From Kits beach to the Arabian Desert - playing in a new sand box.


I turned 30 this year. 
There was a huge log washed ashore by the Pacific Ocean - a quintessential west coast image forever sketched into the very fabric of my consciousness. 
I sat on it. 
"A decade of life in Vancouver” I thought to myself, despite the fact that I was km’s away dangling my feet off that log all the way up on Cortez Island.

“What now?” I found myself wondering. 

I went through a cathartic journaling process that day outlining all the things I’d learned in my 20’s. I’m not an avid journal’er and kinda wish I was better at it. I wrote a list of the things I’d accomplished, the incredible moments sprinkled throughout, the hard stuff that seeped in….But mostly I wrote about the people along the way, both the ones who walked along side me and the ones who stood on the sidelines cheering as I went by - like some kind of 20’s something parade. I remember feeling like there was no possible way I could fit anything else into my heart. It was so full.

That was May.

Now its January, and I find myself clinging desperately to that full heart, unable to recognize it through the fog some days. My conversations with friends, mentors and strangers alike all end up in the same place - “the Vancouver conversation”  my friend Amanda calls it - while she does air quotes beside her beautiful curly west coast hair.
To be clear, this isn’t a love letter/break up letter to Vancouver, and I don’t care to jump on the band wagon of people writing about leaving places for what they consider greener pastures or somewhere that isn’t “broken.”  In fact this the opposite of that. This is a pledge to return, when I’ve gained some perspective and can afford to keep making a difference here. But let’s back up.
I moved to Vancouver at the ripe age of 19 determined to work on the Vancouver Olympics - or what to me (and many others) truly felt like “Canada’s games”. I raced my way through post secondary to ensure I was out here in enough time to find a job and get involved - whatever that looked like. 
And I did that. I got involved.
From the day I arrived in Vancouver I felt at home. Sure it has the reputation that it’s where the 20-somethings go to retire, or where you go to be a student forever, or where you loose track of a decade smoking pot all week… but it wasn’t like that for me. Vancouver represented opportunity. It represented a creative community. It represented a fresh coastal approach to everything I knew growing up on the prairies. (Plus, beach volleyball?! fun!)
So that whole working for the Olympics thing? Check mark. The small agency where I worked helped launched the theme “With Glowing Hearts” the very epitome of how I feel about being Canadian, and I have a collection of memories where I stood staring across a stadium or up into the sky wishing family members or friends could take over my body and just feel how it felt to be me at that moment. From watching the torch weave its way across this beautiful country and into my own Grandfather’s 80 year old hands in Saskatchewan, to looking down at the black infinity symbol on my Olympic accreditation, to watching the golden goal from the rafters of the arena, not only did I accomplish my Olympic goal, but I found my Canadian spirit. 
Since then, my work as a videographer has led me to tell stories about so many of Canada’s icons, communities, organizations and business success stories. I’ve sat balling my eyes out after video shoots at the Dr. Peter’s Centre and on Vancouver’s East side. I’ve cried equally as hard telling success stories of NICU babies at BC Womens, and supporting our women of the future with G Day for Girls. I’ve empowered people alongside Danielle LaPorte, Canadian hockey heroes and astronauts, and yes, I’ve even worked for Vancouver’s darling black stretchy pant company.

My 20-something spark for getting involved didn’t go out with the Olympic flame in Vancouver, it continued to burn a maple leaf shaped hole through my chest and every sweater I own, and after a decade of dedication to this community and the people who are intrinsic to its success, I’m leaving for a bit. 

That “Vancouver conversation” is exhausting. It makes me angry that the energy, spirit and precious time of my (and countless others’) 20’s went to a place that can no longer respect the efforts of its community members. It makes me doubt that when I return any of the special gems that made this place unique (both people and artisan energy) will be left. It leaves me with huge anxiety that a place that once represented such opportunity to creative and business fields alike has irreversibly changed. And probably the most bothersome thing of all? Vancouver’s “new identity” makes me question what it feels like to be Canadian when I’m here.

That’s a fucking problem.

It’s not in my nature to run from problems. A piece of me wishes I had the gusto to hunker down, to help build a solution of some sort, get into politics…that kind of thing. But I feel like in order to do that, I need perspective. The drive and determination I once had here came from the very roots of who I am as a Canadian and right now, I don’t feel Canadian here much at all.
So, as an opportunity to get back in touch, together with my Kiwi/Canadian fiancé (side note, if you ever have the chance to go to a citizenship ceremony with someone, do it. It’ll change your life) we have the opportunity to move across the globe to Abu Dhabi and we’re taking it.

Again to be clear, this isn't running from Vancouver, or being so pissed off we’re flipping it the bird (unless you’re talking about the rain, in that case insert the bird flip.) Future husband and I are leaving to gain some perspective and go on a life adventure rich with family members from abroad, cultural exploration, self development and hopefully some fair compensation for our skills and time so that when we come back, we can afford to be part of Vancouver and Canada’s community in a meaningful way for all of us. 

Madeline EllComment