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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

Loneliness, Late-night radio requests and Life in Vancouver

By Leana Yu

People say Vancouver is a beautiful city. All the time.

I know it is. In my head I am aware of this fact.

But I don’t always see it.

I see it all over Facebook. People and their Instagram pictures of the latest sunset or pictures of the ocean and pictures of the ocean I and the sunset. I see these pictures and I think, nice picture! But I don’t feel it. I’m not sure why that is.

It just is.

Don’t get me wrong. I love living here. As a Vancouver Island transplant for the last 5 years and two more about a decade ago, Vancouver has made me who I am today. I don’t think I’m exaggerating either. It’s the truth.

I first ventured over here as an 18 year old to go to beauty school in search of myself and in hopes of becoming a makeup artist. It was hard to leave my friends, especially at an age when my friends were everything to me. But I couldn’t stay on the island anymore. I wasn’t doing anything. I was sleeping in and taking a couple carefully chosen late afternoon classes at college and getting fat. I would stay up absurdly late and listen to the radio and sometimes call in to make requests. I only existed for the weekends and weeknights with my friends. As my jeans got tighter and as I progressively slept in later, I knew something wasn’t working. I had to leave. I realized I couldn’t let ‘missing my friends’ stop me from doing the things I knew I needed to do. So I moved to Vancouver, or rather, Burnaby and moved in with my aunt and cousin in their one-bedroom apartment.

Bless their hearts.

I wasn’t easy to live with.

For the first time, I had no friends to see and no plans of any sort. There were moments when I felt so lonely. It ached in me and I didn’t know what to do with it. So I watched Oprah and lots of it.

I started learning about myself. I started thinking about the way I used to be, the way I sometimes treated my family, especially my brother. I started learning about things like gratitude and spirit and even made an appointment at the bank and started my RRSP’s after watching a particularly insightful episode on finances.

I also went to the movies by myself for the first time. I wanted to hide when I was in line for the movie – as if everyone around me knew that I was there by myself. But they didn’t. I went in and laughed and cried by myself and left feeling more of myself.

I started voice lessons and salsa lessons and even dabbled in some hip-hop dance classes. I would jump on the Skytrain at Metrotown and get off at Granville and wander to and fro between various classes and lessons, often late at night. I always felt safe.

I could open up the Georgia Straight and look at all the things the city offered and pick and choose what I wanted to do. The Georgia Straight was my direct line to freedom. I could do anything that tickled my fancy all the while learning what it was that I fancied.

That was 14 years ago now.

In between now and then, there was a year spent in Ireland, a relationship that turned into a marriage, which led us to a year in Nashville, Tennessee, and then 3 more years in Victoria after we left Nashville. There was a program completed at the same college that I wasted away in at 18. And then there was the discovery that I wanted to pursue acting, which led me at 26, to a performing arts college where I was putting on tap shoes with 17 year olds.

Upon graduating from performing arts school (with a bunion to show for it from those darn tap shoes!), I asked my husband Shaun to consider the possibility of moving to Vancouver. If I was going to pursue acting and really give it a go, I had to be in Vancouver. Time was ticking and I wanted to live with no regrets. Whether or not I became a famous actor was not the point. The point was to pursue my dreams. Where they lead is not entirely up to me but my responsibility lied in the pursuit. I owed it to me, I owed it to my Creator, and I owed it to us to live fully into these dreams.

It’s been 5 years now. And out of our 9 years of marriage, most of them have been spent here in Vancouver. It’s the place where I get to explore my passions and pursue my dreams. It’s where I discovered I had the longing to put words to paper and share it with people. It’s where my husband has come home to after travelling the world as a touring musician and where he too began writing and independently-published a book. It’s where I am inspired to continue to keep asking the question “why not?” and keep pursuing the things that make me feel alive.

Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Vancouver makes me feel alive. Alive with possibility, alive with it’s energy, alive with its mountains and ocean and trees. Alive with the fact that I can just drive to the border and keep going to Oregon just because I want to.

You probably won’t see me posting pictures of oceans and sunsets because they likely won’t even register with me. It’s part of the beauty and banality of living somewhere beautiful. It becomes second nature.

But perhaps you will see pictures of me doing the things that make me feel alive.

Because that is what Vancouver is to me.



Beautifully alive.

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