East Meets West: Going The Distance

Many moons ago, and many roommates ago, my first Vancouver roommate, actually, gave me a compliment that really resonated. This habitation was the result of the stuff that joyful urban legends are made of; a really rad Craigslist find. “You know how I knew I made the right choice, Stina? You got mail the first week after moving in”. Well well well. Look at me feeling the love.  

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We know the cliché/truth bomb; absence makes the heart grow fonder. There’s also the flip side- absences makes the heart get forgetful. I’ve been on the giving and receiving side the of fondness, and the giving and receiving side of forgetfulness. It’s a bitch.

Growing up, most of my extended family lived in a 10 km radius. Heck, even where my parents reside currently, my dad’s childhood home a five-minute walk and my mom’s a five-minute drive. When you’re a kid, your cousins who live an hour away in London who you only see a few times a year-feels like eons away! Ontario is a damn big place. With age brought perspective and a bit of know how. I figured out bus routes, I got a license. I thought it would be fun to start dating a guy who lived in Toronto. I had someone by my side as I explored and grew up, knowing that some Monday I’d be back to reality and school and my parents' places, waiting for the weekend. Waiting until I had my own space and place.

Moving to St. John’s found me residing in a different kind of distance- emotional. I moved east with my then boyfriend. I have some semblance of the familiar when I came home from the Avalon Mall throwing elbows at Midnight Madness or wicked drunk from my loose change at Lottie’s.  

Yet somehow, Newfoundland didn’t feel that far from Ontario, hell, the plane ride home was shorter than some hellish Greyhound bus rides from Kitchener to TO on a long weekend. Admittedly, in my quest for a new life, I was the one who gave into out of sight out of mind. It’s not that I had forgotten about my Ontario friends and family, but I didn’t want to reside in the old, I wanted the new. I don’t think friends are disposable, I’ve been hurt when I’ve been forgotten. Balance was still being cultivated.

And then the young woman went west. I found myself in another long-distance relationship. Another quest to communicate what I needed while recognizing that I, we had to go our own way. Ouch. Long distance just sucks. There are no two ways around it. The love and the support of people who know you make it possible to try something new while concurrently yearning for the familiar. A heart divided. Sure, I had things that I needed space and gain perspective on, but I was never running away from anything. I needed to move in the direction of my future, of myself. And that meant living in a city where I knew NO ONE. Oaf.

How did I survive? How does anyone survive? Friendship. I had the people that wrote me the letters, sent the text, left the phone messages, and drunkenly Facetimed me. I smiled when one of our songs came on the radio, and ached at missing events, longed to have my old, dear friends around the corner who I could just pop in to see on the way home. I felt it all because repressing isn’t my style. Never has been.  I still have the letters and postcards saved, tucked in books, hanging on my walls. I still have hour-long conversations with people I’ve known for years, laughing until my abs hurt.

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I completely acknowledge that I’ve “done this to myself”- no one made me move across the country, twice. There wasn’t a job that I couldn’t pass up or a familial obligation that I geographically had to fulfill. The responsibility I had to uphold was whole to me. There was something inside that said “Hey, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to be brave enough to forge out on your own.” The phone books here in Vancouver, or in St. John’s don’t contain my last name. The cemeteries here hold no ancestors. It’s me, all me. Physically. Emotionally and intellectually, I am the accumulation of the places I’ve lived, the moments I’ve lived, the people I’ve loved. I’m lucky as I recognize the merit of the ebb and flow of permanence and impermanence. The best part? I’ve stopped missing myself.  I’m right here.