No matter where you go, there you are. I never really thought about what that meant before now.
The ‘little team that could’, the pride of a city, the underdogs, the Winnipeg Jets made the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. It saddens me to say that they are now out of the playoffs, but that’s neither here nor there. They made it!
And with that wave of excitement and satisfaction that washed over my hometown came a wave of homesickness and unease that washed over me. Like an injury that becomes more apparent when the weather gets damp, it gnawed at me ever so slightly, masked by that layer of intense delight.
Initially, it was incredibly easy to land here, and in a lot of ways it still is. I landed in Toronto in the very beginning of a frosty February with almost nothing to cushion that jump. A few boxes, a few suitcases, a few friends. This made it easy to distract myself – I had to build everything from the ground up. I needed new clothes, new acquaintances, new places to go, (I know it sounds weird but) new pantry staples, new groceries, new shoes, new regular coffee shops, new routines. Dirtying up a clean slate takes focus and concentration and time. It’s an engrossing process.
I just left Winnipeg, so I didn’t need to miss it very much. I mean if anything, I have 26 years worth of Manitoba memories stowed away for a rainy day. I’m in a new city with plenty of things to learn and to take in. You can truly get drunk on Toronto’s energy. (I guess also on the beers – so much delicious beer)
… Then the Jets hhaaaaaad to go and make the playoffs. COME ON.
I’m an enormous fan of the Winnipeg Jets. Enormous. I cried when they got in. It’s a feeling of powerful relief to know that such a beloved and fought-for franchise is getting the recognition they deserve – for their passion at the very least. But it also felt like what I can imagine it feels like to hear your child is killing it at the school play and you just couldn’t make it because of .. a business trip. But everyone is going nuts for their performance back home, the papers are giving them rave reviews and IT’S YOUR KID. BUT YOU CAN’T BE THERE.
So in the midst of this whirlwind adventure I’ve thrown myself into, I found myself aching for home. I wanted to be at Portage and Main, I wanted to be in the downtown bars, I wanted to be in the MTS Centre. I wanted to be high fiving my friends and hugging strangers.
But guess what? People are amazing here. My whole workplace stood behind me and sketched out W-I-N-N-I-P-E-G J-E-T-S in our hockey pool (sorry guys) – they also offered me strong condolences the morning after a loss. (They don’t have schmoo here – !!!!- ABSOLUTE BLASPHEMY – BUT I have a co-worker on the case to remedy that ) That concept that you can throw a stone in any city and you’ll land at the feet of a Winnipegger is 100% true. In fact, I found the place where all those stones land.
A near and dear co-worker stood next to me at what I like to refer to as the greatest bar in the world, Motel in Parkdale, where the bar was packed to the brim with current (visiting) Winnipeggers and Winnipeg expats cheering and completely enveloped in the Jets playoff games. It was amazing. I am grateful.
Cause no matter where you go, there you are. Only Winnipeggers can truly understand why one would feel such sorrow in leaving a place that hits -50 and the bitter wind makes your face feel a pain you didn’t think existed. I didn’t leave Winnipeg because I didn’t love it. I worked at Manitoba Film & Music for five years, promoting Manitoba culture, and I lived right in the heart of the city. I left because the world is a big place and I want to indulge in all of it. And God bless whoever decided to sprinkle Winnipeggers throughout the globe and have them use that connection as a way to ease the pain of homesickness. Being from that city is an immeasurable bond and carries a certain je-ne-sais-quoi – comparable to having the Canadian flag on your backup when you travel abroad. I’ve learned that being from Winnipeg is an adorable, redeeming quality to have.
Now as I’m beginning to ‘nest’ in my place, buying dishes and appliances and bedding and such, in my new and beautiful city, I’m thankful to my birthplace for never letting me forget where I came from. And maybe sometimes I feel like the underdog in this fast-motion skyscraper town – but game on.