While moving across the country has been an exciting adventure and a positive experience overall, it has challenged us in many ways. The most challenging aspects of making a new life in Victoria have been housing and careers. Nine months after our move, we do not feel settled into a place that feels like home, and although we are both working full-time, our jobs do not offer security, career fulfillment, or salaries comparable to our previous life. I admit that these things matter more to me now than they did before we chose to sacrifice them for this adventure.
Guess what? Houses are a lot more expensive in Victoria than anywhere in Manitoba. I’m sure you are unsurprised by this revelation. I was also aware of the higher cost of living when we chose to move here, but the reality didn’t really sink in until we actually were living here. Buying a house is not possible, based on the temporary nature of our jobs, modest salaries, and our unwillingness to take on a massive mortgage.
The alternative is renting. Last I heard, Victoria had a 0.3% vacancy rate for rental properties. The hot rental market has skyrocketed prices and shifted power away from tenants and toward landlords. There is little room for negotiation, as landlords can easily find other desperate tenants who will accept their terms.
Chris and I count ourselves as lucky that we have a decent, furnished apartment in a safe and quiet building in a fabulous neighbourhood. We would rather have our own furniture, but we can’t find another comparable, unfurnished apartment, and wouldn’t want to test our luck with our landlord by asking him to remove some of the unnecessary items and/or furniture.
It would also be nice to have more space in a modern, updated apartment, but spacious, modern buildings are extremely hard to come by around here. These are some of the trade-offs of urban living. We’re definitely not on the wide-open prairies anymore!
Speaking of trade-offs, having traded my career for the wonderful Victoria lifestyle, I now miss my career. Trying to rebuild a career here is not easy. It was downright arrogant of me to think that it would be.
My coworkers often refer to Victoria as having a ‘gig’ economy, where people spend years working different temporary contracts and sometimes don’t ever secure permanent employment. Since I am currently a lowly voting book reviewer, you may be forgiven for assuming my coworkers are not well educated, high-caliber employees. But you would be wrong.
My co-workers on the Voting Book Review team are, almost without exception, highly educated, intelligent, and talented people. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum level of education amongst this group. Some of the more impressive qualifications include a Ph.D. in English Literature, and multiple Master’s degrees in fields including Actuarial Math and Public Health. One of my co-workers is heading to Oxford University this fall to do her Master’s degree in Archaeology and another is preparing to write the LSAT before going into Law. And yet, here we all are – young, old, and somewhere in between like me – feeling lucky to have an 8-week contract doing entry-level office work for $18 an hour!
At this point in my rough draft, Chris cautions me that my tone may sound too negative, so let me refocus on the positive aspects of the housing and career situations:
Living in a small apartment has taught us that we can live happily with less. When the walls start to feel like they are closing in on us, it simply means that it is time to go outside and do something. And there are so many fun things to do in and around Victoria!
Living in a small apartment has freed up time that we otherwise would have spent doing yard work and cleaning and maintaining our large home.
We also don’t buy anything for this furnished, rented apartment, whereas it seemed like the home that we owned always needed something we had to go out and buy. I try to subtract the cost of those purchased items when comparing costs of living.
Living in a rented apartment has been an opportunity to practice non-attachment. My home doesn’t define my worth or my success in life. Likewise, things are just things. Sure, I miss my super-comfy leather sectional, but I can still comfortably waste hours of valuable time on the worn, fabric couch that is here. Many of the household things I thought I couldn’t live without, I have successfully learned to live without. The small bathroom and lack of closet space seemed almost unmanageable at first, but now we manage just fine.
Since I didn’t slide seamlessly into a teaching job when I started looking for one this spring, I was forced to become more open-minded and try a job I wouldn’t have considered before. I am grateful for my current job for giving me the experience of a low-stress/low-responsibility job that I can walk to, and where I have been introduced to many interesting people.
Finally, the tight job market has pushed me into considering furthering my education. I always wanted to earn a Master’s degree but I never got around to it because it wasn’t really necessary. In B.C., most districts require guidance counsellors to have a Master’s degree, and so I am looking into programs I can do part-time while still working. Although it would be a lot of effort, earning a Master’s degree would fulfill a goal I set for myself fifteen years ago and would be personally and professionally rewarding.
Moving across the country has brought a lot of changes, but I can’t complain because change is what we were craving, and we have to accept the bad with the good. Nothing is even really ‘bad’ – the new realities are just an adjustment. These new experiences teach us valuable lessons about the world, life, and ourselves. We are constantly growing through change, and I believe that is what life is all about.
Thanks for reading!