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I grew up on the fringes of the biggest city in Canada, but lived the first ten years of my life on acres of land, surrounded by ancient trees, a forest for a backyard. I used to love being a contradiction, constantly carving out a place by leaning a little bit to one side, a little bit to the other. It was probably this strange beginning that shaped my love for both city and country: give me skyscrapers or rolling fields, but keep away that picket-fenced suburbia. For me suburbs are sort of like those rooms in the movies where the walls slowly close in on the hero trapped inside.
This ability to be equally at home in country or city is useful, but when you love both equally, it’s a problem. What’s a girl to do in her mid-twenties, firmly ensconced in being a real live adult and having to make the decision about where home will be right now?
There are obvious considerations: I need to be somewhere where I can earn a living, preferably one that doesn’t necessitate eating nothing but Ramen noodles. I need to be somewhere where I have reasonable access to basic needs. I need to be warm and dry, and if I can have some kind of a social life without having to buy a car or take a bus for hours and hours, that would be good, too.
There are less-obvious considerations: I need to be somewhere I’m happy to wake up every day. I need to be somewhere I feel alive. I need to be somewhere I feel lucky to be, even after weeks and months and rainy days.
When I decided to move to London over running away to The Highlands I knew I was making a choice between one love and another. To make it less troubling I focused on the practical: my career is in London, I have debt to pay and I can make good money here, my friends are scattered in and around the city, it’s a giant playground with so much history and so much romance and so much stuff to do. All good reasons, to be sure, but they don’t mean I still didn’t feel some level of sadness because I wasn’t going to wake up every day and see mist over fields, pull pints for locals who knew my name, swim in the still-freezing-cold August North Sea.
Growing up North American wasn’t something I ever thought about until I moved away, but it seems to me that we have a way of rushing through life that’s more frenetic than I’ve ever found anywhere else. Even in Western Europe people have managed, perhaps unconsciously, to maintain at least some kind of ability to remember to enjoy the every day. It’s a welcome lesson for someone whose natural tendency is to speed through where she is lest she not make it somewhere else. Life is about living, not about getting to the end.
And London? Oh this city. It’s wonderful and beautiful and even though I’m not collecting my own eggs or sinking my hands into the dirt I still chat with the farmers at the market every Saturday, and I have to admit that Greens of Glastonbury makes better mozzarella than I ever could. So I smile that even in London they close roads once a week to honour a tradition that’s served this land farther back than we can remember, and I avoid dogs and children underfoot to walk through the stalls in my heeled boots and long red coat. Perhaps I haven’t stopped being a contradiction after all, but since finding this place I’m a more mindful one to be sure. One who adores both where she is and where she’s going, whenever that day comes.
I accepted it’s okay to not be totally sure about where you live. It’s okay to be somewhere with most of your heart when a piece of it is somewhere else. It’s okay to love and appreciate where you are while still knowing that one day you’re going to want to try to be somewhere else, and it’s okay to not know when that will be.