Finding Perfection in Place: Feeling At Home in Vancouver

Finding Perfection in Place: Feeling At Home in Vancouver

I have been planning to write this post since Valentine’s Day when I realized that I was in love again. I was in love with my new home of Vancouver. Love is one of those irrational feelings that you don’t need to justify. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that Vancouver has the trifecta of the mountain, sea and the city. Absolutely, it’s nice to be surrounded by badly dressed nature lovers who say “thank you” when they get off the bus and sincerely apologize when it rains. I love finally having friends that I see on a regular basis, people who willing to camp in the middle of winter, people who are willing to wake up before 5 AM to sit at a coffee shop and talk about their feelings. Hiking friends that suddenly become country-dancing friends who swap bathroom-cleaning secrets (yes, that was a clear indication we’re not 18 anymore). But love defies logic, and puts everything in a more positive light. I have a partner-in-crime that makes me smile even when we were drowned rats trudging through slippery slush for 18 hours and we have just as much fun adventuring in the kitchen as exploring the outdoors. Vancouverites still complain about things- Canada has some of the most expensive cell phone plans worldwide, domestic travel is ridiculously pricey, housing prices in Vancouver has skyrocketed in recent years and immigration can be a challenge. For me personally, my job at University of British Columbia still feels like a major step back from the autonomy and impact I had back in Auckland. But when you’re in love, those things don’t really matter. Yes, even after 2.5 months, I don’t know exactly what I’m doing at work but I have taken the opportunity to use the extra time for professional development and networking. I’m practicing programming, relearning how to do statistically modeling and finally writing up a paper that has been discussed for three years. Some almost-strangers have taken me under their wing, inviting me to networking events in Vancouver and colleagues from the past nominated me to represent physics at an important meeting about university reform. Sometimes people in love get criticized for seeing the world with rose tinted glasses but what’s wrong with that? Why do we have to focus on small imperfections when the fact that we’re living, breathing creatures on an awe-inspiring planet should always be reason for celebration? Things don’t need to be perfect to be worth loving, and life remains interesting because they aren’t perfect. If it didn’t rain for 6 months out of the year in Vancouver, the housing crisis would be infinitely worse! Advice from an Elder The final push to write this post came from a fireside chat with an indigenous elder on a group trip to the Yukon this weekend. He told an allegory of a studious young man whose teacher had him collect the shit from all the animals in the forest (his words not mind). The young man did as he was asked, and collected big shit, little shit from elk, deer, beers, beavers… all the creatures he could find. The teacher asked him to grind the shit into a fine powder, add some water to make a paste, use it to draw a circle on the ground and meditate inside it. The young man did as he was asked, then meditated in the circle for three days but he couldn’t figure out what his teacher wanted him to learn. On the fourth day, a crow saw him and started laughing and laughing at the fact that he was sitting in a circle of other’s people shit. And this was kind of the elder’s takeaway message, that we constrain ourselves, trap ourselves, immobilize ourselves by surrounding ourselves with other people’s problems and unrealistic expectations. Fireside chats in the Yukon in onesies At another chat, one guy finishing up his Master’s and getting ready to graduate was stressed because “I don’t know what I want to do with my life”. Of course, all the people around him said, “we don’t know what we’re doing either!”. Some of them were married, some are well-established in jobs they love so they don’t let that question bother them as much on a daily basis but there’s also a lot of societal pressures that create unnecessary stress surrounding that. Like I wrote in my last post, when people ask, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, that you can only do one thing, you should be neatly defined in one box. But the reality is that, these days, no one does the same job for 65...