Celebrating Family Day

Today is Februrary 13th, and marks the fifth Family Day James and I have celebrated together. It holds a particularly sentimental place in our hearts for being the first Canadian holiday we ever celebrated together. What is Family Day, you ask? Only the greatest holiday invented. It's literally a day off from work meant to encourage families to spend quality time together. But let's backtrack a bit.

James and I celebrate our first Family Day by hiking in the California hills, circa February 2013

James and I celebrate our first Family Day by hiking in the California hills, circa February 2013

In winter of 2012, James and I were both living in California. We'd moved together upon graduating from Hampshire, making the trek from Massachusetts to the west coast because I wanted to spend some time closer to my parents. James had found a job working for a small games studio in the South Bay, and I was working for lululemon in the North Bay and living with my parents. While being back in California was wonderful, it was already starting to feel a bit stale. I only got to see James on the weekends when he'd make the 2 hour long commute north to spend time with us. I loved my job, but felt like I'd discovered much of what made it new and exciting. Most of all though, living in my hometown was starting to feel a little stale. People are often baffled when I share this, proclaiming some variation on "but how could you possibly get sick of California?" And my answer is, because it was what I'd known. I was craving new experiences, an opportunity to explore a brand new city with James.

 

And so James and I talked about it. And we decided we'd move sometime new together sometime in the next year or so. He was much clearer on his career goals at that point than I, and so we decided him finding a job would be the catalyst upon which our choice rested. I wanted to stay on the West Coast, but was open to a number of different cities. Once he'd taken some time to research options and send out some emails and resumes, we reconvened to discuss. He had a few studios in mind for which he'd love to work, but one in particular stuck out to him--a 30 person indie studio called Klei Entertainment. In Vancouver, Canada. While I'd always fantasized about the possibility of living abroad, Canada had never been the place I envisioned that reality. Perhaps it was too physically close for me to consider it a true international destination. Perhaps it was because I'd only been to the country once in my life when I was only 10 years old. Whatever the reason, it hadn't been on my radar. But the most we looked into it, the more we fell in love with the idea of one day moving there.

 

In January of 2013, James moved into my parent's house with me and started his new working contract with Klei. They'd decided that he would start out by working full time remotely, skyping into work every day from his desk in California, to test out the working relationship before committing to us uprooting our lives to move to the Great North. These were the circumstances we found ourselves in when Februrary of 2013 rolled around. We learned that Canadians celebrated this holiday called "Family Day." This meant that James had off work on Monday. My schedule at lululemon meant that I worked weekends and often had random weekdays off, including this particular Monday. "What should we do to celebrate?" we jokingly each other. We decided to head out into the California hills to do one of our favourite hikes. There was something so hilarious to us about living in California and celebrating a Canadian holiday. There was such distance between us and our future homeland. We didn't feel like a family, not yet.

 

But Family Day has come to mean so much more to me over the years. Moving to Vancouver with James was the scariest thing I've ever done. I wrote a lot about that transition in my anniversary post from last June. But something I didn't discuss there is that one of the most important things to come out of James and me moving to a foreign country together was the swiftness with which it stitched us together as a family. All of a sudden, he became my biggest support system in a way different than I'd felt when we still lived in the States. I couldn't pick up the phone and call my mom when something went wrong, so I'd turn to James. We created a life together from scratch. We found an apartment together and put down roots, buying appliances for our kitchen and sheets for our bed. We found favourite restaurants and coffee shops to visit on the weekends. In fact, we visited a takeout Indian food restaurant near our apartment so many times that the two owners knew us and would ask about the other when only one of us would come in to pick up food solo. "Where's your husband?" they'd ask me, long before James and I were even engaged. And it felt comfortable. It felt right. Because while we might not have yet put the label of "engaged" or "married" onto our relationship, creating a life together here has allowed us to choose each other every single day. And after all, isn't that what being a family is all about?

 

When I think of Family Day, I think about the immense gratitude I have for the opportunity Canada has given me to form a supportive, loving family with my one true love. So whether or not you live in Canada, whether or not you have a statutory reason to celebrate family today, I'd encourage you to take this day to think about what "family" means to you. Give gratitude to the people in your life who are there for you no matter what. Because the family we choose, be it a significant other or close friend, means a lot. These are people who are in our lives free from the emotional bonds of blood relation, out of no obligation. There's so much trust there and it never gets old to recognize that, to celebrate these people choosing to be in relationship with you every. single. day.

