A year ago, I left Vancouver to move back to my hometown of Madison, WI.
A few months before, when I was still in film school, this had been a viable option. My main options at the time were to: get a work permit and stay in Vancouver, move to LA, or move back home for a few months to get organized before I moved somewhere else.
As soon as I graduated, though, this changed. I didn’t want to leave Vancouver. This was where I had made my first short films and where I had written my first feature screenplays. Vancouver was a hub for film production and a beautiful, progressive city. Besides, most of my friends were staying. We were a group of young filmmakers eager to help one another succeed.
My study permit allowed me to stay in Canada for three months after my graduation, and I figured I’d have a work permit and a job in no time. Unfortunately, as some of my other non-Canadian classmates and I found out, the process for securing a work permit after graduation from VFS (a private school) was not simple.
As fall set in, my mom urged me to just move home, but I resisted. Moving home meant failure, admitting defeat. I wouldn’t be able to make movies in Wisconsin.
I went to bed with my thoughts whirling one night, but in the morning, I knew my mom was right. My study permit was up at the end of November, only three weeks away.
I looked at one-way plane tickets, but couldn’t bring myself to buy one. I had recently sent a feature script of mine to a producer and was hoping that he would get back to me saying that he wanted to produce it, and that would be my reason to stay in Vancouver.
On Halloween, I told my friend and former roommate, Shelley, that I had decided to move while we were standing on the sky train in ridiculous costumes, heading to a party. Shelley was surprised, but understood. At the party, I talked to TJ, a fellow American, and Cristina, from Mexico; they were still looking into work permits but knew it was a long shot. They would likely move home soon, as well.
The next day I bought my plane ticket.
Two days before I left, I went to dinner with my friends. It wasn’t the expected reminiscing about our year in film school. Instead, we played a film trivia game for most of the night and enjoyed one another’s company.
On November 20, I woke up early, packed up the rest of my things, and got my luggage ready for my 8am cab to the airport. I didn’t have time to so much as write a Facebook post saying goodbye to Vancouver and my friends. Having said most of my goodbyes in person, I quietly left the city behind.
In Minneapolis, I was greeted by my sister and a real Midwest winter. We went to dinner and talked about my plans, which were muddy at best. That night, as I went to bed in her guest room, I felt hollow. I didn’t know when I would go back to Vancouver, or if I would ever live there again. My optimism had momentarily left me.
The next day, my sister and I drove to our aunt’s house in northern Wisconsin for the beginning of deer hunting season. Not having a job, I was able to relax and spend the entire nine-day season there, with my parents and extended family.
Back in Madison, I relaxed into the comforts of home and family. I reconnected with some old friends. I went back to the yoga studio where I had done my teacher training. I began to rediscover the city that I grew up in. I went to a film networking event at the end of December, and began to make connections in the Wisconsin film industry, which is much bigger than I thought it was.
When I first got back, family members and friends would ask if I missed Vancouver. A year later, they still ask from time to time. The answer is: yes, of course.
Of course I miss Vancouver. It’s a beautiful place, where I made amazing friends, created art, and began to discover myself as a writer and filmmaker.
Even though they seem silly when I see others post them, it felt odd that I had never posted a Facebook status saying that I was leaving and that I would miss Vancouver and everything about it. After I got home, though, I realized that not posting anything might have seemed like I didn’t miss it, like I didn’t care about the place and people I was leaving behind. And that wasn’t true.
I think of Vancouver all the time; all types of things will trigger my memory. But I don’t dissolve into a puddle of tears every time. I smile. I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made there. I know I will go back eventually, to visit or to film something. And, as I’ve said before, I know that not being there doesn’t mean I won’t write or make films.