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Irrational Vancouver

By Jason Keller

Vancouver is a city that makes you behave in irrational ways. Less than a year ago, I had a well-paying job, within a respected news organization, and a strong social circle while living in bustling Toronto. Today, I am sitting in a food court sponging free WiFi and anxiously wondering if I will be rejected after yet another job interview.

And I did all this to watch an eagle soar past me? To be engulfed in greenery, or watch a sun descend behind a twilight-dusted mountain ridge?

Yes, I suppose I did and have few regrets about it, most of the time.

My loving partner and I relocated for all the cliche reasons you hear from newly-arrived Vancouverites: we wanted to be close to nature; a more tolerable climate; and enjoy an active lifestyle. All these aspirations have come to fruition, as Vancouver is most welcoming when it comes to trails, parks, beaches and gardens.

This is the Vancouver that is still accepting new memberships. There’s always a spot on Kitsilano Beach or English Bay to plant yourself and stare into a stunning harbour landscape that never grows weary on the eyes. We traverse the labyrinth paths of the Pacific Spirit Region and its towering trees and sometimes it feels as though we exist in a fairy tale. When others pass by, there is usually a friendly “hello” or smile. We are co-inhabitants of the same woodland fantasy world.

In my mind, this is Vancouver at its most perfect. Connecting with strangers in the city’s incomparable natural splendour because there we are all equals. No luxury cars, expensive houses or private schools separate us; we’re just humans basking in a common love, minus the socioeconomic status barriers.

Outside of these natural wonders, Vancouver’s harsh realities have ways of poking a pin into the euphoric bubble. The real estate and housing situation, now a world class phenomenon in affordability that rivals San Francisco, New York and London, feels like a ship which sailed long ago for the new entrants of modest means. Luxury SUVs parade across the Lions Gate and up and down South Granville, leaving you wondering how far down the have-not side of the equation you’ve slipped.

Employment is fiercely competitive, with HR gate-keepers inundated with CVs from around the globe. I’m told Vancouver is a who-you-know city and that 80 per cent of positions are filled on recommendation. Those are dispiriting odds for a newcomer and it speaks to the city‘s growing stigma of being “cold” and closed off to outsiders.

I’m also constantly reminded that Vancouverites “have their social circles” firmly in place and that forming new friendships with locals is about as common here as a drought in January. Perhaps part of the reason is Vancouver is an outward-looking city, as opposed to an inward-looking city. People look out to the mountains, ocean and islands and plan their weekend escapes. When there is this constant drive to flee the urban area than the chance for new social interactions become diminished.

But that’s why so many of us have flocked here, which I suppose is something of a cruel irony. To be more in touch with the earth and nature means a sacrifice in social integration. Perhaps Vancouverites could stand to be more inward-looking and spend time developing new social relationships, engaging in our communities and putting increased effort into being civic minded.

My personal journey has left me steadfast in my love of Vancouver, but uncertain of my future in it. Nobody said moving here and trying to carve out a life as a journalist would be easy, but then nobody said it would be this challenging either. I don’t have egregiously high aspirations, just to lock down a comfortable and stable life for me and my partner.

Whenever it feels hopeless and the skies cloud over both literally and metaphorically, I will make my way down to False Creek and absorb the simple beauty of ducks waddling to the pond or boats drifting under the bridge during sundown. These moments reaffirm my belief in Vancouver’s magic and when I see others around me doing the same, captivated by the otherworldly beauty, it only heightens the sensation. This is when I’m connected in every way; to nature, city and my fellow passengers of life. It’s the most rational feeling in the world.

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