A year in Canada

A year ago tonight, my family returned to Canada from Costa Rica. We had lived abroad for a year and a half, and had done our best to make a go of a new life in a new country. But it wasn’t to be, and we finally came to the reality that we had to move back home.

So, a year ago, we packed up a highly uncomfortable hour of the morning, boarded our airplane, and spend nearly 16 hours travelling north. We arrived late in the evening, with an irate kitty, to the most amazing -18C weather I’d ever felt. Within days, we’d tried to reinsert ourselves into a society that we’d — at last in some part — tried to forget.

A year later, I’m starting to forget that we ever left.

Don’t get me wrong. I have the memories. I have a few thousand pictures (remember, this is me we’re talking about). My life changed quite a lot when I get back. We had to relearn to live like Canadians in our own country — while you might try to retain your identity when you’re somewhere else, eventually your habits change. And yes, there was reverse culture shock.

A lot happened since then, not the least of which was the arrival of our second daughter. During the last year, I’ve looked back at the things I’ve done, both here and in Costa Rica, and tried to reconcile my present. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and more and more I’m having to remind myself that I did actually live somewhere else, that it was actually a dream that came true.

Just prior to leaving Costa Rica, I felt fairly bitter. I was disillusioned, having long-held the view that living in a tropical country was a wondrous fairy tale. I felt that I hadn’t lived that dream fully, the needs of my life seemingly having stolen the preciousness of the moments. For a time, people telling me they were jealous of my experience were usually met with a somewhat brutal response, where I dashed their dreams as harshly as I had felt my own destroyed.

The kicker is, I knew that would happen. I knew that I would be far more negative than I really should. I knew damn well that it had been an experience I will likely never be able to experience again in my life. I knew that the things that I viewed as sub-par were still far better than others ever got to experience. I knew that despite my supposed troubles, there would always be others jealous of my opportunity.

Today, a year later, I finally feel nostalgic — a “time heals all wounds” sort of thing. I’m able to see past the trouble, and focus on the good. In effect, I’m able to finally live up to a personal favourite adage: it’s all worth it if you come away with a good story. I can safely say that I’ve got some great ones, and they start from virtually the very first day we arrived in the country.

Way up here in the Great White North, I have something else to be proud of. For the first time in a very, very long time, I finally feel like I have a home. Not just a place to live, but a place where I feel comfortable, where things seem to make sense, where I feel I have a chance to form roots. My last nearly-20 years have been pockmarked with moving between houses, cities, provinces, and countries, changing lifestyles, and growing families. This year — this last year — seems somehow more formative than any year I can remember in a long time. It holds hope, it holds promise, and allows me to consider the future far more brightly than I could have hoped.

And that’s a Good Thing™.