To move forward, we have to move back

Tears soaked through my shirt as I stared out the window, the tree-lined highway zooming past us. My eyes burned, and my chest ached from hours of continuous heaving.

“Oh, you’ll be fine.” My mom said from the driver’s seat of the car. She had been repeating that phrase the entire drive. “It’s not the end of the world. You’ll make new friends.”

“I don’t want new friends!” I screamed. I was done being told I wasn’t allowed to feel upset. I hugged my legs tightly, trying to squeeze away the pain. I was being ripped away from a life of familiarity and comfort, traveling across the country to a new city. There was also the added pain of starting school as a new kid with only three months left in the term. Moving to Calgary, Alberta was a four-day journey from Southern Ontario. It gave me a few days to mull over the loss of friendship. Four days to stare out at a shifting landscape.

By the time I turned 18, I had lived in 3 different provinces, 6 different cities, gone to 6 different schools, and occupied more than 7 houses. My father would remind me that this was nothing in comparison to his childhood. My grandfather once moved them 3 times in one year, and he estimates that he had been to 12 different schools in total. My mother was born and raised in her hometown, never leaving until she met my dad. Adaptation to change is to said make you stronger as a person. Every year my mom gets the urge to rearrange the house. My dad never complains.

I don’t remember leaving Winnipeg. At five years old I only have a vague recollection of sitting in a U-Haul and the arrival at an unfamiliar house. Memories of moving prior to this moment were just as opaque. There was a trailer house, a massive acreage where we had a dog named Bo, and my grandparents house. But no details, nothing to ground me to these places. My parents moved us from Winnipeg to Windsor for work. Dad was a contractor and there was a promise of getting steady work in the area. The sensation of being ripped away from somewhere comforting hadn’t set in, and the next move to LaSalle, three years later, was just as easy.

The move from LaSalle to Calgary was the worst one. I was turning 12 and the years of teenage rebellion had begun, onset by the uprooting of my entire life. Thankfully, living in Calgary was short. I had been regrettably enrolled in a Catholic school for the first time and making friends was proving to be difficult. When my parents said we would be packing up, yet again, and moving out to the countryside, I was kind of relieved.

“It’s really not far from the city.” Mom said encouragingly. “Only a 20-minute drive by highway.” She seemed both cheerful and nervous.

“As long as it’s not like that craphole we were in,” I said in my snarkiest teenage tone. I lost hope the further we drove, and the impossibly long stretch of road meant we could see for miles. There wasn’t a town in sight. “Wow this is really in the middle of nowhere.”

My mom made eye contact with me in the rear-view mirror. “Just give it a chance.”

In 2015 my partner and I moved from the tiny town of Irricana, Alberta to the big city of Vancouver, BC. I had never been to Vancouver before, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We took a chance on one of the most expensive places to live in North America. We were warned with stories from people who had friends that moved there and were living on the streets within a few months. But a sense of adventure and determination had been growing inside me from a young age — every moving day and new experience had prepared me for this.

A house is the center of a family unit and a place of comfort. It provides shelter and a space to make memories. But comfort still costs money. When the money isn’t coming, and prices are going up, the only solution is to find somewhere else to go. One study in Canada showed that the cost of a home in 1976 compared to income was a ratio of four to one, whereas the ratio for adults in 2017 was closer to ten to one. A Canadian census released in August of 2017 showed that in Toronto, 47.4 per cent of adults aged from 20 to 34 were living with at least one parent. Vancouver came in at 38.6 per cent of adults in that age range. This comes as no surprise to people who have ever lived in those cities.

What these statistics don’t indicate, is whether these individuals stayed at home or had left and moved back in. Due to the increase of adult children moving back home with their parents, millennials are now being called the “boomerang” generation. An article published by CBC states that researchers found a drop in quality of life in parents after their child moved back in, one supposedly significant enough to equate to elder abuse. In other countries it’s normal for young adults to live with their parents. In Greece, Spain, and Hungary more than 70 per cent of young adults still live with their parents, and in Italy that number is more than 80 per cent. If this occurrence is so natural in other places, why is there such a stigma around it in North America?

My partner and I are moving back to Alberta. We love Vancouver, but we can’t get the things we want here, like an affordable house with a big yard or more focus on spending time instead of the worry of spending money. I was motivated to write this piece, a reflection of the culmination of events that have led me here today, because of a new anxiety about going back. I’ve always moved away from places, moved on, and grown from those experiences. But now I face the possibility of moving back somewhere.

I used to think that returning meant failure, but now I understand it means reflection. I have made a home in all the places I’ve lived, even the ones I was certain would never make a good fit. Change has always been a very present force in my life, encouraging me to make the most of whatever situation I was in. But the change was so continuous that I never stopped to appreciate what was in the present. I was always chasing the next moment I could move forward. It won’t be forever, and soon enough I’ll find another reason to move on and call somewhere else home. But in the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy sitting still for a while.