It’s amazing how quickly a year passes, it’s already been a full rotation around the sun since I’ve moved to England. It’s been such an amazing, scary, inspiring, growing time in my life.
A lot of people have asked me over the course of my time here, why England. Why Guildford? Why would I leave Canada? The answer is because I had to. Truthfully yes, I lived in a beautiful corner of the world with mountains and deer and snowy Christmases but I was almost like an animal in the zoo, pacing around familiar paths until it all became to predictable.
Moving was my only option. After travelling the world for close to 18 months, making my home out of hotels, airplanes and minivans, it was time to rest in a real bed, spend some time learning more about who I was and to enter a new chapter. I had never been alone, I had never been just an artist, I had never been free.
Some might say that when you move somewhere new you can choose you want to be, but that’s not true. You may choose a shell, or a mask, or a disguise but stay long enough and the real you will always come pouring out, and that’s a good thing. It’s your uniqueness.
Moving to a new country, even one that seems quite similar to your own, is scary. People will tell you that you’ll miss your family, and you will. You will feel scared, you will feel lonely, you will feel isolated. But those moments are tiny compared to the times you will feel enlightened, or adventurous, or patient or appreciative. Immersing yourself in a new country will teach you more about who you are than it will teach you about who other people are, and that’s just what I needed.
The past year has been a huge step forward in almost every way. If the past few years felt like treading water, then the last 365 days were like swimming an ocean. In the song Seasons of Love from the musical Rent, the question is asked “How Do You Measure A Year?”. Over the course of the year I traveled to 9 countries, taught 8 workshops, waved at the Queen, saw Coldplay, Ed Sheeran and yes One Direction. I went to galleries of Banksy, Emily Carr, and Kirsty Mitchell. I watched tapings of television shows, walked red carpets of movie premieres.
If life were a quilt, those moments, the big ones filled with colour would be the huge patches.
But life, isn’t just made up of those big patches. A quilt can only be made useful when sewn together with strong thread and the threads of my last year are what I know have made it a strong year in my life. The threads of quiet runs down the river path, Sunday morning coffees with my housemates, quiet (sometimes loud) train rides and visits to the street markets.
But the threading of this experience, the connections between all these moments would be nothing if it weren’t for the incredible and beautiful people I’ve met along the way. Some I’d wanted to meet for years, some came into my life suddenly and with gifts I didn’t know I needed. We took photos in frosty parks, we sang along to bad 90’s music, we rode trains and buses and I learned to trust people all over again.
I came to live in a town that I had only googled once, knowing nobody. My contacts in the country were scattered across hundreds of miles and I had nobody I really knew anywhere even close to me. What did it teach me? It taught me to trust. I’d had difficult ends to friendships and connections and my faith in myself was thin, but I knew this was a chance to build up my community around me.
I owe a lot to the experiences, the moments both big and small, but mostly to the people who have suddenly stepped into my life, a huge thank you. You’ve been painters, colouring my life from what felt very black and white, back to vibrancy.
To my family, thank you for your patience and love, for never making me feel like I’m missing out and for sending me messages when I need it the most. To my friends from Canada and the USA thank you for coming to visit when you have (for bringing twizzlers too) , thank you for tagging me in things that make me laugh or linking me to cool things I should do. To the friends I’ve made here, thank you for welcoming me into your lives and inviting me to go on adventures and sharing beautiful moments, I’m so lucky to have met you. To my housemates, thank you for opening your home, it felt like a home from the first moment I arrived and you’ve been a family that embraces, teases, and celebrates as one.
I don’t know what the next chapter looks like, I know I’m staying here until the bitter end of my Visa but fingers crossed, this blanket will keep getting bigger.