(Note: this post is slightly more serious than most other topics in my life, but it was important to me that you know my background).
The word alone evokes emotion and reminds me of countless sayings: “Home is where the heart is,” “Home, sweet home” or, because I’m a musical fan, “There’s no place like home.” To me, home is more of a feeling than a place – which is good, because you can’t take places with you. But sometimes, you really, reeeeeally want to take a place with you.
I bet there are more people like me out there. In theory, we are Maritimers – we were born here, we have the Blundstone boots and we say “car” and “bar” with a pirate-like accent; and yet, we feel somewhat like strangers in a land that used to be our own. In my case, my husband, Dana, and I left the Maritimes for 11 years to Calgary (a city that has a higher population than my entire home province). In a big city, you find your own tribe: not the ones that you’ve always known, but the ones who need an adoptive family the way you do – the adventurous ones who also left their hometowns, usually in search of better career opportunities. When you come back to the East Coast, you somehow “come from away” even though you’re technically returning home.
There is a certain satisfaction that Maritimers get out of seeing people come back home, as if we had lost our way and have finally found it again. For us, it was a job opportunity for Dana that brought us back to the East Coast. Everyone talked about how excited we must be to be “moving home” – and we were. We were thrilled to be closer to our parents and siblings, our nieces and nephews, and the friends of our youth we had left behind when we moved to Calgary. But there was a sadness, too. Our children were Calgary-born, we had developed our careers there, and we had created a family out of the friends we had grown to love. The truth is, I hated leaving Calgary.
After the move, I had the adult version of a tantrum and pouted for months about leaving my “home” in Calgary behind. I missed the Rocky Mountains, our friends, my work, and the lower tax rates. But Nova Scotia was where I lived now, and I had to find a way to make it feel like home.
I got to work on our house: we did renos that made the house feel more like our own, and this helped a lot. I met the neighbours and made friends in the area. We found our home church and I became Sunday school teacher. We saw our extended family more. I started taking photos of the happy moments we were creating along the way, and it made me realize that we were creating a new happy life in Nova Scotia. I also made a big effort to explore our surroundings, which helped me feel more connected to the area and more like a “local” because of my local knowledge. I realized that it’s impossible to compare your first year in a new place to the last year in your previous city. Of course my friendships were more established; they had time to grow. Feeling at home in my new life took time and patience.
I recently returned to Calgary to visit friends. As soon as I landed, I drove to our old home. We had landscaped our property shortly before our move, not knowing we’d be moving. In the year since we’d been gone, the plants had sprouted and grown, and our former home looked better than ever. Part of me wished I could be there to enjoy it, but I couldn’t help but feel it was a metaphor for my sprouting life on the East. A year later, my feet are firmly planted on Maritime ground, and I feel more connected than ever to my Maritime roots. They say that home is where the heart is, but I say, home is where you make it.