I resolved to move to Montreal last July because I was exhausted with letting myself down. From the precocious, pubescent teen to the emo-laden, lovelorn early 20-something to the full-blown, begrudgingly working, professional, through every life stage, I contended with a gnawing desire to ‘get away’. Though, as opportunities came, I watched them pass me by, never once taking the plunge. I stayed firmly planted on the dock, with my toes just barely peeking over the ledge, and my body frozen, draped in naked shame and disappointment. Dramatic metaphor – dramatic point.
Months before my high school graduation, I daydreamed about spending my summer backpacking across Europe, in the hopes of meeting the love of my life in the continent’s many pristine hostels. Then I double checked my Savings Account and — oh yeah, I didn’t have one. Out of curiosity I also researched potential hostels and all that were in my price range were not so much characterized as ‘pristine’ as they were ‘stay the hell away!’
As I started advancing through university, there were two opportunities that I seriously investigated to whisk me away on a jet plane, not knowing when I’d be back again – actually, that’s not accurate, both opportunities had a definite end date, and my mom would’ve gone full-out Liam Neeson to find me if I didn’t return home. Anyway. One was a transfer program to the many, “never-heard-of-them-before” universities that SFU had partnerships with. The other was through the school’s Co-Op program that frequently offered out-of-province/country employment.
With the transfer program, I “seriously” investigated up to the point where the requirements mandated two or more reference letters from professors. Having been a regular embracer of insecurities and self doubt, I never talked in class. To my professors, I was barely a distinguishable speck in the nebulous blanket of Asians covering 85% of their lecture hall. I entertained the thought of approaching a few of the professors that I truly respected and admired, hoping my name would trigger a memory, something to the effect of “oh yes, Shirley Chu – she wrote the that redefining B+ essay two Fall semesters ago” – but I wasn’t brave enough to face the imminent rejection. It was entirely possible that they wouldn’t remember that B+ essay, because, you know, it was a stupid B+.
So that didn’t happen.
Then there were the many co-op opportunities, most of the them with the federal government in Ottawa. I only applied for a handful of positions because the majority of them sounded as interesting as playing with my own vomit. The few that I did apply for never worked out because either 1. they didn’t pay enough to incentivize me to invest more time in my application or 2. when I did take the time to compile a stellar application, I didn’t have enough X to incentivize a job offer.
After I graduated university, I immediately found employment at an advertising agency. Exciting, right? Glamorous? Well, it wasn’t. I won’t delve into the details about how I had nothing to do and spent the day emailing with friends, taking naps at my desk and updating my Xanga, I just won’t. Suffice it to say, I felt that I was at a crossroads again, and was convinced that the next decision I made would be one for life experiences, not professional advancement. So, later that year, I packed away my flares and resolved to wear skinny jeans exclusively. To the start of the hipster era!
In addition to the stand I made for fashion, I also started looking into the SWAP program and planned to spend the first 6 months of the following year in either Europe or Australia. I would work menial jobs, but it’d be enough to finance my weekend getaways and weekday living. I would make a bevy of new friendships and invaluable memories. I proceeded to fill out applications, but before I could send any through for SWAP, I was already signing the dotted line for a career that would keep me in Vancouver for the next 4 years.
So I lied to myself. The next decision I made was without a doubt for professional advancement, though, I was lucky that it also brought with it immeasurable life experiences. Nevertheless, I chose stability.
All this said – I don’t regret my decisions. I found solace in my life choices and believe that God has a purpose for everything. But I still wondered and still yearned to be somewhere else. So I moved to Montreal, on my own, last year. I left my family, my friends, and my boyfriend. Why? Because, at this point, I was still out there on the dock, feeling early stages of hypothermia and needed to take the plunge to stay alive.