In October 2017, I uprooted my life and moved to Canada.
Stepping off the plane in Ontario, I had very little to my name. A couple of boxes of clothes, some dishes and a few linens… almost everything I knew had to be left behind. My possessions were turned away at the border, and so I was forced to start again.
We began to build from the bottom. Our first week we ate on the stairs, so we bought some stools for the island. Having nowhere to spend our downtime, we decided to purchase a couch. Towels and candles and a funny calendar of Justin Trudeau later, we had all the beginnings of a home. Yet after months and months of trying to make myself comfortable and happy in this new place, it still never felt quite right.
I bemoaned the fact that we had little to no furniture. I would feel embarrassed having people come through the house because they would see how empty the space was. Bret would tell me, “it’s not that bad, we have plenty of stuff!” But when we finally packed up to move again almost a year later, it slowly dawned on us that everything we owned fit into only a small handful of boxes. Just a tiny little pile against the giant mounted ceilings of our house.
You could say it was minimalist living, and sure, that’s a lifestyle I admire. But there was a reason why our house never felt like a home. No pictures or books or trinkets. Not even a dining room table where we could sit and have a meal. My parents came to visit, and instead of a cozy family dinner together at a table, my poor mother was forced to eat her food off the couch.
I wouldn’t call myself materialistic, but when I moved to Canada all I wanted was to settle in and feel at home so that I could start my life here. As it turns out, we rented the most cookie cutter townhouse in a neighborhood that was the absolute image of suburbia. The house was spacious but had no character or charm. Three bedrooms? Amazing! But we only ever used the guest bedroom once. An open concept area perfect for entertaining? Fantastic! But there was never anyone else in the house to entertain. The space was empty and open and looming, and felt more like a holding cell than a home. We didn’t live in the area long enough to make friends, so despite us both working from home with two young cats to spend time with, the house remained cold and destitute and very very lonely.
Needless to say, once we had moved everything to the new house, I started scouring used furniture listings in our area immediately. I was determined to make our new rental a place we would want to spend time in. We acquired a lounger for the sun room, a coffee table for the couch, and finally – FINALLY – we got our table and chairs. Everything was falling into place. Bret lamented the fact that we were spending extra cash, but with only three simple purchases we had created the building blocks for a home, and I cannot tell you how excited that made me.
After a year of living in what felt like a shabby hotel, this new place was an incredible change. Built in 1979, it reminded me so much of the house I grew up in that I instantly fell in love. A newly renovated kitchen with cabinets that stretched to the ceiling. A beautifully bright solarium with wall to wall windows and a fireplace. A private backyard with a fire pit and a hot tub… It wasn’t perfect by any means – the floors creaked and the doors stuck in their frames – but it was paradise.
One of the first few nights after a long day of unpacking, we washed away our exhaustion in the hot tub out back. I’m not sure if it was something in the water that night, or maybe just the cool evening air that filled my lungs. But suddenly I felt like I knew exactly where I was in life. Because who has their own hot tub, or a fire pit, or a gorgeous sun room off the side of their home? People who have life figured out. And sure, it wasn’t MY hot tub, or MY fire pit, or MY sun room… but just by living in the space, just by owning bits and pieces within this big beautiful home, I began to feel like I too had life figured out.
It was a wonderful placebo.
We’re still working to make the house uniquely ours. I set up my office as best I could, and every day I’m crafting more and more ideas on how to improve the space. Meanwhile Bret stained our bedroom furniture so we can finally decorate it the way we’ve always wanted. It’s the little things, like towel hooks and curtains and lights, but they’re slowly adding up. And I feel incredibly at peace. I’m getting back into work, and getting ready to start streaming again, and my anxiety is at an all time low. I may not be the happiest or the most successful I’ve ever been in life, and I may not REALLY have everything figured out, but it’s a start. Things can only go up from here.