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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

Vancouver: My journey into her heart

By Christie Graham

I’ve had a passionate affair with Vancouver. From childhood crushes to adulthood embraces, fiery departures to heart-warming reunions, it’s matured into a sustainable loving relationship.

My first crush hit during Expo 86. I was ten, and we were visiting family like we did every summer from Ontario. My brother and I were thrilled with the people, the rides, the food, and the passports we got stamped from country pavilions. I felt like the whole world was here. There was nowhere else I’d rather be. On these annual summer trips, we visited Kits beach, Capilano Suspension Bridge, VanDusen Garden, Granville Island, Stanley Park, and from north to south, Whistler to White Rock. It was magic seeing starfish clinging to rocks, enjoying sudden delightful appearances of playful sea otters as they chomped on fresh Pacific Ocean salmon, and admiring bald eagles soaring above majestic evergreen trees. I also loved exploring UBC campus, a place I dreamed of going when I grew up.

Four years later, we moved across the country to the “left” coast. My mom’s dream to be reunited with her extended family, live on the ocean, and enjoy springtime in February when the rest of the country was shovelling its way out, came true.

My dream of going to UBC came true too. I fell in love with the academic utopia overlooking downtown. The campus was full of ideas, possibilities, and people as curious, inspired and passionate as me. I freely explored UBC’s green paradise: jogs to Spanish Banks, bike rides through Pacific Spirit Regional Park, outdoor concerts and sporting events at Thunderbird stadium, campus beer gardens, and reflective times in Nitobe Gardens. Embracing UBC’s mantra, “Tuum Est / It’s up to you”, this became my gateway into my chosen career.

By 2001, I graduated with my law degree. I bought my first apartment on Pacific Avenue and Hornby Street, a rooftop gem. I was smitten by views of lively Granville Island and the breath-taking sunsets of English Bay. At 25, I was set to begin the next chapter of life working at a downtown law firm. I felt on top of the world.

Over the next five “work-hard-play-hard” years, my relationship with Vancouver experienced euphoric highs. Hotspots included Yaletown’s Glowball and Granville Street’s Ginger Sixty-Two; throw in the “Jet-Set” parties, hosted at the Vancouver Club, the Lawn and Tennis Club, the Vancouver Aquarium, Hastings Race Track, and various boats and mansions, my crew and I were living large. Relaxing, breathing, balance or yoga were things I had no time for.

With peaks, however, come troughs. Was Vancouver a place where I could find lasting happiness or just a pretty but empty facade void of soul, a fickle fair-weather friend? One rainy November morning during a wet walk to work, I decided I was tired of my soggy feet and even soggier “scene”. So, I sold everything (doubling my investment on my apartment!), and set sail to Hong Kong. For three years, I lived overseas – one year in Hong Kong and two in London, England. I can’t say I learned how to breathe in these years either, but I came to appreciate Vancouver, my friends and family on a deeper level. I longed to return to my nature-loving “green” city, where I could rollerblade or bike the seawall, grab take-out from the middle-eastern shop on Denman and sit on a log in English Bay, soaking up her splendor. That’s were I belonged and where I could rediscover my “feng-shui”, or inner harmony, from which all else would follow.

In 2008, Vancouver welcomed me home with open arms, excited to hear tales of my overseas adventures. Settling back in Vancouver life included walks to work, yoga, my beloved Vancouver Sun, Seawall runs, a convertible SMART car, and a place by Stanley Park overlooking the rowing club where my life began to take root. Party nights were now balanced with chill time. I had created sustainable and meaningful connections, and I soaked in the warm embraces.

By 2010, Olympic fever hit; Vancouver was shining in all her glory. The energy and spirit in the streets was palpable. Niki Yanofsky’s inspiring “I believe” song united the crowds, and offices shut down early to join the celebrations. The glow of these games continued through the year.

One hot August day at Kits Beach, I met the man I would marry. I had come to appreciate balance in my life, and we enjoyed sunny days at Kits Beach and nights out at Coal Harbour’s spectacular Lift rooftop, Gastown’s funky Chill Winston patio, or Main Street’s cosy Le Faux Bourgeois. In 2011, we married beside the ocean across from Eagle Island at the West Vancouver Yacht Club – following a morning mist and raindrops, the clouds lifted and we toasted our nuptials on the deck in fresh west coast air, beside Arbutus trees with bald eagles perched above.

Reflecting on my journey back to Vancouver, I now see her as a city of substance. I’ve lived and travelled around the world in search of great things: love, career, community, adventure, peace, security and happiness. Everything meaningful and lasting, I found in Vancouver. That’s why I’ve chosen her as home. It’s here I graduated from university. It’s here I started my career. It’s here I developed life-long friends. It’s here I fell in love. It’s here I got married. It’s here, my greatest joy of all, I gave birth to my baby girl.

At her heart, Vancouver is mother-earth. She’s a bountiful city who nourishes my twin passions: family and nature, all the while having access to cosmopolitan city pleasures. I have come full circle in my relationship with this sparkling beauty – from early memories of joy and wonderment exploring Expo ‘86 and the enchanting emerald jewel, Stanley Park, to my home-coming after years living overseas. Vancouver, you shimmer in the rain or as the sun dazzles off the Pacific Ocean like a collection of stars, reminding me there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.

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