2021 — A year of Purpose. A year of Pivot
In 2021 all of us lived through our second year of covid times. In addition, I turned 50 years old. It was an incredible milestone for someone who wasn’t expected to live past 12. Up until this point, I was always asking myself, “What Do I want to be when I grow up?”. Realizing how precious time is, I started asking myself, “How do I want to leave the world when I’m no longer here?”. I realize how grateful I was to be born with cerebral palsy as it made me the person why was and how lucky I was to have the people I do in my life. Until that point, I did not think much about my cerebral palsy, except it was something that I felt I had to be or overcome. Turning 50, maybe realize who I became was living with it, now I wanted to embrace it.
My wife Kelly was so awesome. Although we cannot have your traditional birthday party at 50, she arranged to have all my close friends flood me with videos wishing me a happy birthday. Some of those were funny, and some of them made me tear up. All of them made me realize how fortunate I am to have those people in my life.
In February, I learned that I received the King Clancy award in 2021. This brought out awareness of how much I can impact others who have a disability. Little did I know, this would be the spark that would inspire me to shift my career.
“You have been chosen because of your immense contribution to bettering the lives of persons with disabilities. Your inspiring leadership and advocacy have made a great difference.”
The best part of winning was this message I received - “Dave, you broke a very real glass ceiling for me and many others… How many bank executives are there that are out about their disabilities or have visible disabilities? I can tell you, not many. Also, how many women with disabilities sit at executive levels in any bank? Even fewer; so, the fact that you have gotten to where you are and still have the energy to advocate and open more doors for others is something to be very proud of. The generations that come after us, I hope, won’t have to fight so hard.”
Turning 50 also made me reflect professionally. Up until this point, I was fortunate enough to drive change that improved productivity, technology, and leadership. All of the things that looked impossible growing up as a person with a disability have been achieved. When I came to Scotiabank I was brought in to change the organization in digital, agile, and become product-oriented. During the previous five years, the bank changed me. It made me realize that I had a bigger purpose in supporting diversity and inclusion for all, for me, specifically, improving the lives of people with disabilities. I’m so grateful for Scotiabank…
I decided to pivot my career and join Microsoft. I wanted to help others like me achieve what I have with a lot less effort. Microsoft technology is what enabled me to go to regular school, graduate University, and have had the amazing career and life that I have. Now, I would get a chance to work with them to help everyone achieve more. It was really hard for me to move on from Scotiabank as I had so many mentors, friends, and amazing memories. However, the most difficult thing in life is saying goodbye to one thing to allow you to say hello to another. It was something in my heart that I had to do.
Speaking of heart, in April, my heart was broken. My mother passed away. This woman challenged every status quo imaginable to allow me to have the opportunities that I have. Throughout my numerous surgeries, she was the one that would spend the nights in the hospital with me, telling me the pain would not always be there, and this suffering will be worth it. She somehow took that pain away from me. Seeing her last days, I wish I could’ve done the same. During covid, it was impossible to have a service to mourn her. We did that in the fall. I will always be grateful for my mother because she taught me that my disability would not limit me in anything I decided to do. She also taught me that my disability would not let me get away with anything that I shouldn’t do. In this video, I share one of my fondest memories.
Although my mom was no longer around, we got a new family pet, Baxter. I never thought I could love a dog so much. But this little guy cheers me up on the toughest of days. Just look at him…
In 2021, I continued my new lifestyle of exercise and eating healthy. I lost 60 pounds, reduced my body fat to 9%, my BMI to 19, increased my sleep, and began implementing self-care to clear my mind. When you live on borrowed time, you’re not going to leave this great earth without giving it everything you have.
This newfound health allowed me to participate in the Terry Fox 5 KM walk to raise money for cancer. People asked me why I would not do a fundraiser for cerebral palsy instead of cancer. To me, the answer was simple. We need diversity in Purpose if we want Hope to be inclusive for all. I was fortunate enough to raise $80,000 for cancer research and to be able to walk 5 KM with my family and friends right there by my side. Although I had bruised toes for months after, I have kept the same active lifestyle to live my best life.
In the fall, I finally met my new Microsoft colleagues in person. Until this point, our working relationship was solely online — remote working. Going down to Redmond and meeting them in person was a fantastic experience. I went down to participate in the fall launch of Microsoft’s newest accessory for accessibility. The Surface Adaptive Kit. I cannot describe in words the incredible experience that was present alongside Kris Hunter this fantastic product that are outstanding teams put together. When you work with people that share your passion and commitment, there is no better feeling in the world. Although we just met that day, working with the team felt natural. For someone who was told that they might not have the ability to speak, I am incredibly grateful that I have the platform and agency to be heard.
This year was incredibly challenging, heartbreaking, unsettling, imperfectly perfect, and fulfilling. Although there were people that left my life, many amazing people were added to my life. Throughout it all, I had the one, Kelly, my wife, that continues to be there and inspires me to be the best I can to live an extraordinary life with her. I would not have any of this without her. For a kite to fly, you need that person on the ground pulling that string to allow the kite to go as high as it can go to provide that safety that they won’t let go. Kelly does not know that even though she is my rock on the ground that allows me to soar, I’m also soaring in her sky. The only place I want to fly.
Let’s see what next year brings us. Thank you for reading.