I sit here in my living room, looking out at the view that I grew used to, but never indifferent to, and try to wrap my head around the fact that 4 days from now it will no longer be my view. For six and a half years we’ve enjoyed a breathtaking location in the best part of one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Sunrise, sunset, ocean, beaches, Stanley Park, and of course, downtown Vancouver, set against the backdrop of the North Shore mountains. I’m sure there are better views around, but ours is pretty hard to beat. Our place has its flaws, lots of them, but moving out of this apartment is extremely difficult.
As hard as it is to move out of the apartment, leaving my city is going to be even harder. I’ve lived in Vancouver for 14 years, and in that time it has become home. Like my country, it’s far from perfect, but there’s nowhere on earth I would rather live. So many people see nothing but the flaws in this city: it rains too much, it’s too expensive, the people are cold and unfriendly; it might all be true (although if you have a hard time talking to people, perhaps the first place to look is in the mirror), but if all you’re going to focus on is the negatives, then it doesn’t matter where you live, because everywhere has flaws.
Two events over the last few years made me realize just how much Vancouver had become my home, how much I cared about my city. The first was the Olympics, when we hosted the world in one of the highest profile events a city and a country can hold. Like everyone else, I watched in horror as tragedy struck even before the Games started, and like everyone from around here, I was disappointed but not surprised as warm weather and rain threatened to derail the events on opening weekend. The Glitch Games, they were dubbed, possibly the worst Olympics ever before we were three days in… at least that was according to the London tabloids, those noteworthy purveyors of high-quality journalism.
Even as all this was happening, though, the feeling on the streets was different. All day, every day, the city was full of people from all over the world, locals, tourists, officials, and athletes, mixing together to give the city an atmosphere that gradually began to overcome the initial problems. By the final day, as thousands gathered in the streets, celebrating the golden goal and breaking into more spontaneous renditions of Oh Canada than I ever thought possible, the question was no longer are these the worst games ever, but are they the best ones to be held. .. and those of us from here no longer even cared that the question was being asked. We had shown the world our best: our beauty, our personality, our resilience, and our pride of place.
Of course, that pride took a beating not much more than a year later, as we showed the world the dark side of our city. After our Canucks took us on a wild ride that sadly ended one win short of the promised land, the frustration of a region (for as anyone who rode Skytrain or tried to drive into the city that day can attest, it was far more than just Vancouver at work on that night) boiled over, and was set ablaze by a few assholes intent only on wreaking havoc. Mob mentality took over, and we watched in horror as our city’s storefronts, any vehicles in the mob’s path, and our civic pride, were smashed and set ablaze by a few hundred drunken, foolish people, even as thousands more stood aside and let it happen, or caught it on their phones. I sat at home watching the news in disbelief, almost sick to my stomach as my city was ravaged.
Of course, even before the fires had been put out, Vancouver was making plans to wipe this smear from its streets, if not from its heart. Thousands of people, armed with whatever cleaning supplies they could gather, descended upon downtown to repair the damage, physical and emotional. I headed down as soon as I could after work the next morning, and gladly joined in to help with the last of the cleanup, and add my message to the others that appeared on the plywood covering the broken windows on The Bay, and Chapters, and all the other stores that had suffered at the hands of the mob. Again and again, the same message appeared: THIS is my Vancouver. Not the mob from the night before, but this one that had appeared in the morning, gathering to repair as best we could the destruction we had suffered.
And now, even as I sit in a living room that has been almost emptied, looking at a stack of boxes that will soon be loaded up and taken to a new city, I prepare to begin a new phase. The timing seems perfect, considering the milestone birthday that is three weeks away, and the pending start of my first full school year as a teacher. This new life won’t include walking down the hill to go for a walk at Kits Beach, or sitting on the deck watching the sun set over the ocean, but that’s ok… it will include my family, and a budding career that I love, and a million new adventures to find. I’m sad to leave, but excited for a new start… it’s time.