A Sense Of Place

There is a tendency among many of us to think “If only this would happen, then everything would be OK.” Or “Once this happens, then I will be able to move forward.” For the most part, it is a line of thinking I try to discourage. Speculative and conditional thinking keep us living for (and waiting for) an uncertain future, rather than celebrating and enjoying what we have today.

Admittedly, not all of our todays are great. For some, because of circumstance, they are downright miserable. Looking forward, and moving forward, makes sense. That progress still starts, however, with what we choose to do today. We may not be able to make it all the way to our goals. But taking an immediate action, no matter how small, still inexorably moves us forward. Tiny step built on tiny step will still move us further ahead than doing nothing.

And yet, there is an element of this thinking is very true and real, or at least it has been for me. Two years ago, my wife and I decided to make a significant and far-reaching change in outlives. After a painful year, we came to the conclusion that being in Toronto—with family and friends—meant more than being in Edmonton for work. We closed our company, let go all of our employees, sold our house and moved our possessions. Not because we had to, but because we chose to.

The time since has been an up and down for both of us. Mostly up, and we both view the move favourably. While there were some changes that we anticipated, there were frankly other changes that we did not. Some of those changes were more simple, as we struggled to fit our lives into a small downtown condo. Others were more complex, as we struggled to fit our lives into the lives of those we had moved across the country to be with.

Perhaps the most significant struggle, at least for me personally, was the loss of a sense of place. To discover this was important was for me a bit of a surprise. I have moved most of my life, and have rarely stayed in the same spot for more than a couple of years, from the time I was an infant. My sense of ‘home’ is largely defined as the place that I am now, rather than where I came from. Not having a home, and knowing the condo was a transitional space, was surprisingly unsettling. That abated somewhat once we finally sold our house in Edmonton and could start to search for one in Ontario—there was a feeling of at least making some progress—but if the past two years could be defined in one word, it would be ‘rootless’.

Today, almost exactly two years after making the decision to relocate, we have finally moved into a new house. Doing so has resulted in a greater sense of peace and contentment—for both of us—than I think we believed possible. After 20 months in storage, we finally have our furniture and possessions. We have a house that we love. Despite challenges along the way, we still have each other. I would not have anticipated two years ago how much I would be thinking in the intervening period “Once we’re in a house, we’ll be able to…” And yet, that has been the essence of my experience.

A sense of place has been restored. A chapter of our lives has, finally, closed. A new one is beginning.

Leave a Comment