How Do You Know When it’s Time to Leave?

It’s been nearly two months since I first landed in Halifax after an insanely chaotic summer, and over three months since I lost my job. Why Halifax? I came here because I have good, dependable, reliable, amazing friends in this city. I came here because I really needed a break, and to figure out what to do with my life. Straighten up a little, figure shit out.

None of that really happened at all.

So what did I do?
I made some new friends, had a million and one new experiences. Tried a dozen new flavours of beer and saw more of Nova Scotia than some of my Nova Scotian friends. I applied for a handful of excellent jobs, and started a business plan. I networked and spent more money than I have. I damaged friendships and got rejected. I find myself here tonight with at least 100 different emotions and none of them positive, because ultimately, I still don’t know what I want.

The Halifax skyline.

The Halifax skyline.

I realize I was only a province over, still in the east coast of Canada, but I find myself in a sort of daze being home and no longer living out of a suitcase. I keep thinking things are missing, and I keep wandering to the kitchen sink to wash my hands with the imaginary hand soap. I swept the contents off my dresser and desk today, throwing out old make-up brushes and lip glosses and broken necklaces I never got around to fixing. I filled two garbage bags, and I haven’t tackled my closet yet. Everything feels like a waste. I’m cranky and irrational and I feel extremely guilty about it.

I’ve missed my friends like crazy. The longer I’ve been away from them, the more I realize how amazing they are. There’s a “welcome home” party planned for me, and I’ve been smothered with my favourite foods like delicious banana bread, and chip dip. We’ve all kept in touch so much since I’ve been gone it feels like I never left. I love them and my family more than anything in the world, even if my family does not approve of me potentially moving.

Then there’s St. John’s. After being in Halifax, even just one province over, St. John’s felt surreal. I told people about my city and my heart ached for it. After some time, I realized how incredibly isolated I am in Newfoundland. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from home.

There’s nothing wrong with the isolation, it’s what shapes my province and makes it unique. I would never want it to change; I still think St. John’s is one of the greatest cities you could ever live in. But Halifax, still a considerably small city with about 400,000 people, has a feel that St. John’s does not – a metropolitan vibe – and I found myself loving it. I feel like possibilities there are endless. I feel inspired by the flow of people, the variety of restaurants and bars, and the potential to grow. I feel like it’s the kind of place where I can screw up and still get another chance, but still have great friends around.

I enjoy this ruckus.

I enjoy this ruckus.

As a Newfoundlander, I’m tied to my province with the same fierce pride as everyone else. I take every opportunity to boast about my island, spreading tourism paraphernalia wherever I go. I get incredibly excited when I see a bumper sticker with my province’s flag, or a complete flag hanging in someone’s garden. On my return flight to Newfoundland, I realized I was reading a book about Joey Smallwood with a Newfoundland tourism bookmark tucked between the pages. It’s just the way I was raised, to hold onto strong bonds, friendships and relationships with all the strength I can muster. And this is why I make a shitty traveller, because when I have to return, slackening those bonds damn well kills me.

Yet here I am, contemplating a move. Not just Halifax, just somewhere different. 24 years in one spot, and maybe it’s time to try something new. I’m still waiting to hear back about employment, which may determine everything. Maybe a week from now I’ll be settled comfortably back at home in my little townhouse downtown, where I’ve spent two incredibly happy years having the most fun of my life. But maybe I won’t.

And maybe that’s the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from this trip – it’s okay to leave. I’ll be just fine somewhere new.

Now what?

  • October 22 2010

    wish i can articulate the answer on your question but i couldnt… How Do You Know When it’s Time to Leave?… i just feel it… like what happened a month ago… i had a comfortable job back home, a comfortable place to live, close with my family and friends… and then all of the sudden i felt the need to leave everything behind… left my job, packed my bags and flew out… and now im in another country figuring the next step to do… :-) life’s full of surprises…

    • October 25 2010

      Well then, I hope you made the right decision and it all works out in the end! :)

  • October 22 2010

    This is beautiful, Candice. You say in the opening paragraph that you went to Halifax in part to figure things out, then say you didn’t figure things out. It sounds to me like you did, though. In part anyway it sounds like you accomplished what you set out to.

    • October 25 2010

      Thank you, Sabina! I think it solved one major question. Now to decide what to DO, exactly.

