The Grass is Always Greener

After almost two years of planning, I am now a temporary resident of Canada on a study permit. I am enrolled in the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University, and have signed the dotted line on a large bounty for my head post-graduation.

And yet now that I’m here, my mind wanders. Images flash in my mind, looking out over a particularly beautiful hiking vista at Yosemite National Park. A place where I don’t have to identify a loonie and a toonie at a moment’s sight, or be asked if I have a bit for a Robertson screw. I can just relax and take in the view.

Sure, I’ve met plenty of people in Vancouver already. However, every fellow student I’ve talked to about my passions has deafened me with their yawns. The only thing most of them know about Portland is that it’s a gridded city and that there’s “cheap shopping” because of Oregon’s lack of a sales tax. Despite Vancouver’s friendly and livable reputation, all sources say that bike theft is so rampant that not only should I never take my Sweetpea to school, but I should even keep it well-secured inside my locked apartment.

Between the homesickness, culture shock, and other remaining sadnesses, this afternoon I thought about my ultimate goal: to be happy. The goal has always been the same, but what has changed in the past several months is what I think will get me there. Ten years ago, I was sure it was education, which is why for the past ten years my goal has been to proceed into the next degree program.

Well I’m here now, and yet I don’t seem to be any happier.

Should I read that book where the woman tried different things over a year in a quest for happiness? Turns out she has an interesting website, including an blog post about how borrowing thousands of dollars for your education is not a happiness guarantee. (Thanks guys-I read that about 6 months too late.)

I do know this: the times I’ve been happiest are when I’ve felt like I had a solid, connected relationship with somebody. And it turns out that I just moved away from a few people like that. Except often I find that the happiness is one-sided: people become too busy for me or practice “out of sight, out of mind” and I’m left wondering what I did wrong. In other words: also not a guarantee for happiness.

It seems like the only thing left is one’s outlook on life. Is happiness a state of mind and result of positive thinking?

If so, I’m totally screwed.



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2 responses to “The Grass is Always Greener

  1. averagejoecyclist

    Heather, I am sorry to hear you so sad. I too went through culture shock after arriving from South Africa 12 years ago. Now, however, I LOVE living in Greater Vancouver. So hang in there. By the way, if you can survive the winter, spring and summer are FABULOUS for cycling.
    I saw your email on the Velolove list (which was great because it led to your website, and I love to find intelligent, thought-provoking blogs). I responded with an email, but I don’t know if it went through (I struggle with the techy side). So I am going to repeat what I said there, as I really want to communicate with you: I have a blog ( on which I am compiling information about fun things people can do on their bikes. It’s mainly Vancouver-centred now, so there might be something of interest there for you. I’m still building it up, and looking for Guest Posts. And as I am planning to cover other places in North America – and you write so well – it would be awesome if you did a Guest Post (or two) on Portland. We’re planning to visit Portland soon, and it would be great to go armed with some knowledge about local bike routes or events.
    I really hope to hear from you!

  2. Matt

    Hi Heather,

    I think you nailed it at the end of this post. As I frequently say, “where ever you go, there you are”. My wife and I use this saying to question ourselves when we get to thinking that moving far away will make us happier, or solve our problems. I think we all just need to work on shifting our thinking/doing to a more positive, less scarcastic frame of mind (which I’ll admit is not an easy task in the world we live in). Keep your chin up and try to look on the bright side of things. Hope you are adjusting well to BC.
    Matt in Milwaukie

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