I live in Vancouver, and I love it here. I love that I live two blocks from the beach, that I can walk beside the ocean every day, wake up to seagull noise. I love how quickly I can get to wilderness -the forest is nearly as close as the beach and there is always at least one mountain in sight. I love the city skyline, and the fact that I can bike almost everywhere, and walk to get my groceries and that when I call something out as heteronormative in a high school English class, students smile and say, “thank you for saying that”. I love that I can step outside my apartment at any time of day or night and feel not-alone, but I don’t have to go very far to actually be alone. I love how big and small life is here.
But lately, I’ve been antsy. It happens. Night walks on the beach become more frequent and less satisfying, I don’t want to go to the same coffee shop again, but I don’t feel like finding a new one (will they even have the internet?!), I start to spend more time on my couch, watching Scandal and eating chocolate covered peanuts and thinking about how fat I’m getting and how long it’s been since I’ve touched a tree.
I get anxious and whiny and everything feels just a little off somehow. I start to question my life’s direction and purpose, and wonder if maybe it’s time for a Change. Change of career, change of focus, change of everything. I know I’m not the only one who gets like this.
But for all you who share this #firstworldproblem, I have a first-world solution: go to Tofino. GO TO TOFINO! Or go to Ucluelet instead, I don’t care. Or even Cape Scott, if you’ve got a bit more time. Just get out of the city and go find the real wild west for a little while.
I know we already kind of think of ourselves as being on the west coast here in Vancouver, but the truth is, we haven’t quite made it. The real coast lies a little farther west, across the straight of Georgia, through Cathedral Grove, pummelled by the ocean and the wind into islands and sounds, fine sand and twisted trees. The real west coast is a little bit wild, a little bit uncomfortable and hopelessly beautiful, despite the fact that it’s blanketed in broiling grey clouds most of the time.
Thing is, what I need, that I can’t quite get in the city, is the discomfort, the wild, the cold, fresh wind that whips my hair into my face and new possibilities into my brain. If I’m feeling stuck, it’s largely a matter of context. Change the context, change the mind. Or something like that.
Getting into the mountains is the same, only different. Mountain air is different from ocean air, somehow. It’s thinner, sharper; it takes work. Ocean air is heavy with salt and possibilities.
When I arrived in Tofino the other weekend, it had been too long since I’d breathed either. I’m working at rearranging my life so that this doesn’t happen again.
Sometimes you have to take yourself out of context in order to remember how to be more present in your everyday life. I sound like a yoga instructor-in-training when I say that, but it’s true. It’s too easy to wake up worrying about what I have to get done after work, and to spend my work day thinking about tomorrow’s work day, and my evenings regretting that I didn’t get more done earlier in the day. It’s too easy to spend the time I have with one friend thinking about another friend I haven’t spent enough time with.
I live in my head a lot. This means I get to have lots of interesting thoughts, but I often don’t notice interesting things that are literally right in front of my face. One time, I was crossing a street. Other pedestrians were waiting, even though the light was green, and I couldn’t figure out why. Halfway across the street, I realized that there was an ambulance barreling towards me, with its sirens on. I wasn’t wearing headphones -I had seriously not even noticed. Anyone who’s heard an ambulance siren from a few meters away knows -those things are LOUD. This is how I walk through life.
Being present means noticing things -the smell of the air, the shapes in the clouds, the giant, screaming piece of very heavy barreling towards you at the speed of an AMBULANCE.
If a tree falls in the woods, but you’re too busy thinking about that thing you have to do to notice, are you truly living your life?
Think about it. And then go to Tofino. And for heaven’s sake, look both ways before crossing the street.