It's May 11, 2017. I'm sitting in a very expensive airbnb apartment in Mt. Pleasant, Vancouver, with my dog stretched out beside me. It's a grey, rainy day. I should be working, I have a lot of stuff to do for a website I'm working on. But I feel tired and depressed and I can't get motivated.
Ever since we've arrived - and really, part of the time we were travelling here - I've felt a knot of uncertainty. Which is weird, because I don't usually feel knots of uncertainty once I've made a decision. For the first time in my life, though, I think I may have underestimated the challenges of moving somewhere new.
There's something very isolating and odd about being in this city, in this particular manner. I have no actual reason for being here, apart from that Jed has a job and now we live here. I have no contacts, no friends, no family and no job. Or rather, my work is now mobile and I'm living the dream - I can work from anywhere. I'm a freelancer. I'm my own boss.
This worked well in Rwanda while we were there. And it worked really well in Toronto, too. I'm trying to figure out what the difference is. Probably mental.
In Toronto, I had a small but satisfying group of friends, family and colleagues who I could (should the desire manifest) contact and hang out with at any time, though I can probably count on one hand the number of times I actually spent time with people in any given month. In Rwanda, I had Jen and Ben just around the corner, and we were instant friends. I had another friend, Sophie, who I met through airbnb photography, and I had clients to work for and I had lots of internet contacts via the expats group & career network. Even though I basically was a hermit, I had the feeling of an expansive, broad shifting expat network filled with possibility.
What's crystallizing for me right now is that every other place I've lived that wasn't "home" was also populated with outsiders. I met loads of people who had also left their own homes and traveled to be there. People with roots elsewhere but who had the same need for connection and interaction that I did. Or people who were concurrently working alongside me on their own projects, but with the same routines. Or people who were thrust together through the randomness of life.
Here in Vancouver, I have the feeling of utter aloneness in both my career and my personal life. I have no daily routine that takes me out of the house; I am not a part of the design community here. Nothing is driving me to get out into new situations and meet anyone. I'm not taking any courses and I'm not working for someone else. I don't have a reason for being here as opposed to being in Porto or Leipzig or Aukland.
Today I feel incredible homesickness for Toronto. Not just the liveliness of the streets and the pace of change, but the network of connection I felt there; the knowledge of the city streets, the frustrations and the bad traffic, the ugliness and the hazy, humid, painful beauty of a summer night on Queen Street. I miss the noise and the streetcars, the bikes, the bikes, the bikes! So many bikes. The honking, the blaring car stereos, the groups of high-heel clad girls on Ossington Street on a Friday night. The skyscrapers, the awful, greed-ridden developers. The lake. The tiny, poorly maintained city parks bursting with life and people and happy and sad. The splash-pads and the subway, hot dogs and ice cream trucks and restaurants changing names every few months because nothing lasts long in a place like Toronto. The lineups for everything. The fact that there are more things happening then you could ever write down on paper.
I looked at Vancouver's equivalent of 'Now' magazine in Toronto, it's called 'Straight'. The name is supposed to be a reference to Vancouver's location on the Strait of Georgia. But why 'Straight'? My guess is because people here are just that - super straight. The new theater listings are just 2 entries long. According to this events magazine, there are just 56 things to do in Vancouver this Friday. FIFTY-SIX. That seems like very, very few things. My gratitude is having a hard time feeling grateful about that number. Because once you remove 'Bird Week', kid stuff, protests, political forums and casinos, you are left with just a tiny handful of actual viable potentially interesting events. There are literally more things happening in Kigali this Friday then in Vancouver.
WAKE UP VANCOUVER, you need to get with the damn program. Are you a CITY or are you just a disgustingly expensive pile of 70's style bricks that happens to be located in a beautiful setting? Ugh, I'm so tired of people gushing about Vancouver and how nice it is. Sure, it's nice if you look past the city and towards the mountains. It's nice if you just look up to the cherry blossoms and not into the faces of the many homeless people who wander the city center. It's nice, if you like suburban grocery stores and six-lane main-streets. And if you like the color grey? You will love Vancouver.
I'm willing to concede that I almost NEVER (with the exception of Berlin) like a city when I first move there. I am judgmental and harsh and it take months - sometimes years - for me to really start seeing a city's good parts. But goddamn - why did we have to do this to ourselves all over again? It's one thing to move to a city you don't like and, while following your purpose, get to know it and love it. it's another to wander aimlessly, hoping for some speck of connection and romance to find you.
Until the next time I feel sad, mad, or glad enough to post...