Kinda, sorta, almost-but-not-really felt like an astronaut flying out of Toronto back to Victoria the other week… But while I was in awe of the beautiful lights shining below, I was hit with an unexpected wave of emotion, which I think was the weight of reality finally setting in: I no longer live here and I’m leaving an entire life of memories, people and experiences behind.
When I originally decided to come out to BC on my own almost 4 years ago and work on some farms, I didn’t actually intend on moving… I was always open to whatever happened, but I never consciously decided it. The universe sort of lined everything up for me and then all of a sudden, I just wasn’t going home. And this was the first time I’ve been back since then, which was filled with reunions with old friends and family talking about past experiences and witnessing how they’ve built new lives for themselves, carving out their own little bit of happiness while I was gone. And it was so great to see, because I’ve been carving one too… But then this time I actually had to say goodbye.
Leaving now just felt more final, like I was closing off a huge chapter in my life that I’ll never get back. 28 years is a long time. But it was a little unexpected because, to be honest, I’ve never really felt that much of a connection to where I lived and don’t usually get very nostalgic for “the good ol’ days.” But something about being by myself on that plane and seeing the lights getting smaller below me, really struck a chord.
I probably should have felt these feelings 4 years ago but only now did they decide to bubble up towards the surface. I mean, I’ve consciously known for a while that I wasn’t planning to move back, but I suppose I never really grieved the death of my old life (and old self) until now. I don’t think I even knew that I needed to grieve. But I suppose it really is like a death of sorts, an end that leads into a new beginning.
It’s funny because 4 years doesn’t seem like a long time, but when you move away and come back, you really notice how much has changed. Or how much you’ve changed. Life doesn’t stop when you’re gone, so the picture that you’ve frozen into your memory is no longer reality. You’re expecting something that doesn’t exist.
I remember a conversation with a friend I had in university about the idea of moving across the country by yourself, but I don’t think I fully understood what he meant until I moved here. When you move somewhere on your own, especially somewhere really far away from everything (and everyone) you grew up with, there’s this feeling of disconnection, a growth period where you no longer fit in with where you’re from, but you still don’t quite belong yet to your new surroundings. Although it’s only been 4 years and I’ve managed to build up a pretty good life for myself so far, there are still moments where I catch myself feeling a bit lonely or detached. Starting a life from scratch is a slow and difficult process because there are no roots for you to rely on, so you have to learn how to grow new ones until you feel fully grounded. A tree can only get as big as its roots will allow it to, but unfortunately this can take a long time. Another way of looking at it is having a book full of blank pages, with no history, characters, or plot so now you have to just start writing your new story from the very beginning with nothing to fall back on.
I guess the main thing is to just trust the process. Accept the past for what it is: a moment in time and a stepping-stone to something else. Growth is always an uncomfortable feeling and the more you grow, the more changes (and bigger changes) you’ll have to make to coincide with the new you, including who you choose to hang around with. Of course there are going to be times where you feel lonely, or insecure, or doubtful or lost but these feelings are only natural.
In order to become the person you want to be, you have to learn to be comfortable with change. It just comes with the territory.
I think it’s important to find the balance between loving and appreciating your past but not losing yourself in nostalgia, because when you attach an anchor to your past, you’re actually preventing yourself from fully letting go and experiencing everything the future has in store for you. As cheesy and cliché as it is, I think you should only look in the rear-view mirror so you can appreciate just how far you’ve come.
And personally, I’m excited to see what the next 4 years has in store.