A few months ago I took a massive leap. With my contract ending at work, a vague dream of working overseas, a love of mountains and autumnal colours, I packed up and moved to Canada. There was a little bit more to it, like diversifying my professional experience, countering conscious and unconscious cultural bias (as much as you can in Australia’s winter cousin) and potentially giving any future children dual citizenship guaranteeing a lifetime of winter ski vacations. In a world where we seek security and security in work, it was a balance of fear and freedom. In a life which I surround myself with people who challenge and encourage, it was diving headfirst into a season of loneliness. In a faith based on trust in God’s providence, it was and remains terrifying. And it was finally June and then July. I had an amazing time travelling around Canada. Life is easy when lived in hotels, hiking trails and home cooked meals cease to exist. And then August arrived. The job hunt became real. I applied for 20 jobs in about 2 weeks. I got half a dozen screening calls from various HR departments. I had a couple of interviews. I was offered a job I didn’t really want, but it gave me confidence to hold out hope for one I really wanted. September came. I moved into my new place. I had made a few friends. I thought I had found a new church. But days became weeks, and a little bit of unease became sheer terror and anxiety. I haven’t really experienced anxiety before but being you’re on the other side of world with a job you don’t want but they need an answer for, and a job you do want but getting a code of silence from. I found out what anxiety was. I also ate a lot of triple chocolate cookies (thankfully I’d also joined a gym and bought a bike by then). I’m thankful for my family and many friends who reached out during August and September and FaceTimed through my joy at progressing in various recruitment processes and the agony of waiting. “How are you?” could vary dramatically based on emails, phone calls and whether it was sunny and I’d been outdoors or rainy and stuck inside. I had my family here, my family at home, my new church family, my church family, new friends and old friends, and at one stage the Garden Island Naval Base praying for me. I was not alone and I was comforted by all of them. In the months that led up to leaving, I held onto it all with an open hand. If it wasn’t meant to be, I’d be disappointed but accepting. But time and time again, God provided. Visas came quickly, temporary housing, work connections given. And now more than 100 days on, I can proclaim God’s kindness and generosity once again. I still tread unknowingly around ‘God’s favour’ because it is far from what this inherently selfish girl wants to believe it is. The Spirit of God was with me when I leapt in the form of a business flight and a house deposit of savings to the land of the maple leaf. And it remains with me now. Praise God. And if you’ve made it here, and was pretty much just wanting an update when you clicked to read another monologue on my corner of the interwebs: – The EXTENDED edition. – The HIGHLIGHTS reel: I have a place. It’s in Kitsilano. It’s lovely. I have found a church. It’s St Pete’s Fireside. I 110% struggle with the liturgy but praying God changes my heart because I love everything else. I am making friends, although many of them are Australians – a cultural enclave in the making. I broke my fifth metatarsal (aka my little toe). It sucked and I have not rested so it’ll probably take a while to heal. BUT…I landed a job at the company I dreamed of since deciding I was moving to Canada. I start next week and I’m equal parts stoked and terrified at being the new girl again. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
A couple of weeks ago I was cycling around Vancouver when I pulled over at the entrance to a regional park info board to decide if I’d keep going or turn back. While pulled over a man wandered over and asked where we were on the map and how far you could walk. Having just looked at the map, and me being me, I gave him to full run down of the path system and, when asked, included estimated distances. “You must live around here then,” he said. “Yes, I suppose I do.” And then another day I was standing on a street corner downtown and a lady approached me looking for some directions. I didn’t know the answer immediately and although I could have pulled out my phone and worked it out for her, I responded: “Sorry, I’m not from around here.” It’s been 100 days since I’ve been back in Vancouver (YVR). It doesn’t feel quite like home yet but I also don’t know what the alternative is. So ‘home’ it has become. HOME After housesitting (and getting to know my some now very dear to me family) in North Vancouver, they helped me move into an apartment in the suburb of