“The danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.” Sylvia Plath
We left Lennoxville when people were sorry to say goodbye to us — and we to them — but our timing of moving to Vancouver in 2012 turned out to be propitious for other reasons. Most important, we conducted our real estate transaction in a customary manner: obtained the list price of a condo (prices had not yet soared into the stratosphere), made an offer of a lower amount, received a counter offer, submitted a counter-counter offer, and then signed an agreement to purchase. However, in the last few years ‘blind offers’, a form of high stakes poker but in real estate, have taken over the market. You have no idea what your competitors will offer, so you’ve no idea how your offer will rank. Neither of us has the wherewithal to play that game.
We also had ample energy to set up a new residence. Months before our arrival in Vancouver, Glen surfed the web to find stores specializing in condo-sized furniture. After all, our U-haul trailer didn’t even contain a bed. We embarked on a shopping spree soon after taking possession of our space.
In addition, we undertook a renovation project with able assistance from the realtor’s referral of Linda, later a friend and golf buddy. The white walls throughout had to go! I conceived a colour scheme though admit, sheepishly, that we saw my combination of preferred colours at a McDonald’s in Lloydminster, Alberta or perhaps Saskatchewan as this is Canada’s only bi-provincial city. While Glen and Linda worked on the condo, I took measures to build a new life.
Unfortunately, Vancouver set a record that June for the fewest days of sunshine in 60 years. My mood matched the weather, gloomy, and I ached with loneliness. We had no friends or acquaintances in this city. Had we erred in our life-altering decision to move across Canada? On some days I sure thought so. But we’re still here, and in time I gained some insights.
- Exhibit friendliness. Or, in our neighbourhood, get a dog. Walking along English Bay every morning, with Cheyenne at my side, I talked with people, about our golden retriever but also about Vancouver in general. Introducing myself boldly at the local courts, I found new tennis partners — who grew into friends. Trying to feel connected to humanity, I even chatted with individuals in the lines of grocery stores and at the Library. Because of linguistic challenges, I’d not done this for 30 years.
- Rejoice in liberation. Although we bring physical baggage (in our case not much), we can leave behind emotional and psychological baggage. We are liberated from past perceptions of us and can choose what we reveal, giving little chance for anyone to judge, for instance, whether or not we are good parents. Or good friends. Or good employees. Young people often relocate to reinvent themselves; we can do the same in our sunset years, if we wish.
- Relegate the past to the past. Although this observation seems trite, it’s true. Instead of reminiscing about our former life, no matter how much we enjoyed it, we must get excited about the present.
- Play the tourist. We engaged in myriad activities, from a harbour dinner cruise to a performance at Bard on the Beach, a Gershwin concert at The Orpheum to a night at Whistler, an architectural walking tour to an ‘Enchanted Evening’ at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and much more. By season’s end, I could apply the last line in Casablanca to Vancouver: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
- Practice patience. We each go at our own pace in adapting to a new place — or to retirement — and should not feel disheartened if the process takes longer than hoped or anticipated.
THE TURNING POINT
Three months after arriving in Vancouver, I wandered alone along Davie Street to meet Glen for a meal at the now defunct Players’ Chophouse (compliments of a groupon) near BC Place. En route, an art shop caught my attention, displaying several striking works visible through the window. Though closed on Sunday, it deserved a visit.
Further on my inner voice declared, “I am happy.” That day Glen not only saw his beloved Lions rout Saskatchewan 24-5 but also took pleasure in hearing my words of contentment.
P.S. The next day we went to the art shop and, after considerable discussion in one of Vancouver’s ubiquitous cafés, decided to buy two iconic West Coast scenes by Paul Ygartua and two abstracts by a Vietnamese artist. These original canvases represent the turning point in my transition to happiness in Vancouver. •