My Complicated Relationship with Vancouver

People often ask me why I left Vancouver. If you live there and are happy, power to you. I know people who found the loves of their lives in Vancouver. I know people who found solace in its’ nature. And I know people who just love yoga. Period. Now go shop for your third eyeshadow and don’t blow a chakra.

Full disclosure: I did love it for the first few years I was there. Vancouver has fresh parks, breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, amazing cuisine and mountain air so fresh you’d wanna package it into an aerosol can and probably get away with charging $100 for each of those bad boys. But, do a quick search on the web, and you’ll find similar posts to this one…one that paints a different picture of a city that carries a facade…

I often describe the city resembling a depressed supermodel. Gorgeous, shiny and vibrant on the outside, but a deep sadness and isolation on the inside. To be completely blunt, it felt like a passive, complacent cesspool.

While this is a nostalgic, wanna-be-poetic post, it is nonetheless, a jaded post. But it’s an important one for these chronicles, because this is a process of healing and making peace with my old life. To boot, Vancouver was the place I stayed at the longest while I was creatively blocked. Comfort breeds stagnancy.

At the time of writing this post, I’ve been gone from Vancouver for two years after having lived there from 2005-2018—thirteen whole years. While I’m not quite as settled in Toronto (where I am now), it’s starting to feel more like home for the life that is better suited to who I am. I have groups of friends who share values that are more in line with mine, I have a job that is just alright but is a reflection of the multicultural nature of the city, and I’m paying a shit tonne of money for housing but considering the area, is actually dirt-cheap! Oh perspective…

Now that I’ve been gone for a decent amount of time, I reflect without the fresh feelings of just having left. And while time can make you look back at events from an objective perspective, I cannot agree that this was the case with my relationship with Vancouver. There are scars.

As I scroll through my social media feeds and see my friends’ posts of those who still live there, it looks almost…comical, like a stereotype or caricature that I couldn’t see for the longest time because I lived in it. I see girls hiking in their yoga wear, people with photos of their super healthy, organic $10 smoothies, biking around the Stanley Park Seawall, and hanging out in local breweries.

Of course, nothing is wrong with any of these images, but it made me see why the stereotypes of the West Coast exist. Heck, for the longest time I was like that too. But now…not so much. Or rather, I was never really like that in the first place.

I’ve let my curly hair run wild as opposed to straightening it to mimic the typical Vancouver girl which I did for years on end. I was literally straightening myself. Now, while my weight is slightly heavier, I feel more comfortable in my skin than the endless hiking, running and dieting I used to suffer through in order to achieve the archetypical thin, svelte, body type that West Coast culture encourages. You really can be a product of your environment.

I love you Vancouver, but it was time to say goodbye. I didn’t blame your expensive housing market or lack of jobs. I had a great job that paid well, a great career and a kick ass sports car. Us millennials have it hard but I lucked out.

I said goodbye because I didn’t fit. I gave you 13 years and half my sanity.

You claim to be multicultural but that’s only true on paper. You are diverse but not in the real sense. I’m not Asian (well, I’m half but I don’t look it), I’m not white and I’m not skinny. I don’t like Lululemon even though they have great pants (Chip Wilson is an asshole–let’s not get into that). Yoga is not a lifestyle but simply a coping mechanism for me.

I love sushi but it doesn’t automatically mean I’m a worldly foodie. Aritzia (founded in Vancouver) generates great styles but as a voluptuous size 16 with 38DDD boobs, I don’t appreciate it when a skinny girl working there inauthentically and forcefully smiles and tells me I look great in one of their clothes when I clearly look like a sausage: it’s ok to say to suggest another outfit–I’ll respect you more for it.

I came to Vancouver with hope but left realizing that I needed it to heal. I needed the solitude the trails offered to heal from my traumatic childhood experiences. I needed to pick the wrong men for me to learn my value (Vancouver had a lot of those).

I needed to find spiritual healers who are here because I myself needed to heal. There are many people in Vancouver who are in spiritual crises. What’s unnerving is that a lot of them don’t even realize it.

I needed to see homogeny to appreciate my uniqueness. I found solace in some of your creative sub-cultures but in the end it didn’t feel enough. Thirteen years in the West coast and what do I have to show?  A transplant community that doesn’t care about each other–that uses natural beauty to excuse itself from a reason to connect with real humans (“I can’t deal with this bullshit, I’m going for a hike”).

Everyday I met people who came to this city loving it but did not realize that they were slowly conforming to a lifestyle that places more weight on appearances instead of true substance. This is a city that values the need to appear hipster, without practising its true core values.  When individuality becomes generic–that’s when it’s time to stop and look around you. 

I love you Vancouver but it was time to shed the false pretences. You can blame your politicians, you can blame the foreign investors from driving out the city’s creatives and you can blame shitty Granville street for lumping all the generic clubs into one area, but in the end we all became passive–we stopped caring because it wasn’t cool to care; we became too scared to show our true feelings about things for the fear of appearing vulnerable (for the record, I find the courage to be vulnerable extremely sexy).

We devalued our professional worth to brag that we live in one of the most liveable cities in the world and for what? To look cool at our university reunion? Next time you boast to your friends that you’re a Vancouverite think of the financial pay cut you took to live here–think of the person who wasn’t worth as much as you professionally, who had to take even less coz you took what she/he rightfully deserved. When you’re worth 70k but settled for 55k just to live here and the person worth 55k took 40k think of the younger generations who are going to suffer for the next x amount of years–and think of how that will affect your own children. Money is not the most important thing in the world but your value is pretty up there–professional or personal.

I love you Vancouver but you didn’t love me back–and that’s ok because in the end, you were that hot dude that would have been an awesome trophy husband but would have been shitty in bed.  And I’m glad I learned that without going through the high cost of a divorce–simply tapping into your dating pool was a cheaper lesson. I was fortunate to have a job that allowed me to travel where I would regularly get a reality check of my value. I was luckier meeting men out of town who saw and appreciated me –this kept my self-esteem in check. No, I did not need men to validate me, but when they liked me for reasons that resonated with my values it was an indicator that I was on the right track.

You’ve got gorgeous sunsets but they didn’t fulfill me–I was content but not happy. The moment I realized I became as passive as you, I became so angry because I needed to feel something again. That’s when I knew that sitting stagnant and watching your sunset wasn’t enough to truly maximise what life had to offer.

Instead, I chose to drive towards the sunrise–where there is uncertainty, culture and authenticity. I took that gamble—and it was worth it.

Thank you Vancouver–thank you for the tearful lessons. I do plan to visit, but only to remember how far I have come.

How about you? Have you lived in places that made you feel like you were out of place? Or creatively blocked?

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