Surprise! I’m Moving to Vancouver

September 4, 2012

Tomorrow, I’m getting on an airplane to fly from Toronto to Vancouver.

This is not what I was expecting to do this week. I thought I would be settling into my in-laws’ house, getting the kids ready for their first day at the country school down the road. I thought we would enjoy a quiet fall, housesitting, catching up with friends and family in the area. I thought we would book tickets back to Malaysia in January. I thought I would have peace and quiet to hunker down on my work after two months of summer hustle and bustle.

But everything can change on a dime.

When we visited Ottawa in August, Shawn went to lunch with colleagues from his old office. Afterward his boss let him know that they were hiring a research coordinator for a new employment research centre in Vancouver, and they wanted him to apply.

Cue a week of agonizing discussions about what to do. Could we give up our life on the move after only a year? Could we let go of the plans we had for fall and beyond? Could we undertake the challenge of finding a new home and school in a big unfamiliar city?

But the most important question seemed to be, did this job involve challenging, meaningful work for Shawn? On a warm August night, we sat outside in Adirondack chairs under the stars and I grilled him in my best coaching fashion: What excites him about employment research? What opportunities does this job present that haven’t been available to this point in his career? How does he feel about letting go of his other business ideas?

And when it seemed certain that this job presented the best option for Shawn’s work life, a chance he’s been searching for for years, the choice seemed clear. Much as we’ve loved our year abroad, work for Shawn has been the one piece of the puzzle missing, and this job solves that very neatly, while leaving all of the other pieces (new territory to explore, strong Chinese community, good schools) intact.

So Shawn applied and got the job. He signed the offer of employment last Friday. I’m super proud and thrilled for him.

A clear choice doesn’t mean an easy choice.

I’ll admit, I grieved. I cried. I panicked. I didn’t know how I would pull myself together after a turbulent summer ~ we spent every week in a different place, almost always as guests in other people’s homes, and of course, the kids were with us 24/7. I was feeling the stress of being over-committed to work and creative projects. It was painful to work on the Malaysian section on my memoir, suddenly having to mourn the fact that I wouldn’t be going back there.

To be honest, I still haven’t gained my equilibrium. I’m falling forward, into September, into a new city. Shawn’s excitement is carrying me along, and the kids are stoked to get back on an airplane. My cousins in Vancouver have jumped to our aid, and a friend in Penang has already volunteered to ship the belongings that we left there. I know I will land softly, when I land, thanks to the love and support of my community.

I’ve been wondering what story to tell myself about this abrupt change of plans. What thought is comforting? What makes sense? And one answer came to mind:

God must have something wonderful waiting for me in Vancouver if she’s in such a hurry to get me there.

I blush at the presumption of that thought, that I would deserve something wonderful, that God would be paving my way like that. Strange how it’s been easier to accept the graces of Malaysia, the delights of Europe, because they were more of my own choice and doing. But believing that story helps reconcile me to the losses, the changes, the work of moving. I’m practicing pronoia, trusting that good things are coming, better than I could ask or imagine.

Life design is a funny thing.

You make specific plans but they can get up-ended by a sudden opportunity. Accidents or illness can throw you a curve ball. You try something and find out you don’t like it or it doesn’t work for your family.

But underneath, what doesn’t change are your values. For me, no matter where I live or what I do, I rest on this bedrock of connection, art, learning, and adventure. Operation Hejira is alive and well, whether I’m in Canada or Malaysia or Timbuktu, because I’m doing work I love, with people I love, in places I love.

I have so much more to say but we’re getting boxes ready to ship across the country, so I’d better go. Next stop: West Coast!

Have you gotten any curve balls lately? How have your values kept you anchored and on track?

Oh, and let me know if you’re in Vancouver ~ I’ll be looking to connect once we get settled!

 Image credit: Kenny Louie

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Sue Top September 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Al, I’m always getting curve balls, it seems. Or are they little nudges from God? Here, Sue, over here. No, Sue, over here. Fine then, boom – you’re over here now, like it or not. ;)

I’m sure God has something important for you to do, and I’m also sure that you will never know 100% what that is. We need to trust so much, don’t we?

Andrew and I have friends/family in Vancouver, let me know if you want the name of Andrew’s best friend from university, Scott. He is married to Lisa, who has Chinese background, and they have two beautiful kids the same ages as ours. They are a lot of fun.

Best of luck on the move.
Love Sue

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MJ September 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm

“But underneath, what doesn’t change is your values. For me, no matter where I live or what I do, I rest on this bedrock of connection, art, learning, and adventure.”

THANK YOU. I’m wrestling with some decisions and possible upheavals and keep coming back to ‘what do I really want?’ And I admit that feels strange in this “just do your conventional job and live a conventional life, it doesn’t matter what you want” world. So thank you so much for reaffirming sticking with our values and keeping our eye on what needs to be done.

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Kathleen O'Grady September 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Hi Alison!
Wow, big changes for you and yours again! I was wondering where you were. My husband and i had a lot of change when we pulled up stakes and returned to Canada (i’d been away for 12 years and he left his homeland), but also did a year of transition and were poised to move to Kenya when he was offered a job. After planning for 4 months and everything on cue the funding was cut and we were’t going. We had to find a place to live in a week when we got back to Canada. Lots of change. But we are happy where we are and know that if we’d gone we wouldn’t be able to spend time around Mum (she was 90 at the time). We love where we are and my husband was offered a job in another city 5 months ago and it was a big decision to make. Stay or leave? But one piece that was shining through all of it was that we love where we live – Saskatoon. We made the very hard decision to stay.

You will love Vancouver! Great to hear your stories as always. :)

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Marjory September 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Dear Ali,

I hear you! I remember my first teen tantrum when I found out I had to leave Peru. It takes time and effort to nurture your connection to place and lifestyle you love and yet It is wise to recognize great opportunities when they come by…Change is the nature of life, what anchors me is knowing that there is medicine in every situation packed with a gift yet to be explored. Wishing you many blessings in your new home. Love, Marjory

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Leo604 September 29, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Welcome to Vancouver! I will love to show you the most beautiful things in Vancouver. Looking forward to keep in touch with you.

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