Kitsilano at the beginning of September. After warnings of bed bugs, the gloom of basement suites and reality of a <0.5% vacancy rate, I ended up in the first and only apartment I looked at. I prayed God would make it clear where I should live, and I’m thankful for this little abode until the end of January. (On a side note, I’m pretty certain my born and raised BC-housemate is the only Canadian around. The cafes and beach are full of Australians, Irish and Brits with a scattering of Kiwis and South American’s for good measure. We’re the only ones stupid enough to pay the exorbitant rent.) CHURCH You may remember I did a very strenuous search for churches when moving to Brisbane. I took those learnings and renewed prayers for wisdom and discernment into my new search. The process was made a little faster in YVR because of the sad truth that it’s a very dark city. Spiritual, yes. Christian, no. Despite my passive aversion for the denomination, I found a new-ish Anglican church St Pete’s Fireside meeting in the University of British Columbia’s downtown campus. The liturgy takes me back to my childhood church memories, but the teaching, community, music, evangelistic approach and strategy is right up my alley. Although the liturgy is a shock, I’m praying God changes my heart to see its beauty. I’m coming around. FRIENDS It’s often joked making friends was easier when we were Kindergarteners in the school playground. You walked straight up to someone or a group and started playing. 20+ years on I think the only difference is an increased sense of self-awareness. It’s walking across a room, it’s asking for someone’s number, it’s texting them and asking if they want to catch up. It’s actually a lot like dating… I boldly invited myself on a whale watching adventure which gifted me a friend soon to live 3 blocks from me. I’ve great times eating ice cream, hiking, paddling and even suffered through a few Saturday morning headaches. I’ve made several others and starting to get a little crew together. I’m hoping work will help soon. And my plans to join the local netball team were hindered from a certain broken metatarsal. WORK While I could financially continue this lady of leisure life into 2019, I started to long for structure, routine and a sense of productivity. It’s been a privilege to enjoy this season. It’s also been a lesson in patience. It’s been pretty anxiety-ridden but really it’s been 8 weeks. Job hunting (and apparently dating too…) is about the numbers. From 20 applications I had 6 phone interviews which progressed to 3 in-person interviews (I withdrew from one) and 2 job offers – a pretty good conversion rate. I accepted a job a my dream company in this past week and now I’ve had all the necessary ‘dodgy foreigner’ checks, I start this coming week! DATING Because why not do everything at once…I decided to throw in some casual (?) dating into the mix. I’m in awe of anyone who can manage multiple dates in a week, (KBH I’m looking at you!), I have managed 4 in 3 months with another lined up for next week. Write me direct and I’ll share the fun bits. These first 100 days have been characterised by a deepened love of mountains, the pain of a stupidly broken toe and the rollercoaster ride of finding work. I said before I left, life is best lived on the edge of our comfort zone. And that’s exactly what life in Vancouver has become. It has little structure and even less certainty. But throughout I’ve found myself drawing closer to God, or when I haven’t, running back when I realise I was relying on my own strengths. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Someone at some point in time gave me some travelling advice to ease the transition back to reality. If it was you, thank you. Never go back to work for a full week after a holiday Within your budget, treat yourself on the final night. And so I write this from a cute Italian restaurant on Halifax’s waterfront. I’ve got a glass of French Rose, a bottle of sparkling water (because I ain’t fancy, but gosh I prefer it over tap) and I’ve got spaghetti ai frutti di mare on its way.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I may have only told you in recent weeks or perhaps you’ve known for a few months, but I’ve known I’d be ‘leaving’ for about 9 months.  