… or Calgary…
… or Saudi Arabia…
… or Calgary…
About a week ago, I discovered that it’s really hard to get any sleep when my brain is wrestling with itself. I place the blame for my insomnia squarely where it belongs: the post office.
Yup, the post office. Maybe the one in Thailand, maybe the one in Canada – I’m not sure. There’s really no way to tell. What I do know is that one document went missing from all the documents I needed to complete my application packet for a PhD program in Montreal. An incomplete application won’t be processed, so instead of scouring real estate listings for character-filled, historic apartments in La Belle Ville, the doors to my future were suddenly thrown wide open. And I mean W-I-D-E open.
You know me. You know I have some reservations about living in Antarctica, but any other continent is fair game. Standing on such a precipice with my passport in hand is like going to the dairy section of a North American grocery store after spending years in Asia. There are so many choices, it’s thrilling and paralyzing all at once. But instead of choosing between 8 types of Brie and 12 kinds of Cheddar, I have to choose ONE place to live somewhere in the whole world.
After very little thought – really – almost no thought at all, I had narrowed the whole world down to two choices: Saudi Arabia or Calgary.
Because those are both pretty similar, right?
In one, all the moisture in my body would freeze, in the other it would all evaporate. Both sound equally uncomfortable.
In one, I’d trade considerable freedom for considerable finances. In the other, I’d have tons of freedom, but no funds available to enjoy it.
In one, I couldn’t drive if I wanted to. In the other, I wouldn’t want to drive if I could. (Seriously, the Deer Foot Trail in Calgary terrifies me.)
I was equally excited about both – and equally worried. Sure, the worries were different, but as far as my internal worry-o-meter goes, they were both about even.
As the roosters started crowing after my third sleepless night, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: For me, the thought of moving back to Canada is scarier than the thought of moving to a country where people get beheaded for breaking the law.
How can Canada be scary?? (Not counting the Deer Foot Trail, of course, that’s obviously terrifying.) It’s not you, Canada. It’s me. Really.
When you’re living, travelling, working, snorkelling or eating your way through other countries, it’s easy to pick and choose elements of culture that resonate with you. It’s fun to identify things you love about your host culture (Giant Nation-Wide water fights? Yes please. Heated floors? Love ’em.) and easy to grumble about things you’re not so fond of (Get your elbows out of my rib cage, you horde of crazy grandmothers! Why is there a chunk of congealed blood in my soup?) But the not-so-awesome things are tolerable, because you know they’re temporary. Eventually you’ll move on, and you won’t have to take the unpleasant things with you.
Not wanting to confess, even to myself, that I’ve been actively avoiding my own country, my decision was made: Calgary.
Nestled in the protective embrace of the Rocky Mountains, it’s home to the Calgary Stampede, giant belt buckles, and a university with a PhD program in Language and Diversity. It’s also stupidly expensive and unbearably cold.
After being away from Canada for 14 years, I find myself accessing Immigrant to Canada and expatriate websites to navigate my way back into my own country. That’s a little disconcerting. There are things I’m really excited about when I think of moving back, but I wonder how much trouble I’m going to have when I realize that Canada is home. I can’t pick and choose what I like about Canadian culture, and I can’t leave the bad stuff behind.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not terribly worried about those things. I’m not losing sleep over them anyway. I just wonder what it will be like to live in Canada again. If I do start to get anxious, I simply remind myself I’ll have 8 different types of Brie and 12 types of Cheddar waiting for me.
How did you wind up in your current home? How did you choose where to live?