosity. I will forever be thankful for Steve re-opening the door to my imagination.
4. You can make a game out of anything! Speaking of imagination, unlike so many of us who eventually give way to the more boring conventions of adulthood, Steve never stopped playing. In addition to his infamous pranks, he could make a game, a dare or a competition out of anything! I’m sure there are more than a few of us who have had to do a “crab walk” lap or two after losing a bet to Steve, and he always seemed to have a set of Liar’s Dice within arm’s reach.
When Steve and I met in Vegas for 24 hours to celebrate his 30th birthday, the birthday boy and I spent the day trading dares (go dance on the empty dance floor of a pool party at 10am, order the silliest yard-long margarita (a high-heeled leg), sit through the scariest virtual reality demonstration, etc.). We had joked throughout the day that the various bets and dares would eventually culminate in someone having to get a tattoo, and sure enough, just before the clock struck midnight, there was indeed a tattoo artist’s pen at work! While this likely can’t be said for everyone who returns from Vegas with a tattoo, I will forever treasure my favourite “souvenir” and lasting reminder of finding the fun in everything.
5. Kindness spreads. Whether it was a stranger or a friend, Steve treated every person he encountered with the same heartfelt kindness and respect that is palpable for those lucky enough to be on the receiving end. While we were on the road in San Francisco, Steve inadvertently drove past a lineup of cars waiting to pay at a tollbooth. Instead of trying to squeeze in near the front of the line, and after seeing that there were no cars behind us, Steve carefully backed up his powder blue Mini Cooper convertible all the way to the end of the lineup of 50+ cars. We were cracking up the whole time and giving everyone a sheepish wave on the way past, receiving many smiles and waves in return.
To our great surprise, once it was our turn to pay at the toll booth, the car in front of us had already paid for our toll. Steve of course then insisted that we pay for the person behind us and pass along the kindness. We tried to catch up with the car in front of us to express our thanks, which gave way to the friendliest 3-way car chase of all time, as the people behind us had attempted to do the same. It was just one small example of how Steve would always take any opportunity to pay the positivity forward, and the exponential effect that he had on those around him due to his default setting of kindness.
These are just a few of the countless priceless lessons and reminders I learned from Steve in the short time we had together. I will always feel incredibly fortunate to have had his profound and lasting impact on my life.
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