This may surprise you, but writing was not my first choice as a career.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a pro wrestler. A great many of my early childhood memories are tied up with it. Sitting in front of the TV on Saturday afternoon, my heart in my throat, watching my heroes get the stuffing beaten out of them by the dastardly bad guys. Follow that with the elation that came when my heroes would make the big comeback from the brink of defeat, clobber the bad guys and win the match.
I began my career as a pro wrestler at the age of 40. I held two separate tag team championships early in my career. One for Monster Pro Wrestling in Edmonton and one for High Impact Wrestling in Regina. Later on, I held Monster Pro Wrestling’s Heavyweight Championship for nearly two years. In March 2012, I challenged Adam Pearce for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. I’ve been in the ring against such notables as The Honky Tonk Man, Dan “The Beast” Severn, Highlander Robbie McAllister, and Harry Smith (D.H. Smith when he was with WWE). As a member of the Cauliflower Alley Club, I’ve met and become friends with a lot of the wrestlers I idolized as a child, including the man whose wrestling got me hooked in the first place, Dan Kroffat.
My career as a pro wrestler ended in August 2012. I started when most guys are gearing up for retirement. My career only lasted 7 1/2 years, which is much too short for my tastes, and it was everything I dreamt it would be… and more. I had a blast and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The one thing I would change is how much of a hole not wrestling anymore would leave in my life. After August 2012, there was this yawning great chasm that I didn’t know how to fill. More accurately, I didn’t know what to fill it with.
Wrestling was very personally fulfilling for me, in a way that every other job I’ve had was not. I loved everything about it — the trip to the arena, sometimes hours and hours long, with the laughter and camaraderie of good friends; walking into the arena wheeling my gear bag behind me and hearing the locals awed whispers that the wrestlers were here; the butterflies that appeared in my stomach as the time for my match got close; the cheers and jeers of the crowd. All of it was a great boost to the spirit and the ego. And very addicting.
I also missed my friends — the wrestlers, the referees, the TV crew, and their families became virtually my entire social circle. We used to have a ton of fun before, during, and after the shows. I missed that, a lot, and I came to realize very quickly that by itself, my day job, which I’d had the whole time I was wrestling, wouldn’t cut it.
Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing really wrong with my day job. I was good at it, I was well paid, and it wasn’t something that I brought home with me. But on a scale of one to ten, the personal fulfillment ranked somewhere around -3. Kitchen cabinets were just not something I was passionate about. I needed to find something to fill that void. Something personally fulfilling. If it was something I could earn income from or even earn a living from, so much the better.
Wrestling wasn’t really a job in the traditional definition of the word. Yes, I earned income from it and yes, it was hard work. But from the moment that I started doing it, I really couldn’t imagine not doing it, I loved it that much. It’s been my experience that most people don’t love their job. Most people endure their job because they have bills to pay.
I think that mindset began with my grandparents’ generation. My grandfather was born in 1899 and my grandmother in 1907. Being parents during the Great Depression, the mindset was if you got a job, any job, you kept it no matter what. Jobs were scarce. And my father’s generation was raised with that mindset as well. In fact, from the time he graduated high school until his retirement, he had a grand total of THREE employers. Three. A rough tally of my employers so far (and I’m still almost ten years away from retirement) adds up to fifteen. And I would say that I left the majority of them because they just weren’t fulfilling enough.
I’ve been very lucky. I have had a taste of what it’s like to have a job where I actually look forward to going to work. That I don’t have to endure. Most people go their whole working lives without that. Now that I’ve rediscovered writing, I have that taste again and I can’t imagine ever giving that up.
They say that “when one door closes, another opens”. It took awhile but I got my head around not wrestling anymore and found that open door: writing. Wrestling is, really, just a form of physical storytelling. Making the transition to storytelling with the written word has been a blast to this point, but there is still a ways to go. I hope you’ll join me on the journey. At the very least, it should be interesting.