My visa was approved waaayy faster than I ever anticipated and since then I’ve been making intentional decisions that enabled me to leave. I signed a short lease, I chose to stick out the time in a challenging work environment, I stopped seeking any significant relationships and I stopped buying stuff (okay, perhaps that last one happened a little later than it should have). I was leaving. But most of those were just decisions for convenience sake. Leaving has been about more than that and more than about just me. Yes, I am going off on an adventure. But life is about relationships and my leaving for a grandiose adventure means leaving people behind – for better or for worse. I am surrounded by people who love me, who challenge me, who inspire me and who laugh with me. And I (hopefully) reciprocate that for those around me. And so, 9 months ago I decided I was going to try and leave well. I had no idea what that would look like, but for more than 8 months now I’ve been trying. Pretty early on it got exhausting keeping this exciting (and terrifying) impending adventure to myself. Life is supposed to be shared. So leaving well meant telling people early, particularly those I see most often: my close friends, the girls at work, and then later my managers, my pastor and then later my church family.  I gave them months of notice. To me it felt like ages, but for others the 3 (and even up to 6) months’ notice was not enough. I hate to think my leaving impacts others, it suggests I have a self-inflated sense of self. Perhaps so, but I think back to when a friend left Brisbane 12 months ago and the sense of loneliness I had following. Change is hard and loss hurts. Knowing it’s coming and preparing for it can only ease that challenge. (Or perhaps not, they’re like “Mel, get going already!” Perhaps I should have gone for the bandaid approach. Rip it off, mic drop and leave. Alas. Sorry if that was you!) I think leaving well for me has been about closure. Reflecting on this Brisbane chapter of my life, my mid-20s and the learnings I had and then moving forward again. A couple of weeks ago I wandered along a Sunshine Coast beach just reflecting and being thankful for blessings + learnings from it. I’ve spent time scrolling through Instagram, reminscing on Queensland adventures I’ve had. I know I’m the strongest physically I’ve been (despite 12 months of on and off again injuries). I’m also thankful I waited until I was mentally strong and not running away as I would had been 9 months ago. It’s also been saying goodbye to and acknowledging the significance of the people who I’ve done even just a short part of these 3 years with. Although I love a party, I have filled the past 6 weeks individually catching up with people + small groups. I’ve had meals with old managers and laughed with dear friends. I stopped by my old running group (despite the fact I had to break up with them 3 months ago because a girl who can’t run ain’t much good). I thanked the gym trainers who have taught the classes I’ve attended. I met with work suppliers and gave notice to others. Leaving well was about pouring into the relationships that I made in this chapter. Perhaps a favourite component of leaving well has involved stopping by old haunts, favourite cafes and finally getting to the places still left on the list. From Moreton Bay bug dumplings, to gingerbread pancakes, sweet potato waffles, a whole lotta tacos and plenty of vino + my tequila vice, leaving made its mark…for which I’m thankful I’ve had a trainer to motivate me to counter all the excess (but not at all regreted) sugar + fat + booze. I wrote a mental bucket list of the things I wanted to do before I left. This largely involved physical challenges – climbing mountains, exploring Brisbane on my bike, and in Saturday’s case, riding up Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha. Sadly I didn’t make it out to Girraween NP, but perhaps it’s a reason to come back. I’m most thankful for the time a few key people made to help me leave well. To pray with me and for me, to check in on how I was doing, to challenge me to think about what the Canada chapter of my life could look like…and to offer North American-based family members and friends to call in case of emergency, even if it’s a jail bail out. Sunday was my last week at church where I have spent 2 years trying to help people connect with our community. And I was also moved by some of the newer people at church, many of whom I hardly know well, stopping by and saying goodbye. I was sad that I would have likely overlooked them in my leaving well process. I hope in taking time to try and leave well, I have provided an opportunity for a sense of closure. I don’t know if I’ll return. Many of those I’ve mentioned above have begged me to return or reminded me how quickly I acclimated to Brisbane’s very temperate conditions. It’s true. I have loved Brisbane. It has been very good for me. I have loved the outdoor lifestyle and how I settled into an even more active lifestyle I never expected for myself. I mean, padded Lycra pants and a road bike? A gym membership? I hardly recognise myself. I have also loved living life in a 3 kilometre radius and complaining about driving longer than 20 minutes into the suburbs. After years of commuting >2 hours a day, jumping in an Uber home from a night out, or the quick 8 minute bike ride to work, or a slow 40min meander home were so welcome. I have loved my river views apartment with a non-sarcastic pretty price tag. I might return. I might not. I don’t know what the future holds, but I could control how I left and how I move forward. I hope I’ve done it well. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
