Tomorrow, I’m getting on an airplane to fly from Toronto to Vancouver.
This is not what I was expecting to do this week. I thought I would be settling into my in-laws’ house, getting the kids ready for their first day at the country school down the road. I thought we would enjoy a quiet fall, housesitting, catching up with friends and family in the area. I thought we would book tickets back to Malaysia in January. I thought I would have peace and quiet to hunker down on my work after two months of summer hustle and bustle.
But everything can change on a dime.
When we visited Ottawa in August, Shawn went to lunch with colleagues from his old office. Afterward his boss let him know that they were hiring a research coordinator for a new employment research centre in Vancouver, and they wanted him to apply.
Cue a week of agonizing discussions about what to do. Could we give up our life on the move after only a year? Could we let go of the plans we had for fall and beyond? Could we undertake the challenge of finding a new home and school in a big unfamiliar city?
But the most important question seemed to be, did this job involve challenging, meaningful work for Shawn? On a warm August night, we sat outside in Adirondack chairs under the stars and I grilled him in my best coaching fashion: What excites him about employment research? What opportunities does this job present that haven’t been available to this point in his career? How does he feel about letting go of his other business ideas?
And when it seemed certain that this job presented the best option for Shawn’s work life, a chance he’s been searching for for years, the choice seemed clear. Much as we’ve loved our year abroad, work for Shawn has been the one piece of the puzzle missing, and this job solves that very neatly, while leaving all of the other pieces (new territory to explore, strong Chinese community, good schools) intact.
So Shawn applied and got the job. He signed the offer of employment last Friday. I’m super proud and thrilled for him.
A clear choice doesn’t mean an easy choice.
I’ll admit, I grieved. I cried. I panicked. I didn’t know how I would pull myself together after a turbulent summer ~ we spent every week in a different place, almost always as guests in other people’s homes, and of course, the kids were with us 24/7. I was feeling the stress of being over-committed to work and creative projects. It was painful to work on the Malaysian section on my memoir, suddenly having to mourn the fact that I wouldn’t be going back there.
To be honest, I still haven’t gained my equilibrium. I’m falling forward, into September, into a new city. Shawn’s excitement is carrying me along, and the kids are stoked to get back on an airplane. My cousins in Vancouver have jumped to our aid, and a friend in Penang has already volunteered to ship the belongings that we left there. I know I will land softly, when I land, thanks to the love and support of my community.
I’ve been wondering what story to tell myself about this abrupt change of plans. What thought is comforting? What makes sense? And one answer came to mind:
God must have something wonderful waiting for me in Vancouver if she’s in such a hurry to get me there.
I blush at the presumption of that thought, that I would deserve something wonderful, that God would be paving my way like that. Strange how it’s been easier to accept the graces of Malaysia, the delights of Europe, because they were more of my own choice and doing. But believing that story helps reconcile me to the losses, the changes, the work of moving. I’m practicing pronoia, trusting that good things are coming, better than I could ask or imagine.
Life design is a funny thing.
You make specific plans but they can get up-ended by a sudden opportunity. Accidents or illness can throw you a curve ball. You try something and find out you don’t like it or it doesn’t work for your family.
But underneath, what doesn’t change are your values. For me, no matter where I live or what I do, I rest on this bedrock of connection, art, learning, and adventure. Operation Hejira is alive and well, whether I’m in Canada or Malaysia or Timbuktu, because I’m doing work I love, with people I love, in places I love.
I have so much more to say but we’re getting boxes ready to ship across the country, so I’d better go. Next stop: West Coast!
Have you gotten any curve balls lately? How have your values kept you anchored and on track?
Oh, and let me know if you’re in Vancouver ~ I’ll be looking to connect once we get settled!
Image credit: Kenny Louie
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