Contrary to what you might think based on my actions (moving once a year), I actually hate moving. It sucks.
If you’ve been following along with my posts, then you know that recently I made a decision to move back to Calgary and my move date is quickly approaching.
My coworkers, a.k.a friends, a.k.a island family, held a going away for me today and it was highly emotional for me…and so has this entire process of making the decision, accepting the job and then planning the logistics of the move.
For someone who has been educated in how to communicate about complex emotions, I find it ridiculous and frustrating that I am still often (99 per cent of the time) unable to share how I feel.
I forget that I’m not good at it until an off hand comment like, “oh she does have feelings guys,” said in light-hearted jest as I bawl my eyes out in front of a room full of people after receiving the sweetest card and gift, makes me realize that I need to do better.
I struggle to express deep emotions like the heartrending grief I feel at leaving Victoria and the people who made this place feel like home for me. I feel like I don’t have the right to it, because I’m choosing to go.
I don’t know if what I’m doing is right. I’m terrified I’m making the wrong decision. I was terrified when I left Calgary too. None of this is easy. I just get up and keep moving forward because the choice is made and that is how I operate. I can’t spend my life wondering what if. And so, I just do.
But, emotionally, it’s not easy.
I am beyond grateful to everyone who befriended me, who invited me in to their homes, their families, and made me feel like I immediately belonged. That is not something that just happens. These people made an effort for me.
I have no words that can fully express my gratitude. This is usually the point where I just can’t tell people how deeply I feel, and so, I say nothing.
But, in an attempt to suck less at communicating my feelings, I’ll try:
To everyone who took me in and became part of my life here in Victoria, thank you. I hold immeasurable love for you.
Unsurprisingly, the weather is different all over the island. On the Ammonite Falls adventure day, it was sunny in Victoria, but clouds had gathered and rain started to clean my car as I drove towards Nanaimo. Coming from Calgary though, rain is preferable to snow and ice in the winter, so I happily made my way into the wilds of Vancouver Island. Also, I was intending to find waterfalls which are usually made better by mass amounts of rain, so I gleefully called it down.
Knowing my tendency to get lost, I spent the day before scouring resources online to make sure I knew where the trail was and how to navigate to the falls.
I found the right parking lot, so I was already one up on the Salt Spring Island adventure. I also got started on the right trail. Under the cover of the trees, the rain wasn’t coming down as hard, but I kept my hood up for most of the hike anyway. It’s about five kilometres, so about 45-60 minutes of walking that even with some droplets of rain could result in being soaked through. Also, even though I had read up on the trail, I wasn’t overly confident that I wouldn’t get lost and spend extra time backtracking and working my way out.
That lack of confidence in my navigation skills turned out to be right.
There was one part of the trail guide I had devoured that said
to follow the trail down a steep slope. I looked at a slightly worn path off to
the right of the more well-worn trail, and saw that it was a steep slope, and
so off I went “walking” down it. I put walking in quotations because with all
the rain, and it not actually being a path, the walking turned into slipping
down a mudslide. It was SO MUCH FUN! Or, it was fun until I landed at the edge
of a cliff. I could hear the falls to the right, but I couldn’t see them. I
also couldn’t see how to get down, or where to go from there.
I figured that I had gone the wrong way, because…well, it’s
me, and so I started climbing, sliding, scrambling back up the mud hill. Even
though it was a pain to get up, it was still a lot of fun. I got to the top,
covered in mud and soaked and just took my hood off, because at this point I
was already a wet rat. I might as well revel in it. And so, I did.
Once at the top of the wrong steep slope, I kept following along the trail and managed to get myself to the correct steep slope, which had the added benefit of a rope to help guide hikers down.
And then I made it to the falls! Which were not impressive. Summer on the island is remarkably dry, and I hadn’t waited long enough in the rainy season to let the water accumulate before checking out the falls. They were fairly dry. The benefit of this dryness, while underwhelming to look at, meant that not many other hikers were in the area and I got to enjoy having the space to myself for a long while.
I hung out for a bit, enjoyed nature, and then made my way back to the car.
