Well that’s what people kept telling us anyway.
“Oh you’ve done it before, you’re pros at this now”
“This isn’t the big move, leaving Scotland was your big move”
“You’ve done the hardest part already”
“You’ve already left your families behind, this move will be a piece of cake”
“At least you’re not leaving Canada, that will make things less stressful”
Hmmm….. All well meant words of reassurance I know but also I’ll be honest, all a load of BS. No, moving isn’t any easier the second time, in fact I actually found it harder this time. Yes we might have already left behind our families and best friends in Scotland when we moved to Montreal back in 2015, but that didn’t mean that it was any easier to leave behind the lives we had built in Montreal. We weren’t moving down the road or to the next town, we were moving to the other side of Canada, 2200 miles and a 5 hour flight away, to a whole other time zone and an entirely different province who do things very differently from everything we had known.
I know that people didn’t mean any harm and that the ‘Have you settled in yet?’ messages a week after we arrived in Calgary were meant with kindness but they made me feel like I was failing when a week in, eh no, we hadn’t settled in. We were in temporary accommodation, living out of a suitcase, in a city we didn’t know at all and where we didn’t know a soul. We had a million and one things to sort out (somewhere to live, the removal company, buying a car, getting car insurance, health insurance, driving licenses, phone contracts, health care, working out how to get a prescription, a dog license, a vet etc etc) and we were surrounded by so much bureaucracy that made everything we tried to do seem impossible. Settled in? You must be joking! Just getting through each day in those first few weeks was hard.
Five months on now I can look back on those first four weeks and feel proud of what we achieved and how we coped, even when everything around us was going wrong. But no, they weren’t easy. They were really, really hard. I was riddled with anxiety. I cried a lot. Surprisingly at no point during this time did either of us think we’d made the wrong decision, but I mourned for the life I’d left behind, the people and the places I loved. I craved the normality of my life in Montreal; for a time and a place where I knew what to do and didn’t feel like every day and each small task was an uphill struggle.
We had some really rotten luck in those first few weeks, where anything that could have went wrong basically did. We can laugh about it now but at the time we were both very far from laughing. Mark started work on our third day in Calgary so while he had the stress of adapting to a new job I was left in our temporary accommodation trying to make my way through the maze that is Canadian government processes. Don’t be fooled that because we had came from one Canadian province things would be the same here, everything was completely different.
Around three weeks in, I hit my lowest point. Full of a chest infection, which I couldn’t seek any medical help for, because we couldn’t access health care till we had our health cards, which we couldn’t even apply for until we had proof of a permanent address in Alberta…..(a prime example of how things were going) I found myself crying down the phone to the woman at Virgin mobile after a 2 and a half hour phone conversation where I spoke to 6 different people, about them wanting to charge me double the amount of money for the exact same phone contract I’d had in Montreal, I found myself wailing at her “Why do you guys have to make everything so difficult here?”
I don’t remember feeling any of this when we arrived in Montreal. I don’t know if time has just made me forget the stress of those first few weeks and focus on the good parts or maybe we were just so excited and naïve the first time. We definitely didn’t have any of the bad luck then that we had this time around which probably helped. The naivety from the first move was definitely gone though, we knew everything that needed to be done when moving and in a way that probably made things harder.
Even things like moving into our new house was much harder this time. In Montreal we had a furnished apartment; but that seems not to be a thing in Calgary, furnished properties are very few and far between so we moved into an unfurnished 3 bedroom house with only a couch to our name furniture wise. We had to buy everything from scratch, not a cheap, quick or easy process, especially when you don’t even know where the nearest shops are. When we moved into our first home together back in Scotland our family and friends all rallied round to help us unpack and build furniture; here it was just us and despite having no furniture initially we still had a full containers worth of belongings we had brought from Scotland plus everything we had accumulated over the last two and a half years, to unpack and in the coming weeks a house full of flat packs to build. Yes, in a way that made it special as we did everything ourselves, it’s all ours, but it also made it really hard graft.
The last 5 months in Calgary have been an adventure and we’ve made some fantastic memories but they’ve also been a hard slog, both mentally and physically. Now though that we’ve come back out the other side I can see what a wonderful city Calgary is and I know that we will be really happy here. And yes, now I do feel like we’ve settled in but despite what people seem to think this isn’t something that happens overnight, you have to give it time. You don’t just wake up one day and think ‘I’m settled!’. It’s gradual, it happens bit by bit. Suddenly you know how to get a prescription, where does the best coffee and where you can buy stamps nearby. You meet people and you have interactions that make you smile. You start to form friendships and before you know it a whole week has passed without you thinking ‘where the hell do I go for this?’ And little by little you start to build a life for yourselves. It’s a period of adjustment, you’re giving up everything, your home, your job, your city, your friends, and everything you know and starting all over again somewhere new. So, no, it’s definitely not any easier the second time around, but it is worth it.