I will go a bit personal in this essay, but it seems to me that I have established the readership, so it’s not out of place to do it. I am starting a new job on May 1st in Switzerland, and on the next day, the Wednesday, there is a big meeting, and I was asked to introduce myself at the beginning of it. So I was rehearsing it, driving around Toronto in my slick black car that still has the winter black rims, which my older son calls “sick”. My younger son says that he will rather buy a Tesla.
Kids these days.
I was born in Poland, but I spent most of my life (the important part) in Canada. We landed at Pearson airport in the middle of the winter in 1995 with my wife pregnant and me not speaking English. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? And so it did.
And it was fun, this landing experience. The captain said through the speakers that outside there is -22 degrees C, a strong northern wind and a snow storm. Then he wished everybody a great day. Sure, his day of work was almost over.
Some years later we took another gamble, taking jobs in Switzerland.
So I said this to my kids, and it makes an impression on them. “You talk about people betting in casinos a few thousand bucks? That’s child’s play, it’s nothing. Try to bet your life more than once. That’s when you’re in the big boys league.
So back to my introduction in the next week’s meeting. My issue is that it becomes hard to say where I am from.
And I am not looking for pity, just stating the fact.
There was a good comedy show on Polish radio when I was growing up. It was about a guy who makes problems go away (not really, he just made things more complicated and that was the genius of it). And it was not clear where he came from. So the speaker introducing the show (imaging a serious Johnny Carson) would say this – “he probably fell out of the train to Bobcaygeon.” (Any funny sounding city will do.)
There was lot’s of fun growing up in Poland – the owner’s manual for your new Fiat had this chapter in it: “Small, medium and catastrophic fires in your new Italian car.”
Try to beat that in the fun category.
So what should I say on Wednesday morning?
I can be boring, that’s the easy way out.
I can tell them that I wrote a book, which got good reviews. And English is my third language, but that’s what I use when thinking.
And my book library at home is absolutely deadly.
I used to bench press 140 kilograms and do squats with the same weight. Not anymore though, I am getting old, but I still hustle.
I did screw up a few times, but now I am sure what I want to do in life. That’s not bad, I think.
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Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler