Newfoundland had always been "home" until I left. Can you truly ever find another home though? Some thoughts.
I’ve lived in Montreal for more than 4 years now. I sorta fell into living there without any sort of plan but after a year it felt more like my home than Newfoundland – where I had spent the lion’s share of my previous 29 years – ever did.
Over the years, however, Montreal has felt less and less like the right fit for me. The city has gone from exciting to unnecessary. Overwhelming. Isolating, even. The language and the culture and the joie de vivre attitude are amazing, until you realize they just aren’t who you are.
I’m an antelope living with the zebras, occasionally putting on a prison outfit to blend in.
I think this is a common feeling for people moving through your 30s, especially when you have antelope-being-chased-by-lions levels of anxiety. You seek a quieter, slower-paced life. And so you move out of the city centre and find a suburb or smaller town with a train connection. (I don’t like the idea of commuting, but I most often work remotely now so this could work even with my commuting-aversion.)
But that’d still leave me in Quebec. And, while this province is great for many reasons, I’m not sure it feels like home. I don’t know that I’ll ever shake the feeling of being a temporary resident here.
(My favourite thing about Quebec: the consistency of elevator buttons. Here the ground floor is always labelled RC, for rez-de-chaussée, which means street level. English elevators cannot seem to agree if the ground floor should be G or M or L or 1 or sometimes even 2 with an asterisks for some messed-up reason.)
So that leads me to my trip to PEI. It was nice to, however briefly, live out of a small town. Though PEI was certainly not a home for me, I had missed the small-town life and it was a nice reminder of how even the small things can cause me stress in the city. Like groceries or going out for dinner.
And maybe it was out of these feelings or my frustration of not feeling at home anywhere or not knowing where the right place is for me that I returned to my ancestral home last week. Or maybe I just wanted to see my family.
In any case, here are some pictures of that trip. They aren’t as nice as the PEI ones because I was travelling alone in a very familiar place and didn’t take nearly as many photos and also, well:
Breaking out the full-length pants, I packed up my stuff and headed for home.
It looks cool but I can never decide if it's a clever or unnecessary thing to pack. pic.twitter.com/OZk1J2oe9Q
— Angus Woodman (@angusw) September 20, 2016
While there, I still braved the weather for my traditional despondent Signal Hill hike:
I also couldn’t visit without a nice sampling of the local cuisine:
I also played lots of games with the family. Mother really took to Exploding Kittens:
And I slept in my over-achieving Nephew’s room, gently awoken each morning by the subtle breeze coming through the open window jostling his Chess medals.
And of course the main attraction: selfies with everyone!
If you’ve lived your adult life away from whatever town you grew up in, you’ll know how a trip like this feels. You may have a great time and miss everyone when you leave, but you could never move back without feeling like something has gone horribly wrong.
Newfoundland is perhaps an exception to that. Lots of folk return after a few years away and settle back in nicely. Me, I don’t think I can ever live there again.
Which is a damn scary thought when I’m living in a city that I don’t picture myself in long-term. It’s like there’s no comfort zone or safety net. If shit goes awry, the only way out is paving a new path.
For now, I’m still gonna stay put in Montreal because of this wacky company we’ve created. And maybe my dissatisfaction is a temporary thing. Maybe I’ll settle back into Montreal life.
Or maybe ‘home’ is a place that doesn’t exist. It’s a fantasy. And I should chill the eff out a little bit. It’s okay, man.
Or maybe home is people. Maybe it’s the wife I don’t have or the children I haven’t accidentally created yet. It’s the dog that my wife insists we get but I outright-refuse and she gets one without telling me when I’m away on business and I come home and discover the dog and feel betrayed and disrespected we get in a huge fight and I stay in a friend’s spare room for a while because I have adult friends and adult friends have actual spare rooms so you don’t need to stay on their couch and then she apologizes and asks me to come home and eventually I learn to like the dog because I use it as leverage to get the drum set I’ve always wanted but didn’t get because I knew my wife wouldn’t like them because our house is too small and “drums are so loud and ugly, how about a guitar” but she and I both know I don’t love guitars in the same way.
You know, that thing.
Visiting sister's house. Devil dog doesn't like me. Hiding in nephew's room. Send supplies. pic.twitter.com/5779ZEy491
— Angus Woodman (@angusw) September 16, 2016
There are certain times in life when I’m at home by myself in pyjamas and I’m watching space movies while eating apple sauce right out the jar and I think, “This is fine to do until I die. This is enough. This is home for me. I don’t even need teeth for this.”
Why isn’t that enough? It’s more than most in this world get.
Maybe I never get to feel more at home than that. Maybe I never get to be fully content with where I am because it’s not in my nature to feel content. Maybe I just have to be okay that I’ll never be okay with where I am.
But then I think back to my second and third years in Montreal. They were amazing. And I knew it and didn’t want to be anywhere else.
Maybe I was lucky to have that feeling for two years. Maybe that’s more than most in this world get. Maybe we all spend our lives searching for a place to belong, stumbling in the darkness the entire way like a bunch of blind monkeys.
And maybe that’s okay.