IN a popular coffee shop in east Trinidad, TT-born, US-based writer Garth Voisin shared bits from the many chapters of his personal and professional journey. The man who has worn the hats of celebrity personal trainer, model, actor and writer after leaving corporate Trinidad over 15 years ago said life continues to become more interesting with each year.
Voisin, 42, said one of his primary priorities is being able to provide as best he can for his parents and three children – a 20-year-old son, and two daughters, ten and six – and he aims to increase how he is able to contribute to the lives of those he loves most. Voisin, who had help from his parents to raise his children, said he is learning more about being a good father.
"I left TT to be able to provide more for them, which made me feel like I was not doing my best. But I realised I am now able to provide much more for them than if I stayed in TT. In life there is always a trade-off. Being a father is the most important role in my life."
Wanting to be a footballer for most of his youth, he played football throughout his years in school, even though by the time he was a teenager writing became an outlet. "I only played football professionally after moving to the US where I played indoor football for IBM about 15 years ago."
Voisin later stumbled into becoming a celebrity personal trainer in Atlanta while looking for a gym. "I was looking for a place to work out. Long story, in short, I ended up getting the opportunity to work out in a gym that turned out to be where many celebrities like Usher, Ciara and Monica worked out when they were in Atlanta. After becoming familiar with the gym personnel, and they knew about my experience as a personal trainer – I ended up training a number of celebrities including journalist Don Lemon and Q from the group 112.
"Everything ended up being connected, and one opportunity made way for another."
After being a spokesmodel for GNC TT, appearing on the cover of US-based KRAVE magazine and being featured in music videos by artistes including Angie Stone and Joe – he was also cast for what he called "a small part" in the film A story about Wendy.
"The latest movie in which I am featured is The Morning After which is a US independent feature film."
He soon became more aware of his passion for writing around the same time he began doing personal training – which resulted in him writing a personal development book. "I like to call it relatable writing and reading." Having maintained a journal since he was a teenager, he decided to share bits of what he wrote on his Facebook page. The content, he said, was about his life.
"I would write quotes and short thoughts based on my experiences and what I would have been going through. After a while the number of responses increased and it became a regular thing, where I would share thoughts and they would trigger conversations on my Facebook page."
After being told many times to put his life lessons in a book, Voisin decided to take the leap of publishing a book even though he had no formal training or prior experience in publishing.
"Many people go through things but don't know how to express themselves. But I think I have the gift of knowing how to effectively express myself through writing. So, I was happy to share it with anyone who would have benefited from it."
Having followed the work of writers such as John C Maxwell, Voisin set out in 2016 to work on his first book, The Journey Continues: Evolve was which was published in 2017. "It was a way of getting all these bits of information in one place for people who needed it versus leaving it in bits and pieces online."
In this book, he discussed ways of overcoming or coping with personal struggles by experiences which prompted him to revisit how he approached life. The book is made up of activities which require readers to contemplate and make notes based on their own experiences at the end of every chapter.
Asked what feedback he has received in response to his literary work, he said, "It has been great. I have also received invitations to give talks in schools. People always found it interesting that I wrote a book, even though I was mostly seen as a fitness professional and did music videos and ads. Sharing knowledge with a younger generation was very meaningful to me."
Voisin said being from TT made him stand out in every industry and spoke about the importance of having more conversations about men's mental health – a passion of his which he recently began sharing more about.
"There is a notion that men aren't supposed to talk about mental health. We have been groomed to ignore our feelings. In this day, and age, we try to have more conversations about it, but we have a long way to go. There are so many men suffering in silence."
Voisin said it is one of the more challenging movements today because men are taught to be silent and strong about it. "Many men, therefore, seem to think if they break that cycle and begin talking about their struggles, it means they are weak and vulnerable."
Before talking about his own experience with depression and anxiety, he said, "There is a misconception that only a few people have mental health challenges. But the truth is at one point in anyone's life they would have had some kind of experience which would have challenged their mental health. One does not have to be clinically diagnosed."
He said things such as aggression in men is a way unresolved mental health struggles seep out in their behaviour. "I found myself experiencing both depression and anxiety at points in my life, even though I was never diagnosed."
Voisin referred to one of his recent posts on Instagram where he said, "Anxiety for me came from me being anxious to a point where I felt like I had no control over what was happening in my life."
He said he sometimes found himself in a place where he felt alone even though he was surrounded by people. "It takes a lot to get out of that feeling of isolation." He said he resolves his challenges by reading and having open and honest conversations with those who have experience in dealing with mental health and those who also have had challenges with handling stress and anxiety. "By talking about it I think we demystify it. It also makes us feel less lonely when we realise we all have these internal challenges."
Asked what he thinks can be done to advance the movement of addressing men's mental, Voisin said he will use all his platforms to raise awareness. He also seeks to collaborate with others who seek to make a similar change to continue opening the conversation in as many spaces as possible. "I look forward to coordinating a men's mental health symposium in TT. Each of us should try to empower the movement by acknowledging the problem. I have reached out to people of influence to start to spread the importance of talking about mental health more openly."
He said he has learned lessons in his life, so far, which has informed his current mantra which includes working hard while surrendering to the ebb and flow of life and being vulnerable. "I think at this point my mantra is just to keep trusting this process and realising the process has different stages, so I have to just do my best and exercise patience."