“Certain chemical compounds can be toxic, but people cannot be toxic. Your thoughts cause your feelings. Other people don’t cause your feelings. A toxic person is just someone you aren’t managing your mind around.” – Kara Loewentheil, podcaster for Unf*ck Your Brain.
Did you know the word toxic was the most used word in 2018? A question I wish I would have asked myself a few years ago is, how can I apply a word like that to a person? To suggest that a person…a human being…is poison to me? I am so ashamed. Admitting that makes me so uncomfortable.
I’m an avid listener of podcasts and after absorbing all the episodes of the current shows I subscribe to, I search out new ones to fill my brain while I run, walk or cook.
The most recent podcast I’ve been listening to, Unf*ck Your Brain by Kara Loewentheil, is blowing my mind. The episode that initially caught my attention was one about Imposter Syndrome (maybe I’ll write a blog post about why that interests me, maybe not – either way, that’s not what this post is about). I went through the list of topics and found two that really spoke to me, Drama and Toxic People, and Boundaries.
When I left Calgary in early 2017, I felt drained and emotionally exhausted. I attributed these feelings to what I thought were toxic people that surrounded me, and leaving Calgary was a bit of a way to deal with that. There were so many reasons for me to move to Victoria at the time, including the dream of wanting to be amongst the trees and mist for over 10 years, but the “toxic people” issue was like a final push to take the leap. I needed a breath of fresh air and I couldn’t figure out how else to get it.
I told people that I felt so much better here since I left the “toxic people” behind. Saying that, and believing it made me feel like shit, like the only power I had was to leave or run. I felt like I just couldn’t handle challenging people in my life, and as someone who has a tendency to think negative thoughts often, I also wondered if I was trying to leave myself behind.
You bet I was.
Side note: Whatever my reasons were for moving to the island, I’ve met so many amazing people out here. Every one of them will be so hard to leave. The reasons I’m moving back home have absolutely nothing to do with leaving people here. I’m not trying to avoid anything and that’s how I know my decision to go back is right. I’m not running.
It’s the thought that counts
This podcast and many conversations I’ve had over the past two years, have helped me shift my perspective in a way that I sorely needed. I needed to hear that my own thoughts were causing my problems. Fundamentally, I knew this, but sometimes we take the wrong path and get a bit lost in our heads. Since I get lost everywhere else, why not do so in my own mind? It’s okay to get lost. At some point in time though, you need a little kick in the pants, like someone telling you that it’s your own thoughts that are toxic. Do you know how empowering that is? To know that you can control many situations that have caused drama in your life by exploring how you are framing it?
Fuck. Yes. Own your thoughts, own your life.
One important note: There is such a thing as abusive people. There is a line between putting time and effort in to work through issues in relationships and taking abuse. You have every right to cut abusive people out of your life.
As a sign off, I’m going to reiterate a post I shared on Twitter here because I think it sums up what I’m trying to do in my life:
“There’s something that’s been bothering me for a few years, and it’s about letting go of people when they make life hard for you. This is a mistake. It’s important to recognize your ability to cope and to set boundaries when presented with difficult situations or people.
In a world of instant gratification, it’s easy to have shallow connections. But that’s not what life is about. You need hard times to appreciate good times. My challenge to you (and myself), is to nurture relationships and set healthy boundaries, rather than shut people out.”
Victoria is a small town and if you live here, you will inevitably run into everyone that you know everywhere you go, and often. I haven’t blogged about my time here, just in case I accidentally offended someone—I put my foot in my mouth a lot—and then saw them on the street and had an awkward meet up as a result. But, now that I’m moving back home to Calgary, I think it’s safe to share a few tales about my time here on this little island. My first story is about the time I went to Salt Spring Island. It was a solo trip, so I likely won’t hurt anyone’s feelings today.
My friends kept telling me how fantastic Salt Spring Island was and how I needed to go to it and check out the artisan market while there. I googled a bit and found a few other things I could do on the island in a day and I created an adventure plan. It began with catching the first ferry in the morning out from Sidney, eating breakfast at Salt Spring Inn, visiting the market, hitting up Salt Spring Island Ales and hiking up Mount Maxwell before catching a ferry home.
