East Meets West: Beginning the Journey

I used to think that Toronto was the end all, be all of Canada. I grew up just mere 70-minute jaunt down the 401 in Kitchener (in all its oom-pa-pa glory, boasting the largest Oktoberfest in North America). Let it be known that I’m through and through a 90s kid. My adolescence deeply entrenched in the heyday of Blue Jays mayhem (two, count’em two World Series titles back to back), the golden era of Much Music (Rick was still the Temp, everyone’s boyfriend George Stroumboulopoulos still ate bacon), Canada’s Wonderland was still Paramount Canada’s Wonderland (the Top Gun ride and soundtrack made way too much of an impression on me. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about). So yah, Toronto shone pretty bright in my eyes.

Which begs the question: how is it that my area code ISN’T 416? Lest we forget the impressionable year which I successfully survived a stint on the Rock (Newfoundland, not Dwayne Johnson), eliciting the quizzical response “You’ve lived on both coasts of Canada?” Did I neglect to mention that I’m presently perched facing the stoic mountains of Vancouver, a stone’s throw from the Pacific, hundreds of kilometers from Drake’s hometown and even further from the salty and brisk Atlantic, full of its secret and chilly wonder? (I’m rather proud of my evolution of the Canadian version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Who knew that dressing as her for my twenty-sixth birthday party would be a rather whimsical foreshadowing of things to come…)

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Pragmatically (or like a smart ass…) I could say I got here via the 1; the Trans Canada Highway, the very one Terry Fox infused with hope and determination. And that’s not a lie, rather a lazy avoidance of a truth I’m still struggling to put into words myself.

Five years ago (am I really coming up on my Wood anniversary with BC??) the answer to “Why did you end up here?” would have been succinct, naively and optimistically; “Adventure. Intrinsic pull”. 

However, let’s rewind a bit further: July 2012. It was an unusually warm summer in St John’s (as every cab driver shuttling my drunk-on-Quidi-Vidi beer ass from George Street would tell me. “Oh me darlin’ girl, its some hot, let me tell you…”) , I was riding high off of being part of Shakespeare by the Sea’s outdoor production of King Lear as the contemptuous wench Regan (hollering into the ocean in iambic pentameter does the soul wonders, I highly suggest trying it!)

During all of this, I was excited to visit a friend in Vancouver for Canada Day and celebrate five years with my then-boyfriend (this is where we pause. We pause and honour who we WERE to be, and who we ARE now. To heap buckets of compassion on past-self over past friends, past partners and give ourselves a good ole compassionate head shake, moving forward with knowing awareness to stay the fuck away from all those who depilate and demean with closed hearts and minds. Ugh. Your 20's are for screwing up though, amiright or amirite?)       

Vancouver in July is a fine thing: lush and green and breezy, more accessible than the sprawling downtown gritty humid concrete jungle of TO. Beaches! Rainforests! The sea to sky highway! I was smitten. The ocean had already ebbed and flowed its ways inside (it’s those sea shanty songs and Ches’ Fish n’Chips. The sea was LITERALLY inside of me), but nothing could prepare me for the magnitude and majesty of the mountains. They knew things. They inspired and challenged, they dared me to climb the Tantalus peaks of my own psyche.  After a week which left me exhausted and content, I tucked myself into my economy class seat (with far too little legroom) to enjoy West Jets in-flight entertainment system.  Joshua Jackson (in all his post-Pacey, grown-up glory)’s valentine to Canada, One Week, was offered for viewing. (A young man diagnosed with stage three cancer hops on a motorcycle and goes west from Toronto [that damn epicenter again] witnessing the beauty of our country while pondering his own mortality and engaging in heart –touching moments with others who question their own [including, eerily enough, Gord Downey, as a cancer patient]). That did it. It wasn’t a coincidence that that movie, an Ode to Canada winked at me. Contained in its musing, the movies unofficial motto from Tennyson’s Ulysses declaring “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield” chided me to undertake my own odyssey; go “west, young woman”!

 Image borrowed from  IMDB

Image borrowed from IMDB

I’ll buy that as my west coast Genesis story. Yet, perhaps I need to ask a new question: why have I stayed here? With a housing crisis, high cost of living, with distance and isolation, the struggle for community,  no LCBOs (yah yah, there are BC liquor stores but again, see “High cost of living” and  BCLS  as an acronym ain’t nearly as fun as something that’s pronounced “Lick-Bo”): why, why, why?

The answer, just as the question, will be in flux. But I know with the utmost certain; I will strive, seek, find and not yield with immense gratitude.