The Next Chapter

We’re going back to Paris. That will probably come as no surprise. But that’s not the whole story. Years ago now, before our last move to the city of light, my friend Becky sent me a rose gold wire ring shaped into the word Oui. With it, there was a small card that read, “Because we should say yes to the things we really want.” I still wear that ring all the time, but it has been all too easy to lose sight of the deeper significance behind it. I moved to Vancouver over a decade ago – I came to the city for university without ever having visited before. I had spent my whole life up to that point trying to find a way to escape the narrow confines of my home town, from packing up my backpack to go to Fragglerock to dreaming of faraway boarding schools to begging to go on a foreign exchange. The point is, I had always believed that anywhere would be better than home – there are so many reasons for that, enough to write an entire dissertation, probably, but I won’t dwell on them right now; suffice to say that because I felt like I had spent my life in the one patch of metaphorical dry grass at the centre of a green field, I made my choice about where to move without a great deal of consideration for what life in my new home would be like.

There are so many things I love about Vancouver. Most of the friends I’ve made in adulthood live here. My childhood best friend lives three blocks down the street, and the places we have always spent the most time together, a movie theatre and a pizza restaurant, are in the streets between us. Running along the seawall on a sunny day is an experience in pure joy. No one – not a single person – has ever asked me when I’m going to have children, as if I’m an incomplete woman without them. But those things that I love come with an incredible price tag. Vancouver is routinely named the most expensive city in North America – and often ranks among the top five most expensive cities in the world – by publications like The Economist. It took ten years, but in 2016, those costs really started to add up for me.

It all came to a head last fall, when we got back from New York. Fashion Week was an incredibly memorable but also totally exhausting experience, and there was no time to rest afterwards. I went back to work. Life went on at a frantic pace. Beginning in early October, we had three sets of family visitors come to the city in a period of four weeks. Fully aware that I would be busy, I asked myself seriously what I could take a break from for the month – and it turned out that the only things I could reasonably give up were the ones I loved, the ones that I do for fun (and sanity), rather than to earn money. It was an eyeopening moment. Topher and I talk jokingly about a work-life balance often, because it’s a term that gets bandied about a lot at the company we work for without any regard for what that balance might actually look like or how it can be achieved. We work hard. We work long hours. I don’t talk about my day job often because it is a mentally exhausting one – albeit one that I acknowledge I chose – and I prefer to leave it at the office (at least proverbially, since I work from home.) But the truth is, it takes up a lot of my life and in Vancouver, I don’t have a lot of options; the cost of living here is such that if I make a single change to the way I manage my finances right now, including how much money is deposited to my bank account from my bi-weekly pay cheque, I can no longer afford the life I want to live. And the question I had to ask myself, very seriously, when I realised that, was, Is it really worth it?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer turned out to be no. It was disheartening. For a few weeks, I was plagued by the knowledge that I have done all the alleged right things – gotten the degree, gotten the job, worked hard for promotions – and those things still haven’t been enough to make my life sustainable. But I’m not the type to dwell; I believe every problem has a solution and that this one was no exception to that. The first decision was the easiest; we booked tickets to Paris for a lengthy stay, because if there is one city in the world where I am happy to live with next to nothing, that is it, and it’s obvious I need some time to recharge. Becoming permanent Parisians is not an option, of course – we have already tried every avenue to get there and have accepted it’s not possible. So when we come back from Paris, we’re going home, to the place I was so very glad to escape a decade ago. It may be just for a little while or it might be for a long time, I really don’t know. What I do know is that with our monthly living costs cut by more than half, we will have the freedom to make choices we haven’t been able to make here; freedom to choose, sometimes, to do things we love rather than always giving precedence to things that are necessary. I look forward to being able to say yes to more of the things I really want.

With all of that said, I wouldn’t trade the past ten years for anything – Vancouver has many faults, but it is the place that gave me the space to become the person I always wanted to be, so I will remember it fondly for that. But I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter. And of course, to taking you all along with me. Coco & Vera started out as just a crazy experiment in my living room; the fact that I have all of you to share these moments with remains incredibly humbling and gratifying. Thank-you for being here.

