He was 21 years old.
He was, quite literally, a high school drop-out. Had left year 11 to go and take a trade, done some rigging/dogging work, then kind of just stopped and did nothing much in particular.
And then he met a girl, a girl who was just starting out at uni. On the way to a BA and a law degree, with grand plans of practicing as a barrister someday.
To impress her, (and I think himself), he enrolled in a Dental tech degree. Figured it was something he would be good at, having an interest in fine work, an eye for detail. He was right. Three years later he was qualified and working in a dental lab manufacturing appliances, dentures, implants. Fast forward several more years, and he was running the lab as it's manager, several technicians working under him.
Then it all slipped sideways so fast it left him breathless - deregulation of the industry, meaning anyone could now perform his role without qualification or registration - redundancy after the resultant downturn in the industry - no job, and an essentially useless degree and skillset.
He could have wallowed. He could have raged and cried and broken things. Instead, he took a huge breath and a leap of faith - he began registering for rigging work with employment agencies, got out his old contacts, hustled. Started running, weights - lost 30kg. Took it seriously.
Someone, miraculously it felt, was willing to take a chance on a guy who'd been out of the game for nearly a decade. Offered him a basic doggers role on a crane. That was his foot in the door, and he didn't look back.
A year later, a rigging role at a small company. Three years later, a 2IC role at a mid-level company. Lots of hard work, learning, training, travel, missing family and loved ones.
Six months ago, after three applications and countless interviews and medicals, a coveted supervisor's role at one of the country's largest mining, construction and telco giants.
V, you are the hardest working person I know, the most dedicated, and tenacious - the guy who never gives up, and cannot be knocked down so hard he won't get up again. You are my hero.