A lot of people leave their hometowns, build a life, and only return home for the holidays. Hubby and I left, built a life, returned home for the holidays but then, all of a sudden, we sold our house, packed up our belongings and moved back to the region where we grew up. Someone once told me that’s not what people should do – that once they leave, they should stay gone. That’s life, I was told.
Hubby and I were gone for six years, enough time for things to change immensely and yet stay exactly the same. This past year, our first year “back,” stirred up a lot of feelings for me – which was surprising, because I’ve always wanted to live on the lake. Finishing my PhD and actually getting my dream lakehouse should have made me the happiest person in the world. People would have been well within their rights to kick me for uttering any complaints. And I have been happy, really happy, at home. But I felt unsettled when we drove into the city, like I was just visiting and should be heading to the airport soon to return home to Ottawa, where we lived before. It felt like we had taken a step back, in some ways, like we’d stepped in a time machine and were teenagers again. It was so nice to be closer to family, but we missed our friends. It’s been difficult making new friends, and yet everyone knows everyone in this small city – we missed the anonymity of a bigger city. We missed the shopping (I couldn’t even find a decent curtain rod here). I was also a little bummed by my employment situation: my job prospects have been disappointing and I’m currently cobbling together an income, while Hubby works full time. Even though I was happy this past year, I also kind of missed our old life.
While I waited for the right time to write a post about moving back home, trying to make sense of what I was thinking and feeling, what I was thinking and feeling changed. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I was recently in Ottawa for a short visit. I stayed with a friend who lived only a few minutes from our former townhouse. She was able to take a couple of days off from work so we could spend a long weekend together, and graciously lent me her car on the days she had to work so I could venture out on my own. It was a funny feeling driving around Ottawa again. I visited my favorite antique shops, checked out some furniture stores, stocked up at Costco with whatever I could fit in my luggage, and went to the townhouse.
That’s right, I went back to the townhouse. I walked the grounds behind the townhouse and while I scuttled by, casually sneaked a glance toward my former abode. The curtains were thrown open (did they get rid of my beautiful layered sheers?) and it was dusk, so I saw a little: aside from the addition of their decor, the kitchen looked identical. All of the walls still looked white, and the dining room light was the same too. That’s all I saw. It felt intrusive to loiter, so I hurried back to the car. And I felt great! Like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I’m a sentimental person and was sure that with my mixed feelings about moving back to Northwestern Ontario, I’d crumple on the townhouse property, weeping, but instead I phoned Hubby immediately and told him how good I felt about the trajectory of our lives. He sounded relieved.
After my trip, I was able to think about Ottawa, our current place, the move – everything – with more perspective. It’s like my thoughts were previously clouded by feelings of “awwwww Ottawa, awwwwww, the townhouse,” and that made me think a little irrationally. With my new found clarity, I realized that it was just the change that had me feeling a little off kilter. It was a lot of change, all at once. In a period of only a few months, I successfully defended my PhD, we sold the townhouse (our first house!), bought the lakehouse (our dream house), added Szuka to the mix, packed up and moved 1600km. Overnight I was no longer a grad student. I think I craved the comfort of our old routine more than I realized. Being plunged into a new, but eerily familiar routine, made me pine for Ottawa. I forgot what a privilege it is to be able to make such huge life choices – and to actually see our dreams realized! – and I lost sight of what is important. Diving right into home improvements made it seem like having a variety of furniture, home decor and renovation stores is the most important thing, and I forgot that life is about more than updating a home.
The last year went by in a blur, and I spent some of it in a bit of a funk, but I’ve decided to savor this upcoming year. I finally feel settled and I no longer pine for what we had. I’m also going to see my underemployment as something great: this is going to be the winter I indulge my creative side. Embroidery, painting, sewing – I’m going to make things. Time-consuming, beautiful things. And to make up for the months we spent apart while I was doing research, Hubby and I are going to go cross-country skiing, have snowball fights and enjoy the crisp, cold air. Oh, and buy a stand up paddle board for next summer. And do a million other things. Yes, the city we now call home still looks a lot like the city we grew up in, but there’s also a lot of new restaurants, art galleries and shops to explore.
I feel good. Hubby, who is always on a far more even keel than me, feels good. I’m already excited for 2015 because I know it’s going to be an awesome year. I think our breakfast guests are proof positive:
Have you moved around a lot? Had to start fresh? Ever moved back home? Was a year too long to realize how good I have it?