As a homebody, it would make sense that I’d feel best at home. But, truth be told, I feel better when I’m away.
Edmonton has never really felt like home for me. I’ve made a home here, but something inside me got buried when I did that — the longing to be in a place that really spoke to me. This isn’t Edmonton’s fault. Edmonton’s fine. I spent years dividing my attention between living in Edmonton and working in Sherwood Park, so really, it’s my fault I couldn’t commit to either place. But Sherwood Park was no better in my mind. It didn’t feel like home either. Growing up in a small town, I always felt a sense of community, some sense of belonging. I left there when I was 18, and I haven’t felt that since.
I’ve felt lonely and disconnected.
I know people say that home is where your heart is, so it doesn’t matter where you live — you can make any place your home. After 12 years in my condo, I can say with certainty that my heart is not in it. I have feelings of nostalgia towards it and have a hard time thinking of letting it go, but that’s because I’m sentimental.
To distract myself from the feelings of disconnect and subsequent sadness, I’ve mastered the art of being busy. If I am busy, I don’t have time to sit at home and think about how I wish I had other things to do or people to spend time with. If I jam-pack my life with work and training and obligations, I don’t ever have to sit down and address that void within me. I pour myself into the needs of others and wait for something or someone to fill me up. I branch out with other activities to see if maybe that’s where I’ll find my people. If not, hey, at least I’m busy. Unfortunately, this can also leave me feeling worse off when it doesn’t magically fill the void.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six months wondering where my heart really is. Down in Red Deer with my family? Maybe. Back in Ireland? Probably not. Maybe it really is wherever you decide to make it. Maybe I’ve just spent so much time making it not Edmonton that I haven’t thought maybe it could be here. But you know, I’ve learned to really trust my gut, and I don’t think it’s wrong for me to want more. My sister sent me this link to a post by Elizabeth Gilbert that couldn’t have summed up how I feel any better. Basically, she says that you might know in your heart, body, and soul that what you need is “not this” — you don’t know what it is, you just know it’s not this. Logically, you feel like you should stay where you are. It doesn’t make sense to up and leave.
But that’s when my void feels manageable, when I’m in a new place figuring things out. Exploring. Taking chances.
I have this insatiable desire to get the hell out of here, but my need to be around my family keeps me firmly planted close by. When I moved to Ireland, I was excited about all the possibilities. I missed Canada and my family, and that ate away at me the whole time I was gone. Ireland was amazing and life-changing, but my heart wasn’t there either. I loved it, but it wasn’t home.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many places across Canada and some in the US and abroad, and I’ve loved aspects of every place I’ve been. Arizona has a piece of my heart, I know that. I’ve been there twice, and despite my affinity for cold weather and snow, I thought I could actually live there. Victoria and Montreal are two places I would visit again and again, though I can’t put my finger on exactly what I loved about either place. Everything? Whereas with Vancouver, it wouldn’t break my heart if I never returned. I made wonderful memories in my visit there, but that’s all it will ever be for me. Maybe I’m still too small town for a city like that. I’ve visited Ottawa countless times, and a small piece of me is there too, though that probably has more to do with my sentimental ways.
It wasn’t until a last-minute trip to Halifax that I finally understood that a place can feel like home even if you’ve never been there before. As soon as I left the airport, I knew this was a place that spoke to my heart. Maybe it was the ocean. Maybe it was the salty breeze. Whatever it was, it stirred some dormant part of me. I spent just over a week feeling not like a tourist, but like someone who had returned home from a long journey. I walked around Halifax and sat in parks and on the harbour. I drove around neighboring towns and soaked in the history and architecture that we don’t have here. And then when I left, I shed a tear. Actually. I have never cried over leaving a place. People, yes. I’ve cried over leaving them. But never a place.
Maybe I found where my heart is. Or maybe all I found was a feeling I’d been missing all these years. Something to show me that a place exists where I don’t feel this way.
A place to remind me that I’m not wrong in saying not this.