Last week, on a beach walk with a visiting friend, we spoke of the big changes in our lives and how we were coping with the upheaval. Trish and her husband John had just been settling in to their Vernon home when a job offer that was almost too good to be true came Trish’s way. They sold everything too big to move, uprooted, and started life over again hundreds of miles away on Vancouver Island. Though the job turned out to be real and wonderful, and they have just purchased a beautiful new home, the term “upheaval” still applies.
Starting over again, under any circumstances, is challenging. Probably why so few take that leap, despite the number of times people have told me they envy the big moves and risks Prez and I take.
Over breakfast this morning, I contemplated the details of starting over. What is it, exactly, that makes picking up, moving away, and starting from scratch so daunting a dream. Well, breakfast, for starters.
Prez loves going out for breakfast the way other people enjoy going out for dinner. In fact, given the choice, he will gladly take bacon and eggs at his favourite greasy spoon over a night out at a five star gourmet dinner spot. When the bank account is healthy, it is not unusual to hear, “Let’s go get a big bad breakfast!” at least once or twice a week in our house. I could honestly care less about breakfast and, closing on 18 years now, I have yet to understand this fascination with food you can easily make at home, but the heart (or stomach) wants what the heart wants.
In every place we have called home, Prez has had his favourite breakfast spot. From the ubiquitous Pantry in Port Coquitlam, to the funky Bent Fork in Nelson, to the exotic Koru Café in Aitutaki, to the epitome of “Baja time” Bertha’s in Baja, Mexico, he finds the breakie place where he is most at home and that becomes The Breakfast Restaurant. In Nelson, it was originally the Redfish Grill, to which he remained loyal until it burned down and was never rebuilt.
For such a simple meal, Prez’s tastes in breakfast venues is surprisingly specific. The serving staff must be friendly and have a good sense of humour. A “Prez” sense of humour, if we’re being honest. Food quality matters, of course, but condiments are also not overlooked. No Tabasco? He’s gone. Prez prefers quirky over fancy, and sometimes even over comfort. The Bent Fork had wobbly tables crowded too close together and was frequently too hot in the winter but the décor was hilarious and our server, Jenny, was the best kind of “weird” there is, so he put up with the rest. Price also matters now—we’re not making stunt money anymore.
So here’s this strange and seemingly insignificant minor detail in our life: Prez’s need for a suitable breakfast restaurant. When we start over again, when we move to a new city, country, or continent, along with everything else, we have to find a new place to fill that need. We’ve eaten a lot of disappointing and overpriced breakfasts over the years searching for “the one”.
But not really.
You see, when you start over, it is those tiny details that become the anchors you cling to as you tread water, desperately waiting for land to form under your feet.
The big stuff, the important stuff, can take years to materialize. Mostly the big stuff is friendships and community connections. Prez has no trouble making friends and I have acquired that same skill in my travels, but there are friends and then there are friends. Consider this: you’re going to have a little barbeque with friends next weekend—not a party, just a small gathering. Which names spring instantly to your mind for invitations? The friends you know and like best, of course. How long have you known those friends? How much time have you spent with them? Do you, even for a second, consider inviting the guy you talked to at the tennis court last week, not to mention his wife who you’ve never met and whose name you don’t even know? No. That would be weird.
The question is how many games of tennis must you play with the new guy before you think about inviting him to a social event off the court? If you’re wintering at a tennis resort somewhere and socializing is your priority, maybe not that many. If you’re at home, however, living your regular life, probably quite a few. And maybe you never would socialize with that new guy off the court because that would be outside of your comfort zone.
I used to think it was strange that Prez would invite people he’d only just met to come over for dinner or go on hikes, or stay in our house, or do any number of activities with us. Now, after years of experience as the new kid in town, I adore him for doing that. If he made even one new person feel welcome with his invitations (and I suspect he made loads of people feel welcome), he is my hero.
But the long term friendships, the ones that run deep and strong, those still require time. While you wait for that process to occur, you must go about the business of building your new life—finding a family doctor, a dentist, a writing group, a hair stylist, a pet sitter, a babysitter, a running club, a bike riding buddy, a daycare, a mechanic, a computer repair person, a gym, a veterinarian, an accountant…a favourite breakfast restaurant.
Starting over is busy but lonely. Starting over is limbo. Starting over is possibility and promise mixed with discomfort and unease. Starting over is embracing and lamenting change. Starting over is silently wondering if you’ve made a huge mistake while people applaud your courage. Starting over is realizing how intricate are the webs we weave around ourselves, how beautiful and precious.
We will build those webs again, in Campbell River. Strand by strand, we’ll weave until we wake up one day and see that we have, once more, a circle of close friends and ties to the community. In the meantime, we have eggs, toast, bacon, hashbrowns, and a friendly face asking Prez if he’d like some more coffee.