In 2013, my wife and I announced that we would be leaving Canada to “have an adventure”, moving to Amsterdam. After our initial Dutch visas expired after a year, we found ourselves moving to New York in 2015. Well, after seven years outside Canada, we are both excited to announce that we’ll be moving home to New Brunswick next month.
This pandemic has been hell. Dealing with surgery, and then a difficult recovery, would be hard enough without living in a democratically-backsliding America while also surviving an unprecedented global pandemic. But the pandemic has had one major upshot for me: that I’ve grown a lot closer to my family.
I now call home about every week, which is far more often than I ever have before. At first, I thought I was doing it for them. But pretty quickly, I realized that I was doing it for me too. When my recovery took a downward turn, I wished I were home. I wished that my wife and I had our families to lean on for help.
Over this summer, I missed the 65th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. I missed the first birthday of my nephew, and the third birthday of my niece. I missed months and months of seeing them grow up.
In July, I experienced a moment of perfect clarity, of serene perspective, where I saw the delta between what I wanted from my life and what I was getting from it. And at that moment, a move home to New Brunswick became a reality in my mind. An inevitability. A fact.
Moving to New York originally was a cost that we had paid so that I could do the best work of my career, for the world-class startup Artsy. I can’t say that it hasn’t been worth it, but the cost has been a burden. Yet another upshot of the pandemic has been me realizing that I can do that work from anywhere – and if I can work from anywhere, I choose to work from New Brunswick. I’m grateful to my manager Sarah and to Artsy’s head of software, Sam, or their help figuring out logistics.
Let me be clear that we aren’t escaping America, but rather that we are returning home. This is kind of weird, to my mind. When I left New Brunswick in 2011, I wrote some pretty harsh words about my home province. I never thought I would want to return. But I do, and desperately.
When I was an intern in 2008, I met a coworker, Susan Holt. She told me that she’d just moved back to New Brunswick from India. India! How cool was that?! I couldn’t understand why anyone would move from such an exciting place back to New Brunswick. But I get it now. I really do. There’s a connection there. It’s my home. And it’s actually pretty nice.
As I’ve lived abroad, I’ve tried staying connected to home by listening to Canadian musicians. None more than John K Samson. And when he sings about home, he doesn’t sing about Canada, he sings about Winnipeg and Manitoba. I’ve come to see my home province (and the rest of the Atlantic provinces) not just as a part of Canada, but as unique places with distinct cultures and histories.
We aren’t moving home to Canada, we’re moving home to New Brunswick.
A few years ago, my wife and I stopped travelling for vacations to anywhere but home. Every time we visited, it got more and more difficult to return to New York. As much as I’ve changed over the past decade, New Brunswick has changed too. Superficial changes certainly, like new traffic patterns or storefronts, but deeper changes too. Lots of new faces, new Canadians, people making my old home into their new home. I love to see it.
So. Back in July. We had made up our minds and started making plans. And then… my recovery hit a wall and fell backwards. Our original plan was to already be home by now, but we had to wait while my body recovered from the surgery. Finally, less than two weeks ago, we got the thumbs-up from my surgeon that everything looked good.
We’ll be moving next month. I don’t want to say where to, or when specifically. A big city offers a degree of anonymity through the scale of how many people live there. New Brunswick is a lot more sparse than New York, and I’m looking forward to some regaining privacy.
I’m proud of the impact I’ve had on New York. I’ve volunteered, I’ve mentored, I’ve helped wherever I can. I’m ready to bring those experiences with me back home, to bring my best self back to New Brunswick.
To my friends in New York: I wish we were leaving under better circumstances. I wish we could all have a big party to celebrate our friendships. Please know that I’ll continue to think of you, and I’ll always keep you in my heart.