During the glow of new year optimism I managed to finally wash everything in my clothes hamper. Those pesky whites, the lace skirts…even the dress with the sequins that legitimately needs to be hand washed (not my makeshift hand washing consisting of individual bra bags on the gentle cycle). I then ironed everything and put it away. …Well, I attempted to – except I ran out of coat hangers. Some tops, dresses and skirts were already sharing!  I had a problem and it was time to do something. First week back, 3rd of January, I walked into work and pledged to the ladies at work I would not repeat an item until March. I had to collect their jaws from the floor on the way to the next meeting. How would I keep track? Everything was now ironed! And now here I am in March. How did I go? What did I learn from my 8 week challenge? I have waayyy too many clothes. I really missed wearing my favourites and my Christmas presents from my sister. Even an 8 week challenge couldn’t stop me from buying a cute Marcs skirt on sale! Eeekkk. The black business skirt I bought in August 2012 for my first ‘office job’ still fits and it’s actually great. I rediscovered a bunch of things I had totally forgotten I owned. The slightly too tight size 6 Review dress I bought on sale for $99 2 years ago is now definitely zipper-likely-to-bust tight now and its cost per wear is still very hiiiiigh. I really did not miss ironing my week’s worth of work clothes on a Sunday night. I lost a lot of time during the mornings lying in my towel on my bed overwhelmed by the decision. A staple style makes for easy outfits. Choosing a new outfit was exhausting…particularly with slimmer pickings in Week 6-8. Making it ‘dress week’ or ‘skirt week’ made it soo much easier. A uniform of sorts! I love dresses and skirts, but with only 3 pairs of cropped pants, despite it being 80%+ humidity, I missed wearing pants. I foolishly found myself in jeans on a 30 degree, 85% humid day just because…pants. I loved being asked if an old dress was new…particularly when I avoided it because it was frumpy / tight / pink etc. I really don’t like pink. I realised my old favourite dress didn’t bring the same joy as it used to. And I longed to wear my new favourite. Guys have it soo much easier, particularly when I see them wander through the city with their 5 dry-cleaned shirts for the week. Could I get away with only 5 dresses? Hmmm. I need more shoes to go with all my dresses. #kidding. But seriously I think I wore about 6 pairs over the 8 weeks, with 1 pair of summer sandals at least 3 days each week. I could have gone at least another 2 weeks. Not.Even.Kidding.        which led me too…  Looking past the token Charity ‘bin’ option into more sustainable clothing recycling options. After 8 weeks I was left pretty embarrassed and confused. How did I get here?  I have a dozen dresses and skirts I have made myself. I fix items that break. I avoid buying from H&M, Cotton On, Zara and other retailers providing the means for the never-stopping fast fashion treadmill (Although frustratingly those same brands have actually some of the best ethical production ratings in Australia…although output volume, item life and environmental toll isn’t factored into the mix). But in reality, I’m the same as everyone else. I get bored easily, I struggle to let go and I really love Marcs (and their sales). And so with another move on the horizon, this past weekend I decided to clear things out. I took a bag to church on Sunday (*only half pictured) and many found lovely new homes. The dozen work tops I seldom wear. Gone. My old favourite dress. Gone. The crop pants that had been collecting dust. Gone. One of the ladies is off to India in a couple of weeks, so I’ll give a few items to her. But what about the rest? How do I avoid my carelessness + frivolous spending ending up costing the environment more? I did some research and worked out a plan. I now have 2 bags in my car. The few items left that are work environment friendly and good quality I’ll drop off for Suited to Success, and the rest will go to H&M. As for my sanity, I’m feeling much better post-wardrobe cleanout. Everyone has their own individual hanger, it’s not a battle to put things away and I have a dozen hangers spare! – – – And if you made it all the way down here, past all my self-talk to convince myself I need to do a Phase 2… What did I wear today? My new favourite dress of course. I call it my Queensland dress. 🙂 Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)