Putting a year of curveballs to bed

I got fired, made national headlines and lost an election in the same year.

I’m not typically one for New Year’s observances, but if there was a year worthy of reflection it’s 2018.

Perhaps last year I tempted fate with my column eviscerating the pomp and pretence of New Year’s Eve.

This year is a bit different.

I started 2018 as a radio broadcaster covering an unexpected PC leadership race and ended it without a radio show and having been a PC candidate in an election. I didn’t see any of that coming.

While this year’s zigs and zags were unforeseen, they weren’t unforeseeable.

I’d been contemplating running in Ontario’s provincial election as far back as the summer of 2017, but opted against it. By the time this past March came around, things had changed.

I was happy with Doug Ford’s election as the new PC leader, and my preferred riding, London West, still didn’t have a PC candidate.

On March 26, Ford was in London for a victory rally. As was the custom with conservative politicians coming to town, Ford did an in-studio interview on my show. I attended the rally that evening, encouraged by the energy in the room.

On the drive home, I once again questioned whether to bite the bullet and run for office. The challenge was whether something so uncertain could justify walking away from a secure job.

The next morning, I was fired. I smiled all the way home.

Within a few hours I had lined up meetings in Toronto and Montreal with players in the media industry as I plotted my next move. In parallel, I started exploring a political run.

(Spoiler alert: the political run didn’t end up precluding me from doing other things).

My wife and I were a true team through this. In true foodie fashion, we made the final decision over a five-course tasting menu at a restaurant’s closing night. (Because what newly unemployed person doesn’t patronize such boîtes?)

My eight weeks as a politician formed one of the most difficult chapters of my life. Anyone who opened a computer in May knows why. Beyond the political implications of my candidacy, there was a personal toll to being in the media’s crosshairs that I wrote about not long after the election.

It’s taken me some time to truly grasp what I took away from this time, however.

A number of people I thought were friends seemed to have only a relationship with my status when I hosted a daily radio show and had a national column. When it became trendy to hate me, a few of these fair-weather “friends” jumped on the bandwagon.

Some did it openly. Others were more duplicitous.

But these people are dwarfed in number (and in character) by those in the opposite camp – people whose friendship I didn’t fully appreciate or understand who were there for me in ways for which I will be forever grateful.

Friends from across the political spectrum chose to see my heart instead of headlines. That was the spirit that got me through this time.

My family supported me every step of the way. My church community shrouded me in prayer.

My wife gave me the ability to understand what it means to say someone is your rock. She was. From a handwritten letter on my nightstand every day of the campaign to tending to my blistered feet (you try knocking on 20,000 doors in six weeks!), she was there in ways I never knew possible. As she was every day before and every day since.

Tumultuous as the experience was, it strengthened our bond. That’s true of my relationships with most of those closest to me.

My father was out from the wee hours of morning until late at night installing and repairing signs.

My mother put in countless hours staffing my campaign office.

My in-laws were just as dedicated.

Friends old and new donated, volunteered, and most importantly let me know they supported me, even if they weren’t going to vote for me.

Though a special thank you to the 17,133 people who did vote for me.

By the time I lost on June 7, I had a legion of people around me to ask “What’s next?” on June 8.

The last six months have been among the most fruitful and joyous in my career as I’ve been able to pursue opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to had the year shaped up differently.

From my fellowship at the True North Initiative to columns at The Interim and Loonie Politics to producing events for Mark Steyn, 2018 has ended on a high note.

I look forward to whatever 2019 brings. The stats of abandoned New Year’s resolutions alone suggest making one is a fool’s errand. Though I endeavor to continue what I’ve tried to do throughout the latter half of 2018 – appreciate those who have been there for me, and be there for others in the same way.

Even so, perhaps 2019 can be a tad less eventful.