Discover more from Beagle Voyage with Jane Liaw
Leaving Vancouver (for now)
toward an uncertain future
Sorry it’s been quiet over here. After a year of weekly posts, I’ve taken a bit of an unplanned hiatus as we work through the uncertainty of our next steps and put in time to investigate our possible paths.
We’re heading back down to California and…we still have no set plans for the next school year.
We tossed a bunch of balls in the air earlier in the spring, and now we are watching them come down, trying to figure out which ones to catch. The uncertainty is a little unsettling, but it’s also invigorating to not know where we’ll be and what we’ll be working on in the fall. In the meantime, summer will be spent in California with friends and family.
What we do know is we won’t have our home back for another year. We listed our house for rent to test the waters, and were immediately contacted by a family who was looking for exactly what our place had to offer.
Circumstances were already nudging us toward not returning to the Bay Area for the next school year, so we took it as fate that this family found us. Within a week of listing the house, we’d finalized the lease. We will wander again!
A lesson I’ve learned through this peripatetic year is that what brings me sustained satisfaction is sometimes surprisingly mundane. I love beaches and being by water, and I had always believed I would be content as long as I could be near the ocean.
Instead, I’ve realized that (a) I’d actually choose lakes and creeks over the ocean; but (b) living above a mall with grocery store, butcher, bakery, and public library improve my life even more than being close to nature.
Alas, I’ve discovered I am not a soulful creative who looks out at the sea and thinks deep thoughts. I am a plebe whose heart is gladdened when I realize it’ll only take five minutes to pop downstairs and get the pancake mix I have forgotten during the regular shopping trip. In day-to-day living, with work to do and dinners to make and school lunches to pack, convenience makes a bigger impact on my quality of life than any beautiful surroundings.
It is truly game-changing to live so close to the stores! We’ve been able to do as the Europeans do and shop for the day instead of the week. Fewer things go bad in our fridge, since we don’t have to meal plan so far ahead. And being able to decide at the last minute what to make for dinner has significantly reduced my cognitive load, since planning and shopping for the week’s meals is one of my least favorite chores.
This has been a good reminder for me to not get caught up chasing a mirage of my ideal life would look like (i.e., in a beach house) and pinning my hopes on some distant fulfillment.
I often read about retirees who face disappointment when they are finally let loose to live out their freedom, and they find the dreams they nurtured for many years don’t actually make them happy. I’m seeing more and more media stories of people moving out of North America to cheaper countries after they retire, or so they can retire early. I belong in several Facebook groups with members who are looking to do just that, and the number one piece of advice veteran retirees give them is to make a long visit to their chosen country before they uproot their lives. Basing one’s retirement plan upon making a drastic change without lived experience is, perhaps, unwise.
We’ve been lucky to have this opportunity to test some scenarios and live them out temporarily. I’ve been trying to tune in more to what I really need versus what would be nice to have in the long-term. Apparently, what I really need in life is to get groceries close to my house.
Our time in Vancouver feels abbreviated. We’ve realized that the people hibernate here, just like the bears. The winter rains don’t completely stop them from coming out, but it does slow things down a lot. I didn’t know this until spring came along, the sun returned, and suddenly the streets were alive. I didn’t realize what we’d been missing until what was missing came around. It’s a different city altogether in sunshine. Since the sun has only been out for a few short weeks, it feels like we have only just gotten to see this “new” city and we have to leave already.
We’ve had a lot of good weather days lately. We are leaving before the official start of summer (June 21), so we will miss what I’ve been told is the best season here.
These past couple of weeks have also felt like a slow wind-down at forest school, with several field trips for Beanie and her classmates—to Vancouver Aquarium, to the beach, to an animal farm and a produce-producing farm.
