There have been many times in my life when I knew what I wanted, without doubt or hesitation.

Looking back, those moments seem absolutely glorious.

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When I was studying German language and linguistics (1988–1993) I knew I was on the right path. The end goal was to complete my Master’s Thesis, and then do my PhD in the United States.

Towards the end of my fourth year of undergraduate studies, I applied for a 10-month scholarship that would allow me to work on my thesis, in the second year of my Master’s, in Germany.

I was certain that I’d get it and informed my boyfriend of 6-weeks of that “fact.” I said something to the effect of,

“If we get serious, know that I’m going to win this scholarship. I will be living in Germany for a year, about a year and a half from now.”

I won the scholarship, but there was only one problem.

The thesis proposal I wrote that won me the scholarship was a radical change in my area of research as a scholar. I had been groomed to specialize in a linguistic view of German literature, with a sub-specialty in Middle-High German (and Latin, just for fun).

Perhaps it was my involvement in the gay group on campus and Queer Nation in Ottawa. I felt the need to do more expansive and impactful research, something that would also be viewed through a queer lens.

Within a few months of living in Germany everything fell apart. I couldn’t find the research to support my thesis. The advisor I had chosen was ill-chosen. My idea was either unprovable, or at best, the topic for a PhD and not a Master’s thesis.

When I returned home in the summer of 1993, I learned that XTRA magazine (Pink Triangle Press) was launching a sister publication in Ottawa. I knew I had to be a part of it and offered to volunteer at the new office, opening in August. Four months later I applied for and got a full-time position at Capital XTRA. I continued to work for the Press until 1994.

Any old map won’t do

For the last couple of years of my Nutrition and Fitness coaching career, I’ve felt a bit without a clear map. I had a plan, but I wasn’t thrilled with the destination. I had no more passion for my work. Again, I was struggling with knowing exactly what I wanted to do.

Thankfully, this past November and December were massive personal growth months. With the help of a great coach, and Tom Kueglar’s Medium Mastery Program, I launched the Medium publication, Th-Ink Queerly, and my coaching website, DarrenStehle.com. Both of these sites are the expression of,

‘Who I am’, ‘What I stand for’, and ‘What I do’, now.

As we move along the path of life we change.

Sometimes the people around us change, or the business in which we operate changes. Those things may throw us off course.

Knowing where you’re going, if you have a clear plan, takes courage. Even more courage is required to move forward when you don’t have a detailed map. You’re hoping things will work out, or that you’ll stumble across your updated passion.

My life has been one of change, transitions, and transformations.

I’ve lived a very non-traditional path because I questioned everything and didn’t want to settle for the norm. Certainly my gay male/queer identity has had a lot to do with my choices in life

And this is certainly why I love the work I do now: writing and coaching.

Both allow me to explore.

Writing allows me to come up with and explore ideas, to share a thought, tell a story, or inspire you to think differently.

Coaching allows me to listen to your story, what you believe, how you’ve boxed yourself in, your truth, values, loves, frustrations, passions, joys, and fears.

Both writing and coaching are about taking action and transformation.

To publish — to be heard — I need to write.

To improve your life — if you’re working with a coach — you need to take action on what you agree to do.

Coaching is like driving a car with GPS navigation

You’re on a busy highway. Reading a map while driving is too difficult and definitely not safe. You ask your copilot to read the map and to offer direction.

That person becomes your guide, your coach, even though you are still the one in the driver’s seat.

I’m working with a coach right now who’s helping me with my navigation.

It’s funny, but the things we need to learn the most, are the things that make us great teachers of that very subject.


Live out and fucking proud of your uniqueness as a gay man.

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Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash