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.