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Never Go Home Again

"Why did you decide to move? Would you do it again?"

I would have to divide this into two parts: China and Scotland.

To be perfectly frank, I moved to China to run away from home. It seemed like a very cunning plan at the time. I could live in a country far enough away from everyone that I would have a legitimate reason not to talk or communicate with people without feeling guilty about it. I could run away from my problems! I could... could... become a new person, and then rush back to Canada, with all of my problems and issues solved, because no one would remember them! I'd just be that cool person who went off to China for a year! Yes! Wonderful plan!

Needless to say, it didn't work out quite that way.

I returned from China a different person, of this I have no doubt. But instead of returning to a life where my problems were all gone with the passing of time, a lot of problems just got worse. Let me assure you: running away from home does little except give you a lot of time to think. Which I did, and I don't regret doing that thinking, and I don't regret the choices I made because of it. I do regret thinking I could toss myself back into my life in Canada, full tilt, and just pick everything up where I left off, with no consequences. It led to a lot of problems.

I got restless quickly. Very quickly. As in, within about a month. (Paul, who I had met in China and how had travelled a lot before that assured me this would happen. I thought he was wrong.) I had been toying with the idea of not coming home at all, or of leaving again right away, but hadn't followed through. I still had that idea that I would just be happy, like I had been in the first few years I had been in Edmonton.

When things didn't work out that way, I was devestated. I had managed to renew some good friendships, and started a few more, but it never seemed like enough. I couldn't find a way to fit in anymore. I wanted things that most of the people in my life either dreamed about in the 'never gonna happen anyway' kinda way, or couldn't understand why I'd want it. I had to deal with some jealousy from people who figured I had somehow lucked out to go to China, that I hadn't made sacfrices or choices to do so, or that those were just choices they couldn't make. More and more, things seemed pointless and meaningless. I couldn't stand how small Edmonton suddenly seemed.

I became incredibly miserable, and started completely isolating myself from my friends and social group. I'd never leave the house except to go to work. I stopped answering the phone. I stopped answering emails. I just... stopped. People became concerned, at least one friend almost called the police when he hadn't heard from me in weeks, and neither had anyone else. I spent most of my time awake staring at the ceiling.

I had linked the idea of being unhappy to the city of Edmonton so completely. Nothing would convince me that I could be happy and be in Edmonton. I couldn't even imagine it. I believed, totally, that getting out of the city, to anywhere, would make me happy. I started to seriously look at moving to BC, to live with friends for a bit, or my parents, until I got a job and a place of my own. Because even that would be preferably to another week in Edmonton.

Then I had a very long talk with a friend, about why I was unhappy, and what I wanted. He asked me, if I had the money, what would I do? What would make me happy?

"Getting a working holiday visa and going to the UK for two years. Then maybe a few other places... I don't know. I just want to see the world, I want to see it all before I die. But I can't. I don't have the money, I will never be able to earn the money, I am drowning in student loan debt."

He wrote me a cheque for the amount I was short. "I love you, get out of here. Watching you be so unhappy is the worst thing I've ever seen. It's only money. Go."

Three weeks after that, I was watching Canada disappear behind the plane. I didn't know what I would do in Edinburgh, but I knew what I wouldn't do: wallow in unhappiness. There's only so much of that you can do before you have to accept that you're the only thing holding yourself back. To paraphrase the saying, sometimes the only thing all your misery has in common in yourself.

I've been a much happier person in Edinburgh, to the point where sometimes I cannot believe how much I lost and gave up in Edmonton. I didn't give it a chance, really, when I got back from China, and I do regret that. But Edmonton had stopped being home for me. I wasn't willing to go to the effort of making it home again. I wanted a new home, one where I could follow my dreams. Here, I'm making plans for my masters degree, making plans for where to go next. I'm living again, and I don't think I would have done that in Vancouver, or Nanaimo, or Abbotsford. It's too easy, I think, to fall back into unhappiness when there's someone to catch you. Here, I have to be self-sufficient. I have to be able to support my own emotional self. And it's been a very good choice.

Would I do it again?

Well, I'm already planning what I'll bring to Australia, so yes, yes I would. In a heartbeat. But coming here, or going to Australia, is not running away from home. Home, I have realized, is something you choose. It's not thrust upon you anymore than unhappiness is.

I came here because I wanted to be here. It wasn't a choice I fell into, it was a choice I made. And that, as they say, has made all the difference.

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Comments

I feel about Toronto as you did for Edmonton. The people here irritate me. The ambience, and I believe I can use such a word for a city, is terrible.

I stay purely for economic reasons. I now have a position and living conditions that makes it profitable for me stay...for now.
When it's time for me to move, I may have to leave this city, but stay in the province of Ontario, again, for economic reasons (i.e. the teacher's pension and job security).

Before getting this position, I had tried leaving, to no avail. I had hoped for Montreal. Or Amsterdam.

I think a city can make all the difference to a person's psyche. Think of how different cities have different reputations.

there's choices you;ve made, and things that have made you make those choices. Either way, you sound like you must be this way, that this is how you are meant to be- a tad nomadic, a little restless, always and never bored.
sounds fine to me....:)

and of course, my post on this is nowhere nearly as dramatic, and particuarly boring....
oh well....

Very cool post Anna. It's like hearing your reflection talk back to you. I exactly what you mean.

Anna,
You said what I was trying to say in my post perfectly. I was like you. I just wanted to live. I could not see myself living an entire lifetime in Ohio. It was depressing. It was not an adventure and there were other issues that made it a good choice to move. I have always dreamed of seeing the world too. And did not want to just dream about it anylonger when I had the opportunity to be apart of it! I am happy that you have such a great friend to help you realize your dreams. Now that is what life is about! I really enjoy your posts.

Wow... I'm not an expat... yet, but I'm planning to be. And this really helped. It confirmed some things, brought others into view, and most of all... it grabbed me by the heart. It made me think. Thank you for posting this; I didn't realize there were others out there who feel as I do (as weird and somewhat selfish as that sounds!) and I didn't really acknowledge that it was OKAY for me to feel the way I do. So.. thanks! :)

anna,
You've written the words from my life!

It's strange how a diametrically opposite experience can lead one through the same emotional journey.

I've been moving to a new place almost annually, but it has taken a conscious decision and effort to create a home and haul myself out of the unhappiness.

Is it ok if I link to this post from my blog?

what a lovely lovely post...

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