I have been fortunate enough to grow up in one of the most beautiful areas in the world, greater Vancouver. When I was three years old, my parents and I moved in to a house in New Westminster, a small city just outside Vancouver, and I have lived there for most of my life. I have traveled enough to know that this is my home, where I really belong, and in the long term I know that this is where I want to wind up.
But right now, I can’t get out of here quickly enough.
When I was working on my Masters’ degree, I paid a lot of lip service to moving away for the right job. Even back then I knew that I would have a much better selection of jobs if I opened myself up to moving anywhere in the country. When I finished grad school, however, I was lucky enough to get a couple of contracts within the Greater Vancouver. My courage regarding moving, unfortunately, began to dwindle. I started to worry about moving away by myself. I worried about going to some strange new place and then isolating myself because I like to be alone so much. I worried about the financial cost, about leaving my dog, about leaving my mother, and about leaving my friends that I’ve had since I was a little kid.
I became so stubborn about the idea of staying here that for quite some time during my last long stint of unemployment, I only applied for jobs in this general area. Of course, given how competitive it is in my field here (people come from all over the place to do my Masters program and then stay because it’s so nice), and the fact that the jobs themselves are pretty few and far between, I didn’t have a hope in hell of getting one here. Eventually I got over this, and it wasn’t too long after that that I was able to get a job in Alberta, but I wasted a lot of time being so fearful and stubborn. I know that it’s never healthy to dwell much on the past, but that year of me being painfully stupid is something I’ll always regret. There were many opportunities I could have taken advantage of during that time, and it still haunts me that I didn’t have the courage to do so. Even if things hadn’t panned out, I wouldn’t have to feel the regret if I had at least tried.
And so I left and here I am back in Vancouver. In all honesty, I was pretty excited to be coming home. Alberta is very different from British Columbia. High-paying jobs are more plentiful in some industries there, and the cost of living is quite a bit lower in most places as well (though that’s arguable). Because of all this, I think, people tend to settle down in to traditional family units a little earlier than we do out here on the coast. For a single person not part of a couple, it can be very difficult to navigate a social landscape filled with married couples and children — your lives just aren’t the same, and it can be tough to find things in common. Pair this with my general shyness, and I wound up having a pretty lonely year. My only real social interaction happened online, over the phone, or during short visits home.
What I didn’t realize until I returned was that my life in Vancouver had changed while I was gone. Most of my closest friends and I have been primarily single over the past few years, to the point of even being a bit toxic. We had become used to our lives alone and were finally starting to enjoy having time to ourselves. While I was gone, a lot of that ended. The married couples I knew started having children, the long term boyfriends and girlfriends became fiances, and my single friends started finding partners. My friends were really starting to get around to the things that everyone in Alberta had already done.
And I just realized that I wasn’t all that in to it. Right now, my life is on a different path. I have different priorities.
I have wavered back and forth about having children for most of my adult life. I really don’t like saying never or definitely these days, since I have generally made myself look like an idiot when I’ve done that in the past, but there are a lot of things that need to happen to me before I would feel comfortable having kids. I would need to get a job, a permanent and reasonably secure job, preferably somewhere in Canada. I would then need to meet someone amazing, and fall in love with him, and have a serious and committed relationship with him for some amount of time. And finally, I’d have to want to have his children, or love him enough to give him the children that he desperately wants.
That’s a lot of things that need to happen, and it’s quite likely that some of them won’t happen. I am 32 years old, and if I really want to have children, then finding a partner and getting started should be my first priority, not trying to find a job in a niche field that is usually dependent on rapidly diminishing government funding. This is very different from the choices that many of my friends have made. Yes, of course, some of them have jobs they like and great partners and children, but there are quite a few who have sacrificed satisfying jobs and careers for staying here in Vancouver and walking the traditional path. This isn’t good or bad, though I’d argue that really disliking your job can seep in to the rest of your life eventually, it’s just different. And I’d rather find a great job somewhere else and wait on the other stuff than stay here and do something for a living that I don’t like and can’t be proud of.
It has been a bit of a struggle, trying to communicate all of this in ways my friends understand. One of my close friends recently said during a particularly gorgeous fall day: “I mean, look at this. We live in the promise land.” Another close friend said to his wife (she grew up in Ontario) that he didn’t want to move to another part of the country in the hope of finding better work because “…the ocean and the mountains aren’t there.” “Well, I mean, it’s not like you go swim in the ocean on a regular basis,” she replied.
“But I like living so close to it.”
It really shouldn’t be all that surprising that given attitudes like these, I’ve been getting a lot of funny looks recently. Every time I tell someone that I want to move for a job, there’s talk of missing the ocean and the mountains, and the weather in the rest of the country being so cold and harsh. Why would anyone leave a place like Vancouver?
Because not everyone is the same, and in this economy, there’s no such thing as a bad opportunity.