Have I ever mentioned that we move house a lot? And we are very good at it, though I say so myself… The trick of getting on, when you are moving to a new place, is Volunteer For Everything. When you are in the military everyone expects this because (a) everyone else does it and (b) your neighbours know you are moving in 2 years and want to get as much entertainment out of you as possible before either you or they leave again.
Once we moved to a real village, occupied by proper civilians with a proper sense of time and urgency (the sort place you can live in for 20 years and still be the newcomers) and our new neighbours could not understand how we could possibly know for certain that in 2 years time we would be moving on. We found it much harder to break into the cliques and had to use elbows and gouging a few times, but it was worth it; without the support network of other families, local professionals and friends, life as a family in a new environment can be very difficult.
So what did we do when we arrived in Vancouver? You got it… Volunteered For Everything!! We jumped in with both feet and prepared to fill the calendar. Not only a civilian environment, but a Canadian civilian environment – double the challenge! At times it sounds and feels crazy – we were struggling with unfamiliar processes and culture, and still rushing to add more meetings, more events and more names to our contact list. But it works – it gives us a sense of belonging, it helped us to understand the deeper workings of systems like the schools and spot the differences which could trip us up. More importantly, we have started to build the support network to replace the family left behind. With 3 young children, we must consider what happens when one of us gets ill, or if we need an urgent babysitter, or if we just need some fun and company. We also need to feel useful; to offer support to another family in need, or spend a day feeding the homeless on the Lower Eastside, puts our worries in perspective and helps us appreciate how lucky we are to be here. Luckily Vancouver has a culture of Volunteerism, so we are in good company.
Sometimes, like in the past few weeks, I feel like we have taken it too far and we need to trim our sails a little – Obligation Overload has taken over. Sometimes we need to be together as a family, just the 5 of us, and appreciate how far we have come and how proud we are of our achievements. When we have drawn breath and taken our time out, we will be ready to jump in with both feet again.