We make choices every minute of every day. We choose how we act, react, think, approach life. We choose how we go about our relationships, how we treat people around us, how we approach every situation but most of all, we choose change or continuity. Continuity is often easier because it’s known and somehow comforting. It’s part of our habits. Change however can be hard. Josh Shulman’s life is full of changes. Some he had little control over and some others he made after deciding the life he had was not the life he wanted.
Like for most of us, Josh’s childhood felt like a succession of events he had little control over and yet had to deal with. His parent’s divorce and living at both end of the country contributed to a growing feeling of frustration which peaked during his late teens while he was living with his mother in Southern Ontario.
“I rebelled hard. I was angry at a lot of things. My parents splitting up, my mom never really having a ton of time, my dad never being around. I was just an angry dude. I shattered my collarbone which got me hooked on morphine to deal with the pain and then not being able to play sports, I started hanging out with the non-jock kids. I started doing drugs and started hanging out with kids that didn’t really give a shit about stuff. I committed a few crimes that got me into a lot of trouble.”
After being arrested one night, his mother decided to take the tough love approach and let him spend the night in jail. A night turned into two and a half week before he could be released and although his mother still feels guilty about it, it made Josh realize he needed to make some changes. When he got out, he moved back west to his father’s place in Nelson BC.
“I knew the city wasn’t good for me. Suburbia, there is nothing good to do. You have to drive hours to do anything. As a teenager, you end up just wandering around, getting in trouble.”
While Josh lived with his father, he discovered the beauties nature has to offer and got introduced to snowboarding. His first love. He also had to figure out what to do with his life and started working in the food industry. Through different jobs and work opportunities, Josh climbed the ladder in the kitchen to become a full fledged Red Sealed Chef.
“I worked at a variety of restaurants to learn the trade, some Ma and Pa shops and some high end. It took me places too. I ended up in Banff, than in Quebec City.”
A few years here, a few years there, Josh ended up in Medicine Hat with his girlfriend but unable to find interesting work until an opportunity to manage a head shop presented itself.
“It was my first experience in retail. I guess, coming from Nelson, you know a little bit about Cannabis so that helped. That was a really weird situation but it was neat. We turned the store into an artsy place, hired a glass blower so he could make custom pipes and bongs, necklaces, stuff like that. I met lots of cool people thought that store.”
But Josh knew Medicine Hat wasn’t his place. When a former colleague with a new Head Chef job in Penticton offered him a position, it didn’t take him long to accept the stretched hand.
“It was a no brainer. I knew how sweet this town was, with beaches at both end. I moved out here and stayed since.”
Life is good in Penticton. It’s gorgeous, has mild weather with long summers and good mountain biking, but for a while, Josh was not able to enjoy much of it. Working five to seven days a week, 10 to12 hours a day in a high volume, high stress job, he was burning out.
“If I wanted to get a bike ride in, it was usually preempted or followed by a 12 hour work day. I never really did anything epic. It was just shuttle, rip down and done.”
Determined to try something else, Josh goes and work for a year on a private Yacht in the Caribbeans. Despite it being an incredible experience, it was also quite depressing. Stuck on the boat, he could not do any of the things he enjoyed doing and although the pay was good, he was so bored he was drinking himself to sleep every night.
“Going to work on the Yacht was a big mistake. It was cool to see, a good experience. The biggest take was that all the money of the world can’t buy you happiness. It straighten up my priorities too. I came back and was still passionate about cooking but just not willing to live such an artificial life.”
Not long after, an opportunity presented itself unexpectedly for Josh. While he was at the bike bike shop buying a set of pedals, the manager offered him work. Despite not having any experience in the area, he wanted to give it a try.
“I didn’t even think about it. I knew jackshit about bikes. I knew how to ride one but had no idea about the details. They gave me the opportunity and were super patient with my learning. It’s been a life changer.”
Now managing the store but still dabbing in the food business, helping his wife with a catering business, Josh found he has the ability to move much slower and enjoys life’s simple pleasures.
“My happiness comes from the simple things, the slowness. Not something you can have as a chef. Biking and Snowboarding gives me that. Nobody yelling at you, nobody telling you what to do. It’s really soul filling. It doesn’t equal anything. At the end of the day, you haven’t accomplished anything. You’re no further ahead in life but MAN, is it good!”
Josh seems to finally have it figured out. It was a long and winding road but the destination is what matters. Despite all he’s learned, he doesn’t think of himself as a wise man.
“It’s hard for me to think that I would have any wisdom for anybody to listen to. I’ve made some serious mistakes in my life. I’ve done a lot of shit that if I could go back, I’d do differently. I’ve burned a lot of bridges. It took me a while to figure out how to do things properly. There is quite a few people out there that I owe a good solid apology to.”
Josh might not be perfect but really who is? Everyday, you have the chance to make new choices and turn your life around and numerous times, he was smart enough to do it. He is choosing everyday to live a better life and to enjoy the time he has with his son but most of all, Josh decided to not allow his past define what and who he was going to be and that’s an important lesson that allowed him to move forward in life. Your destiny is in your hands. What will you do with tomorrow?