A highlight of their last field trip to Cates Park was not the trip itself, but a trick that one of the boys decided to play on the teachers: he dressed up in other kids’ clothes and pretended to be a new student called Katy. When I’d picked Beanie up the previous day, she said she definitely had to go to school the next morning. I thought it was because of the fun field trip, but she was more excited about Katy. It seems like the whole class was buzzing about it, and when we met up with all of them at Cates Park that morning, someone immediately came up to Beanie and said, “Katy is here! Katy is here!” Sometimes it’s pretty fun to be a kid, and sometimes it’s pretty fun to be reminded by kids about all the ways life can be exciting.
(We heard later that Katy’s appearance was brief, as the boy-who-was-Katy got shy and didn’t want to be Katy in public for long. I’m quite sure no teacher was fooled, but no matter—the anticipation was the best part of the plan anyway.)
Beanie has also taken some sailing lessons recently with her classmates. Just a series of three lessons, to learn the basics on tiny sailboats. Each boat carries two kids: one to work the sail and one to steer. Beanie has mostly been working the sail and she enjoyed it until the last lesson, when winds were strong and her boat tilted nearly 90 degrees: “We almost capsized 50 times!”
She told us she cried for a while when this happened. I asked her if she was still able to do her job moving the sails; she said yes, because her job was mostly to cling on to the sail lines and not let go. She just cried concurrently, that’s all. We told her we were proud of her for forging on with her duties despite the challenges, and we asked her if she would like to sail again. No, she said. But she said it in a way that makes me think she might someday change her mind.
Can you believe we’d been here for six months and never ventured up the mountains? The mountains that are 15 minutes away from our place, and are in the background of every photo of Vancouver?
Last Sunday, we finally took a drive up to Cypress Lookout Point at sunset. The lookout point is high up enough that we went from wearing T-shirts at home to light down jackets on the mountain.
It was worth the arduous 15-minute drive.
What else did we not see during our stay, right there in our backyard??
Well. It’s all been very lovely, Vancouver, and I think we are not done with you yet. We will have to return and finish our unfinished business.
Until next time.
Pretty Good Things
The moon was very nice the other night, outside our window. A big, low, orange moon.
One Strange Rock
This is one of Taz’s favorite shows, and most people seem not to have heard of it. One Strange Rock is a documentary series directed by Darren Aronofsky, and both the cinematography and storytelling are gorgeous. It’s about life on earth, told from the uniquely “outside” perspective of astronauts who have looked at our world from afar.
It’s great! You can watch it on Disney+ or on Youtube.
Mark Rober commencement speech
Mark Rober, former NASA engineer and science YouTuber extraordinaire, spoke at the MIT commencement ceremonies last weekend. He had some good advice for the recent grads and the rest of us. Taz wrote a good rundown in a LinkedIn post, so I’m just going to steal from him:
Anyone who is a parent likely knows Mark Rober and has seen his squirrel maze video 2351 times. Mark is simply awesome. There is no better way to get kids interested in science and engineering than to show them Mark’s YouTube videos in which he builds the most insane, over-the-top contraptions.
Over the weekend, we sat down as a family and watched his commencement speech at MIT. His words were helpful not only to the graduates about to enter the ‘real world’ but also to the rest of us who need these reminders just as much, if not more.
1. Embrace naive optimism. 🌞 Our minds are very good at trying to predict all the problems that will occur fifty steps ahead and this often prevents us from taking that first crucial step. Treat life like crossing a big, flowing river—focusing on one rock at a time. “If you truly understood what would be required, that discouragement might have prevented you from starting.” Just do it.
2. Treat life like a video game. 🕹️ In video games, you don’t panic every time you miss a jump or lose a life—you learn from that and try again. Sometimes it can take many attempts. That’s okay. You have to treat life the same way—learn from the experience, get back up, and try again.
3. Foster your relationships. 🧑🤝🧑 “A sad truth about getting older is, life gets busier and busier and it gets harder and harder to make really close friends like you made here in school.” Ain’t that the truth. Especially after a pandemic where we all maxed out our hermit-ing skills, we need to devote real time and energy to the people we care about in our lives. Isn’t that what this human experience is all about?
I encourage you to watch the whole video and be inspired by Mark’s infectious child-like positivity and optimism.