Feel Sunday night like I did. Put this music in your ears. Picture the ground strewn with cigarette butts, newspaper pages, Starbucks cups and cherry blossom petals. Hear the homeless man yelling in your ear, over the music. Notice the smell of weed everywhere. It’s about 10°. Now, click on the first photo.
I’ve been in Vancouver for 3 weeks now. Things are going well. I had the opportunity to spend a week in Victoria, I’m currently planning trips to my work projects in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as a trip to Toronto in January. I’ve got a few friends in the community, and I’m hoping to get involved in a couple of volunteer opportunities. I’m loving the weather – sure, it rains, but everything is so green, and it hasn’t been below 10 degrees yet. My job is challenging, and once the ball starts rolling, I know it’ll keep me busy. I have friends and family here that I am excited to reconnect with. My stuff has just shipped from Ottawa, and I’m excited because my little apartment is starting to feel more and more like home.
You know how things always happen in a weird way? Here’s a bit of backstory.
In March, when we found out that Katimavik was going to be cut by the government, I started looking for a new job. It needed to pay relatively well, and I needed to not pay rent. I found a sick job opportunity :
Job # 1 – Teaching on a tall ship that travels around the world. The interview went really well, the director seemed really interested. In the end, though, my teachables didn’t fit with what they needed. Sad moment – I was not going to circumnavigate the world (not yet, anyway)
So, I kept looking. And then!
Job # 2 – A position as a tour manager, based in Cuba. Full time, permanent, benefits. I even drove to New York City (24 hours of driving in a 48 hours period) for the interview. It went SO well. They loved me. But then, they had a problem with their license renewal. I kept getting encouraging e-mails, asking me to be patient. And I tried! I kept looking for shorter contract positions, and hoping that Cuba would come through. Imagine! I could live in Havana, and actually put my Hispanic Studies degree to use!
But, as I said, things always happen in a weird way. At the end of this summer, I heard about a new position at the YMCA of Vancouver, running a cool student exchange program for Canadian teenagers. I applied, and lo and behold, I got the job! Finally! After months of interviewing and coming So Close, I finally got a job! I set everything in motion – bought a new car, shipped all of my stuff, drove across the country, and started working at my new job.
Oh! Wait! I forgot something. Three days (three days!!) after I accepted the position in Vancouver, I got an e-mail from the Cuba job. That’s right. “We got our license! Let’s talk!” I regretfully told them that I had just accepted a new job. We promised to keep in touch – you never know, and I’m not one to burn bridges.
So! Where was I? Oh yes, I was moving to Vancouver. So, by the time I’d been here for two weeks, I got another e-mail! (Whaaaaat?!!!!!), this time from the tall ship! That’s right! “Will you come teach for us? We need someone to meet us in the Canaries, mid-November” Same deal – I made a commitment here, yadda yadda, keep me in mind for later.
Still good – job in Vancouver is taking shape, starting to get a better handle on my responsibilities, and then…
YOU GUESSED IT!!!
“Hi Alex! Just e-mailing you in case your new job isn’t working out, can I tempt you to come to Cuba from mid-December?”
So! What’s next? Here’s my thought process :
– It’s not a black and white question of Go or Don’t go. It’s Don’t go, and continue to have an amazing experience here in Vancouver and develop new skills and contacts that will take me far. Or Go, and maybe have an amazing experience in Cuba or on the ship and develop new skills and contacts that will take me far. Honestly, if it was Cuba or nothing, the answer would be obvious. It’s not that easy when the flip side is something completely different, but just as awesome in it’s own way.
– Please don’t tell me to go. I mean this in the least bitchy way possible, but you’re not in my shoes. I understand what I’m missing out on, I really do. But I also know what I’d be missing out on (and who I’d be letting down) if I left.
– “Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.” Yep, that one’s eating away at me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will always regret not going to Cuba. I mean, come on! I would get to live in a communist country on the brink of change, interact with locals like I never could otherwise, get to live in Latin America again… It’s heartbreaking. It really is. But, I also know that if I left Vancouver, I would regret that too. Live on the Sunshine Coast, participate in a program that helps young canadians learn about themselves and their country, get to know various canadian communities like I never would otherwise. The bottom line is that while I would love to teach on a ship, or live in Cuba, I believe in this job in Vancouver more than any other. I really feel that I can make a difference, by staying here. It doesn’t mean that I’m not grieving, but believing in what I do makes everything easier.
– As I’ve said, things happen in a weird way. But I’m also a super, super strong believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and that life will always take care of you (gotta thank my mama for that wisdom). There’s a reason I didn’t get those jobs in the first place, and there’s a reason that I got the Vancouver job when I did. I’m ok with not knowing what that reason is, but I feel better just knowing that there is a reason. (For more on my beliefs, read The Alchemist. I love the idea that the universe has grand plans for your life.)
– I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so proud that I not only found, but applied to, and GOT these
two three jobs. I think that we don’t spend enough time feeling good about ourselves. So I’m going to take these minutes to think “Wow, I’m pretty fucking awesome. Check me out – I put myself out there, and I got all of these amazing opportunities.”
Which brings me to my final point. I don’t believe that the world has a finite amount of amazing opportunities. Some just fall into your lap (like this job in Vancouver), and some you work for (like the job in Cuba), but there will always, always be more. I’m excited to see what life is going to continue to throw my way.
2350 to go.