The first part of the plan went well, I boarded the first ferry over to the island and watched the sun rise over the ocean. It was breathtaking and I highly recommend getting up early for the view.
I got there so early that the Inn wasn’t open yet and so I drove around the town just checking out the layout for about an hour. My stomach rumbled and I went back to eat a decent breakfast at the Inn while looking over my backroad mapbook to see if there was anything else I’d be able to check out if I had additional time.
First to market
After breakfast, I ambled over to the market which was a block away and peeked at the various arts, crafts and farm-fresh vegetable booths. It took about 15 minutes. I was pretty underwhelmed and I wondered if I had maybe arrived too early. I took a walk around the area to do some sightseeing with the hope that when I returned, more booths would be set up. I saw a seal having himself a little sun bathing party.
I went back to the market and found no one else had set up during my time away. I figured that maybe I went at the wrong time of year. It was late August after all, and markets were probably wrapping up.
You can’t go wrong with ale
I left the market and headed to get some delicious beers at Salt Spring Island Ales. I picked out a flight, enjoyed the sun and chatted with some people I met on the patio (surprisingly, I chatted for an hour with a couple from Alberta. We’re everywhere.).
And now, for the pièce de résistance: the hike up Mount Maxwell.
I am the WORST at finding my way around, to, out of, into, places. I’ve learned this even moreso during my time on the island while trying to find many different trailheads.
Following Google maps directions (always the first mistake), I drove up a winding road on my way towards a parking lot where the trailhead began. The road narrowed and I skirted to the very edge, almost riding in the ditch as I let cars pass me on the other side. One of these swervings resulted in my car getting it’s itches scratched by tree branches.
Finally after about 30-45 minutes of driving, I got to the parking lot and got out of my car to check out the trail map. It showed that I had driven to the top of the mountain that I had intended to hike up. Rolling my eyes at myself, I walked to the view point, snapped a photo and drove back down the mountain.
So great, right? No! I wasn’t willing to let this be my only “hiking” experience on Salt Spring Island. I was determined to actually hike somewhere and so I drove to another trail. I can’t remember which one I went to, but I do know that I did find the right parking lot. That was about it as far as going in the right direction though, because I managed to take the wrong turn while hiking and wandered for about an hour in the wrong direction along another trail on private land. After taking in the view while trespassing, I decided to go back to the ferry and get home where I knew where things were.
I got home and posted my pictures on Instagram, which made my friend think that she was missing out by not exploring all these fine places. She quickly changed her mind after I told her the backstory of the day.
So friends, life on social media is not what it seems. Neither is life on Salt Spring Island.
I recently read an article titled 10 worst story openings that sparked the flame of annoyance for me. To sum it up, the advice was “don’t start your story with something boring, but don’t start it with something interesting either.” The foundation for this advice was the belief that both of these were dead giveaways that you’re an amateur. As if that was a bad thing to be.
Side note: it’s not bad to be an amateur. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone started as an amateur. It is brave. So, be brave. Be an amateur and wear that badge proudly.
Here’s what I think about that advice
First, it was contradictory. Of course, I oversimplified it, but essentially that’s how it read for me.
Second, if we all wrote the way these lists tell us to, every book would be the same and you wouldn’t need to read more than one since you’d know how every other one was going to end, and then all the authors could just curl into themselves and burn out like dying stars.
The product of our writing, like any art form, is subjective. Everyone will have a different opinion about what it should be, and they’ll like whatever they like for whatever reason that is personal to them. You can’t control that, nor should you try to.
Now that I’ve told you to ignore advice, I’m going to leave you with my two cents for what I’ve found helpful. Take it or leave it:
Start your story exactly where it starts. Continue writing until it’s finished.
Don’t second guess yourself. You know your story best.
Write for yourself, not for anyone else.
When it comes to having beta readers and editors looking at your work, you need to know what it is you are trying to convey, and make sure your work reflects that.
Pull the things you find helpful from these people who are offering suggestions, but don’t for one second think they know what’s best. You decide what goes and what stays. It is YOUR story.