You Make Me Ill
Dearest British Columbia: Since returning to you five years ago I have made an honest attempt to reconcile myself with you, the place of my birth where I have lived out the majority of my life. I know it's not you exactly, it's me and I know there is little you can do about it. But we must face facts, it's over between us. I just can't play nice with the others anymore and it is clear that you are no longer a place where I can thrive. In fact, you and the rest of the children are just making me ill. I have a few loose ends to tie up and then I'll be on my way. If could think of another way I'd try, but I think this move will be for the best and for all concerned. - Yours sincerely, Magnus Skallagrimsson.
Back in October 2000 I took a trip to Montreal to check it out. I stayed with friends, wandered around, was introduced to new people - I loved it. The attitudes toward life and living were quite close to my own. As Europeans have told me, living in Montreal is the closest to living in Europe that you can get in North America. On the flight there, I wasn't sure if I could really leave British Columbia to live anywhere else. BC is where I am from, it has always been my home. At least 20 minutes after landing, while riding in Trent and Colette's car sitting with Peter in the back seat, all the reasons for moving just hit me. I had come to hate the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
I was sick of it and tired of the direction the province was heading in. The Liberals were poised to decimate the NDP in the upcoming election, with the help of a very negative media environment keen on playing the king makers. Vancouver was and to some extent still is known as "The No Fun City". As my friend Spencer puts it, Vancouverites are uptight about being laid-back. The city was getting dirtier and panhandling and homelessness were increasing. Places I loved as kid were being knocked down, paved under and developed. So I left in 2001 and if I had had better sense I would still be in Montreal today.
I have been making due in BC, but is getting on my nerves. One thing that my time in Montreal (and if I reflect back to my time spent in Saskatchewan as well) made me realise is that I am geographically most at home here. From the mountains to the water to the wetlands and the rain forest - nowhere feels quite as right to me as here. But much of what makes home homely is disappearing as development, Olympic hype and real estate conspire to make "the most livable place on Earth" a difficult place to get by in.
The human environment has changed as well, though my perspective on this may be affected by the process of aging. Knuckleheads and the dispossessed are taking over this place. The Lower Mainland is not the place for a cultured individual to be, not one that is also low income. I understand that this is a Canada wide issue, but I don't here stories about people being attacked on their own property by swarms of drunk, high, narcissistic teens and twenty somethings just because they were asked to show some respect for the people living in the neighbourhood.
Last month the news was discussing how much the crime rate had dropped in Surrey, how Mayor Diane Watts was cleaning up the city that remains the butt of jokes about the Lower Mainland. This month the news has run responses from the citizenry of Surrey who haven't noticed a change at all. As someone who works out of the Central City area, I concur with the people stating they haven't noticed a difference. It's still bad out there and what's more, much of the Greater Vancouver Regional District is being to look quite similar.
Some people tell me I am exaggerating, but then those people have been driving around the city and have drastically reduced the amount of time they spend on public transit. I am sick of self-absorbed children who feel they can get away with anything, that bad behaviour is their birth right. I am sick of the drug culture that has asserted itself as the norm. I wish a blight would take out marijuana crops right across the province. The news media is responsible for this too over the years, playing up and exaggerating BC's reputation.
I need out. I need to be somewhere else - just about anywhere but here. I need to be someplace where I can significantly pay down my student loans for six months and then go back to school, get my teaching degree and go someplace else. I can get a UK Ancestry Entry Clearance Visa, so I am seriously considering teaching in the UK - Wales, West England, Norfolk, Isle of Man, etc. At one point I had kind of thought about teaching in Port Coquitlam, but that sort of sentimentality is dead. It is time to make the break and it is time to make that brake permanent.