It was a holiday, I suppose. But it was also so much more than that. It was a homecoming, and a reunion, a coming of age, coming back to my self.
When I was 16, my mum and I moved halfway across the world to Victoria, British Columbia, where we lived for nearly 5 years. I finished high school there; we met incredible people, soaked in breathtaking scenery and had adventures all up and down the West Coast in our powder blue 1970’s Cadillac. When my best friend Mollie announced she’d be getting married in her back yard in Canada this summer, the choice was clear – I would be there. In a corner of my mind, I was concerned that the adage “you can’t go back” would be true, or that enjoying Canada too much would be disrespectful to the life and loves I’ve created back in England.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
When you see a kid you haven’t seen for a while, you notice how much they’ve grown, while their parents who see them every day haven’t really noticed. It was like that for me – I hadn’t seen myself gradually growing up, crafting my life as I have been going along. Being back there, I suddenly saw myself as so much more fully-formed than I had been when I was 21 and hazy all the time. Not just the fact that I no longer get ID’ed in the liquor store (sigh), but also the way my friends and I were with each other, and the things I wanted to spend my time doing, the narrative I could share about my life now.
We are the stories we tell about ourselves, and when you’ve been away for a while, everyone wants to hear your story. This repetition served as a great touch-point, to check in with myself. Which bits of the story was I most proud of? Which bits did I murmur, and try to avoid? I’ve tried to pay close attention, and I now plan to adjust my life accordingly going forward – living my life more aligned with the values that I’m proud of.
A lot of who I am seems different from when I lived there. One friend’s mum, having been updated on my life, was almost disbelieving – “Bibi? Runs marathons?!” But a lot about me was the same too. A lot of my heart is the same now as when I lived in Victoria, because a lot of my heart was made there. I can see now that I’ve taken a lot of West Coast values – a bit of crunchy new-age-ness, a love of healthy and sustainable living – and weaved them into my own.
It was terrific to have the chance to step outside of my day-to-day life, to check in with how lucky I am.
Rather than making me sad to have a foot in each country, as previous trips have sometimes done, this time I recognised what a precious gift that is. I am always right where I am supposed to be, and sometimes it just takes travelling 4500 miles to help me realise that.