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.
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.