I must preface this personal essay by saying that I’m a self-proclaimed introvert and lifelong homebody. So all things considered, the decision to move across the country after I graduate this April came as somewhat of a surprise to my family, friends... and to myself. I first considered the idea of moving to Canada’s East Coast three years ago when my mom, sister, grandma, and I visited Nova Scotia at the end of summer. It was during this trip that I fell in love with the colourful storefronts and houses lining the hilly streets, the salty, fresh air, the laid-back pace, and the sound of waves adding a soft background noise to almost every corner of town.
Fast-forward three years and I’m feeling overwhelmed about my impending graduation in the spring. A natural planner who craves having a clear path to follow, I went straight to my bullet journal (naturally) in an attempt to fill the empty space that would be my life from mid-April onwards. My first step: create a list of all my far-fetched goals, with no idea too large or out-of-reach; a kind of “brainstorming session” for what I wanted out of life. It was in creating that spread, obviously adorned with floral-inspired illustration in true BuJo fashion, that I recalled my dreamy trip to the East Coast. With that vacation in mind, I added my first item to the list: to one day live in a blue historical house in a small coastal town in Nova Scotia.
Shortly after materializing that presumably distant goal, I was scrolling through listings on Airbnb late at night—a hobby of mine as an interiors and home décor lover—and found myself looking at rooms and apartments for rent in a small town in Nova Scotia. In the closest strike of “fate” I’ve experienced to date, a blue historical house on the water in the center of the small fishing town with a 49% discount for the entire month of May caught my eye. I was tempted to book the room right there in a wave of out-of-character impulsivity, but like a rational adult, I opted to sleep on it and talk it over with my mom in the morning before I made any final (and non-refundable) decisions. I half expected my mom to be a voice of reason and convince me out of booking it. Admittedly, part of me was hoping she would, because as exciting as the prospect of moving to a small town on the ocean seemed, it was also kind of scary—especially since I’ve never lived away from home before. What would I do for work once I’m there? What if an amazing job opportunity came up in Toronto and I wouldn’t be able to take it? But to my surprise, she told me that there’d always be a reason not to go—and if moving to the East Coast was something I really wanted to do, the month after graduation would be the perfect time to take a hold of my life and start acting on some of these plans.
After a few hesitant clicks, it was all booked. Here’s a rundown of the final plan: like I mentioned, I have an Airbnb booked for one month. During these 30 days, I’ll be looking for a more permanent living situation to stay for a longer period. I’ll also be looking at potential jobs and continue freelance writing. I’m calling this time my “buffer month”: an opportunity to figure out where exactly I want to settle down over there and view some apartments IRL once I get a better sense of the area. And if I absolutely hate living over there, I can just return back home to Ontario at the end of the month. It seems decently thought out (though I still have some details to work out)—but it’s probably one of the most spontaneous things I’ve done. The decision was rather impulsive and quick, but the truth is, it was very intentional. Yes, the whole aesthetic of going on a solo adventure, living in an impossibly charming small town (my version of Stars Hollow, for my fellow Gilmore Girls fans), and spending my carefree days by the ocean sounds amazing—but for me, the reason behind the trip goes so much deeper.
I’ve been in post-secondary school for a while now and I’m sure many students can relate when I say that being in school has meant sacrificing some of my own creative projects for school projects, studying for tests, and *certain* mandatory classes that haven’t exactly peaked my interest. In high school, I was able to break up some of the more mundane classes by taking photography, graphic design, and visual arts classes. But since going to University, I’ve definitely lacked the time and dedicated space to keep up with my art and other creative projects. My passion for art never faded per se—but I’ve found myself constantly putting art on the sidelines as business classes, research projects, and essay writing took priority. Aside from art, I’ve always been interested in writing—which luckily, I’ve been more successful at making time for throughout University by freelancing and completing a journalism internship during the summer. But still, these two creative passions are part of what went into the decision to move away from the city. The town I’m planning on moving to is filled with independent artisans whose craft is bound to inspire me. To add to being surrounded by inspiration, being in a new place will take me far outside my comfort zone and provide a space where life isn’t so busy (as it often is in Toronto). I will be able to spend slow days improving on my craft, focusing on my creative projects I’ve always dreamed of doing but have always gotten added to them “later” list, writing more freelance articles, and illustrating.
Probably the main reason I decided to move so far away from home is because I am simply in need of independence. I’ve lived in the same city in the suburbs of Toronto for my entire life. When I went to University, that didn’t change—to save money and because public transit is relatively straightforward (though long) to take from my house to campus, I chose to live at home during school and commute instead. While living at home has had its benefits, including but not limited to the home cooked meals and coming home at the end of a long day to spend time with my family (we’re all very close), at 23, I’ve certainly felt “ready” to have my own place for a while now. I recognize that for many fellow twenty-somethings, living away from home may not be realistic or even possible, but it’s something that I feel is necessary for my self-growth.
Almost always, the first thing people ask me when I say I’m moving is “aren’t you going to be lonely all by yourself out there?”—especially when I fuel their concerns by mentioning that I’ve never lived away from home before. My answer is yes; of course I’ll be lonely. As frightening as the idea of being alone is, learning to be lonely and at peace in my own company is something that I’m looking forward to in hopes that it’ll help me discover my personal interests and hobbies, who I am, and what I want to do apart from external influences and pressures—which I think is especially important at this pivotal time in my life where I’m on the verge of making big life and career decisions. I want to make sure those decisions are for me and my own happiness.
I think what all of these hopes for my move come back to is just wanting a change of pace so I can give myself space to do the things that are important to me, discover myself, and experience true independence. I have loved attending school and working in the city throughout the last few years. The fast-pace makes me feel productive and inspired, and there’s always something interesting to do. But as stimulating and intriguing the city can be, it can also just be *a lot*. The more time I spend in the city without taking a proper break, the more I feel overwhelmed and burnt out from the crowded streets and the pressure of always being “on.” I could have realistically achieved my other goals closer to home, but I chose the East Coast, where life feels a little slower and more relaxed, specifically because of its sharp contrast to Toronto. As someone who admittedly gets easily stressed and is naturally a little anxious, being surrounded by nature, the water, and taking things slow makes me feel more centred and grounded. It’s not to say that the city is “bad,” but trading in its hustle and oftentimes greyness for somewhere more connected to the Earth is a change that I’m looking forward to. Not only do I want to free up the space to be creative and gain some independence, but it’s also for some overdue self-care.
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