Body? Here. Mind? Elsewhere.

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Ottawa, March 2018

“How do you feel, coming back to Canada after the trip?” many of my friends and acquittances asked over the past couple of weeks. “Oh, I’m fine,” I invariably reply. Occasionally, I see an eyebrow raising or I hear the words “yeah, right…” being muttered—maybe the person I’m chatting with did read that part where I described how much I dreaded coming back to Canada, how I cried for ten hours on the flight to Toronto.

But I’m not lying. I am fine.

After all, I’m not here. I didn’t come back.

Okay, technically, I did, but if my body is in Canada, my mind is elsewhere.

It’s easy if I just go through the motions. It took me about a week to resume life where I had left off.

The first thing I saw when I stepped into the room was the laundry basket, in which were the pair of jeans, t-shirt and sweater I wore until I changed minutes before going to the airport in December. I dumped the content in the washing machine with the first load of travel clothes, but this was the metaphor moment, the guidance I needed—all I had to do was to wear my Canadian clothes, and I’d be just fine.

I did the laundry, emptied my backpack, opened the mail, paid the bills, deposited cheques, found my gloves and hat, emailed my friends and saw a couple, renewed my health card, reenrolled at the gym, bought a new vacuum and laptop—not part of my post-trip routine but I postponed replacing them long enough—stocked the fridge, used coupons before the expiry date, cleaned the house, went to see a movie with Feng and without Mark.

And then, I was back to where I left off. I know the routine in Ottawa—how to get around, where to shop, what to do and how to act. Culturally speaking, I’m pretty fluent in Canada. Even interactions are easy by now—it’s not like I forgot how to speak English.

It’s been a long winter for everyone, it seems. Couples split up, friends are feeling anxious and stressed out, major decisions are being considered. We’re all in our thirties or forties, so maybe we’re all dealing with midlife crisis, who knows. I’m quick to blame it on winter, it wears people down.

I can’t blame my own existential questions on winter since I skipped most of it. The current weather—it snowed today—doesn’t even bother me that much. Don’t get me wrong, I hate it, but I knew it was going to be cold—Ottawa in March always is.

There’s no miracle here. What drove me crazy before we left still does. Nothing changed.

And this is part of the problem. I changed. I came to Canada as a twenty-year-old student who didn’t speak a word of English and had one job experience to list on a resume. I had a lot to learn and I spent the last decade enjoying the journey. While there are many skills I have yet to master, I feel I hit plateau in Canada.

On the bright side, somewhere along the way, I found what I’m good at, what makes me happy. I’m not wandering around aimlessly. I have goals, ambitions, dreams.

But I’m stuck.

The book project isn’t going anywhere—I keep on querying but I have yet to hear back from anyone I contacted over the past year. I want to keep on writing fiction, but is it worth it? I love documenting the life of people around the world and exploring different cultures but I’m not a journalist nor a photographer—it’s unlikely I’ll ever get a phone call asking me to go check out XYZ country and report back a month later with pictures and stories. Too bad. That’s my dream assignment.

I’m not looking for a new career—I still love working as a translator, editor or copywriter. But it’s not enough. I want more. I want to live in a different environment. I want to keep on learning. I want my live but 2.0.

I was happy. I know what makes me happy. I want to be happy again.

I’ll work hard for it. It’s okay.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

20 Comments

  1. Everybody need new projects, or maybe changes of lifestyles… house or city. I couldn’t think of staying in the same place my whole life. Some people do, but even them, I guess, need new goals to achieve?
    Take care!

    • Without getting into the details, I’m stuck in Ottawa. So my only option for now is new projects 😉 Sometimes I envy the relationship you have with Lyon, you seem to love it so much!

      • New projects are good! Like building your own house? :p
        I do love Lyon! But I get fed up of it more than I say. The pollution, the noise… I might be over big cities. Might… I don’t know, it’s so hard to know if anything else would be better!

        • For a while, I wondered if small towns were for me. I don’t think so… I came to the conclusion I was definitely happier surrounded by people–many of them!

  2. Well, maybe it’s a normal crisis at our age, but it sure does not make it easier. Even if it may not be a big change, it’s hard to figure out what your net step should be.
    And, sometimes what is worst, at least for me, is wondering what is wrong with me, why can’t I be happy with all I have, with the choices I made etc… I feel spoiled and irrelevant.

    Good luck finding what is missing for you.

    • Ah, I don’t even want to wonder what’s wrong with me! 😆 Honestly, I think it’s pretty normal to want more from life than what we have at any given moment. It doesn’t mean you can’t be happy meanwhile, though.

  3. We are in the same situation here. I’d tried thousand times to end this routine, always back to square one. Souless, but still breathing

  4. Follow your heart, follow your dream, do what gives you joy, only then you live life to the fullest.
    There is so much magnificence in life but sometimes we are so bogged down by our daily problems that we don’t see clearly. The more energy we put on what we don’t like/want, we more it will grow. Life is how we make of it, so enjoy it and believe that you deserve to be happy, wherever you are. This is also something i am working on constantly. But i believe a happy contented life is possible 🙂

    • I like your wisdom!

      I promised myself I wouldn’t be too negative. For instance, there’s no point in constantly complaining about what annoys me if I can’t change anything about it. I’m focusing on moving forward and putting more energy into what I like.

      Yeah. Easier said than done, some days! 🙂

  5. It’s hard to feel stuck. It sounds like you’d like to keep traveling. It’s cool that you have enough flexibility in your job to go on extended trips, though I know it’s not enough to satisfy your wanderlust. I like my job, but I do wish I had more than a few weeks of vacation!

    Re: your book, I don’t exactly how to help you, but I know you’re a good, entertaining writer and that a lot of writers struggle before succeeding. So I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a permanent state of ‘stuckness.’ It sounds like you already know that since you’re going to keep trying, but I just wanted to second the motion.

    • How much holiday time are you getting currently? I know this is a major issue in the US. In Canada too, but at least we have two weeks paid guaranteed. Honestly, this was one of the reasons why I chose the freelance route. I don’t mind working a lot when it’s busy, but I like to use my time the way I want when it’s not. And in my field, it’s rarely busy every month of the year, so…

      Thank you for your kind words regarding the book project. I’m not giving up and I’m still querying 🙂 I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, but I find the lack of communication surprising. I thought I’d be collecting rejection emails! In fact, absolutely nothing happens.

      • Yeah, an acknowledgement of receipt and reading would be nice! I wonder if there are publishing or writers’ groups you can network with that may be able to help you.

        I get three weeks and a couple of days; one of those weeks is around Christmas, when I don’t travel, so it’s really only about two weeks for traveling. Not enough! 5 or 6 would be good.

        • I got several email receipts immediately after clicking “send”, so at least I know I have the right email address. Beyond this… nothing. I must admit I’m kind of scared of writers’ groups. I tend to run away from any potentially competitive situation and I feel it would be awkward to meet and talk about our respective projects. Not that I think I’m too good for that, it just… feels weird. Maybe I should look into it.

          Three weeks isn’t bad for the US but it’s way too little time off for most people! Are you still planning to go to South America?

    • Ni l’un ni l’autre, en fait! Juste continuer à voyager. J’ai besoin de bouger, et si je me pose, de me poser dans des endroits qui me plaisent, mais pas forcément immigrer et m’assimiler comme j’ai pu le faire avec le Canada.

  6. Well it’s funny but I felt about my RL the same way you do about Canada. I went in in my early 20’s, I was happy, and then I outgrew it!
    Good luck with finding what your life version 2.0 will look like! I’m excited to see what the future holds again 🙂

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