Last week I was volunteering, which mostly involved spending time chatting with someone — a super easy gig. The person was an urban nerd who spent a couple of years living in the Netherlands. We had a lot in common.
It didn't take long to get to how much we missed Europe, how life there is easier and better, how most of the streets and buildings in Vancouver are awful compared to where we used to live, that the only reason people in Vancouver feel good about the quality of our city is that the rest of North America has somehow managed to be worse, that our social programs are a joke and our healthcare dysfunctional. It's not that I hate Canada so much as that after living in places that are doing things way better — in easy totally achievable ways — it's hard not to look at Canada with a critical eye.
I am getting better at not being annoyed by these things but it was nice to talk to someone who knew where I was coming from. Once you live in Amsterdam or Copenhagen even the nicer cities in Canada still feel sprawling and awful and trying to endure the dysfunction that is our government is pretty brutal.
I want to do what I can to make Canada better, to fight for my beliefs. I'm in this place, I have to do what I can to make it better. Still, sometimes it feels like I'm far removed from what everyone here seems pretty happy to shrug their shoulders over.
When I planned my studies in Scotland I had it in the back of my mind that there was a good chance I'd stay. I thought about moving to Sweden, there's the eternal pull of Copenhagen. I felt very at home in Scotland. Too bad about that whole Brexit and anti-immigrant sentiment thing. If they were independent I'd peace out for a cheap flat in Glasgow pretty quickly. As is when I left it felt like a place where even white well-educated Canadians weren't very welcome — this is more a reflection of UK policy than how people act in Scotland.
So I came home. Back to this place that I like a lot more when I'm not actually here, when I'm far away, when I go on dates with people I can only kind of understand even though we are both native English speakers. There is something nice about being in a place where everyone just gets things and you don't have to explain as much, where people have heard of where you grew up and went for undergrad, where saying give 'er once doesn't elicit stares and confusion because no one has ever heard it before then becomes a catchphrase.
When I told my sister about my conversation during my volunteer shift she said that she thinks I should go back to Europe. It's something I think about more and more as time goes on. I wonder where I can go that will be safe, that will be mine, that will feel like home.
My plan when coming out to Vancouver was that this would be it. I'd move here, settle down, build a life. Then I figured out what the housing crisis really looks like and my life kind of fell apart. I'm doing a lot better than I was but I still can't picture a future here. I want a decent affordable place to live that is mine that I can fill with well-designed things and paint various pastel colours.
Today the smoke is so bad that I can't go outside without having trouble breathing. It's only going to get worse. That's another knock on this place.
I'm editing some of my photos from when I visited Copenhagen when I was in Edinburgh. Those streets will always feel like home. I liked that place. Life there was good and I was really happy. It was one of those rare times in my tumultuous twenties that I felt like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing exactly where I was supposed to be doing it. I had my crew. I had a nice bike and a nice space to live in. I had everything I needed and it was great.
I'd like to feel that way again. I'd like to settle down and find somewhere that I can feel at home. More and more I wonder where that might be.