I’ve been away for a while. Not physically; physically, I haven’t ventured more than 6 blocks from my apartment. But mentally, I’ve been away. Trying to figure this all out, I guess. Trying to figure my life out. I haven’t, not yet, but I’m closer now than I was three months ago. It sounds crazy, but I do believe in destiny. Maybe not in the strictest sense, but I think we’re given choices, and we’re given subtle (or not so subtle) nudges in the right direction, and then it’s up to us to make the leap.
When I was applying to graduate school, I was so sure I was going to stay in Windsor. I applied to the University of Calgary just to see if I could get in. I really didn’t intend on moving here. And I think the universe (God? Gaia? Whatever you want to call it) knew that, and gave me a not-so-subtle push in the right direction – west. So I took a leap of faith, and it was the hardest decision I have ever made. But you know, as hard as it was, and as difficult as it’s been to live out here for the past 3 years (almost), I really believe it was the right thing for me. I learned a lot of things I wouldn’t have learned had I stayed within my comfort zone of Southern Ontario, and for that, I’m grateful. I could have left here a year ago, when my degree was over. I could have easily packed up my life and ran home, but I didn’t. I needed that extra year to figure everything out. There was something here that I wanted, maybe more than I’ve wanted anything else, and I needed to see if I could have it. I spent almost three years trying to make it happen, and then realized it wasn’t going to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future. I believed so strongly in the possibility of this thing, for so long, and am now starting to recognize that it isn’t going to happen right now, and I’m learning to be ok with that. There’s this quote I want to share. A few weeks ago, I was sick with the flu, and spent several days on my couch with apple juice and mustard plaster, watching episodes of this show called Defying Gravity, and Zoe’s conclusion about life sums it up pretty well: “I want my life to be my life. My successes, my failures, my choices. I can’t live around my dream without being a part of it.” Yes. Exactly. I can’t live around this thing I’ve dreamed about for so long without having it in my life. So, after three years here, it’s time to move on.
I’ve been pretty homesick for a long time, but I’m starting to understand that this isn’t exactly homesickness I’m feeling. Maybe it’s a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of actual homesickness, but mostly it’s restlessness. My body is telling me to move on, find a new city and new people and new places to explore. And it’s a need to do more with my life. I started remembering how connected I was to everything around me in my last year of undergrad. I was involved in the literary community, I had friends I could laugh and scheme with, I had a job that made me feel valued even while it stressed me out. I was an editor. In every sense of the word. I spent 8 months working with a local literary press, on a team of other undergrads, editing and designing a book and planning the launch party. I also worked as a student editor, fixing other students’ papers and teaching them little bits of grammar. And on the side, I was editing my friend’s Master’s thesis. I felt important, like I had something rare that I could offer the people around me. I could share my passion for grammar and writing, teach people something that they would use for the rest of their lives. I realized I’m happiest when I’m editing. Not literary editing – the responsibilities that come with that job are just not for me. What I mean is basic editing: grammar, sentence structure, language, punctuation. That is what I’m passionate about. Funny that it took so long to figure that out, and that I had to move 3,000 kms away to do it.
I learned something else recently, too: writers should never move. We hoard too much paper, too many notebooks and binders and scrawled notes. I know I’ll be moving in the relatively near future, so am slowly making my way through all my stuff. I’m also finally going home again, early next month. That makes me happy. I haven’t been home in 15 months, and am really looking forward to spending time with my family and friends, and breathing moist air, coasting on my bike, standing at my river. In the process of going through my junk, I came across a scrawled note from almost three years ago, that I wrote the day before I left Windsor. It was tucked into the back of another little notebook, which was tucked into the binder I used for all my thesis notes. I am impressed that over three years, two moves, and 3,000 kms, this note has not gotten lost in the shuffle. It feels appropriate to share it with you now.
September 4th, 2010
on your last day in Windsor, you try to commit the city to memory. every sound, every smell & taste, stored in the back of your mind for days when you can no longer remember where you’re from. everything so familiar, you don’t know what will be important later on & what won’t be. your leaving seems so ridiculous, even the luggage in your bedroom looks out of place, the plane ticket with your name pinned to the bulletin board isn’t real.
how do you leave a place where you’ve lived for 25 years?
if you sit still long enough, you can see it happening: the map of your life unfolding. one dot, then two, then three. across the river, lights blink on, an entire city coming to life across a mile of water. a million lives crumbling together & making no sound. you used to believe falling was more difficult, that it somehow involved mathematics, an equation of individual instances rather than a single step. things change, people adapt, but all it takes is one step outside the boundary of your prescribed life to alter its course irrevocably. you have taken so many detours off the main road that you’ve forgotten where the road was supposed to lead.
how do you leave?
the hardest part is packing your elephant collection for storage. because you know they only mean luck if their trunks face sunlight. you pack them all standing up, side by side & on top of each other, & place them in a box in your closet, with their trunks pointing in the direction of your window. tell yourself the physical sunlight isn’t as important as the idea of sunlight.
when you leave, you take only what fits inside your suitcase.