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Where’s Home?

October 27, 2011
not my home… just a really cozy looking one!

I’m “home”on Vancouver Island, Birtish Columbia (BC) briefly in order to do a Pediatrics course and to celebrate Halloween with friends. Shortly after, I’ll be back in Rankin Inlet for 6 weeks.

The day I left Nunavut this go, it was about -18C with 2 inches of snow on the ground, a big bright sun in the sky, and little of the crisp wind that I’ll come to know and maybe despise. Whenever I see snow at the beginning of the winter, I get a strange calm, nostalgic sort of feeling. I grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where snow was plentiful and usually covered the ground from November to April. A lot of winter experiences bring me back to being a kid with no worries besides which mitts to wear since my best ones were still wet from the day before or whether the ice on the pond was going to be level enough to go for a skate.

I think winter is in my blood. Happiness is remembering a late December night spent staring out the window at the moonlit snow, feeling the hot air from the woodstove gently swirling around me. I don’t mind shoveling snow, have thrown quite a few snowballs in my time, and love winter sports. Ice hockey and downhill skiing I do with some regularity. Snowshoeing, cross country [skate] skiing, tobogganing, and snowboarding also tend to make it into my life when possible. I’ve tried curling but didn’t find it exhilarating. I expect this winter I’ll be ski-dooing and maybe try dog-sledding, if either of those are considered sports more than modes of transport, I’m not sure. I don’t LOVE being cold but in most places if you are dressed well you can enjoy being outdoors even on a -40C day.

When working in Rankin, staff and patients alike often ask me where I’m from. Usually I’ll say “BC” but sometimes I tell them, “I don’t know.” I’ve lived in a few different places, but having rented an apartment somewhere in BC over the last 9 years, I guess this is technically my home. I still feel like there’s a lot of “Thunder Bay” in me, as I lived there until I zipped off to university in Vancouver at age 17. But I also am not sure what “home” is. When I’m in Rankin, it’s the assigned apartment with lots of space, a comfy couch, a broken microwave, and the “closet of mystery” (a closet full of stuff left by doctors on rotations before me). I have an apartment in Nanaimo but I am there less and less, and many of my Nanaimo friends have recently moved away.

Over those last 9 years I’ve spent more than a month in any one of Victoria, Vancouver, Campbell River, and Rossland (BC) as well as Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, northern India, and Rankin Inlet. I felt so at ease in Berlin, like I was surrounded by people who think like I do, and I dreamed that a year in Edinborough might be just perfect. Medicine isn’t a career that forces transientness on anyone, but certainly one of the reasons I got into it was because I could make travel a huge part of my professional and personal life. And I haven’t been disappointed.

I really don’t know where home is or what it will look like in 5 years. I sometimes enjoy not knowing, and it makes it near impossible to feel homesick when in a new place. Is home where I hang my hat? Where loved ones are (all over the world but particularly scattered in Canada)? It’s really just wherever I am at the time and I always try to make the most of whatever that place has to offer. For example, signing up for hockey in Rankin Inlet is certainly going to make me feel anchored for a bit.

With the exception of a magical two spring months in the little ski town of Rossland, BC, I’ve not had any real winter times since Thunder Bay. I’m going to regret saying this later maybe, but I’m delighted that I’ll make my home mostly in the arctic this winter. There will be some snow, and most certainly cold.

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