As of last month, I hit my one-year mark of living in Calgary, Canada. This is the official conclusion to my moving to Canada series that has slowed down over the course of the year. I’ve spent a whole year residing here, picking up new hobbies, making new friends, and exploring. What did I learn?
Making friends, especially in a smaller city is HARD. Like BRUTALLY HARD. The thing is, in cities like LA, or New York, there are SO many people that aren’t from the surrounding area, that state, or even the country so you bond with other people that didn’t grow up there over your same ‘otherness’. In Calgary though, it’s smaller, so more people you meet are from the surrounding area or provinces. As such, there is a tribal knowledge that is tough to break into. This isn’t a dig at Calgary, I’m sure this would happen in any city of similar size. Everyone has gone to school together, or lived and worked there for years and they have all these little things that just don’t make sense to an outsider. Jokes about different parts of the city, a restaurant that used to be where that bar is, different sets of hobbies, etc. It’s one of those cities that you can walk around pretty much anywhere and bump into someone you know (to be clear, I am not a fan of this. I adore the anonymity in big cities). To truly fit in, would take a long while. I have done a good job I think, making friends, but more often than not, I still feel like I’m on the outside.
I also am having way more of an identity crisis than I bargained for. Before moving up here, I was pretty indifferent to being American. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed due to our incessant antics around the world. But since moving, I’ve become way more patriotic. It’s difficult to put my finger on exactly why, though. Since Americans and Canadians look and dress pretty much the same, I am often assumed to be Canadian and this irks me. Part of it is because I can’t help but compare the two countries since they are so similar but so different at the same time. The other part is because I think I’ve realized how much being an American is integral to my personality and the way I am, and I am intensely reluctant to give up that part of myself.
There is a certain comfort in things that are American versus Canadian for me. Like how everybody is so rude on the road in America. That might sound like a terrible thing, but I miss it. I miss talking about the audacity of American politics with people who don’t see the situation as an elaborate media joke. I miss the sheer amount of things to do in U.S. cities like Chicago and LA. Pop up shops, concerts, art shows – they never skip major U.S. cities, but they definitely skip Canadian ones. I miss the fact that everything is instantly at your fingertips in the states whereas in Canada the mail takes for fucking ever. I miss the intensity of ambition that is ever present in American cities whereas Canada is more laidback (I’d like to point out that this is most likely due to the fact that they have amazing benefits no matter your socioeconomic status so there’s not as much worry). But the point is I MISS IT. And right now, I’m not willing to let that part of me go.
So this is the struggle of identity I face now. How do I keep my American identity while still successfully assimilating in Canada? Is it even possible? Or must I say sorry to everything and sell my soul to the oil industry?
The thing is, Canada is great in many ways. Since being up there, I’ve learned a ton of new hobbies – skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and I’ve learned to enjoy the outdoors a lot more. I’ve also really enjoyed being closer to my boyfriend, discovering cool parts of Calgary, and learning how to set up a life from almost nothing.
And maybe I only feel this way because I’ve truly only been halfway in this whole time. Due to my job, I’ve spent nearly the same amount of time outside of Canada as I have in it. How can I really be a good judge of the place when I’ve never worked there and only developed the bare minimum of a social life since I’m gone all the time? A terrible one probably.
But this is all I’ve got right now. I’ve tried my hardest to make the most of the situation, but I’m at a loss of how to continue this way. I have no roots in Calgary, but also not enough time there to plant any. In the same vein, turns out it is ridiculously hard to get a job in Canada as an American, and what’s more, is that Calgary doesn’t exactly align with my career interests.
But all of that aside, let’s say I got an amazing job in the city, and joined a bunch of things to meet people. The risk in the back of my mind is the feeling that I’d have to give some part of my identity up to be 100% happy up there versus clinging on to my familiar self and perhaps only ever being able to achieve 70% happiness. When is the proper time to allow yourself to change?
So many questions, so little answers. To help cope with this feeling of being in between, of being lost, I’ve dedicated a large amount of mental space to taking things one day at a time. Right now, I’m not moving anywhere different, and I don’t have another job on the table. So why drive myself nuts? The best I can do is navigate each day and ask myself what I can do to make myself as amazing as possible no matter where I am.
To catch up on my entire Canada series, you can start here.