I am leaving Canada, for a while at least.
Some of you may remember that I decided to push myself right out of my comfort zone in 2019 and took a job as Deputy Provost at Athabasca University – Canada’s largest open university. After 3 years I have decided to leave and am returning home to Scotland.
I will say up front, for those who have been following the Athabasca University saga, I am not leaving because of the recent changes in leadership, nor because of the work. I am deeply sorry not to be working with Peter Scott, but I have worked with Alex Clark for the last 18 months and I have no doubts about his commitment to AU, our open mandate, and the students that we serve. I leave with a lot of regret, a lot of love for my colleagues, and a big sense of very bad timing. There is much to do still at AU, I was excited to do it, and I know I can do it. I’ve never been afraid of hard work or tough problems. I don’t rule out a return if there ever was a place for me again.
However, to be able to do the work required I need to have wider life supports in place, and I just don’t. On top of pandemic isolation, and the loss of 2 parents, it feels like every leg on the metaphorical stool supporting me has been kicked out from under over the last year, and come January 2023 I found myself sitting on my ass on the floor. The major pieces I need to sustain me here are not in place.
So this time I’m really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’m stopping for a little while. Resetting, refuelling.
Having felt homesick for long periods, I’m leaving Canada with very mixed feelings. BC has really gotten under my skin, and it only gets more beautiful the more I look. I rather fear I’ve consigned myself to never feeling quite fully at home anywhere again. As much as I’ve yearned for the lush greens, tree-lines, and seascapes of home, I’m going to miss the scrubby sagebrush hills, the warm summer lakes, and the beautiful golden evening light here in the Interior. I’m going to miss good friends and a Canadian life that could have been.
In the short term I am going to take a little time to recharge. I’m going to read, write, make things, listen to music, watch films, enjoy art, walk by the water, swim, spend time with all the good people, go dancing, go to gigs (some already lined up). I’m going to cook and garden. I’m going to spend time in wild places, perhaps go off-grid in France for a bit, maybe some mischief in the sun somewhere. As I talk to people about coming back I’m truly humbled by the love that I’ve felt wrapped around me. Over and again I’ve heard “we love you, get home, we’ve got you”. A friend sends me snapshots from their window of the street and weather and the normality and familiarity of it keep me moving forwards. I’ll have my boots on those streets soon, maybe even enjoy that same view with a cup of tea in my hand.
I’m not putting timescales or constraints on how long I’ll do this for, or what else it might look like, but I rather suspect I’m going to get itchy for new challenges and interesting work quite quickly. So once I’ve had a long nap and spent some time being cared for by the people who truly lift me up, I will be looking for work that brings me joy or sounds like fun. That might be in the UK, or that might be in Canada. I don’t think my wanderlust has gone at all, so we’ll see what the future brings.
My long term plan is to be radically open to all possibilities, and maybe even be a little rootless for a while, and that feels pretty thrilling.