Our belongings, finally 'home'

Life redux

Take life, shake vigorously, see what sticks

Six years ago, I bought a one-way plane ticket to London. I sold all my things, applied for a passport, and said my good-byes.

Then the airline went bankrupt.

I took it as a sign from the universe and stayed in Canada. In hindsight, I’m happy I did. My business grew. I made new friends. My empty passport inspired me to start travelling all over the world. I learned to appreciate Canada’s unique values (friendly people, good wifi, poutine) while recognising its failures (winter, a strange infatuation for Tim Horton’s, winter). I moved from Lunenburg, to Halifax, to Montreal. I developed stronger ties to the family I like, and I broke ties that were toxic. I even broke a few hearts, including my own. I grew up a little bit. Somewhere along the line, I almost turned into an adult.

By the time I was ready to try again, I had a partner-in-crime to keep me company and a bank balance greater than $2.48, two things that I would have sorely missed all those years ago. I loved my life, but it felt like time for a change.

Change No. 1: A new house

And so, one cold day in February, I packed up all my things and moved to Bristol, England—a town only twenty minutes from where I was born.

The thing nobody ever told me about moving countries is that apparently it’s a pretty big deal. Do you have any idea how hard it is to do normal human stuff like open a bank account when you haven’t lived in the country since you were four?

Our belongings, finally 'home'
We sold everything that plugged into the wall, and almost everything that was furniture. This is what was left.

We didn’t have a flat until May (we cheated and lived in Athens, where it’s cheaper and sunnier, for a while) and the cargo ship that contained all of our worldly belongings (a monk’s bench on its second voyage across the ocean, forty-six boxes, and a thirty-nine year old motorcycle) didn’t arrive until June. Up until last week, our mattress was sitting on a large cardboard box on the floor.

Now, months later, I have a bed and a National Insurance number and I’m starting to feel almost as though I have a life established again. But I’m still saddled with a credit record that affords me a credit card at 35.9% APR, and I still feel like a foreigner in my own home. The road to normalcy is long, slow, and full of potholes.

Change No. 2: A new job

In the middle of my move, Automattic offered me a job, and I accepted.

This change was a long time in the making. I’d been looking, on and off, for nearly a year, trying to find a job that fit my (rather exacting) standards. My business, as much as I loved it, had stagnated. I didn’t care enough to invest the time and energy to help it grow. I was pretty sure that growing it would require me to do less of what I love (making stuff) and more of stuff I’d rather gouge out my eyes than do (network, answer RFPs, dress in business casual).

And so I quietly launched a hire-me! website that took me nearly a month to build, and started looking around my a job that’d light my fire. I had a pretty clear concept of what I wanted: something that let me combine design with development, that paid me fairly and allowed me to travel, that didn’t require me to keep “office hours”, and that allowed me to work with smart, interesting people who’d challenge me to learn more.

Automattic ticked all the boxes. Culture-wise, it’s the perfect match for my sometimes flighty work habits: autonomy, rather than constant supervision, is underscored. They put me through a trial-by-fire that, combined with my move and my ongoing client work, meant I had very little sleep for a few months, and eventually offered me a full-time position.

Libretto WordPress theme
My second theme for WordPress.com, Libretto

What does this mean for Triggers & Sparks? Well, for the time being, it is no longer. This website will remain, in some form or another. I’ve only recently gotten around to rebuilding the theme so it’s less business-focused, more story-focused. It’s a work in a progress, and I’m still figuring it out. My goal is: more stories, more travel, more ramblings about design and life.

Oh, and the tattoo on my shoulder? Yeah, that’s still my most beloved tattoo. I ran a business for nearly ten years. I’m super crazy proud of that, and I’m happy to have a permanent reminder in my skin.

The Aftermath

I’d love to say I handled all this change with grace and ease, but that’s an outright lie. Fundamental parts of my life changed all at once, and I didn’t handle it well. Individually, I think I would have been able to handle the change.

But when everything changed all at once, it threw me for a loop. I was already exhausted from my trial and emotionally drained from personal issues. Trying to stay on top of all the minutia of re-starting my life in a new country, while learning the ropes at a new job, took a toll.

I stopped exercising, something I usually do every day. I stress-ate. A lot. (Translation: I ate chocolate like it was going out of style.) Unable to prioritise my health, something I’d worked hard to make time for, it deteriorated. I gained around twenty pounds, enough to tip me into the “overweight” band of a BMI scale. (Thanks, overly muscular frame.)

The move damaged my relationships, some irreparably. While it breaks my heart to lose people I care about, I know that these are relationships that were on their way out anyway. Leaving, whether temporary or permanent, strains a bond: either it snaps, or it builds up extra layers. Every time I move I end up with fewer, better, friends. I’ll probably never have a huge party, but I know some fantastic people who love me fiercely.

And the recovery

Slowly, as I begin to feel more normalised, I’m re-establishing my priorities. I exercise almost every day, and I’m fitting into my jeans again. I’ve revamped this website and I’m aiming to start writing in it a bit more. I have plans to get back into hand-lettering, and to reboot Suitor, but I’m adding things to my life one by one, as I think I can juggle them.

Rather than focus on what I’ve lost, I’m focusing on what I’ve gained. Recently, I met up with one of my all-time top-rated humans on the planet in Barcelona, and we spent a few days drinking mojitos before noon and hanging out on the beach. Simple, non-flashy, and I didn’t even add a new country to my list, but it was the most exhilarating trip I’ve had in some time. Every night, I’d wandered back to my hostel, tired but with a giant smile on my face.

Changing my life was a violent, tumultuous process. But I broke through to the other side, and I’m happy here.

Like this post? Hate this post? Let’s talk about it.