Today, marks the one year anniversary since I moved to Canada. I’ll admit, it was a lot different than I thought it would be, a lot harder, a lot more emotional and much more of a challenge for me. Before going, I told myself I’d blog about my time over here, compare it to life back home and what not. But I’ll be honest with you, I put it off. Not because I was out there having the time of my life in a new country, no. I put it off because this past year changed me in the most profound and unexpected way. Of course, before it could do that, it led me down a fairly dark road and I feel like it is my duty, as a blogger, as a writer, as a person who has moved country, to share my experience now- to actually answer the most common question I get asked since moving here.
So, how are you liking Canada?
Nothing against Canada, but I absolutely hated it when I got here. I loved and I hated it. Canada is a beautiful country, don’t get me wrong. Full of wonderful and not so wonderful people. Full of colour, culture, nature, wildlife, diversity, beautiful landmarks and scenery and wonderful cider. But Canada is also the place that I discovered some very unexpected things about myself, so the relationship I hold with Canada is a very unusual one. Canada is the place I fought to find myself and the place in which I did. It is the place that I grew to be the person I am today- I’m not saying I’m done growing, but it’s definitely been a good start.
I remember when I moved here, I was so eager to get myself involved in everything I could in a bid to feel normal again. I wanted to look for work, I wanted more than one job, I wanted to find friends, I wanted to join a gym. I wanted to do anything I could to make this transition as normal as possible. I laugh now at how naive that was, because nothing could have made this easy and I’m certainly glad for that (now). The truth is, I have spent a lot of time on my own since getting here. With everyone’s life resuming as normal and mine being completely new, I was alone a lot of the time. I was alone in my own head, which was both the best and worst thing that could have happened to me. In that alone time, I found out a lot about myself, more or less, what my strengths and weaknesses were. But I discovered how to be independent and most importantly, how to trust myself. I became my own ally, friend and confidante. In the times I would seek out friendships, I ignored the relationship I had developed with myself which I have only just discovered, one year later, how important that actually was.
I made the mistake of thinking that coming to Canada would be me escaping all the bullshit and hard times I’d experienced over the years. The heartbreak, the depression, the dark days that stretched on into weeks, months. The feelings of being lost, the feelings of being stuck. I thought I could escape that, but little did I know, how far from the truth that was. I mean yes, there is something cathartic about literally flying away from it, but I was in such a rush to start my life over, and i soon discovered there’s no such thing as starting over. What I need to start appreciating is the idea of taking whatever crap I’ve endured and learning from it. Painting over all the ugly parts of it, and recycling for way more than it’s worth. I learned to use that shit to help myself, but also to help other people. One of the hardest things about moving country as an adult is having to make friends as an adult. I had never considered the idea of having to do that. Not because I thought I’d never have to make friends again, but it’s so different being in the country you were raised in. Because somewhere along the lines, people know something about you, so you’re hardly a stranger to anyone, and it’s just so…simple. But you move 3000 miles away, and you’re a stranger to everyone. And yourself. You have to start again, this means not assuming people know a damn thing about you, other than the fact you’re fresh off a plane from Scotland. People want to know your heritage, your culture, your language, why you’re here. And in answering those questions, you divulge, ever so subtly, information about yourself in a hope that people might want to be your friend. I found myself this past year being unbearably clingy when it came to making friends. I was extremely eager, which came at a cost. You either impress people, or you don’t and you start again, going over where you think you went wrong, and trying another method.
That’s just the thing about everything here, though. I have never had to think about things and how I do them in the way that I have since moving here, ever in my life. Whether it’s how I say things, how I don’t say things, how fast or slow I’m talking, my views on certain topics, my facial expressions, my language awareness. Everything. And let me tell you, it is fucking exhausting being constantly aware of absolutely everything that you say and do. The only difference now, is that I don’t care so much about coming off differently. Because I realised that at first I was so eager to become a Canadian that I kind of lost myself along the way. If anything, moving to Canada has shown me and proved just how proud I am of my culture, my background, my home country. So, little by little, in among the offense I apparently caused to the wrong kind of people, and the language barriers, and the fact that everything seemed to get lost in translation, you do meet people who actually encourage you to be exactly as you are and to not change for anyone. This was the point that I actually started developing relationships with people. Meaningful ones, rather than trying to be friends with anyone and everyone. My first year in Canada was an act of desperation to be seen, to fit in and for things to just fall into place…and among all of that, I am so thankful to have learned about myself in ways that I wouldn’t have considered.
Canada made me sad for a year because it wasn’t familiar. It was scary and new, and I was homesick and depressed and unable to talk about it because I was afraid that people would think I was being ungrateful. What an amazing opportunity wasted on days in bed bawling my eyes out because of how new and overwhelming everything was…how new and overwhelming everything still is. So rather than telling people “it’s so great being here!” I started doing the unimaginable, and telling people how I really felt. And when I did, the most amazing thing happened…compassion, empathy…a complete acknowledgement of how fucking huge this transition is and how no one, apart from myself, expected it to be easy. I don’t regret a thing about how I went about handling it, because in the darkness, I did find light. As cliched as that might sound. I was warned, from all angles just how hard this would be for a while, but I thought…nah, I’m different. My experience will be different, but was it fuck. I’m no different from anyone who has ever moved country, it doesn’t make me special or exclude me in some kind of way, which was almost disappointing because it would have been cool to have been different, but that’s just my ego talking. What I’ve learned (also), is that we should stop avoiding the human experience. It is rough, and it’s brutal. But it’s also magnificent, and we should learn to find beauty in the collateral in whatever ways we can, and in that beauty we should start listening to what we learn from it; because that’s the difference between knowledge and ignorance.
I guess you could say that this move did not go exactly as I had planned. There were days where I just wanted to jump on a plane without telling anyone because I just wanted to see and talk to my parents and laugh with my best friends about really stupid stuff that Canadians didn’t quite understand because the language is different, and there was times where I wasn’t quite sure why I didn’t leave. But however few and far between they seemed, I was glad I didn’t give up, because the peace within myself I have found as a result of that is something I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world, not even the hard parts. I am not a perfect person, and I still get anxious about being here and it does affect my ability to function on a daily basis sometimes, but I’ve learned to give myself the time I need to come to, and bring myself out of it because it too, will pass. I just have to keep believing that I will continue learning, not only about myself, but about the country I can now call home. I feel very lucky to have two countries that are very close to my heart, but mostly I’m lucky that I realised that’s it’s completely okay to consider two countries my home. It doesn’t make me selfish, its just realistic.
Thank you, Canada, for giving me the best and the absolute worst year of my life. It’s been some fucking ride.