Monthly Archives: October 2017

Story Untold: “What You Can’t See Is Often More Important Than What You Are Able To”


At 17, Richard Holmes had everything he had wanted: a successful career as a mountain biker; a life in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia; sponsors wanting to endorse him. Despite the accolades, he had one other thing that was tearing at his confidence and progressively worsening in the process: a stutter.

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“My speech was definitely the worst that it had ever been,” says Holmes, now 25. In a sport that requires networking with sponsors, the Waterloo, Ontario native found himself shying away from the spotlight.

“You want to advertise yourself as much as you can, and I would give people a name I thought was easier to say. I think about that now, and I think it’s absolutely hilarious: that I would rather this person not remember who I am, even though I’m trying to do this as a career, than for them to hear me stutter.”

For Holmes, the events epitomized the social anxiety he had felt around speaking for years, ever since he had first met others outside of his immediate circle of family and close friends.

“When we [would go] around introducing ourselves at a [dinner] table, [I would] spontaneously go to the washroom so I wouldn’t have to introduce myself,” he says. “I always associated those social situations with people I don’t know with this constant feeling of trying to avoid — avoidance and hiding.”

Determined to stop the cycle of embarrassment and hiding, Holmes left his promising career in British Columbia to undergo intensive speech therapy at the Speech and Stuttering Institute in Toronto, approaching it with the same intensity he had used in training as a cyclist.

“I would go out of my way to put myself in challenging situations,” he says. “So even things like approaching random people on the street, there was a point where I would go up and do that: approach different people and ask them about something random. I almost made it into a sport, where I was seeing how much I could challenge [myself in] this new way of communicating.”

Holmes took acting classes, enrolled in Toastmasters, and started competing as a public speaker. In 2012, he was invited to share his story at TEDxUW — a talk that has amassed over 20,000 views.

“One of the most rewarding things about [therapy was] learning how much of communication is not [about] fluency,” says Holmes. “When you’re a person who stutters, you really think that’s what’s holding you back, but I think just working on general communication skills was great.”

Now a Master’s student in speech language pathology at the University of Toronto, Holmes has seen his story come full circle — helping others experiencing the same struggles he sought help with not too long ago. He credits his stutter for giving him perspective on life:

“Nothing is going to be easy, ever. You’re going to have to put up with frustrations, and struggles, and things are going to be hard. [But] if you do it for the reason that’s meaningful to you, that’s what makes those things worth it.”

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Story Untold: “Reality Is Bigger Than What We’re Told It Can Be”

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What if our collective idea of a good life — a house with a yard, two cars, maybe a summer home to boot — is missing the mark? Adrian Crook, the Vancouver-based author of 5 Kids 1 Condo, has been exploring that question.

Living in a 1,000-square foot condo in the West Coast city’s Yaletown, Crook’s musings on life spent in close confines with five kids — ditching the family car for public transit and embracing the benefits of downtown living — have become an inspiration to minimalists and urbanists alike seeking an alternative to the increasingly fleeting promise of a single-detached home in the suburbs.

“Like it or not, that’s how people are going to be living in the future — in multi-family dwellings like this one. We’re not all suddenly going to be able to return housing prices to a third of what they are today,” says Crook, a video game design consultant and co-founder of Abundant Housing Vancouver, a non-partisan group advocating for additional, more affordable housing options in Metro Vancouver.

“For me, [it’s] the larger issues of sustainability. We can’t all live in sprawled-out detached houses. It’s way less efficient, uses way more resources, and it’s not something I want to show my kids.”

The single father’s story has caught the attention of CBC News, Global News, The Globe and Mail, and Invisible City — a phenomenon that still brings a little chuckle out of Crook.

“What I’m doing, living in a condo with a fairly large family by North American standards, wouldn’t warrant a line of ink in any other newspaper around the world,” he says. “It’s not unique. But here, because we’ve been taught that it’s the gold standard — that [a] house with a yard [is] the only way to raise kids, despite there being very little evidence to support that — [it’s] still regarded as the way to go.”

Crook, who works from home and commutes when necessary by public transit, points to the social benefits of living in a place where you’re constantly bumping into other people, as well as the lessons in empathy gained from sharing a small space with others.

“I really just want [my kids] to see that their reality is bigger than what they’re told it can be,” adds Crook.

He describes the problem as a case of collective confusion between standard of living and quality of life:

“Standard of living is this measurement that ties into the amount of things you have or what you own, and quality of life is a measurement of how much you’re actually enjoying life, regardless of what you own […] We have such a standard narrative — especially here in Canada — where it’s just like everyone’s headed towards marriage, and a house, and two cars. That’s sort of that life that’s perfect. And I want them to see that people construct their lives in a bunch of different ways.”

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