I’ve “moved” home a bunch of times; in between University and before travelling for 6 months in New Zealand and India. I moved home for a few months before planting trees in Northern Ontario and then travelling in Eastern Europe. The year after, I was living between home, North Bay and Hamilton for Teacher’s College. And after a summer at home, I moved to England to teach for the two years.
As all these different experiences came to an end, I sort of ran off toward the next thing that I wanted to do. Since I didn’t have anywhere that I had to live or anything I had to do I took advantage of the wide-open space in front on me – and I’m so grateful that I did.
But no matter where I was living, I sort of always made it to the same point. I missed living near my family and being a part of the life I had for the first 18 years of my life. I missed the little things – like lunch after church on Sundays, camping with my extended family or my brother’s birthday dinner at Swiss Chalet (which every Canadian knows is the place to be). At a certain point, the small twinges I got from a text or a picture of my family doing something completely ordinary surmounted – eventually overshadowing everything about whatever life I happened to be living at that moment. I felt like two different people and I felt like I couldn’t have everything that was important to me all in one place.
When I took a job teaching High School Psychology in England, I was annoyed that the career I wanted was not available in my little part of Ontario. So, I moved. At first, I experienced the (now familiar) initial months of awkward transition. But as I built my life in England, it became easier to see myself staying for a second year. Moving somewhere you have no ties and no obligations at 24 is really freeing. I think people do that kind of thing for different reasons. Some running from a life they don’t want. Some running from monotony or commitment-filled-decisions. Or maybe some are running just to run. To travel and experience different culture and meet different kinds of people.
For me, the part I found really freeing, was that the only people that were in my life were people that my 24 year old self wanted in my life. There were no hard-to-be-around friend of a sibling, that “aunt” that you grew up with cause your parents were tight, no obligatory baptisms or neighbourhood BBQ’s with pleasant-but-forced conversation. And man. I really lucked out. I had the most hilarious, chill roommate. We had a sweet (cheap) apartment right in the middle of town. I had an amazing church community that challenged me in so many new ways, and my schedule allowed me to travel to a new country every 8-10 weeks. I had a job that was insanely hard but also so rewarding. I grew and changed and was so happy for those two years.
But the point is, despite all these incredible people and sweet ass experiences, it eventually became overshadowed by what I was missing. I missed my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary, my sister getting engaged, a few pretty cool weddings and I missed my Grandma’s cooking at Christmas. All of these things that we take for granted when we’re knee-deep in the normality of life – I was craving all of it. Toward the end of my two years, the days that I would wake up and miss a different kind of life became more frequent. And even though it hurt like hell to leave my life in England, I was sick of being split in two places and I was sick of saying good-bye. I figured the only way to avoid this particular kind of pain in my future was to head home, towards the complicated and hard but life-giving conversations (read: fights) with the people who actually do matter most. I wanted the Sunday lunches, the pleasant-but-forced conversation with neighbours and I wanted life with my crazy family.
I’ve been back for about a year and half now. It has been complicated. I went back to England to visit this past summer and my old life clicked in place; like I had never left. I had to experience that weird, multiple lives thing and some horrible good byes all over again. Sometimes this more complicated version of life where I don’t get to explore a brand new place at the drop of a hat and where I don’t get to say “no” to bizarre obligations – it’s hard. It can be weird and awkward. It’s complicated to understand where people are coming from and why they don’t agree with my views on social issues or feminism or the best way to organize recycling. I don’t get to just pick the people and moments and places that agree with me the most at this point in my adult life. I have plan really far in advance to see an old friend, drive my dad to a customer’s house at 10:00pm on a Tuesday to pick up a tractor (no joke) and be social even when I really don’t want to be. It isn’t all fun and loved-filled celebrations all the time. With those come the obligations of everyday life. But this is where I’m at. This is life. And I’m so, so happy to be here.
And of course, above all else, I’m stoked that I get to be here to see my Mom force the poor Swiss Chalet employees to sing Happy Birthday to my brother.