Vanessa originally didn’t get an intro because I was late for work, and I only just realized that I forgot. If you’re reading this for the first time, of course, you’ll never know the difference. I met Vanessa in my good ol’ bookseller days – we were both cashiers at Chapters, and I just loved her instantly. We’ve reconnected lately over the blogosphere, and it’s been such a pleasure getting to know her better over the interwebs, and through the answers that she wrote below. Make sure to check out her blog – she’s full of great travel advice!
When you finish reading this, make sure to check out the comments. Vanessa’s husband added to the story.
1. If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
No idea –and I’m open to ideas! Something saucy, please!
2. Where are you from? How has where you’re from shaped your life?
I was born in a rural area of Cape Breton Island, in a small coastal village. While the majority of in the inhabitants were fishermen, my father worked in forestry. This was just one of a number of subtle differences between me and my classmates. I lived on the gravel back roads, while they lived “in town”. My family’s heritage was part Acadian and part English, descended from “homechildren” orphans, whereas my classmates were 100% Scottish. My parents and I attended the local United Church, whereas 90% of the community was Catholic. I was an only child – everyone else’s parents seemed to breed like rabbits! In a town where fitting in was everything, these differences were enough to make me feel like an outsider. While Cape Breton is renowned for its beauty, hospitality, and music worldwide, I still feel ill at ease when I return home. Oh, I’m also not musical at all.
On the positive side, I have a lasting attachment to the ocean. I seem to seek out water no matter where I am and believe that there are few things that a long walk or sit by the ocean cannot cure.
3. Where do you live? How has where you live shaped your life?
I live in Ottawa now. I’ve been here for 9 years now. It was mean to be just a 6-12 month stop over when I returned from an internship in Africa, try to earn a little money and then move on to the next stop. Unexpectedly, I met a boy and was engaged within 3 months. I never pictured myself as the kind of person that anyone would love, want to build a life with, and so it was very unexpected for me. But it’s worked out nicely
The difficult thing about Ottawa? Career wise, it’s been a challenge. My skills as a unilingual political scientist are a dime a dozen and it turns out I have no skill or confidence at the schmoozing game. Combined with a self-esteem crushing starter job that I stayed in for several years too long, it seems that I’m not where I thought I would be. Trying to focus on new opportunities and pursuing my passions for writing.
4. What is your greatest achievement?
Funnily, I think it’s happening right now. I’ve been chasing my dual passions for travel and writing and have taken a simple wordpress blog into a fully functioning website with thousands of hits a month and I’m starting to get approached for writing editorials in exchange for travel experiences. I feel like this is the start of something great.
5. What is your greatest regret? Or what is your greatest fear?
I’m learning now that one of the hardest things anyone can ever face is making the decision to try harder or walk away. I once tried harder when I KNEW I should have walked away. It was during graduate school and, while everything was good on paper, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. Work wise, socially, academically – it just wasn’t what I expected, it was not taking me in the right direction. I had the option to shorten my program, take an “easier” way out. I didn’t, and pushed forward with harder work that I wasn’t ready for. Relationships disintegrated, I left feeling very unhappy, and – worst of all – it killed my self-confidence and dampened my love of learning. I doubt myself in ways I never did before. And it’s been a decade since I left! And I think my greatest fear is feeling like I’ll never get over it, I’ll never get my old self back.
6. What would you tell a young girl who is struggling with something like her identity, bullying, not fitting in, etc.?
Find an activity where it’s hard to lie to yourself. I can’t lie to myself when I run. It takes too much mental and physical energy to just get one foot in front of the other! And I can’t lie to myself when I’m by the ocean. I think because I’m a water girl at heart, because I feel so much like myself, I can’t pretend to be anyone else. If you need to know who you are, if you need to figure out where you are going, if you need to make a decision or come to terms with something, put yourself in your own “lie-less” situation and there is no other option than to let the truth come to the surface.
7. What’s next?
I’m doing a 3 ½ week trip around the world in November, putting my writing and travel skills to the test. And I can’t wait!