Do you know what that moment feels like when you realize that all your dreams have come true?
I had this moment this morning when I went downstairs and saw this:
An empty house and my daughter studying for her first university exam.
(In fact, she is writing it now as I write this post.)
Before I get to the empty house, let me explain where I am right now.
Life is beautifully perfect. We are living the life of our dreams. Our days look like summer afternoons in July. My husband and I have slow mornings and have our coffee together as the sun rises in our bedroom. The kids slowly wake up and have time to learn at the slowest of paces. We are financially stable. I have healed and continue to heal all of the relationships in my life.
I love myself and I love my life.
We have lived in this home, that I love as an eighth member of our family, for 10 years in a community that loves and supports us. I have lived in this city all of my life and love what it has offered my children – a homeschool community, close proximity to family, diversity, the arts, and a chance to understand a little bit more about their parent’s childhood stories. We live on a street that my mother walked daily to school when she first immigrated to Canada as a young girl. We live in a neighbourhood that embraced my immigrant grandparents who came with nothing, We did not intend to live in this area, let alone this house. My grandmother died and I wanted to be closer to her. We sold our home in another area of the city and bought this house because I felt her presence.
I have never been happier and felt more peaceful.
Back to the photo of the current state of our house. It’s empty because we have decided to sell it. Now that our life is absolutely amazing and perfect, we have decided to move and begin another adventure.
We have bought property in Costa Rica and plan to move there.
On our last trip to Costa Rica, we discovered a community of people with whom our family fell in love with. I connected to the land in a way I hadn’t connected to a place since we bought this home 10 years ago. For the first time in a long time, I felt my grandmother with me as she guided me to this new dream.
Over the course of the next few months, I will talk more about our plans and what’s on the horizon for our family. But for today, I wanted to talk about how I sit in my empty living room overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.
I was speaking to some our neighbours the other day. They are so sad at our pending departure from the hood. They also mentioned how courageous we were to take this step. As we make this big leap, I have felt a little anxious and nervous. I have felt sad. I have felt excited. I have felt a little stressed at the daunting list of things that we need to do in order to sell our house that I haven’t even wrapped my head around what comes next.
But courageous? No. I haven’t felt that.
And as we tell more and more people about our plans, that word keeps popping up.
You guys are so courageous for doing this.
This is such a brave action.
Wow, it’s amazing you guys have the courage to uproot your family and make this change!
For some reason, I don’t feel particularly courageous or brave. Yes, this is a huge deal. I get it. It’s a big deal to give up a long-term investment in this city. It’s a big deal to explore a different lifestyle abroad. It’s a big deal to leave comfort zones.
It’s only when I walked down the stairs this morning did I realize why this decision to leave this home doesn’t feel like an act of bravery. Seeing this picture of my daughter, happy and studying something she loves at a higher level, in a home we made for our children, reminded me that it took 19 years of courageous acts for us to live the life of our dreams, far more courageous than this choice to leave this city.
Flashback to 1997. I am five months pregnant, alone, and homeless. I was on my way to a friend’s house temporarily before heading to a shelter for young women when at the last minute, my father offered his couch for me to stay. He helped me move out of my mom’s house and into his home which he shared with his extended family. I remember those days vividly. I worked part-time and went to school part-time at the university. My university tuition for that year was covered by a scholarship and I made a small wage at a receptionist gig at the university.
I was so afraid. I remember not knowing what my future looked like and thinking I ruined my life and that of my unborn child. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I didn’t know how I would pay for school. I figured I would have to quit and just find a job somewhere. Where was I going to live? I couldn’t stay on a couch. The house was full of people and I knew there was no rush for me to leave but there was just no room for me.
To get to my part-time job, my dad would drop me off at the train station. He lives in the suburbs and I would have to take the train into the city. I would buy myself a snack and then sit on that 2:00pm train and cry. One day, instead of buying a bag of chips and a can of pop, I bought chocolate milk and a bag of almonds. I decided that I was going to start taking care of myself and my baby. Then I started writing letters to her in a notebook instead of cry on that train ride. I began with a commitment to myself and to my child. I began writing all the things that I actually didn’t believe would happen – we would be ok, life would work out, we would always have enough. And I wrote the only thing I knew to be true at that moment – I loved her from the very beginning. I would write about how much I loved her because at that moment, loving her was the only thing within my control.
Each day, for months before she was born, I wrote to her. And that’s when the miracles began to happen. I received two government grants which allowed me to continue to go to school. I was able to get Employment Insurance after she was born. My grandmother, my dad’s mom, ended up going to the Philippines for a few months so I was able to move into her room just before I gave birth. I remember feeling so grateful to have a bed. My dad and I began a father-daughter relationship that changed my life. After my daughter was born, my family started to lend support. And just when my grandmother returned from the Philippines, I received notice that I was at the top of the list to receive a subsidized family apartment on campus.
There were still challenges after that but it was in that moment when I decided to create my reality and live as if everything was always going to be ok did I take the most courageous act of my life – to have faith. I would look around and my physical senses would show me that I have nothing but then I began to believe that I had everything I would ever need which changed the course of my life.
When I remember those train rides, I look at my life now with complete gratitude – every day is the cherry on top. Every single day. We dreamed about owning a house in the city and our daughter growing up and being able to have more opportunities than I could imagine for her laid at her feet. And this is what I saw when I came down the stairs this morning. Thousands of small and large courageous acts of believing and dreaming and choosing. Choosing to listen to what makes our hearts sing. Choosing to love when everything else seems to fall apart.
And choosing to trust ourselves when it’s time to follow another dream.
When we first had our daughter, we wanted to prove to everyone that we could do it. We could make it. We could make a ton of money and buy real estate which we did. I was 21 when we bought our first home. I was driven to succeed but somewhere along the way, I forgot about those train rides where love was really all we needed. I became obsessed with making money, shoving my daughter in daycare when we probably didn’t need to do that. After things started to go south in my relationships and I became disgusted the way I was absent as a mother, we shifted our dreams again. We wanted to expand our family to two kids and do things that we were passionate about. I gave up my job in banking and investments and went back to school for Interior Design at the same time my husband gave up his stable IT job and followed his dream to start his own business as a personal trainer.
So this move may seem like we are being courageous. But for us, it’s how we roll and we can’t live any other way. We are making space for something new. And we have had two decades of life just getting better and better as we adjust our dreams to our changing paths and to take advantage of opportunities that fall into our laps. It never ceases to amaze us. Every time we did things that made people outside our inner circle scratch their heads – five children, a tiny house in the city, entrepreneurship, homeschooling, travel, joining a cow share to buy raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products, we started to understand what that feeling was like to carve out a life that brings you joy.
This will be a spring and summer of closing chapters, endings, and goodbyes. But before we start that process, before we move the last bit out so we can stage our house and sell it in the next few weeks, I will take today to remember the most courageous act of my life that took place on a train on an ordinary day in 1997. A day that brought me here – a place where dreams come true and still come true and where it is no longer a courageous act but a natural way for us to live.
It is the day that I chose love. It is the day where I may not have trusted myself or loved myself but I was on my knees with nothing else to try. And as I face homelessness with my family on a far different and intentional level, I will remember that love has always been more than enough for us and it is only through love that has led us to live out our wildest dreams.