We've actually met once before; perhaps you don't remember.
I was sitting by the window of a cozy cafe with a latte in hand and a pile of well-worn notebooks and chocolate M&M's on my table. Having just finished a project, I was unwinding with a book by Dostoevsky (or was it something similarly deep and philosophical like Calvin and Hobbes?) when you walked in.
You were struggling to make your way through the crowd with an overflowing cappuccino in one hand, a briefcase in the other and a cellphone clenched tightly between your teeth. One false move and... Well, let's just say it would have been tragically hilarious.
With the foreboding of an impending disaster, I helped to unburden you of your "cargo" and offered the empty seat at my table — the only one left aside from the washroom stalls.
We chatted casually for a while. For some reason we talked at length about squirrel monkeys. I mentioned that I've been a passionate writer since I was an ankle-biter. I waddled around with a dog-eared spiral notebook, scribbling down the things that come to the mind of a child with an overactive imagination. As the years went by, however, I sought to find a balance between the naturally creative writer I was and the analytic problem solver I had become.
I kicked off my professional career in the IT industry, spending seven years working at CAE — one of Canada's leading aerospace companies — as a software developer, system administrator and general IT fireman. I was heavily involved in the development of the company's first intranet-based content management system.
After accomplishing everything I wanted to, I left CAE to join Competia, a competitive intelligence firm. There, my creative and technical halves converged. In addition to my IT role, I was a staff writer for the company's online magazine.
Two years later I became a full-time freelance writer, editor and journalist. Since 2003, I've worked on a variety of writing assignments, including marketing collateral, journalistic features and creative writing projects.
After a while you admitted to finding it difficult to reconcile the serious nature of my work and my oddball outlook on the world. But that, I explained, is what makes an interesting writer: The ability to skate that fine line separating the professional and creative wordsmith from the eccentric who scribbles his musings on a wall with a stubby pencil. The important thing is knowing which to unleash and when. There's nothing wrong with professional writing seasoned with a pinch of raving lunacy — if that's what's called for.
I rounded up all the loose M&M's on my table and held up a bright red one between my fingers like a jeweler holds up a diamond.
"People buy these for the chocolate," I said matter-of-factly. "Sure, the colours make them more fun and interesting, but underneath is still chocolate. Why not add some colour when you can? Otherwise, these tiny candies, writing and life would all just be... brown."
George Bernard Shaw put it best when he said that life doesn't cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.
I turned my attention to the window and stared off into space as I often do when deep in thought. In the silence you probably wondered if I was reflecting on our conversation, or perhaps contemplating the mysteries of life. But between the two of us, I must admit, I was actually thinking about a duck-billed platypus happily sunning itself on a rock. And happy it should be because life is not brown.