Today, I got on a plane bound for a brand new life.
At 7am, my dad came in my room and told me I needed to get up or I would miss my flight. My parents drove me to the Toronto airport, the huge green suitcase that I’d had to sit on to close riding in the trunk. I said goodbye and got on a plane for Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
I wanted to go and I didn’t. I was leaving everything I’d ever known behind for a life I had wanted forever. I wasn’t leaving on good terms however. I had no intention of returning to Canada.
When I walked off the plane in my brand new country, my friend C and her parents were there at the gate to greet me. I hugged them tight and tried not to cry–I was incredibly happy, so they wouldn’t have all been bad tears, but part of me was sad and scared and unsure of myself. I needed to suppress that part, because there was no going back.
We drove 3 hours to their home in Decatur, IL, where I lived for the next month. It took exactly 2 weeks to settle in and understand that I was home. At the end of July, we all moved to a tiny town outside of Roanoke, Virginia.
I’d never moved once in the entire 17.5 years I’d been alive, and suddenly I’d moved to a different country and lived in 2 different states in the space of a month!
I was going to stay, finish high school, and make my home in Virginia, or maybe California. I felt free, like I could do anything I dreamed of because I’d made it that far already so why would anything else be impossible? We watched and listened to The Eagles’ Hell Freezes Over, and Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance obsessively, and it was in those last 6 months of the year 2000 that I fell in love with the Eagles. I was already head over heels in love with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac, of course. C and I were going to form a little band and one day we’d meet Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Brian Wilson, and Lindsey Buckingham. I was going to go to college, and one day I’d own a house and a car because the cost of living was so much lower than expensive Toronto.
I had my life all planned out. However, my life had a plan of it’s own.
I came back in December 2000 wondering what the hell happened. My plan was gone, my new life had given way to my old life in the blink of an eye. Jobless, penniless, homeless. Dreamless.
I grew to dread July 3rd. It was a reminder of a false hope, and it broke my heart a little more with each anniversary. I was going back, I said. I built my whole life around returning to Virginia. I worked for American companies, hoping to get promoted high enough to transfer to Virginia. I got my GED so I could get accepted to a community college in Roanoke. I even got 2 jobs eventually to save the exorbitant amount of money needed to get a student visa. I didn’t let myself get attached to anyone or anything in Canada. Because I was leaving. My life here was too hard, but it was only for a little while. Everything would change when I went back to Virginia. Period.
But hard life wears you down, and in the back of my mind I started to question my goal. My whole identity was tied to Virginia. I had to keep fighting.
Til a Don Henley song gave me permission to stop.
The first time I heard My Thanksgiving, from Don’s Inside Job album, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
“And have you noticed that an angry man
Can only get so far
Until he reconciles the way he thinks things ought to be
With the way things are…”
That was it. That was the problem.
I’d been fighting for 6 years, by that point, trying to get back to this impossible place. Because I thought I should. Because that was how I’d planned it. Because I didn’t know any other way forward.
But it wasn’t working. I had recently lost one of my two jobs, after being accepted to Virginia Western Community College. I was so, so close, but so far away.
And for some reason, that Don lyric made me see it.
You can only fight a losing battle for so long before you have to move on. Not give up. But move on.
It took me another 3 years, til 2009, to be willing to say that I wasn’t going back. But once I stopped seeing things in black and white, Virginia good and Toronto bad, stopped looking at Virginia as the only way out of my difficult life, incredible doors opened.
I met Glenn Frey, Lindsey Buckingham, Don Henley. I’d already met Brian Wilson years before. I found a college in Toronto that would accept my GED and finally went back to school. I own a car. I own a house.
I still wanted to move away from Toronto, and in 2010, I did.
And funny enough, some parts of my new hometown, like this highway 10 minutes from home, remind me so much of the rolling hills of Virginia.
July 3, 2000 was not the best day of my life, nor the worst. But it was the day my life changed permanently, for the better, in ways I never could have expected.
And in true groupie, Coyote fashion, it all came clear because of a song. A song by an artist I discovered because I moved to Virginia in the first place, incidentally. Full circle.
It’s been 18 years; I’ve been away from there longer than I was alive before getting there. July 3rd is a date of reflection now.
A day to remind myself that everything has a way of working out exactly as it needs to.