I love flashbacks to when I was young! Like a movie, my mind replays a moment and I’m back there. Right now I’m remembering a life changing moment, I mean it,  a total life changer! It could have gone one of two ways… many ways actually, I like how it turned out! We all have them, stories are built around them. Life changers are only monumental to those whose life was changed. I realized that today as I spoke with friends, their memory of the event (of my life being changed) was not as powerful for them as it was for me.


He walked into the classroom laughing. He walked briskly. He spoke with intention. He cared. He cared about us, he cared about design… he cared. Tom Park was a force. 


Tom and I shared more than the love of design. We share a birthday. We have many friends in common. We both love to giggle. 


Tom’s laughter filled the room. He had a way of laughing at a design concept that made one know Tom was proud that you tried something different, something new. I hate being laughed at, yet when Tom laughed it forced me to ask “OK, what am I to learn from this”? He’d chuckle some more and then ‘suggest’ a few things that could make the design better. 


What a stupendous teacher Tom Park was! 


Tom had a way! Have you ever doubted yourself and been ready to give up? I have! Tom gave me a confidence that I never even knew existed within me. At my lowest point in my design school days, I was about to sneak out, never to return to this crazy design world again. I was not, am not, talented in the area of sketching. Much of our marks in design school were based on our ability to sketch. Of course the teachers were judging design, however, those who could present their design in a beautiful sketch, succeeded in getting better grades, better than those of us who couldn’t. Knowing me, more than I knew me at the time, Tom said “Your design marks won’t get you a job in interior design” and as I picked my jaw up from the table he added “You’re great at organization. He didn’t laugh, no Tom chuckles, I was tender. He said “You’re super organized”. I quivered, “How’s that going to get me into this design world”? Tom took me aside, said “Don’t tell the artists, design is about organization”. “Form follows function”, he reminded me. Tom spent the rest of my design year encouraging my spatial talents and organization skills. Risking sounding arrogant, I’m a great space planner and I built a career from that talent.


To this day I use a concept I learned from Tom in my college days. There’s a product we use in the design world; some call it flimsy, others buff, some say trace, others onion skin; it’s tracing paper. Some have abandoned it, I love it and it’s my silent partner to this day! Bottom line, flimsy is used to make a designers life easier. For me, it allows me to sketch and sketch and sketch, kind of like brainstorming, nothing is wrong, just get the idea out! One day, when I was stuck beyond stuck, Tom yelled “Turn the trace upside down”. Like only a college student could, I said “Wha???” He marched to my drafting table ~ yes, I know I’m dating myself ~ and he picked up my flimsy, turned it around the other way ~ UPSIDE DOWN ~  and looked at me. I said something lame like “the walls don’t match up!” He chuckled, that’s what Tom did, “Look! What do you see?” I’d love to share the actual ‘AHA’ moment of the design concept but that’s not what I remember. I remember how my viewpoint changed. I saw the design differently. I’m not joking when I say, ‘Turn it upside down’ has kinda been a metaphor for my life. I don’t believe my husband has ever met Tom but he sure knows the metaphor! I bet Tom would chuckle if he knew I still turn the flimsy upside down to make my design better! He’d crack up laughing to know it’s a metaphor for my life.


Life changer!


I began my writing energized by a flashback. Today, my mind flashed backed to Orestes Greek restaurant on Broadway in Vancouver, BC. A few students from our class went there after a field trip and Tom joined us. Everyone was excited about their work experience placements. Not wearing my usual happy face, Tom sidled up to me and asked if I didn’t like my placement. I explained that I wanted to go to Victoria and the teacher in charge of placements laughed at me and said there was nothing more than furniture stores in Victoria and I’d never make it as an interior designer there. Tom burst into chuckles and said “That’s not so”. Not only did Tom get me my work experience in Victoria with the awesome architectural firm of Herring Haynsworth, they hired me and I worked for them for years.




I could say so much more, but today I ask;


 “Has anyone contributed to your life in a life changing way”?


Tell them… before it’s too late. Tom died this week; June 25, 2012.  He was too young. I’m glad I told him how he contributed to my life.




Rest in peace, Tom. Thank you for changing my life for the good. Thank you for believing in me!



Inspire someone today!


Not feeling it? Be Kind. Be Generous. Be LOVE!



4 thoughts on “Life changers

  1. What an inspiration! Love the concept turn it upside down. Maybe that’s why you made such an awesome space for us to live in. Have said farewell to many lately. Oh and btw, well written piece! xoxo

  2. Thanks Andrea! Hope you’re feeling better. Live in the now, be grateful and Breathe. My mantra lately.

  3. Morning Cindy, Life passes so quickly and sometimes we are so entranced in our world we forget to stop and think. and say Thank You! I find myself more so these days stopping and appreciating the past. and trying to live in the moment. I did say trying. Sometimes it is hard to break old habits. i was ill this week and had a couple moments that made me appreciate what good health I have had. But I also had to slow down and ask for help.Thanks for the thoughts. I look forward to more posts.Your friend.Andrea

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