Ever since I moved home to Shoal Harbour a few months ago, I’ve been getting the same question from friends, family, and foes alike: “How’s living in Shoal Harbour?”. It comes in various forms, of course: “How’s home?”, “How are you making out in Shoal Harbour?”, or just plain, “How are you surviving?”. Some who ask are genuinely interested in my life and how it has changed since I’ve been here (essentially since September, 2012); some who ask are curious in a sort of “what manner of life are you leading in a ‘small town’ after having been in a city for 10 years?” way, and some ask while attempting to mask a sense of “I look at you differently, and kinda think you’re stupid for moving home; what are you going to do with yourself in Shoal Harbour, you fool?”. Thankfully, I don’t get too many of the last variety, but so many people have asked that I’m inspired to write about what it actually has been like living at home in Shoal Harbour these last months.
As with all big life changes, of course, there’s a bit of a back story involved.
First, I should point out that I hadn’t really intended to move home. After simultaneously stage managing two plays over the summer of 2012, I came home in September to take a break. I needed to collapse for at least a week, read nonsense books, watch bad television, and allow my body to recuperate from that amazing and exhausting experience . I can safely say that I’ve never worked as hard in my life as I worked in the summer of 2012, and it will go down in my history books as the summer that challenged me, reinvigorated me, and lead me home.
Second, I didn’t officially move home for a long time. I held on to my apartment in St. John’s for months before making the final decision to let go. I lost sleep many a night agonizing over what to do. I’d been in St. John’s for so long that I hardly knew anything else, and I wasn’t sure that moving home was a good idea. I am very connected to St. John’s for a lot of reasons: family, friends, work, and the city itself, so it took a very long time for me to finally cut the cord.
During the time between September and when I finally made the move in January, I’d been living in limbo. Though the indecisiveness of not knowing what to do about leaving St. John’s was taking its toll, there were also a lot of positive changes happening, some of which didn’t become obvious until I had actually made the decision to pack up and ship out. The truth of the matter was, of course, that this was a big decision made of many smaller decisions. When it comes down to it, I imagine that most big decisions are just that — bundles of smaller decisions vying for your attention and finally getting it all in one go.
When I finally moved out of my apartment (I’d been there for 3 years), instead of feeling I’d lost something, I felt free. I felt like I was ready for something new. Most importantly, I felt no regret. I had no misgivings about moving out, and I was thrilled to say that I was moving out to move home. Some people see moving home as a defeat, as something you do when you don’t know what else to do. Some people see moving home as giving up. For me, moving home was both necessary and positive, and it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
So, what have I been doing since I came home? The simplest and best answer to that is: rediscovering myself. What does ‘rediscovering myself’ look like? It looks like learning to relax, allowing myself to breathe, and getting re-acquainted with the people and places I knew and loved as a kid. Since I’ve been home, I’ve learned to sleep 7 or 8 hours a night again, I’ve been reading more, I’ve been watching smart, well-made television, films, and documentaries (SO MANY documentaries!). I’ve been walking just for the pleasure and exercise, I’ve been working in the theatre, and — perhaps most importantly of all — I’ve been letting myself dream a little more. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been eating better, having more, longer, and better conversations with friends and family, learning to let go of serious emotional baggage, making promises to myself and keeping them. Since I’ve been home, I have learned to smile bigger and look people in the eye; I am more confident and more giving of my time and energy. I am more patient with myself and more able to push myself at the same time. I’ve cut the amount of sugar I put in my coffee in half, and I’ve learned to shoot a bow and arrow.
I’ve also discovered that I’m unsatisfied with my life and my contribution (or lack thereof) to the world. I’d become so apathetic and uninvolved in St. John’s toward the end of my time there: I wasn’t involved, or engaged, or angry about anything. I’d always chalked some of that up to my optimism (“Things’ll work out, you’ll see! Don’t be so angry!”), but I can now safely say that I was wrong to do so. I wasn’t being optimistic, I was being uselessly poetical, and it wasn’t helping anyone — least of all me. (Some of you who’ve known me for a while will no doubt be somewhat satisfied by my admitting to that. Know that there’s no one in the world more satisfied by that admission than I am.) One of the more remarkable things about my coming home has been the true re-ignition of the fire in my belly. The world is starting to matter to me again, in a way that it hasn’t since I was about 16. I wanted to save the world at 16 (no kidding — ask my teachers or my parents), and I stopped heading toward that goal because someone told me I couldn’t. 12 years on, I’m kicking my 16-year-old self in the butt and starting over again — all because I came home.
Shoal Harbour is a small town in eastern Newfoundland. Some might say it’s not that big a deal and, in lots of ways, they’d be right: it’s not a thriving cultural hotspot, it’s pretty slow-moving, and the holes in the roads are disastrous right now. There’s not a lot of variety in the area when it comes to restaurants, the movie theatre only has two cinemas (and it takes forever for movies to get here, sometimes), and there’s no book store at all. It does, however, have a theatre and an events centre, wide open spaces (in which to roam), wonderful people who — through their dedication and excitement — have brought events and activities to this area that continue to amaze and impress me, and a beautiful valley that is home to the little house I grew up in. Anyone who is bored in Shoal Harbour, Clarenville, or anywhere in the surrounding areas either lacks imagination or doesn’t want to be here. It’s my home, it has been incredibly kind to me, and it’s an amazing place. And so, to those inquiring minds who wonder from time to time how I am doing at home: my unplanned homecoming has been spectacular. I can’t remember the last time I felt this happy, confident, or loved, and I will say so to anyone who asks.