Home Is Where the Heart Is
The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings. –Kakuzo Okakaura
I’ve spent the majority of my life embracing change – continuously adjusting to new things, new places, and new people.
In the span of my 26 years, I have lived in nine different Canadian “cities” encompassed within three provinces and two territories – varying on a spectrum between the country’s capital and a First Nations reserve in the Yukon populated by less than 300 people. Within these places I have moved a total of 11 times. The longest I’ve ever lived in one place is five years.
Since the age of six I have attended three elementary schools, one middle school, two high schools, and two universities. I have travelled to 13 different countries. My family, both immediate and extended, is dispersed across the world.
Evidently, when someone asks me where I’m from, I often struggle to find an appropriate answer.
…“Everywhere” is the closest I’ve come to an accurate response.
While frequently starting over could be challenging at times, I am genuinely grateful for every opportunity. With every change came knowledge and growth – I’ve learned to adapt, I’ve built confidence, and I have gained a true appreciation for both the cultural and geographic diversity within this beautiful country.
Nevertheless, when I moved to Vancouver four years ago, I knew that I had reached a stage where I wanted to embrace a little less change. I was determined to find consistency and stability; convinced that this was the last time my life was going to change drastically for a while.
And for a while it didn’t.
Every morning I hopped on the same bus to the same school, and every evening I returned home to the same apartment with the same roommate. I spent time with the same friends, dated the same person, and went to the same coffee shop. Things were easy and predictable and not much changed.
Until it did.
Like a Butterfly
There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. – R. Buckminster Fuller
All at once my world had been turned upside down.
There I was, just a leaf-eating caterpillar happily shuffling along, until one day I started to disintegrate.*
*(please check out “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” for more details – although I think they leave out the part about dissolving tissues)
From the age of six I had identified as a student, but I wasn’t any longer; for eight years, I had identified as a girlfriend, but I wasn’t any longer; for my entire life I had lived with someone (be it family or a roommate), but I wasn’t any longer.
Yet again, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I was starting over.
A year has passed and I have rebuilt my life in its entirety. I now have a stable job and live in my own apartment in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Vancouver (I even own a couch!). I can walk to work, the grocery store, and the gym. The ocean is practically at my doorstep. I exercise regularly (and maybe even excessively), I eat healthier food, and I have an amazing and diverse group of friends from all domains of my life.
I finally found the consistency I was desperately looking for, and so naturally, I was determined to keep it that way.
I would not have a roommate again. I would not move out of my neighbourhood. I would not give up the accessibility of the city. I would not leave my friends. I would not start over again.
The days went by, and I told myself I had everything I wanted (with maybe the exception of a hot boyfriend…). I was living the dream. What more could I possibly need?
…but just below the surface, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing (and no, it wasn’t the boyfriend).
As time progressed, I came to realize that I was avoiding change, not because I didn’t want it, but because I was afraid of losing what I’d worked so hard to achieve.
There I was, thinking I’m a butterfly, when really I was still trapped in my cocoon.
The Mountains are Calling
A few months ago I was out climbing with a new friend and through casual ‘getting to know each other’ conversation, he asked me where I lived.
Surprised by my response, he questioned why I resided in such an urban community without a vehicle when my passion for nature was so obvious.
…I honestly didn’t know the answer.
On that day, a seed had been planted – shortly thereafter it took root, and with each passing day it continued to grow. As much as I love where I live and the people who surround me, I finally acknowledged that part of me felt trapped by the daily urban grind.
For a long time I’d been so intent on avoiding change that I hadn’t considered any alternatives – not even ones more suited to my lifestyle.
Why didn’t I have a vehicle? Why didn’t I live closer to the mountains?
At first it seemed crazy. Every thought running through my head was suddenly in stark contrast to what I had been desperately trying to maintain.
In order to afford a car, I needed a roommate. In order to get a roommate, I needed to move. If I moved, it needed to be closer to the mountains. If I was closer to the mountains, I needed to commute to work.
These plans were the opposite of consistency.
It wasn’t avoiding change.
It was changing everything.
‘Reprioritizing my life’ has been a relatively recent epiphany and I haven’t yet determined the logistics of how or when – but what I do know is that I’m genuinely looking forward to what’s to come.
I’ve learned that change isn’t starting over.
Change is just the next chapter of the story.
Sure, it can be difficult, scary, and unpredictable, but “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (Henry Ford)
Break out of that cocoon, spread your wings,
*NOTE: if you’ve made it to the end of this post, thank you for tolerating my cheesy butterfly analogies