Identity (another chapter in the tale of our move from Ontario to Seattle)

February 3, 2016 § Leave a comment


Moving to a new country, even one as similar in culture as Canada is to America, ripens the picking so to speak for checking in on the age old question of “Who am I? and Where do I belong?”

When our family agreed to embark upon a family adventure to the West Coast for a few years, it seemed exciting and new and I looked forward to the blank page upon which we would write the next chapter of our lives. For me in particular, it meant no expectations about who I was or how I would serve. I could choose my new opportunities to get involved freely, without my previous experiences or relationships swaying the selection.

I worried a little about the kids experience walking into a brand new school six times larger than their previous one.  I worried a little about my husband’s new job and how close of a fit it was for him. But I was not worried about me. Me? I’ll be fine.

I had greatly underestimated the presence and impact of isolation.


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Nobody knew me. When I encountered people, there was a polite smile, and done. My identity ceased to exist for a time. As time went on, people would begin to realize they had seen me before, or they would put together that I was the mom of one their kid’s classmates, but still, no one knew ME. They didn’t know my name, or that I love chai tea lattes, or that the lack of sunshine here in the winter was heavy on my heart. Who was I? Where do I belong?

Now that we are have been here a year and a half I am happy to report that the isolation has passed, but it sure did provide me with an amazing opportunity to assess who I was, and where I belonged.

I read an article recently that got me thinking about this very thing, entitled “The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce” by Tim Urban. He talks about the difference between our hardware (physical body and attributes) and our software (the belief systems that we have installed) and how if we are not the type of person to regularly self-reflect and evolve, we could still do our thinking with software installed by our grandparents:

“The person has lived a long life and has made it all the way to 2015, but their software was coded during the Great Depression, and if they’re not the type to regularly self-reflect and evolve, they still do their thinking with software from 1930. And if they installed that same software in their children’s heads and their children then passed it on to their own children, a member of Generation Y today might feel too scared to pursue an entrepreneurial or artistic endeavor and be totally unaware that they’re actually being haunted by the ghost of the Great Depression.”

 Ever heard someone say “That’s just the way I am” when they are describing themselves? Yeah, outdated software. Upgrade notification sent.

Urban goes on to talk about Dogma and Tribes and encourages us to realize the difference between conscious tribalism and blind tribalism:

With conscious tribalism, the tribe member and his identity comes first. The tribe member’s identity is the alpha dog, and who he is determines the tribes he’s in. With blind tribalism, the tribe comes first. The tribe is the alpha dog and it’s the tribe that determines who he is.

Fantastic fodder for exploring Who am I and Where do I belong, isn’t it?

When we make decisions, both for us and our children, how often do we examine where the criteria we are using came from? “No, you can’t go sell Girl Scout Cookies to the neighbors by yourself” <cause what if you get stolen or hurt, and the neighbors might judge me for letting you go alone>, quashing my daughters entrepreneurial spirit with my own brand of fear, and installing software in her that she will very likely pass on to her children.

And how often to do you stay in the same organization because that is what you have always done, and you feel pressure to stay because you don’t want to let down others or be judged for leaving? I had this gift of clarity offered to me since we moved as well. I had joined a women’s bible study group a few months into our arrival which felt great for the first year and filled a space in me I greatly needed during that isolated time. But then they decided to study Revelations for the next year, which makes me want to run screaming (try reading it, you’ll see what I mean), and suddenly I am torn. Nothing about me wants to study the Book of Revelations. But will I let down the ladies in the group? Haven’t I slapped a label on myself that says this is a group belong in? I stewed about it for a time, before finally gaining the clarity that the tribe does not determine who I am and where I belong, I do. I sent a very gracious email to the group thanking for them for the beautiful year I spent with them, and moved on to a very fulfilling volunteer role elsewhere that suits me very well.

With every new experience and exposure each of us are provided with an identity choice, as if the Universe is launching lob balls to us, saying “go on, figure it out”.

With my beautiful 20/20 hindsight I see, and am grateful for, the opportunity to examine this for myself, and for my husband and children to examine it for themselves too.

May the adventure continue!


The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce


Snow vs. Rain

November 2, 2014 § 1 Comment

While it was hardly the driving consideration in our decision to move from Ontario, Canada to the Seattle area, it certainly does occupy much of the small talk with the new people we meet:

“So, Canada, *eh*, how are you adjusting?”

