“Remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough…” - Dr. Randy Pausch
A year ago today I woke up in a cheap hotel in Thunder Bay. I was 24, had about 170,000 km on my car, 13 grand in debt and a sneaking suspicion that I still hadn’t quite found what I was looking for. I had been stuck in a rut in Winnipeg. Too much history, too many poor decisions and missed opportunities. I had built up too much momentum in the wrong direction, and almost every facet of my life was a reflection of someone I didn’t want to be, someone I didn’t believe I was.
After 2 weeks on the road, 2 weeks of solitude and new experiences, and of independence, I knew my life was no longer indicative of who I was becoming and what I wanted to do with myself, even if I didn’t quite know what that was yet. I’d walked the crowded streets of downtown Chicago, ate at a rooftop bistro in Old Montreal, followed the riverbank in Ottawa, and navigated Chinatown in Toronto. Nothing tied those experiences together other than my experience of them. I was completely on my own out there, and learned what I was capable of. And suddenly the life I had didn’t feel like enough. I wanted more, I always had. And I finally believed I was capable of it.
To say I was restless when I returned to Winnipeg would be an understatement. Rogers Video just didn’t feel that rewarding anymore. My apartment felt like a coffin, and driving down the same streets I’d known my whole life, the only streets I’d ever know, lacked any sense of adventure. Winnipeg was a great city, and had great people in it. This was no one’s fault but my own. Through excuses and denial I’d painted myself into a corner, and it was time to decide who it was I wanted to be, and I just couldn’t evolve any further in Winnipeg.
I decided to move to Edmonton to work off some of the debt I’d accumulated on my roadtrip and search for that adventure and evolution I was so lacking. When my cousin offered to help me get a job at Bioware I was ecstatic. Already I was learning opportunities don’t come to you, you have to reach out.
With my new attitude new opportunities were even springing up in Winnipeg. I started to learn I didn’t need to run from Winnipeg to get my life back on track, but by this point Bioware was a real opportunity, and to turn it down now would in fact be running from the very thing I was trying to build. So I went through with it, said goodbye to everyone and moved away from the city I’d lived in my whole life.
Some aspects went smoother than others. Some people were hurt, some were supportive, and every relationship of every form in my life changed to some degree. Literally everything I ever knew changed. I’d always been very proud of the life I’d built for myself in Winnipeg, the people I surrounded myself with, and in recent times the many new friends I’d made. Now I was alone in a new city for the first time. I had no social life, and spent most nights talking to friends from Winnipeg, and Kyra, with whom I had somehow deluded myself into believing I could work out a long distance… thing…
As the months passed my life in Winnipeg began to dissipate, which is only natural since I wasn’t there anymore. Things with Kyra understandably didn’t work out. Some long standing issues with my oldest friends finally came to the surface and resulted in even fewer Winnipeg connections. And for a while, times were dark.
I felt betrayed by many of the people in Winnipeg, missed my family, didn’t know anyone that well in Edmonton yet, was in the darkest months of an Albertan winter and was in an unfamiliar city where I just barely knew how to get to even get to work. I was alone and lost. At times I wondered what the hell I was doing. Had I thrown away everything I’d ever known due to some adolescent longing for adventure?
Maybe. But it was a longing I couldn’t silence. It was the same longing that had drove me deep in to debt for a roadtrip I couldn’t afford. The same longing that had made me grow bitter towards the life that confined me in Winnipeg, the same longing that I’d been trying to silence for years. I would never be able to shut it up, so finally I decided to follow it as far as it’d take me.
And you know what they say, always darkest before the dawn. Through the fallout of it all some of my Winnipeg friends really proved to me they were true friends; I began to find my stride at work and realize this was something I wanted to do with the rest of my life and was a real possibility, I began to make true friends in Edmonton and go out on weekends, having a blast every time I did. I began to learn my new city. The snow began to melt and the sun came out. I walked down Whyte Ave in my t-shirt after a night of partying with new friends. I began to form a new life. And this one felt like mine. I love my friends, I love my job, I love this city.
I proved to myself and everyone that you can take it all away from me, and I’ll just build it all again. When the darkest days come and I lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel, I will march forward until I find it again. I proved once and for all I do know how to be happy. I am capable of defining myself. And I finally managed to silence the longing, to fill the void I’d been feeling for almost a decade.
It’s been liberating. I finally feel worthy of the things I’ve wanted my whole life. I’m willing to earn the things I’m after. I’ve let go of any grudges, made peace with any demons, and am not only ready to move forward to a new future, but am already living it. And the future is bright.
A year ago today I woke up in a cheap hotel in Thunder Bay with a sneaking suspicion I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. Better late than never.