Life is terribly odd. It’s truly a game of craps – you roll the dice and either win big or lose horribly. It’s fair to say that I’ve had my share of winning and losing rolls. Two months ago, my 13 year odyssey in Vancouver ended. I was faced with the stark reality of being unable to afford living there anymore. I couldn’t find any additional jobs to supplement the one good part-time teaching position I had. Once more, good ol’ Fate decided to present me with a very, very difficult choice:
Should I stay, or should I go?
There’s nothing like facing the imminent loss of your apartment because you can’t pay the rent to galvanize you into making a major life decision. I didn’t want to stay in Vancouver. I never really liked living there; it was time to end our stale, unsatisfying long-term relationship. I needed to leave. I wanted to go home to Vancouver Island and the one place I’ve always loved – my hometown of Victoria. Immediately, the banshees of doubt awoke and started screaming into my consciousness:
Return to Victoria? The home of the newly wed and the nearly dead? Are you mad? You know how tough it is to find a job in Victoria! Where are you going to live? How are you going to survive? You’re a middle aged guy, for crissakes!
Of all the places on the planet to call home, I lucked out. Southern Vancouver Island is so fantastically beautiful, situated on Juan De Fuca Strait, across from the majestic Olympic Mountain range in Washington State. Victoria is an odd duck of a town. If I had to describe the city’s personality, it’s like having a favourite aunt you love for her slightly eccentric, quirky character. Victoria is part of Canada, the capital of British Columbia, but it’s unique – a strange blend of British colonial history, 19th century gold rush frenzy, and elegant Canadian Pacific steamships that plied between the city and Japan. It’s a green, pedestrian place that values its heritage. Compared to the winner-take-all, commuter road rage, real estate house demolition, condo-micro loft frenzy that is Vancouver, Victoria is positively sedate. The big thing you notice right away is the sense of community. People are more approachable and willing to strike up a conversation. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but there is a distinct sense of neighbourliness here than what you’ll find in the manic Lower Mainland.
I escaped from Vancouver. I gave away everything I owned in my apartment – furniture included – to the Ryerson United Church annual spring thrift sale. And I mean everything; all my geeky gadgets and gewgaws, my games, my art, my computer and videogame equipment, my movie posters. All gone. I felt like a gypsy when I boarded the ferry to Swartz Bay, carrying nothing but two bags of clothes, a hiking stick, and my best hat. My eminently wise younger brother very kindly delivered my bicycle to Victoria, so I’m completely mobile, too. There’s a tremendous sense of freedom that comes from not being burdened by appliances, furniture, and boxes of stuff. For now, I’m completely unattached from the day-to-day material goods.
Did I make the right decision? Will I find love, happiness, and full employment on Vancouver Island? Well, so far I don’t regret the choice in coming back. It just feels right. My best friends of many years all agree I made the right choice. It’s great to have lunch with my parents regularly and catch up with old acquaintances I haven’t seen in a long, long time. Riding along the Dallas Road waterfront, sitting in a quiet cove on Ten Mile Point, enjoying real fish and chips again at a genuine neighbourhood fish and chip shop, not to mention taking in the famous Victoria Day parade in front of City Hall – I think I made the right choice.
And hey – the Oak Bay Tea Party starts on June 5!
The Grumpy Ferret (Happiness is freshly caught seafood!)