There is a difference between self - imposed exile and running away.
For many years I wanted to come back to Glasgow to live but like a lot of people, I was afraid of leaving the comfort and stability I had in Toronto to start anew. No, not a “new” life but pick up where I left off. It was easier to keep the idea at arms length - a pipedream. It was always “I want to…”
I was afraid of essentially giving up my “career” in film and TV, which I had worked so hard to get into (read: free labour on my part). I was afraid of setting out into the unknown, to move to another country – another continent! – with two suitcases and lots of optimism. I was afraid of what my Mom would say and I knew she would be angry. I was afraid of what my friends would think and even more so, I was afraid to leave them. But mostly, I was afraid of change.
Why I wanted to move back to Glasgow was tied up in contradictory reasons. When I came here as an exchange student, I immediately felt comfortable. I honestly don’t remember feeling that homesick and maybe it was because I knew I was going back home to Canada at the end of the academic year. I made friends quickly – a lot of whom are still good friends and I couldn’t have moved back here without their help and support.
I wanted to move back here because well, I had wanted it for so long and I was sick of making insufficient excuses. Not everyone has the opportunity (and not to mention, strength) to basically emigrate to another country. Thanks to my Welsh grandmother and the support of my family, I was able to. I wanted to move back here because I liked the city, the people, the history, and my friends and because I just missed it. Glasgow is an exciting (and sometimes crazy) city that is unique in its vibe and culture.
I wanted to move back here because I liked that I felt comfortable here. I liked that I could talk about Graham Greene novels or British music or World War Two tactics or European politics with friends without them rolling their eyes. I liked that I didn’t feel stifled by my own history. I liked that it was perfectly acceptable to spend a Sunday afternoon in a pub discussing Morrissey. I liked that people were social and almost always enthusiastic to go out. I liked that people were passionate – even if it was for football.
In Toronto, I was tired of passive-aggressive Canadians; of feeling a sinking depression set in; of feeling a perpetual underlying sense of anger; of feeling as if opportunities were ticking by.
I realised that one of the happiest times in my life, so far, was when I was a student, living in Scotland. I realised that I like personal challenges and change. And adventure. For a long time I felt like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to “settle down”, get married, and have babies. To NOT feel such desires would be unnatural and so, obviously, there was something wrong with me. What am I supposed to be “settling down” from anyway?! Myself?
And so, after a series of events: another failed relationship, the tragic death of an acquaintance, and the slow glacial feeling of depression, I decided – Fuck it. I am moving to Scotland.
I won’t lie: the first three months were extremely hard. At one point, I was ready to pack my two suitcases again and head back to Toronto. But after a period of adjustment, some financial stability, and a little help from friends, I remembered why I wanted to move back here again. It’s funny: I’ve never felt so far away from my adopted hometown of Toronto and yet, I’ve never felt so “Canadian” before.
Maybe running away makes you realise where you want to go.
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