The grass is always greener on the other side, so the saying goes. It’s human nature to look at other people’s lives and things we don’t have through rose-coloured glasses… and want them for ourselves.
At the end of 2004, I looked to Ottawa and a dream government job in the national capital where I envisaged the grass to be not only greener but a far more interesting and exciting shade of green as I changed my career to put the finishing touches on our search for a life less ordinary.
|Greener grass on the other side|
I’d always assumed that leading a less ordinary life would involve me changing job as well as changing the local scenery and surely rightly so? We’d changed that scenery by moving to Vancouver and I gave up my former job with a reputable multi-national and went ‘back to school’ to get a Masters. Yet, rather than stay in Vancouver and build on our new life filled with natural beauty and outdoors adventure, I had pursued this new career in Ottawa with an intensity of purpose and a tunnel-vision focus without stopping to consider the bigger picture.
And, as such, I had completely missed the point.
Our journey to carve out a better life was originally based on a number of ‘must haves’ – to be surrounded by an amazing landscape that you’d never grow bored of waking up to; to be able to spend weekends exploring this environment in exciting new ways; to work and play near mountains and ocean where such a less stressful setting would mean the job wasn’t the number one focus; to feel satisfied and content that life had less routine and regularity but more fulfillment and satisfaction.
In moving to Ottawa, we inadvertently gave up many of these ‘must haves’ as our life returned to the ordinary existence we’d strived to leave behind. We returned to the regular office job routine, evenings spent glued to the TV, and weekends passed aimlessly at the local shopping malls. The grass wasn’t greener at all.
I don’t blame the job. I was working for a relatively young government department in a liaison role with police, intelligence and customs officials. Post-9/11, this role was far from dull and the scope of the work at Public Safety was always increasing. Our Minister was also the Deputy Prime Minister, giving me a number of opportunities to provide support on field visits, coordinate various major events, and involve myself in numerous activities related to transit security following the London bombings. It was a decent job.
I don’t blame the city. Ottawa is a lovely capital city, which is safe and welcoming, well-planned and laid out. There is plenty to do, with a full calendar of festivals, events and exhibitions, and we made many good friends who we remain in contact with to this day. It was a decent city.
The problem wasn’t the city or the job, it was us.
We pined for the coastal mountains and wild ocean. Mild winters were replaced by ferocious blizzards and ice storms which we neither liked nor were prepared for. We snowboarded on hard ice not deep powder and struggled to walk our dogs in -30 degrees. We would become quickly depressed at the thought of a future life spent in this government bubble. It was a great town but it wasn’t our town. We hadn’t signed up for this life when we left the UK and this felt like punishment for giving up on Vancouver.
My dream job rapidly revealed its flaws. I wasn’t a Canadian citizen and was therefore a ‘temporary employee’, unable to secure permanent roles in the public sector. Relegated to something of a second-class worker, I was beholden to my employer and at the mercy of middle management, which was both ineffective and out of touch with modern practices. My Director-General was a bully and esteemed colleagues left the department in droves. The work moved at a glacial pace yet I was stressed out and frustrated. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t content with this life as a public servant and I despaired at all we had left behind in Vancouver.
|Time to re-evaluate|