Je vous reviens en français dès lundi, mes belles – j’ai eu tant de difficulté à m’exprimer sur ce sujet en anglais que je n’ose pas aborder la traduction de tout ce que j’ai écrit.

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  1. I know how you feel – working just to pay for the necessities feels draining, and like you are trapped in your circumstances. I think taking the time to recharge and reassess is a great idea, and of course I know you are happiest in Paris, so I’m sure the coming weeks will offer you a good deal of clarity.
    Cheers to new adventures this year!

  2. I knew this post was coming… and it’s honestly both sad & exciting! Exciting because you deserve to do what you love and not feel trapped in a job, or overwhelmed with bills. Martin & I have been there (more on that when we visit)!!! But for selfish reasons I’m sad because our wine dates & friendship are such a highlight in my life and I’ll miss you dearly! However, I’m glad you’ll be a short flight away and I have my fingers crossed you’ll still be visiting Vancouver here & there! But for now, there’s Paris and we have a date on the calendar. So all good things!! Wishing you ALL the best on this adventure Cee, and I’m certain good things are to come!! xo

  3. My husband and I have been talking about this a lot lately too! Ever since we came back from Europe in June, and it’s comforting to know we aren’t the only ones considering a drastic change. Just imagine your new possibilities!

    • Honestly, I think a lot of us are secretly (or not so secretly) thinking about it – it gets just that much hard to manage every year, with rent increases vastly outpacing salary increases and the cost of everything else just going up, up, up, too. It’s almost mind boggling when you look at how much less you can live on anywhere else. You’re not alone, lady <3

  4. Good luck for your new chapter of your life!
    Everybody needs to make his own “flower” and say yes to things that he love!
    I like your blog and your thoughts.
    Best wishes!

  5. Cee, I’m so happy for you! Congratulations doll 😀 I wish it was permanent, because you fit perfectly into Paris life. It’s YOU! It always has been. I’m just glad it’s extended this time. You never know! And don’t give up hope! Sometimes what we think is impossible becomes POSSIBLE. Never lose faith. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.

  6. I am older than you, but when I was about to turn 33 years old, I did the same thing. I had lived all over the U.S., and more on a whim than anything, finally came back to Chicago. After that, I came “home,” to a place I vowed never to return: the suburbs of Chicago. And while our suburb has been called “hip” by several fancy publications, it’s still the suburbs. I have to say though that things like being able to enjoy my life without constantly stressing about money like I did in more expensive locations and being close to family have helped make me the most content I’ve ever been in my life. I know wherever you are you will do incredibly well. I wish you the very best in your new journey, friend!

  7. I have friends who live in Vancouver, and although it does sound like a lovely city, I have never been able to understand how anyone not born rich manages to live there and make ends meet. I remember seeing a post one time about what basically looked like a hovel for sale in Vancouver, compared with what you could get in France for the same price – a literal castle! It was mind-boggling. So although I can imagine it’s difficult to leave behind for so many reasons, I totally understand the impetus behind the decision.

    I love that you will get back to Paris, a city that you love so dearly, even if only for a short time. My guess is you are heading back to MB after that? I know this might be a season in which you are challenged and stretched a bit in some ways, but I’m sure other benefits will make themselves known as well. Wishing you so well as you begin a new journey, Cee!

    • We are indeed headed back to MB after Paris – it’s going to be a big adjustment after being away for a decade (especially to the temperatures!!) But you’re totally right about the hovel versus castle thing; we can just afford our one-bedroom apartment here, and I do mean just. If we ever wanted to expand for any reason, or just to stop paying such crazy amounts for groceries, moving to the suburbs or another city are the only two options. Another city seemed like a much better choice to me!

  8. Wow, this would be such a difficult decision to make – just moving cities.. I have full admiration of anyone who can do this. Besides, you have already evaluated your options and I think things will only get better for you 🙂

  9. I don’t blame you. While I admire the beauty of Vancouver, I cannot imagine dealing with the cost of living and having the lifestyle I want. What I paid for a lovely sprawling home in a rural subdivision just outside Ottawa (30 mins to downtown) wouldn’t even get a 1-bedroom condo in Vancouver. Enjoy Paris and embrace MB. There is beauty everywhere and joy to be found in every season, even cold ones. There is much to be said for a comfortable lifestyle instead of one where you are just eking by.

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