“Bet you get all kinds of snow up there, where is Ontario anyway?”

“You can grow watermelons there? Amazing!”

During our decision-making stretch, in considering the move to Seattle, someone said to us “It’s the most Canadian city in the US!”. That was a big selling feature for us. We’ve seen T.V. We know what the stereotypes of big US cities can be like. And we’ve also travelled to several of them, so we had some idea of what we *weren’t* looking to experience. And in all honesty, moving our family to the US, or anywhere for that matter, was not in the plan at all.

Nine years ago when we bought our dream home in the country, 10 minutes outside of a hopping small city, bursting with potential and talent in the hi-tech industry, we had zero plans of ever moving. We were raising our kids, we were close to our families; there was no inclination for anything else.

Not to say we hadn’t broached the topic several times during our marriage. My husband working with several large tech partners as part of his job, there were always the congenial offers: “if you’re ever looking to make a move…”. But we never were. We had four kids. And we had drank the kool-aid about the differences in health-care, teachers and education, the right to bear arms, etc. Canada is awesome. The US is nice to visit, but we are safe and familiar right here, thank you very much.

And then it happened (to borrow the title from one of my kids’ favourite book series).

We said “what if”.

What *if* we were to move to the US for a while? What would that look like? We’ve known several who have done it, and loved it. We knew others that were ex-pats internationally and raved about their experience. But none of them had four kids. True, but what a great adventure to expand their horizons, show them something different. True, but what about our house? Maybe we could rent it out instead of selling it. Turns out the company’s relocation package covers both angles. What about the kids’ education? Their school is fighting a second attempt to be closed – there is a good chance they are going to see transition of some variety shortly anyway. What about my husband’s current job? Turns out that company is at a turning point also – decision time regardless.

And so we found ourselves at a crossroads. Do we stay safe, comfortable, surrounded by the familiar, or do we take the family on an adventure? Taste what it’s like to live day-to-day near the ocean, near the mountains, and among new experiences our children might never come across in our fantastic, but little rural community.

Those who know my husband well know that he is not a spontaneous decision maker typically. He loves to research all the options, become an expert on the subject, and make the decision that will deliver the highest good.

So we did our homework.

We immediately started connecting with friends who made this type of move before, both years ago, and recently. What was it like, how did it change your lifestyle, how did the financials work, what would you have done differently, would you ever move back? We were relentless with interrogating these most helpful of advisors.

The really big decision was, if we moved, would it be permanent? We very quickly established that we did not want it to be permanent. We loved being close to family, felt at home in our community, but most importantly, we had a soul connection with our house (that’s another story too long to tell here, so for now you’ll just have to take my word for it). In addition, we had just launched into a project to overhaul the entire exterior of our house (window replacement, stucco upgrade, eaves & soffit replacement, and patio/deck replacement). This was a house in which we had always intended to stay, to raise our family and to host holidays for our grandchildren in our retirement.

With each person we spoke to, it was becoming clear that many people who had made the move out west, intended to return after a few years, but often did not. This concerned us. We wanted to return. We were becoming increasingly willing to embark upon an adventure for a few years, but not to move permanently.  We chewed on that for several days, the thought of whether or not to move permeating our daily activities. With each mundane task I would consider, what would this be like in a new home, in a new city, what would this look like if we were on the west coast, etc. It was never far from either of our thoughts.

After several days of wrestling with this aspect of the decision, tossing it back and forth between us, the fateful words came through me to my husband, “so what if we do decide to stay?”.

All resistance gone, I continued:  “If we stay, its clearly because we are thriving, and what’s so bad about that?”. The decision will always be up to us. The only commitment we were considering was to take our family on an adventure, expand our horizons and see what happens!

So we decided to do it.

And we are here: Washington, the greater Seattle area. 45 minutes from the mountains (and snow *if* we choose it!), a couple hours from the ocean, and living in a fabulous community that is close to everything but feels like we are in the country. Surrounded by greenery and hills, where everything grows SO fast, and it rains, a LOT. But the sun does poke through the grey every so often, drawing out of each of us an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. The contrast is therapeutic for the soul.

I woke this morning for the first time with a feeling of “newness” replacing my usual longing for home. And the universe in its uncanny design sent me several encouraging messages along my path today to practice “release”, loving the moment I’m in, and to be assured that all is as it should be, with great things in store.

Stay tuned for our next episode!

With trust, gratitude, and love.

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