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Steeled for a big debut

Don’t call it a comeback – Lynda Steele has been here for years. And from now on, “here” means The Orca.

I can’t take this crazy pace

I’ve become a mental case

Yeah, this is the job that ate my brain

Ramones - 1992

That could have been my theme song in 2021.

I was so desperately burned out. The weekends weren’t long enough to recharge my batteries anymore. Sunday was my sacrosanct day of doing absolutely nothing – no chores, no talking, no stress. If something upended my “do nothing” day, I felt like weeping, knowing I wouldn’t have the energy to keep up the pace of plotting, planning, booking, researching, and then hosting a live, unscripted three-hour radio show every day.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a massive privilege to host the afternoon drive on Vancouver’s iconic talk radio station. I mostly loved it: one day interviewing the premier; the next, a queen from RuPaul’s drag race. How fun is that?

But for a perfectionist like me, it was also a grind.

Every show had to be a home run. I never felt researched “enough.” My radio brain couldn’t shut down for more than an hour at a time. Everywhere I looked I saw a guest, a topic I wanted to cover on my show. Squirrel!

And it was a hot time to be in talk radio.

2015 was the year of global terror attacks and mass shootings.

2016 saw the election of Donald Trump. I was convinced that wouldn’t happen. Who would vote for that bloviating buffoon?

I seriously underestimated how pissed off people were: at their political leaders; their lot in life; the media. That whole “fake news,” “enemy of the people” nonsense was exhausting. The phone lines were blistering, the email and tweets got nastier by the week.

The Trump era was like a carousel of crazy. Every week a new scandal. People got pissier. And just when you thought it couldn’t get uglier - 2020 ushered in a new obsession – COVID-19.

The pandemic brought us closer at first. People were desperate for news about this killer virus. Then it ripped us apart, forced us into camps of believers and non-believers. Rule followers and rebels.

It was exhausting.

All the while, my brother and I were also tag teaming dual crises: first Mom was diagnosed with dementia. Then Dad.

Mom died a couple of weeks after I started my CKNW journey, which frankly rocked me just when I needed all my brain cells for a demanding new job. Dad was diagnosed a couple of years later.

Fuck you, Alzheimers.

 So when my brother announced he was taking early retirement and moving to the island, I thought maybe this was a good time for me to check out too.

My brother and I alternated visits to Dad’s care home and juggled essential caregiver responsibilities. Him leaving Vancouver meant I would be the only family member left here, and I knew I didn’t have the energy to give dad the attention he deserved.

So, I called it a career.

Day one of retirement left me feeling euphoric. The pressure was off, and the cyber turds had no access to my email. It was June, the sun was shining, the shackles were off.

I visited Dad, slept, walked the seawall, binged podcasts, drank wine on patios with friends. Life was good! Until it wasn’t.

After about three months, this relief morphed into soul-crushing boredom – and, surprisingly, physical pain.

My gut was tight and uncomfortable. I spent hours with a heating pad on my lap. Oh God, did I quit work only to discover I now have a serious medical condition? Nope. The diagnosis? Anxiety. The stress of having no creative outlet after 35 years in broadcasting.

Retirement, it seems, is not for me.

 I needed to find a solution that left lots of time for visiting dad, and I knew someone who might have ideas.

Jody Vance has cobbled together an impressive freelance media career. She agreed to meet for dinner one blustery winter night just before Christmas. The screw top was barely off the wine when Jody floated an idea – how about joining The Orca team? The news cycle is hot, there’s so much to talk about, from housing prices, to crime concerns, to the war in Ukraine.

I had questions.  Was there room for another column in The Orca?  (Yes – thank you Maclean Kay).

So as they say in the business - some personal news.

I’m baaaack! And after 10 months of “retirement” - I have a lot to say. Talk to you soon.

Lynda Steele’s career has taken her from Global TV and the Edmonton Journal in Alberta, to becoming one of BC’s best known and most trusted broadcasters, most recently as the afternoon drive host on CKNW Radio until 2021.