  • October 22 2010

    I agree with Sabina, I’ve learned there is no lightning bolt where all of a sudden you figure out all of your problems. It’s more gradual and it looks like you’ve made the first step.

    I’m from NS and went to Toronto, which was a huge culture shock. Everything that you are feeling is normal. For the first 3 years every month I contemplated going back home, to the safe and familiar, but then somehow Toronto became that place.

    Try it out, if you don’t like it you can always leave :)

    • October 25 2010

      Hehe, I love how Halifax is THE big step for me, while TO was for you…I don’t really have anything to lose at this point, I guess! I’m glad things worked out for you.

  • October 22 2010

    This reads like a break-up letter, and that tells me your heart is moving on from St. John’s. It’s OK, you’ll be fine, as you say, and St. John’s will always be there for you.

    Best of luck.

    • October 25 2010

      Thank so much, Keith! And you’re right, totally a break up letter. I’m a heartbreaker.

  • October 22 2010

    Short answer, if you are thinking about leaving…. then leave. That means the time is right. Similar to the advice I give to friends thinking about breaking up with their boyfriends and girlfriends — if we are talking about it, you have already decided what to do, you just haven’t articulated it to yourself yet.

    • October 25 2010

      Again, the break-up analogy, ah! You’re right. And I love that you figured it out before I did.

  • October 22 2010
    Bob

    The Irish name for their own travelling nomads, the so-called Tinkers, is ‘Pavee’, which roughly translated means ‘people who walk’. While these people are often maligned, their desire to be on the move is not considered dishonourable in itself. While they roam, it is within a small country, on established routes, and they return again and again to the same places, drawing strength from each stop along the way. Many Newfoundlanders drift back and forth across the country and the world. They are lonely, but rarely bitter. The fact that they have a home, a tribe, to return to one day gives them strength.

    I believe that to get any good, an ambitious artist or writer or whatever needs to travel, live other places, cut the bounds of home from time to time, and test themselves against the world.

    St. John’s is an amazing place, but it is already yours, and will be with you wherever you walk. Do not be afraid to leave it for a time, the mental energy it offers does not dissipate across the miles.

    • October 25 2010

      Bob, absolutely loved your insightful comment. Your advice along with the advice from the others really made me consider everything, and I realize that if I’m going to make a move, now is the time to do it. Halifax or elsewhere…St. John’s will always be here. Thank you!

  • October 22 2010

    I’m not sure I’m in a state to actually respond to this post properly… but I hope you know if you fuck up in St John’s, you’ll still have great friends around. Or at least a friend. Who maybe isn’t great. but she’s pretty sure she wouldn’t be alone standing by you ;)

    In my less selfish moments, I do completely understand the possibility that you maybe need to leave. I mean, it would be hypocritical of me not to… look at me, I left everything and started fresh out here. I maybe don’t have nearly the same attachment to Ontario that you have to NL, but I miss it sometimes. I hear what my friends are up to back there and I wish I was there to be a part of it. But moving on was what I needed. Professionally and personally. The isolation of NL has done things for me professionally that I think a less isolated place could do for you professionally, really… And personally, I was standing still in Ontario. I stood still in NL for awhile, but now I’m moving forward full steam ahead in a way I never could if I had stayed close to ‘home’…

    And I’ll keep being a creepy stalker no matter where you end up ;)

    • October 25 2010

      Ya knows that wherever I go, you can come crash on my couch!!

  • October 23 2010

    Rest assured, this reader is waiting for the post that says you have found your place and plan in life. or at least for the next few months. Good things come to those who wait ;)…crankily or not.

    • October 25 2010

      Thank you Claire, that comment made me excited. :) Hehe.

  • October 23 2010

    You know I try not to pull the age card but when I was your age a freind of mine said “you’ll never get anywhere if you stay where you are” and to me that meant one step or a thousand miles. I took the thousand miles and never looked back.

    • October 25 2010

      Nice, Linlah! Now to decide where, what, when, how!

  • October 23 2010

    Seems like you’re in a mixed place Candice.

    How do you know when to leave? When it primarily takes up all your thoughts I guess. That applies to many things, not just travel, but if you’re in a relationship, some networking event, or down the pub.

