Ode to Mtl Breakfast TV's, Derick Fage
by Paula M. Toledo
I am fascinated by ‘happenstance’, the idea of chance events happening.
Some believe in luck, others believe in an invisible force moving you towards occurrences that are ‘meant to be’. Through both lenses, there lies such mystery.
If we look back at our life path, more often than not, we can isolate moments that segue into new meaningful directions as a result of a chance meeting, encounter, or event.
In his Stanford commencement speech, Steve Jobs talks about his unforeseen personal milestones (which one could see as misfortunate), significant 'dots' that joined and connected his later success as a husband, entrepreneur and visionary.
In his address, he articulates his theory. "Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
His speech is moving and rings true to me especially upon meeting Derick Fage, host of Breakfast TV Montreal. Life plotted a 'dot' for me when I had the good fortune of being interviewed by Derick for my Movember campaign. Aiming to raise awareness for men's mental health and suicide prevention, Derick was my interviewing host.
Despite the Breakfast TV lights and cameras, Derick's warmth instantly put me at ease. Perched on his guest chair, lost in time, I forgot where I was. Like two people chatting over coffee, I shared my personal story as a single-mom, survivor of suicide and mental health caregiver. "You're a great interview", Derick said in passing as I left the set. "Thanks!" I threw it out there, with nothing to lose, I casually mentioned, "I host a podcast, maybe one day you can be my guest?" And just like that Derick replied, "Sure!"
Growing up in Arlington Woods in Nepean, (now a part of Ottawa), Derick recalls getting lost in nature, walking home from school alongside the creek and later finding solace at his family friend's cottage by the Big Rideau Lake. Nature has been, and continues to be a healing agent, providing a sense of freedom for a man, who until recently, was locked inside his personal childhood story of bullying abuse and trauma.
The 'dots' in Derick's life began at birth when he was born with a high imperforate anus and no sphincter, leading to a slew of infant surgeries and a life of incontinence.
I only learned of his personal story by way of falling upon his Tedx Talk, "The Relentless Pursuit of Happiness". At the time of my Breakfast TV interview, I wasn't aware of Derick's background nor that he also came close to ending his own life. Open and vulnerable, Derick honestly shares, his heartbreaking, and eventually heart-lifting experiences. The happiness he attained, gave way, when he by chance or 'dot', met and interviewed the President of the Canadian Incontinence Association on his show. From that moment on, he opened up publicly about his medical condition. What followed was an important segue into his new life trajectory, where he would finally experience life profoundly in all its beauty. His wife Monika comes up often in conversation, as does the love he has for his family and friends. Nature, family, the stage, gratitude are his sweet spots.
In his thoughtful and emotional interview and podcast (with me as the interviewer this time), he talks about the bullying, his a-ha moment (another big and important 'dot'), and his gratitude for the wall of love that prevented his suicide from occurring. With careful considerations, he also shares thoughts to children and parents who are in the midst of their struggle living out the real-life nightmare of bullying.
Channeling his high energy into acting for a number of high school plays he wrote, Derick would eventually fall in love with acting after his parents sent him to a drama summer camp. A gig at murder mystery dinner theatre reinforced his passion and led to other opportunities to do voices for video games, local commercials, and a number of independent films. At the request of his stepmother, who saw an ad in the newspaper for a local talk show, he tried out for a host position. Landing the job ('dot'), made him Daytime Ottawa's host for eleven years, and the sole producer over a two year period. Derick connects the 'dots' looking backwards, "I actually imagined myself acting in film and television but once I got the hosting job, I fell in love with it. I love hearing people’s stories, especially people that fall under the radar. There are so many people doing amazing things in life we never hear about. I’m curious about those stories and I’m grateful I can help them share those stories."
Not one to live below the radar is Shania Twain, who along with other famous people, Derick had the chance to interview. When asked about his experience, Derick says, "Shania was very generous with her time and she really is authentic. As with most celebrities, I learned that she isn’t any different than the rest of us. I approach each interview the same way, whether you’re famous or not, it doesn’t affect the way I interview a guest. Everyone has a story to tell. Shania’s story is definitely unique in many ways though. She witnessed her mother being physically and verbally abused by her step-father. She lost her mother and step-father in a tragic car accident which forced her to step away from performing to help support her siblings, and of course, she went through a difficult divorce after her husband cheated on her with her best friend. She also lost her voice for years due to lyme disease. That’s a lot to overcome, and she’s come out of it with an amazing attitude. I have a lot of respect for her."
Derick's generous reveal of his life circumstances and what it took for him to overcome his obstacles may be learnings for anyone struggling. Like Steve Jobs and Shania, Derick is exemplary in being true to his talents and living an authentic life, despite hardships. If a series of dots is a line, perhaps Steve Jobs is right, and I will one day look backwards and reflect on my chats with Derick as an important life event or 'dot' that gave way to my personal growth.
Here's to the wonder in that 'Dot'.
Where Discovery Meets Gratitude.