Before emigrating to Canada at 26, I lived in Guyana, the United States, Trinidad, and Jamaica, where I was born. Migration to Toronto in 1993 was initially fairly painless given that moving countries was a regular feature of my life from as early as I can remember.
My work history spans an eclectic mix of mostly small for- and non-profit organizations. My most fulfilling work was as a personal care aide for disabled people and people with HIV, a job I took for two months as part of a successful strategy to secure an entry-level position in an AIDS service organization.
In 1996, I job-shared that position and started full-time law school at the University of Toronto. Law and its role in articulating privilege are enduring interests of mine, however based on mental health considerations I was reluctant to practise. In my second year of law school, when the conservative Ontario government deregulated tuition resulting in a four-fold increase, I decided to leave. In 1998, I became the executive director of a small but vital community organization in crisis. It was the first of three charities that I led between 1998 and 2009. Between 1996 and 2007, alongside other work, I freelanced as a presenter and workshop facilitator on LGBTQ+ community issues for the Toronto Police and Ontario Police Colleges, and eventually as an associate consultant in non-profit strategic planning and program evaluation.
After four years running organizations for others I wanted to try running my own business. Gardening and flowers have been strong interests since childhood thanks to an aunt who was a florist. I studied horticulture in university. In 2002, with minimal capital, I successfully founded Blooming City, a small, initially part-time business that over eight years gradually evolved from a focus on floral design to exclusively providing bespoke gardening services. Between 2002 and 2009 I grew Blooming City while also freelancing and taking interim executive director contracts in the winter months. This worked well because I thrive when I have multiple, concurrent work opportunities catering to a variety of interests.
Back in 1986, at the start of my second semester of my Bachelor of Science at Cornell University, I had a brief, acute psychotic episode that resulted in a 20-month leave of absence and a series of psychiatric diagnoses. The subsequent three decades coping with a serious psychiatric condition, and my experiences of psychiatric care, led me to become involved in service user education. I am a founding member of a community of practice for mental health service users involved in the education of service providers that started in 2017. Based on this involvement I founded Hope is Health in 2019. Although my work on this is suspended for the moment, my expectation is that eventually, Hope is Health will be a vehicle for developing and delivering training for health service providers, facilitated by mental health service users.
Many years ago I worked at an organization that valued personality testing as part of team building. While many question their validity, I find personality tests interesting and useful as frames for reflection, some much more than others. I’ve had two formally administered Myers Briggs tests and test out as INFP but I identify as borderline introvert/extrovert and also borderline feeling/thinking. I was formally tested once in the Kolbe system (as a Pioneer). My Strengths Finder profile is: Ideation, Strategic, Input, Activator and Arranger. By far the personality system that has been most useful to me has been the Enneagram. I am a rather atypical four with a three-wing.
I think if you asked most people who know me what the most memorable thing about me is, they would say my laugh.