It has recently been brought to my attention that what I am doing may not be considered normal by a lot of people. Right before I left, I had breakfast with a friend, who expressed concern over my 6 day, solo road trip. I hadn’t really thought about it, I just saw it as a series of six days of driving for 8-10 hours. I guess that most of what I do isn’t what a lot of people would do (drop everything every six months and move to England, Africa, New Brunswick…?), but I don’t notice anymore, because I’ve just been surrounding myself with like-minded people, and so my lifestyle hasn’t seemed extraordinary (my friend Jason just completed an overland trip from Zambia to Egypt!). I understand everyone’s concern, but this isn’t just something that I’ve always wanted to do – this is something that I’ve always known I would do one day. So that day has come, and I’m doing it. Pretty simple, yes? Well, it is to me anyway. I’ve flown across the country, I’ve taken the train from Vancouver to Halifax, and now I’m driving it. Maybe one day I’ll be really fit and I’ll ride a bike across. (Ha!)
The other things I’m hearing are incredulous comments about how long I’m spending driving. Believe me, I get it. I used to HATE driving. Just ask the girl that I went to Cape Cod with last year – I made her drive for the entire 8 hour trip back. And now, 8 hours seems like a breeze! Let me be very honest. I don’t always enjoy the driving. When it rains for 8 hours straight, I want to punch myself in the face. More than once, out of sheer boredom, I’ve wanted to pull over for a nap, only to find that it’s impossible because all of the stuff that’s in my car. My back hurts on and off, and when it’s really bad, I want to just leave my car somewhere and fly to Vancouver. I drive myself crazy because I can’t make up my mind about what music I want to listen to. I get angry at annoying drivers. Have I mentioned the rain?! When it rains, I want to punch the world in the face (which, on another topic, has me a bit worried, considering the weather patterns of my final destination…).
But you know what? I’m so happy that I’m doing this, especially solo. Believe me, I’ve spent some time wishing I had a partner in crime, but about 90% of the time, I’m super happy with my own company. I don’t have to talk, and most of the time I don’t even think. I can listen to whatever I want, and sing along in stupid voices and accents. I can listen to the same song on repeat 10 times, or skip songs every 25 seconds. I can say “Ooh! My boyfriend!” every time a Darren Criss song comes on. I still get really excited that my car only has one windshield wiper. I’ve named him Carlos, and he makes the rain slightly easier to bear. It’s like he’s waving at me every time he swooshes by. I can stop 10 times a day to stretch my back or go shopping or just look at the scenery. The scenery! When it’s not boring trees, it’s beautiful. I just got to the Prairies, and there’s so much sky! And old abandoned farms, and bales of hay everywhere. And because I’m by myself, I can stop and take pictures. I can take 100 selfies and not feel stupid, because no one is there waiting. I can take pictures of Carmen (my new car) and not feel weird that I’m taking pictures of a car. (To be fair, I’ve only taken two. Here she is, hiding in some tall grass. Hey, I never said I wasn’t bored.)
So, just so you know, things are great. Tomorrow, I’m heading to Regina, and I’m hoping to see more giant roadside attractions featured in the movie One Week. In the meantime, here’s a picture of me with my driving face on. (This was me being really excited to finally be out of Minnesota and back in Canada!)
See you in Regina!
|“Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.”
“That,” I said, “is very frank advice, but it is medicine easier given than taken. It is a wide country, but I do not know just where to go.”
“It is all room away from the pavements…”
I got a job. A real live grown up one, at that. With a pension plan and all the bells and whistles. My oh my, things is changing.
It all started ten years ago. *cue rewind noise* When I was 17, I heard about a program called Summer Works Student Exchange, where Canadian youth aged 16 and 17 get to go to another province for the summer to learn about different parts of Canada and improve their other official language, and they get a job and a salary and a wonderful experience. So, without telling my parents, I signed myself up. You see, this exchange involves actually swapping places with someone your age – you go to their house and they come to yours for six weeks. You never meet them, but they effectively take your place within your family for a short period of time. My parents weren’t too hot on the idea, but by the time I got accepted, somehow they ended up with two kids, even though I still don’t think they ever agreed to anything.
Regardless. I went, I saw, I conquered. Imagine this: the day after graduation, 17-year-old me takes the train with 500 other 16-17 year-olds for a six day train ride across Canada. Epic, to say the least. I was placed at YMCA Camp Howdy, just outside of Vancouver, BC. I had a fantastic summer, and I made friends that I am still in touch with ten years on. The following summer, I returned as a full-fledged staff member, and then various decisions, university programs and job opportunities took me everywhere around the country and the world, but never back to BC.
Which brings us to June 2012. After Katimavik’s funding got cut (see previous post), I was actively (read : desperately) looking for work, when a supervisor from Camp Howdy (where I worked 10 years ago!) told me about a summer postion that opened up at the last minute at YMCA Camp Elphinstone, on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. Things worked in my favour and I got the job, and a great experience in a beautiful place. The summer ended, and once again I was looking for work… And once again, opportunity struck!
You are now looking at (the words of) the new Coordinator for the West, for the Summer Works Student Exchange program. That’s right – the exchange that I took part in in 2002 has led me full circle to a job coordinating the very same exchange program. Sometimes, I sit back, I look at my life, and I wonder how this is all possible. And although I can’t figure out how or why it’s happening, I’m going to take everything as it happens!
So here I am, roughly 48 hours from leaving home (again) to head out on a new adventure. This one doesn’t have an expiry date, and that’s equal parts scary and exciting. The idea of permanently moving across the country is also equal parts terrifying and exciting – I can’t wait to call Vancouver home, but I haven’t been settled anywhere in the last three years or so, and I’m not sure how that transition is going to go.
In the meantime, before Vancouver becomes home, I will be taking a 6 day road trip across the country, but that’s a story for another blog post. Stay tuned for pictures and stories of Alex’s next great adventure!