    You may have learnt it’s OK to leave, and hopefully you’ll soon learn that it’s very easy to return too. Leaving doesn’t have to be permanent, although that’s often what family feel on the matter.

    As for what next? Well I’m going to guess that Newfound Land is your passion and that’s coming across here, and as you’re promoting tourism why not take a piece of that pie and be a tour guide. Set up a quick website and start spreading pamphlets about your tour. If there is that much tourism there then you could get by easily.

    • October 25 2010

      Thanks Rob, haven’t heard from ya in awhile! I have a million different schemes going on right now, here’s to nailing down the right one…

  • October 24 2010

    What an awesomely authentic post. I’m usually a ridiculously rational and linear thinker, but when it comes to big life decisions I’ve always trusted my intangible instincts.

    So I say go out there, fuck up, succeed, and enjoy every moment of it.

    • October 25 2010

      Hahaha, I love it Ryan, thank you!

  • October 24 2010

    i envy you.

    I envy your ability to move on from where you grew up.
    I envy your lack of baggage.
    I envy your sense of adventure.
    I envy your fear.

    You are responsible to no one but yourself.

    You have very few opportunities to fuck up without really hurting someone else. Most of those chances occur when you’re young. Take them now, while you still can.

    Take chances. You have no idea how future-you will be affected by them, but I ensure you that no experience is without a lesson.

    have fun. if you want to talk to someone who’s never done what you think you want to do, drop me a line. contact info on my site.

    • October 25 2010

      Thanks so much for the vote of confidence, Jeff! I emailed you already under separate cover, but thanks.

  • October 24 2010
    Jeff

    Interesting post, C. For what it’s worth, I have found that the recognition of opportunity when it walks by your door is the real skill, not the beating of the bushes to draw it out. Opportunity doesn’t really ever knock on its own, but it does walk by a lot. You’d fit in well in Halifax right now, though you’d have to be in the city and not “down the Passage”, and we’d love to have you. But maybe there’s something in front of you right now that you’re not seeing.

    • October 25 2010

      If I do move there, I’m definitely headed straight to the heart of downtown. Can’t believe how little time I actually got to spend in the downtown area. But I agree, and I’m not usually so inclined to sit back and wait for opportunity, so full speed ahead! Thanks!

  • October 25 2010

    It seems like you’re very honest with yourself, both about being unsure of what you definitively want and about maybe not accomplishing what you set out to do these last few months.

    Maybe you’re just being hard on yourself, but life isn’t always about “doing.” Perhaps these last few months of just “being” were good for you. Even if you felt like you were living out of a bag at someone else’s home and spending money you didn’t have, you were enjoying life to some degree and learning more about yourself in the process. Good luck to you whatever you decide.

    • October 28 2010

      Thank you, Lauren! It’s nice to hear a positive spin on it all. It was nice to simply “exist” for a few months…but a gal like me gets stir-crazy!

  • October 26 2010

    I think the key is trying to figure out if you’re actually looking for an answer or if you are looking for justification of the answer that is already in your head. Sometimes we already know whether or not it’s time to move on but it takes time for us to come to terms with that idea.

    And usually, as soon as I make the realization that the next stage of my life is just that, another stage, and not a permanent change, then the answer as to what I should do next suddenly becomes all too clear…

    I wish you the best wherever you end up!

    • October 28 2010

      Seems to be the underlying message in everyone’s comments, perhaps the only one who doesn’t see the answer is me! Hehe. Next question there…where to next?

  • October 26 2010

    Of course…you know the answer, and no one else but you knows it.

    Without going into any horrific detail, I will say that after 20 years in the same pair of shoes, my heart finally gathered the strength to rip the rest of me from those soles. I haven’t shuffled listlessly since and am a broke but contented man.

    Every footfall brings a fresh memory, not just for ourselves, but of ourselves.

    • October 28 2010

      Agreed, now to get the cash to do so…thanks for the comment, Alex!

  • October 26 2010

    It’s rare to be 100% ready. You seem close enough — GO!! If anyone’s going to be fine anywhere, it’s you! I know what you mean though… even though you “know” something, it’s reassuring to see it manifest itself. Me, I thought I gave up my career to travel. Turns out, you can take a year or two off and still go back to work. Who would’ve thunk it.

    • October 28 2010

      Hehe Abby, I hope everything works out for me as well as it did for you!

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