Winter Paradise

Via Ottawa Tourism

By grade 4, at the age of 9. I was happily settled in Canada, after back to back postings abroad. I lived only 3 blocks away from school, and in a 3 block radius of all my friends.  Like so many Canadian kids, I was spending every day at an after school program at the neighbouring high school, and my older sister would come pick me up at 5pm everyday like clockwork. One evening, we were walking home, it had snowed heavily, by Ottawa standards winter had just started to set in. The mountains of snow had built up already on the sides of the road, huge mounds had already been plowed into the corners of the curbside. Christmas lights were twinkling and reflecting softly against the snow. Christmas time was coming, and so were the holiday’s. I was getting excited. We started to walk home, the snow crunching underneath us, snow lightly fell around us, making the walk so magical. The silence was comforting, and safe, until my sister became irritated with me over something. She was 7 years older. Through the years, she had become a 2nd mother of sorts, holding my hand through illnesses in postings, taking care of me when our parents were out, being saddled with responsibilities she was too young to take on, but she did anyway.

That evening, our age gap showed, she harped on something I had done wrong. Instead of getting upset, I wanted to get even. She bent down into the snow to make a snowball. She was good at being the bully at times, she was going to start pelting me with snow. She was wearing jeans and running shoes, I was fully dressed. Yet, I had a slight advantage. I could see our house from where we were standing, and I knew, I could outrun my sister any day of the week, even with a full snowsuit on. As she bent into the snowbank to gather a good handful of snow, with all my might, I pushed her head first into the snowbank. She went in without even a hesitation, completely off balance. Like a cartoon character, her body went in, and made a good foot deep imprint of her body in a starfish position. I turned and ran like a bat out of hell. I sprinted like my life depended on it. I ran so fast that I could hear her screaming at me from down the street, and my legs kept pumping, and I leapt up the steps into the house, our front landing had a small powder room and closet, but I ran through the hallway to find my Father sitting in a chair enjoying a fire still in his suit, smoking a pipe. Me, still fully dressed in snowsuit and boots saw him, ran behind him, as snowballs came flying into the house. My Father could only muster up “hey hey hey!” as he sat completely confused. My sister arriving at the door yelling covered in not only snow, but icicles from head to toe like something out of a cave. She realized my Father sitting there, me crouched behind. My Father didn’t take long to realize that little sister got snowy revenge, and began to laugh so hard, that my sister’s nose went out of joint. Puddles of water formed all over the place, but my Father didn’t care, he was just laughing hysterically.

After we all calmed down, we looked at my Father, and realized something was off. We got undressed and cleaned up. My Mother stood in the kitchen drinking a big glass of whiskey. There were blueprints spread all over the kitchen table. We knew what was coming, we just didn’t know if we wanted the news.

My Father and Mother sat us all down, and broke it to us that we were going on posting again.

I sat frozen in place, and looked outside to our wonderful snowy paradise, I didn’t want to leave, and I was sad that I had no choice in this decision. Like every diplomatic kid, it was 3 years like clockwork.

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Culture Shock – Fitting In

This is a rather delicate subject matter as I have a lot of opinions surrounding this. Having been a Diplomatic Kid, there were and still are very few moments I feel I fit in, chidhood is hard enough when you stay put, but when you mix in moving constantly, it brings on a whole other level of crazy. Actually, I don’t really like the idea of fitting in, I like the idea of finding a tribe, people who are like you, but can also lift you up when you are down.

Let me paint a little picture. When we first moved to this suburb, I did what I always do, dive in and become social. I had people over, hosted parties, and organized a Mums Night Out. Last year, something began to shift in me. I realized, I was tired of living in a suburb, and living this life. It seems to happen like clock work, after year 3, I am done. Obviously, I have a 7 year old to think of, and have promised myself that I wouldn’t keep moving, I wanted my son to have the roots I never had, even though I have no idea how to create roots. Last year, I became depressed, and my PTSD came back to haunt me. I began to gain weight, and I wasn’t sure what I needed or wanted.

So, I retreated, began to meditate and reflect on what it was that a) I wanted b) where I was going wrong. Over the last 6 months, I began going to museums on my own, going to the gym regularly, and started to take Spanish and Dutch for fun. My whole demeanor changed, I am calm, happy, and intellectually fulfilled.

Last week, I had been invited to a charity luncheon with the group of ladies that I had made when I first moved here. I hadn’t really heard from them, I occasionally see them at school pickup, but I haven’t attempted to reach out to them. They certainly have made no effort to contact me, in fact, i think they only invited me to fill the table.  I arrived, I was happy and delighted to experience the lunch, and art around me, but I was more interested in learning about the charity than talking about decorating, building or shopping for various pieces in the house. I was bored. When it was time to leave, I gathered my things, and all of them, and I mean every single woman who had driven, turned to the other mother who had walked and asked if she needed a ride. No one even looked at me, or acknowledged my existence.  For the first time in my life, I laughed in my head. That insecure Diplomatic Kid inside of me, was no longer insecure, but completely happy and secure. It was a weird moment of letting go.

I had agreed months ago, to go to a ladies Christmas party at a friend’s house last night. I showed up, no one greeted me, no one batted an eyelash when I walked in. They were too busy hugging each other. They were all talking about the shopping trip they had made together, and how much their husbands don’t listen or buy them, what they want. I quietly went into the kitchen to get water, I was accosted by one Mother who claimed loudly “are you still doing that no drinking thing?”, I nodded, and just said “yes”. Apparently, not drinking and working out, makes people feel really uncomfortable. I smiled and started to deflect and ask questions. I stayed for over an hour, and then decided it was time to exit as everyone began to drink more heavily, and rant about their daft husbands. It was the first time I noticed, they were all truly unhappy, and had negative energy. I realized in that moment, I have always tried to fit in, but trying to fit in doesn’t make you happy, it just makes you depressed. I have spent my whole life being 2 different people, as I hated sharing the Diplomatic side to those who weren’t part of that life. In reality, that is the only side of me, I am and will forever be, a Third Culture Kid. I was so happy last night, even as I had been excluded completely, I knew deep inside of me, who I was, and where I was going.

The fact it has taken me this long to really work on my own happiness, which frankly, happens with Mothers, we think of everyone else before ourselves. I noticed a few things, I don’t want to be friends with unhappy people, nor do I want to surround myself with people who don’t want to explore the world or spend energy lifting people up. Where I feel most comfortable, is talking about the world, the next adventure, how to do all this with a child, and exercise, I love exercising and eating clean 99% of the time. As I was thinking all of this, I got a text from a fellow Diplomatic Kid, it was like the universe was giving me a big sign! I told her where I was, and she laughed. She basically expressed the exact same sentiment, that the only time she felt she fit in, was letting go, and being herself.

As a kid, the concept of fitting in, is pretty intense, especially when you move so often. With every move, comes an intense insecurity. That insecurity seems to follow you into adulthood. I was not insecure going into adulthood, as I began working at Foreign Affairs, which was comforting on so many levels. When I became a Mother, and had made a switch to leave Foreign Affairs, I began to feel vulnerable and insecurities began to fill me. Breaking the cycle, took a lot of work, but it is all possible no matter what stage in life you are in. You have to embrace who you truly are, flaws and all.