Not with people, not with relationships nor my goals.
No, my commitment issues kick in is when I have been in one town or one house for too long.
I have been in my current town for almost five years (that’s a full 12 months longer than I have ever spent anywhere, and a solid two to three years longer than the average).
Honestly, it haunts me. I can’t wait to get out, not because I need to escape, but because the feeling of “settling” makes me cringe. The feeling of being comfortable isn’t, well, comforting to me.
“I know that home is just some place I’ll always leave behind.”
I want new, I want strange.
When I was growing up, I was tossed into the life of a nomad. I didn’t have much choice in this, in fact I had no choice at all. The list of houses and towns I had lived in were stock piling so quickly that it would probably appear to an outsider as if my parents were on the run. And sometimes my seven-year-old self suspected that they were (side note: they weren’t—no crazy Bonnie and Clyde story here).
I was born in a small fishing port in Marystown, Newfoundland. When I was two we moved to the capital, St. Johns. A few years later we were back in Marystown, just in time for me to start school. By third grade, I was getting ready to move to Alberta, where we only stayed until about halfway through fifth grade.
Traveling back to Newfoundland, via Greyhound—not sure why we opted for the bus instead of flying, being creative I suppose—we stayed there for less than a year before we moved to Ontario. We stayed in the same town long enough for me to finish school, but must have moved houses at least four times during that time.
And now I find myself in Brantford, Ontario. I have been here for five years (although I have lived in four different houses) and the itch to leave is almost impossible to ignore. Those damn commitment issues have been whispering,”You’ve been here long enough, leave before you act like a tree and start “setting up roots” for a few years now.
Roots, god those scare me.
When I was young I didn’t have a choice, but I have come to be infinitely grateful for the many lessons I picked up along the way. Things I didn’t even know were lessons, until I took the time to realize that my childhood, which I had thought was a mess and all over the place (quite literally) was actually a beautiful adventure and learning experience.
Here are a few of the things I learned from being an involuntary nomad.
1. Being shy is a waste of time.
I was an extremely shy kid, still am actually. There’s a video of me around the age of four or five. My parents were filming things to send to our relatives in Alberta. They waved and said hi to the camera, and my brother did too.
Then it was my turn. “Say hi,” they encouraged.
My stubborn, young self didn’t even make eye contact with the camera. She simply said, “no” and walked away.
At least I was honest about my feelings!
But honestly, being shy never got me anything. It held me back from many potential experiences and friendships.
I quickly learned that I didn’t want anything to do with being shy. I bit the bullet and threw myself out there with the first girl I met when I first moved to Alberta. She walked by my desk and accidentally knocked over an open pencil case and we spent the next 10 minutes crawling around the floor gathering everything and introducing ourselves.
She became my best friend, for the year I spent in Alberta, and will always be someone I remember because she was the first stranger who I consciously decided to be vulnerable with.
I still get nervous and shy, but someone once told me that, “it’s okay to be scared, just don’t let the fear stop you from doing what you want.” Besides, you can’t make friends if you don’t show up!
2. You don’t need roots to justify who you are.
I used to be jealous of the people who could say they grew up in the same town they’re now living in or that they had known their best friend or significant other since they were five or six. I always thought it was so cute, romantic even.
But, as I grew up and started to share stories about where I had been and who I had met, I realized our stories weren’t so different after all.
The lack of roots was my roots. My roots are in change, they are in the journey, in the movement. And I love that. Because there is only one constant in life, and that is change. And now, when change comes, I welcome it like I would a friend I had since kindergarten.
3. Embrace the moment.
Plain and simple, things change.
And when they do, it’s often fast.
Live in the now. Enjoy this moment because it could easily be gone tomorrow and the worst feeling is having something end too soon, only to realize you never truly enjoyed it when you had it. Don’t take anything for granted, good or bad. Because, it too shall pass.
4. Getting lost is not only fun, but necessary.
Every time I moved to a different town or area of the city I made a conscious decision to get lost (once I was old enough to of course). It was freeing to be lost in a new place and not know which direction home was. Taking in all the new sights and smells and sounds. This is often how I found my favorite places in town.
5. Everyone has something they can teach you.
Through my travels I noticed two things. 1) every single person ont his planet is amazingly unique. it’s both fantastic and unbelievable that there can be so many different people and 2) that fact creates a situation where we have potential to learn from every person we come in contact with. Everyone has something to teach you, and we need to take that opportunity as much as possible. I find it’s a lot easier to do when we spend more time asking them quesitons then we do talking about ourselves.
6. Differences are meant to be embraced.
I found embracing differences was important when I was living in a new area, where the culture was significantly different than one I was used to. Even a simple gesture of acknowledging someones differences, allows them to feel comfortable.
When I first moved to Alberta in third grade, I struggled with English. The English spoken in Newfoundland is vastly different and the thick accent doesn’t help (it really is its own language). I was started to feel discouraged about how much I was being corrected, especially when in my mind, I was pronouncing everything right and it wasn’t my fault they couldn’t understand my accent, right?
Up until a few weeks before, I hadn’t even known that I had an accent. But then, a few weeks later I was sitting in a school assembly with a my friend and, when we were in the middle of a conversation, a boy behind us tapped me on the shoulder. With the biggest smile on his face he said, “I really like your accent.” My heart melted.
It was a simple compliment but came at a time when all I needed to hear was that my differences were accepted.
Wherever you may be in the world kind sir, thank you for your complement, which doubled as words of motivation.
7. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
This is a great lesson I learned while Greyhounding across the country.
During one night, in the middle of February, the bus broke down somewhere outside of Montreal and we had to wait for hours for another bus to come pick us up. I was impatient, hungry and wanted to get to the hotel, so I could sleep in a proper bed.
I resisted the situation so much that I was getting angrier by the second. I wanted to get to the destination.
But that’s not the meaning of life. It’s not about running to the next event, the next moment in our life, the next big land mark.
It’s about the journey. And sometimes the journey is bumpy. Sometimes we break down and we’re stuck on the side of the highway for five or six hours—we have to make the best of it. I made friends with a guy, maybe in his 20s, who had been sitting by himself a few seats in from of me.
I’m not sure how my mom felt about this, but I left to sit with him and talked about where he was going, where he was coming from. What his journey looked like in comparison to mine. Even after we switched buses, I sat with him until we got to Montreal, a few hours later.
I will always be grateful for the friendly company and the lesson that sometimes we need to just relax and enjoy where we are, right here and now.
Author: Jennie Rideout
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock