I’m listening to Taylor Swift’s Red album, watching youtube videos about how to properly snowshoe, because I am going snowshoeing in the morning. That is what you do here in Vancouver; when you can’t hike the trails in the North Shore Mountains, you snowshoe them.
I probably should go to bed soon, but here I am, after watching too many episodes of Life in Pieces, and finally completed my statistics course I need to complete prior to the new semester, I sit awake reflecting on the year of 2018.
I am in a perpetual state of grace, remembering with a corny smile on my face, all the things I have accomplished this year. The continents I travelled to feel more than literal miles away, they feel decades away too.
I ended the year of 2017 at a football game, finding out that I was going to Kenya to volunteer with Canadian Nurses for Africa. In those three weeks, strangers became my adopted moms, and sisters. I learned that antimalarials give you vivid dreams that I can still recite today, and that the African sun turns you into a tomato on a cloudy day. Being accepted to do something that I didn’t even know I wanted to challenge myself to do, unknowingly prepared me for even more changes that happened in 2018.
After seeing the poverty, and the beauty of Kenya and the circle of life happen literally right before my eyes in the “safety” of our 4×4, I embarked on a trip that continued to shape my worldview. The all-encompassing trip to Europe with Contiki and my family ignited my desire to explore cities, new cultures, and new food. I wanted to do what you did, in every place I went. The 24 to 36-hour snapshot I got of Paris, Berlin, Prague, Cinque Terre, Le Grazie, Amsterdam, and London opened my eyes to the history that has cultivated our world today. Physically walking on top of the bunker where Hitler killed himself and understanding the magnitude that had in shaping our existence and walking into churches that were older than I could even imagine… the feeling of awe and wonder of being surrounded by history is always what will make me want to go back and explore more of Europe.
The opportunity to explore parts of Italy that I had not visited before, was something that I was so happy to do. The places we stayed at in Amalfi and in Sicily helped support the livelihood of the hotel and bed and breakfast owners, as they welcomed us with southern hospitality and freshly made pasta every night. Recently, an earthquake in Sicily prompted by the eruption of Mt Etna, made news headlines, causing the destruction of the nearby town of Catania. Only mere months ago we climbed through the caves and craters of Mt Etna and walked the streets of Catania, watching fisherman barter their fresh catch of the day and making friends with the owners of Nelson Sicily, who sold my favourite wine by Tornatore wineries in Sicily.
Reconnecting with family, that we had not seen in eight years, and seeing how no one had aged at all, further validated that Italians were living life right. Walking the streets of Crotone, a seaside town in Calabria, eating fresh provolone cut personally for us in our cousin’s cheese shop, and drizzling fresh olive oil over burrata cheese — mmm — nothing gets better than that! Communicating through food, rather than me trying to understand Italian, seemed a lot easier. Even though my great aunts and uncles looked like they physically didn’t age, it was eight years since we had seen them last. I had just graduated high school, and now here I was, supposed to be married with a kid already like my cousins in Italy. As we said our goodbyes, they jokingly called out, (also being serious) “next time you come, bring your husband!”
Before I could unpack my summer clothes, and dust the sand off my sandals I was packing for a whole new adventure. I guess I kind of forced myself to move across the country when I applied to only one school to pursue graduate studies. But, when I say I am going to do something, at this point, my parents know I am going to do it.
Since moving to Vancouver, I have encountered challenges and lucky blessings that have made me grow more as an adult in 4 months than I have in years. With control of living one’s own life, having a choice of where you want to live, where you want to work, how you want to act and live, only makes the risk that much greater. Just because you want to control these things, doesn’t mean the universe will allow you to control them. My resiliency is strengthened every time I look out my apartment window and see the snow capped mountains, or walk down to the beach and touch the Pacific Ocean. I made a choice to come here because I knew that is what I wanted to do for me, I never did it because it was easy. If I wanted comfortable I would have stayed in Hamilton. I have learned, that being uncomfortable is the only way to learn to be comfortable. Of course, I wasn’t going to be comfortable, moving to a new city, but hey, now I have made some great friends, and have done awesome in my first semester of school. Of course, I was a little uncomfortable going on a bus that I just found out about the night before, that was going to drop me off at a park for a day with no cell reception, but hey, I had a lovely lunch after an amazing hike. Of course, I am going to be a little uncomfortable snowshoeing for the first time tomorrow, but hey, I will be with friends, and learning something new, and the added bonus, it is cheaper than skiing.
2018, you have taught me a lot. You have taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and sometimes you have to make changes and challenge yourself not because it is the easy thing to do, but because you may actually learn something about yourself. Okay, enough with the corny philosophical lines.
As an aside, because I couldn’t be home for Christmas, I surprised my parents at the beginning of December and caught it all on video (if you haven’t seen it, let me know, and I can show you, it is hilarious). It was lovely to see my family and friends, even if I couldn’t spend time with everyone (that is the thing about surprising people, no one knows you are coming, so you can’t plan anything – unless it is half price wine nights at BnR or annual Christmas dinner). Looking forward to seeing everyone again soon in the new year.
Check out my insta stories for me making a complete fool of myself snowshoeing tomorrow! @kristasferrazza (or check out the tab above)