Moving across the country not once, not twice, not even three times, but four times in a single year, was…well…an intense experience to say the least. Before my tumultuous year of cross-country travelling, I was living in Toronto. I moved to the big city in 2011 after graduating university and stayed put for ~10 years. Most of my closest friends lived there and my family lived just over an hour drive away—Toronto was well within my comfort zone.
However, as I’ve gotten older, my lifestyle has changed significantly. I don’t party or drink at all anymore and prefer a quieter, more active lifestyle; one that includes early bedtimes, early mornings, and being outside as much as possible. As a result, Toronto began to lose its charm and appeal. Instead of going out on Saturday nights, I would sit on my couch in my sweats eating cereal. Instead of ‘living for the weekends’, I began enjoying simple every day pleasures more like early morning coffees and reading, a deep conversation with a friend, and a cathartic run by the water.
So with that little preface in mind, in the midst of COVID, while still living downtown, I met a girl from Calgary who was visiting her aunt in Ontario. After just a short tenure of knowing each other, I decided to make the audacious to move to Calgary…for her. Stashing my furniture and belongings at my parent’s in Waterloo and beginning a new adventure; a new chapter in a new city and province.
Unfortunately, after just 3 short months, I packed my bags once again and moved back to Ontario to live with my parents. It didn’t work out. As as a result, the beginning of 2021 was an emotionally taxing time for me; I felt embarrassed that I moved out there for someone in the first place—the quintessential lesbian U-Haul. It took me a long time to emotionally recover from that experience. I practiced some serious self-care: I quit drinking alcohol, I leaned heavily on my support system (including many chats and cries with my mom and sister), I journaled, I ran a lot, I turned to books, I took a course, I wrote an entire draft of a manuscript, which became Find Your Stride, and I signed a contract with a publisher. I turned my emotional pain into creativity productivity; I tried to distract myself with meaningful and fulfilling work which for me, was writing. I let myself feel what I needed to feel. It was uncomfortable, but it helped me find myself again—it helped me become the best version of myself; more self assured and confident with who I was.
Since I moved back in with my parents in late January, by late May, I was itching to make a move. I love my family to death and thoroughly enjoyed our time together, but I also love my solitude and independence….trade-offs I had to make living back with the rents.
The itch—that is my living situation—was becoming unbearable. A friend of mine from ON was hanging out in some short term leases in Vancouver over the spring/summer months for a change of scene. We went on a hike in late May and she told me to come visit her. At the time, I wouldn’t say we were very close. She was a former colleague and our hike was the first time we actually hung out together one-on-one. After our hike, however, I kept thinking about Vancouver as a potential place to live.
Let me digress for a moment: Vancouver is one of my favourite cities I’ve ever visited. Back in 2016 I worked at digital marketing agency which was based in Van. The agency just opened a Toronto office with me and another guy being the first employees. To make us feel more included in the company culture, we were flown out quite often to hangout with our colleagues. I used to joke with my manager (and everyone) that I wanted them to transfer me to the Vancouver office. It wasn’t really a joke though—I fell in love with Vancouver; the mountains, the ocean, the sushi, the lifestyle, the athleisure aesthetic—I loved all of it. However at the time, I had a life in Toronto—I was in a long term relationship and it didn’t make sense for me to make the move there.
So, with that whole experience in the back of my mind, I decided to take my friend Kris up on her offer. I booked a one-way to Vancouver and told myself that it would be a vacation. I would stay a few weeks, while keeping things loose—allowing myself to stay out there longer if I wanted to.
Within just days after arriving, I didn’t want to leave. I certainly did not want to go back to Ontario. Vancouver just felt right so I went with my gut. I stayed in a few short term leases over the summer and signed a long term lease in the fall.
I tried to build community as quickly as possible by saying “yes” to every opportunity that was presented to me. I forced myself out of my naturally shy state, but quickly realized the enormous toll it was taking on my introverted energy. I would find myself withdrawing more and more. I reminded myself that I needed to be patient; that quality connections take time to build and establish—it’s not something that just happens overnight. In the early month of my move, I hung out with my friend Kris a lot and her group of friends. I felt lucky to find a group that I vibed so well with; one that I could be my true self around. Slowly, I started building new connections. None of these people knew me in my 20’s and in a way I was reinventing myself in my 30’s.
Old Emily: that is, one who partied a lot, had difficulty regulating her emotions, had a hard time focusing a single thing at a time (including the conversation at hand), had completely left the building—never to return (I hope). The new me that enjoys early bedtimes and the sober lifestyle, is the one that my new connections in Vancouver got to know. I didn’t have to justify any of my lifestyle choices. I could just be myself.
My year in Vancouver has been transformational in so many ways. I’ve challenged myself not just socially, but also athletically and intellectually. I published my first book, ran a 50k trail race in “atmospheric rain” conditions, and tried new things (like calisthenics, fitness classes, and solo hikes). I’ve made an incredible group of friends who inspire me and make me a better version of myself.
Moving to an entirely new city, establishing brand new connections, and navigating my way wasn’t easy. It’s taken time to settle in and make Vancouver feel like home. Looking back, I’m so grateful that I took that first big risk—that move from Toronto to Calgary—because it led me here. Big moves aren’t for everyone, but I can say whole-heartedly that I’ve never been happier than I am now and can’t wait to see what my second year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world holds.