I did an internship after I finished the 3rd year of college. This opportunity was optional in the engineering program I was in—12 to 16 months of real workplace experience before the final year of your degree. For myself, this was going to be my first "professional" job—in an office environment with dress shirts, cubicles, lunch rooms, regular work hours...all that jazz. Leading up to it, I remember being very worried about getting a good placement. I wanted to work somewhere that would be challenging and educational in a way that would complement my interests and also set me up to follow the career path I wanted to pursue. The problem was, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do yet. And an even bigger problem, at least to me, was that I wasn't sure I would even get a job offer. Because of this uncertainty, I just took the first offer I got. Looking back, I consider myself pretty lucky that it worked out the way it did. I don't regret my placement whatsoever.
For my internship, I was hired as a technical writer for a semiconductor manufacturer in data communications and video broadcasting devices. If you don't know what a technical writer is, it's about as exciting as it sounds. Not exactly the sort of gig I was looking for, at least on paper. To my surprise however, what I ended up joining was a company that was full of great people with fun personalities. It was honestly a huge blessing to have accepted the offer and to have joined this company. I never would've expected such a fantastic experience from what initially seemed like a rather mundane job. Despite these tedious and somewhat boring job responsibilities, I had an absolutely fantastic year working there. I was surrounded by coworkers that were fun to be around—playing pranks, joking around, being friendly and always looking for ways to involve everyone. I still have not experienced a better work atmosphere since that internship. I am fortunate to still keep in touch with some of the friends I made while working there.
Out of all these friends, one colleague I became particularly close with was Ivan. Ivan was also working there on an internship, but he was finishing up his placement just as I was starting. After he went back and finished his final school year, he was hired again in a full-time role. Ivan fit in perfectly with the culture at the office. He was exuberant, friendly, smart, hard-working and just a little mischievous too. For Christmas, he wrapped his whole cubicle in wrapping paper. Like the entire thing. He hung garland and Christmas lights and he had elves and all sorts of ridiculous decorations. There might've even been a fireplace in there too. It was just exceedingly, over-the-top, festive. There was no need to do all of it but for Ivan, he was always looking for different ways of breaking out of the ordinary and bringing some fun into his everyday routine. I don't think he did it for attention or just to make other people happy, but it certainly was a side-effect of being around a guy like him. It was simply due to his pure love of life combined with a boundless amount of energy. Whatever it was, Ivan was up for it. Whether it was working, partying, playing sports...no matter what Ivan was gonna be smiling and he was excited to make something special happen. I have never met someone in my life who had such an optimistic and infectious attitude about life. Ivan was a huge reason why my internship was so special and I am grateful I got to work with him and become friends with him.
On the night of December 15th, 2016, I found out that Ivan had been in a head-on car crash with a bus. He died upon impact. It was three years ago today. He was only 25.
During our internship, Ivan came with me to a few concerts. One show we went to together was Eric Prydz, an internationally renowned Swedish house music producer and DJ. Actually we saw him twice together; he's a fantastic producer and his live shows are outrageously fun. Ivan loved music and in the years following he became a huge fan of electronic dance music. Without a doubt though, Eric Prydz was his favourite DJ. I remember after the second time we saw Prydz live, Ivan slept over at my place. When we were going to sleep he asked to borrow my headphones because he wanted to keep listening to him. When I woke up, I walk down to the couch and sure enough the headphones were still on and Ivan was sleeping with a smile on his face. Everything Ivan loved, he loved with all his heart.
Over the next few years, after our time working together had ended, I still saw Ivan every once in awhile, sometimes just by chance. The guy did so much and was so outgoing that he seemed to pop up everywhere. Unfortunately he was transferred to Ottawa to work at another office there, so I did not see him as often as I would've liked. I knew he was still the same old Ivan though—one look at his Instagram or Snapchat confirmed he was living life to the fullest. Working on his car, baking cookies, skating on the Rideau Canal, or going to every Eric Prydz concert on the continent...Ivan didn't want to waste a minute. I still regret not going with him to New York for one of Eric Prydz's legendary "EPIC" live shows, despite Ivan personally offering to drive me. It's a one of a kind experience that Prydz will work on for years to make into a truly special event. Even though I couldn't make it, Ivan wasn't going to miss it...he made the 9 hour drive from Ottawa to New York City to be part of it, just by himself. He didn't care if he couldn't find someone else to go with (even though he would always appreciate the company) Ivan wanted to live his life without reservations or second-guessing. I really admired that about him. If it was something important to him, he went out and did it.
Every once in awhile, I like to actually listen to the recorded live set from the EPIC show that Ivan went to on Eric Prydz's soundcloud, all 3 hours of it. Firstly because it's an amazing set, but secondly because I know how much Ivan loved it. I just imagine him there at Madison Square Garden; dancing non-stop, making friends with other fans, and just enjoying the moment and the experience.
It makes me really upset to think that someone like Ivan will not get to live a full lifetime. It feels unjust, and his death feels pointless to me. Like it wasn't supposed to happen and something just went wrong. Who else, but someone that appreciated every moment in life, and actively sought to make special things happen to those around him, would deserve these years that existence affords us. I have never met someone else like Ivan, someone that loves so much and has so much to give. I have struggled to make sense of his death over the past 3 years, I just don't understand why terrible things like this need to happen to people who don't deserve anything but joy. As hard as its been for myself, I know his other friends and especially his family loved Ivan and knew how special he was. They deserved more years together. Ivan deserved more years here.
If there is one thing I have taken from Ivan's death, it's that my perspective on life has changed. I've never understood better what is meant when they say that life is precious. We've all been blessed to be granted time here on Earth, and it could be taken from us at any day without warning. I decided that the only thing I can do is to live my life the way Ivan did. He would want everyone to be as happy as he is. Don't take anything for granted, and experience as much as you can. But most importantly, you need to live with love and share that with the people around you.
Ivan's presence could fill a room, and it was always a pleasure to be in that room with him. I wish we could share the same room, whether it's an office cubicle or a dance floor, just one more time.
Rest easy big guy.