18 months ago, if you’d told me that I would have:
- agreed to yet another stint of international long distance,
- got engaged and planned a wedding in 5 months,
- resigned from a job I loved
- moved to Canada in the dead of winter, and
- travelled to Jordan solo for a trek in searing summer heat,
I would have laughed the rather large glass of wine I’m drinking right off the table.
I have to say that I never thought I would be here. And I’ve discovered that in itself is a great thing.
When I was 20, my parents gave me a huge surprise when they gifted me a 1987 Ford Laser for my birthday. This was completely unexpected, and I still remember my dad tearing up as I opened the tiny gift box holding my car key. The car had previously belonged to a lovely elderly woman, who in the 21 years she’d owned it had only driven it 80,000kms on her weekly grocery trip. I called the car Mabel and fell in love.
It took me over 18 months to get my P-plates and learn to drive Mabel (who didn’t have airbags, power steering, air conditioning, central locking or even a tape player). There were more than a few tense moments as my dad taught me how to smoothly change gears and do hill-starts without wanting to cry. But these were worth it when I finally got my license and took Mabel to Sydney, and I loved ferrying friends to parties, planning my next beach trip, and cruising solo around Sydney late at night with the windows down and the radio up.
It took me a long time to feel confident as a driver, and in many ways I’ve gone through a similar process of finding my confidence after leaving my job and network in Canberra. I’ve always taken great pride in the work that I do, and I passionately believe in the role that museums play in fostering greater tolerance, cultural appreciation, and building and strengthening communities. So, it’s not surprising that I struggled when I was no longer working and had to start making new friends in a place where I knew hardly anyone.
When I first moved to Ottawa, I had some pretty big goals of what I wanted to do with my year. As I was planning to travel often, both independently and with my husband for his work, I realised it was going it would be difficult to commit to employment or volunteering opportunities, even if they were short-term. So, I made a huge list of all the things that I wanted to do and achieve, and thought about which experiences would be stimulating, enriching and beneficial for my career later down the track. The list included learning French, starting a blog, visiting every museum in Ottawa, reading voraciously, undertaking study, making new friends, maintaining genuine contact with my old ones, cooking new recipes, working or volunteering remotely if possible…
Opportunities galore! Complete autonomy! Do all the things!
I’m exhausted just reading this.
Every day, I’d get up intending to start or complete multiple tasks that would relate to that list. But, I struggled to decide which projects or experiences I wanted most, which ones were more important, and how I would actually begin. You can’t learn French in a week. Reading ‘Wuthering Heights’ is going to take more than a few hours. It’s hard to muster the enthusiasm to walk to the National Gallery of Canada when it’s literally -14 outside.
For a long time I had complete decision paralysis and couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, and so resorted to curling up on the couch with ‘The Good Wife’ and a large bowl of Easy Mac. This first period was deeply frustrating, and my confidence plummeted because I felt like I wasn’t achieving or contributing anything.
I think too often, we envision our futures to look and feel a certain way, and in doing so we inadvertently close ourselves off to possibilities and opportunities.
For me, this year has been one of discovery and involved multiple shifts of perspective. I learned to break down my big-picture aspirations and goals into small chunks, and then do my best to chip away at little tasks as much as I could. This blog has been a little pipeline dream of mine for the past few years, and in the process of setting it up I have a far deeper appreciation of just how much work goes into creating something that you’re proud to hang your hat on. A big shout out to the friends who have their own side-hustles for sharing their encouragement and insights.
So, ‘Maple’ for the beautiful national emblem of my adopted home, which also shares my deep love of red. And ‘Mabel’ as an homage to my little white car, a reminder that there’s a fantastic view from the top of the hill you’ve tried very hard not to roll down backward.
I hope you find something here that resonates.