Vancouversary: Reflecting on my first three years

Three years ago today, I woke up ready to spend my first full day as a Vancouver temporary resident. It’s been three years since I put all my trust in James and followed him north across the Canadian border. That specific mix of emotions is still just as fresh in my mind as if they were here yesterday. I was brimming with naive excitement about my leap into the unknown. I was to be in such giddy defiance of my cautious tendencies. The buzzing of anticipation had a certain frantic quality to it. It rushed to cover the deep-seated sense of dread and fear that lurked just below the surface. Would I be able to do it? Could I move home if it didn’t work out? What if it put too much pressure on my relationship with James? What if I didn’t like my new chosen city? What if I couldn’t make new friends? What if? What if? What if?

I’ve never done well with uncertainty. Before the Vancouver move, I actively avoided it at all costs. I was a chronic over-planner, over-thinker, and risk calculator. I liked to have control and to know what was next as early as I could. Coming to Canada, a country I’d only visited once (at the age of 10) and where I knew no one, was quite a leap for me to make. It was an ugly and rough transition. It brought out all my demons and exposed me to a side of myself I’d never before met. It brought up a lot of anxiety, anger, and insecurity. I took it out on the people around me, pushing away the people I’d hoped to befriend. I was going through the motions without realizing how closed off I was to letting others in. It was a crash course in loving myself, empowering myself. As an only child with a close relationship to my parents, I’d never truly taken care of myself. I’d never had to. I would always turn to either of my parents whenever I came up against some new struggle. Getting through those tough times was a group effort. I hadn’t realized how much I’d leaned on my parents as a support system until I found myself falling flat on my face. It felt like that moment when you trip and in a split second, you realize the ground is coming for you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Hands down, that was the hardest part of the transition. Living in a foreign country, I could no longer pick up the phone to call my parents whenever I wanted. At the age of 23, I finally learned what it meant to climb over my mental barriers without a leg up from my parents.

It was scary and messy and imperfect. But with each crisis averted, I grew more confident. I felt more assured, more comfortable taking little risks knowing that it would help me grow. I was building real, authentic friendships because I was letting others in. I came to embrace newness. I tried new restaurants, went to my first movie by myself, and figured out how to establish my new Canadian healthcare. I asked new acquaintances on coffee dates when I saw potential for friendship. I built an intentional community for myself in this new city. I learned what I wanted out of my life, slowly and backwards. With each discovery of what I didn’t want, I came one step closer to determining my direction forward.

Here I stand, three years later. Next month, I’ll turn 26 as I enjoy my fourth summer in the city I’ve grown to call “home.” The growth I’ve experienced in the last three years is extraordinary. Separating myself from everything I’d known gave me a chance to rebuild my foundation. I formed new habits and relationships. I had to put extra effort into maintaining the relationships I left back in The States. All of a sudden, I had to actively chose these people. I tried on many jobs, companies, and roles to figure out what made me happiest. My relationship with my parents transformed, as we began to relate to one another as adults. My relationship with James grew and grew and grew.

Every year, I surprise myself with how much I’ve learned. It’s given me such a sense of humility, to realize how easy it is to think you have it all figured out. If I learned one lesson in my transition into Vancouver, it’s this. Lacking humility in your understanding of self slows your personal growth. Pay attention to repeating patterns. When you're unhappy or lashing out, ask yourself why. When you receive feedback, from your friends or your coworkers, actually listen to them. Open yourself up to growth, and the results will astound you.

 

Memories with Mom

Every year that mother's day rolls around and I'm still living so far away from you, it breaks my heart a little bit. I find myself thinking about how wonderful it would be to see you and celebrate with you, share with you just how happy I am to call you my mother. We've always had a great relationship and I've been so thankful for that. This year, I was thinking about what I could do to show you just how much you've been on my mind, and I decided on a little trip down memory lane. So without further ado, here are a few photos and memories of us through the ages that bring a smile to my face, starting with the oldest.

London, Summer of 2004

London, Summer of 2004

This picture cracks me up. We've both changed in appearance so much (I believe both for the better) that we're almost a different set of mother and daughter. This was my very first trip to Europe, the summer before I started high school. This was the summer we painted my room red to mark the fact that I was becoming older and more mature and decided I had outgrown the girly light lavender walls. We took this photo shortly before or after going up in the London Eye, and the pillar next to you mom had that graffiti stencil that said "This is not a photo opportunity." Remember that? Remember how I took a picture of it anyway, thinking I was being edgy? This was a really fun trip and I think my favorite memory of the two of us from this trip was when we went to a big outdoor flea market and I found those old antique keys that we planned to turn into jewelry. 

