It’s always cold in Grande Prairie in January. So the fact that one the 26th day of January in 1987 was below -40 degrees Celsius really shouldn’t be worth noting. In fact, if it were not for my mother and father, then twenty and twenty-one respectively, needed to borrow a car to get to the hospital. My uncle Patrick would deliver, and after my parents saddled me with a first name that would forever make grade school hard, and user accounts easy, they gave me his name as a middle name
My Dad triumphantly set higher education aside and moved out west to seek his fortune. My mother and he had been in love since they were tweens, so she followed him. Together they managed to get an apartment, a few odd jobs, including street sweeper, janitor, daycare worker, welder’s helper and waitress. They were loved for their authenticity and hard work. Families took them in as their own and together with their surprisingly inquisitive toddler they managed to pay off student debts and get their feet underneath them.
Our first time moving back to Atlantic Canada was done because my Father was always someone who believed in taking advantage of opportunities that were presented. This was a trait that I have tried to emulate. Dennis got a job in the exciting offshore oil and gas industry. This would lead to an eventual move to Bathurst so that my mom could be close to home and I could start my primary education in the same city that I would end up finishing my secondary schooling 12 grades later.
The home in North Tetagouche was a fair sized split-level in the woods, the flies were bad and their were several dozen birch trees surrounding the house, this made it interesting when my grandma Ollie decided to teach me how to ride my bike. The driveway was clear but as anyone who has attempted to teach a kid to ride a bike, the second you let go of the seat, the trajectory can suddenly change. That was the day grandma crashed me into a tree.
In Dennis’ pursuit of a better life and opportunities for his family, we ended up in Mount Pearl Newfoundland. Dennis would take a more senior position with Hibernia offshore platform. During this time I would play a lot of street hockey. The small suburban city was the antithesis of the city it serviced (St. John’s), it was new and well planned out. Paved Trails connected the various subdivisions and it was a great place for a young family to grow up.
Roxanne finished her Nursing training in the Grace Hospital, the same place we would be introduced to Connor. A little brother that I will be honest, I wasn’t super psyched about. The kid was a terror from a young age but grew to be one my best friends, with a warm heart and a very compassionate demeanour, qualities for whatever reason I lack. It must be the salt water in his veins.
Alberta wasn’t easier the second time. We moved back to Valleyview. The hope was that Dennis could find a way translate his new career path into one that wouldn’t see him in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean three weeks of a possible six. This of course never came true, the middle of the North Atlantic was simply replaced by the middle of the woods in North Eastern Alberta. Dennis was however building his own brand and that of his company Sancon (see what he did there). Business would grow, my mom would find a good career as a nurse, but would miss my dad and the distance from home wore on both of them.
I had a few good friends, but due in large part to my personality and propensity to be a combative asshole, I didn’t have an easy time in rural Alberta, but I also didn’t have a good go of it wherever we were. Valleyview was the place where I found debate. Competitive Debate was a format where my social awkwardness and need to be argumentative became a huge asset. Valleyview shaped who I am as a person; it’s a place where functionality and utility are prioritized above most else. If you work hard and show up on time, you can make yourself a good life in Northwestern Alberta.
Bathurst High went better. I arrived as a “new kid” for the fourth time in 16 years. But the people were friendly and more interested than skeptical about this new loud personality. I am glad that BHS and Belledune were where I was able to spend those critical late teenage years. The hour and a half bus ride to and from school, the fires on the beach and the needless covers of Blind Mellon by every guy in my grade that mystically knew how to play the guitar, it all added to a rebuilding of my confidence and with the last day of my secondary education coming fast I got to meet Mallory.
To be completely honest, it shouldn’t have taken that long for me to meet Mallory. She happens to be my Dad’s best friend’s niece. But, I was dumb and I guess sometimes you just have to let destiny play out the game.
We both ended up going to Mount Allison, she making Dean’s list and I proving how little work someone could do and still get a degree. After university we would both end up taking roles in the Family business and just like that Belledune became home.
We got married on an overcast day in August. We wanted to do a destination wedding our families pushed for a local wedding. In retrospect it was the right thing to do, having all of my family there makes the memories all the more lasting, but that summer I would have grabbed, Mallory, a bag and eloped.
Mallory is the best thing about me. She keeps me grounded when my mind is running down a rabbit hole of either too negative thoughts or way to unrealistically positive. She has been a steadfast partner in my growing up, which I have to admit I really only did in 2014. She loves just sitting at home and watching shows with me, she wants to see the world and knows how to budget. She loves our son and our dogs more than I think is healthy, and I am the same way. She feels bad that she can’t be everything to everyone in her life, and I’m sure that my entire family agrees that she is the best thing that happened to me.
Remember how I said I didn’t grow up until 2014? Well that’s when I left the nest for Alberta again, we got jobs, Mal was great at hers, I was pretty good, but my brash and ambitious personality was not a fit with the hipster driven utopia that was the digital agency I worked at.
Once we came back to Belledune I took over managing one of my Dad’s companies. First with a partner of sorts and then on my own. I ran for and was elected to council and have worked to raise my profile in the region.
My time on council has been trying. I don’t have a gentle touch, and I’ve learned that. After getting fired in Edmonton, I realized that if I was going to be brash and ambitious, two traits that I don’t think I could stifle even if I wanted to, I was going to also have to work to be as good at what I am doing as possible.
I devour books on business, public policy, social psychology, moral psychology and decision making. Despite all of this old patterns re-emerge and I have not been able to achieve everything that I’ve hoped to.
But then there is Jack.
Jack Ambrose Killoran was born at 6:00 p.m. on March 2, 2019 and he was quite easily the best thing in the world from that minute forward.
I thought that Jack would somehow provide my life with a narrowing of priorities. The unfortunate truth is that having this guy riding shotgun with Mallory and I, along with our puppies Zdeno and Tuukka, has made me even more obsessed with making this region and province a better place for the future. That’s why I want to help people start their own businesses and side hustles, as well as make substantive and long-lasting improvements to my home town so that Jack has the option to stay. An option that has been absent for a very long time.
In 2020 I decided to give the ol’ book learning another try. This time an honest one. I applied and got into an online MBA program. Mainly due to my years of experience and in spite of my performance at Mount Allison. In a little over two years I was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA and graduate with my MBA designation with a focus in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Now I am looking forward to helping more and more people with what I have learned and the added rigour that comes with formal systems and training.
I believe that everyone has something that they can offer to the world. A skill or passion that will simultaneously make themselves and the world richer. I also believe that the path you’ve been on is not the one you are bound to.