Hampshire College, Massachusetts Fall 2006

Hampshire College, Massachusetts Fall 2006

This was my very first time at Hampshire, the trip where I fell in love and made my decision that this was where I would eventually go to school, changing my life forever in so many different ways. It's pretty wild to consider it's been almost 10 years since this trip. I either had just gotten or was about to get my wisdom teeth taken out around this time, I remember. I strongly remember going with you to see dad give a talk in one of the Franklin Patterson Hall lecture rooms, the breathtaking look of those trees, and what it felt like to be considering the fact that I was two short years away from moving away from home, away from you and dad. 

At the Farmer's Market in California, January 2009

At the Farmer's Market in California, January 2009

This photo was taken during the January term where I chose to stay home instead of going back to school. I was really missing school and James and all of my new friends and so I definitely wasn't appreciating my time home as much as I wish I had taken the time to do in retrospect, but it was still a really lovely visit. I love this photo because while it was taken during my college years, it also reminds me of all of those countless farmer's markets we attended together over the years. It really is one of my favorite family traditions and I enjoyed using it as one of the ways to ground myself on those trips back home from college and from Vancouver once I moved away. 

Kona, Hawaii Spring Break 2011

Kona, Hawaii Spring Break 2011

I hope you're not mad I used this photo again, but I love it so, so much! I still remember when I posted this side by side to celebrate mother's day back in 2011 and you didn't like that I'd used such an unflattering photo of us. These photos were taken in that little random grocery store we found by the side of the road. They had all kinds of coffee and snacks and produce, including a few that had little sample containers next to them. I still regret not taking a photo to remind myself what exactly it was that we ate, but I remember it looking like a grape and tasting more like a lemon, hence the faces. I love these photos because they really capture one of my favorite dynamics within our family, of which you are the real leader: the silly, wacky, larger than life goofy moments. 

Paris, Summer 2011

Paris, Summer 2011

It may seem a bit odd to include a photo in this roundup that doesn't feature us together, but this is still my favorite photo from that trip and my favorite photo ever of dad and me together and you are the reason. This was back when we were still using digital cameras to take our photos and I had tried to teach you how to turn the camera around and blindly take a photograph at arm's length that would fit all three of us in the photo. I'd successfully taught dad how to do this a few years ago so I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. You were having such a difficult time getting all of us in frame and kept snapping pictures of dad and me that didn't focus you but instead of you getting frustrated and giving up we were all laughing uproariously about it, leading to this snap which--while clearly a planned tourist photo in front of the Eiffel tower--so beautifully captures truly candid happiness at being together as a family on a little adventure.

Kauai, Hawaii Spring 2015

Kauai, Hawaii Spring 2015

After many family trips to Hawaii focused mostly on staying in Kona, we decided to branch out and try a different island. This was an important trip for us because it was the first time you and dad would be flying out from California and I was meeting you at the airport in Hawaii, flying in from Vancouver. All in all, Kauai was a bit of a disappointing trip. It was rainy and cold, the water was too choppy to snorkel, and we all were left wishing for the Hawaii vacations of our past. It was however a great chance for us to spend some really nice quality time together and one of my favorite adventures of the trip was the day that you and I struck off on our own to explore the Mahogany plantation, which is when I took this snap. It was so meditative, walking through these huge forests of neatly planted tree rows with you. 

Home in California, September 2015

Home in California, September 2015

This was a little snap I bet you forgot I took of us in the TV room at the new house. I made this trip right after I quit my job, having no idea what I was going to do next but figuring that the best way to figure it out would be to celebrate my newfound freedom with a trip home to spend time with my two favorite people. Because dad spent so much of his week working and commuting to/from work, we got a lot of great one-on-one time this trip, and it was pivotal for me because it was really the first trip where I felt like we'd really gotten into our rhythm of our new dynamic which was a bit less mother and child and a bit more mother and her adult daughter. We had a lot of really nice moments together on this trip and it was exactly the fuel I needed to return to Vancouver ready to figure out what the next stage of my life was going to be.


It's now been almost exactly 8 months since that September trip home. My life has changed in countless ways, but the most obvious one being that I just recently started a full time job, a dream job that really exceeds my expectations of what exactly I was hoping to find for myself when I quit my job in September. It's been a lot of hard work to get to this point and I owe so much to you. Thank you for being such a great support system. Thanks for recognizing that I needed to spread my wings and learn how to be an adult off on my own for a while and giving me the space to do so. Thank you for offering the safety net of love and support that's made taking risks just a little less scary. You are an incredible mother and I'm so grateful for your influence on my life daily. Love you, mom. Happy Mother's Day.