Bowie had her first birthday last month. With that momentous occasion, my maternity leave benefits came to an end. Hard stop. Ugh. Not that it was a ton of money, but it helped. My bank account still took a dive, but not at the rate it could have had there been no funds coming in for the last year. Thankfully I've still got a bit of a nest egg. Without out that I would have been, to put it quite plainly, fucked. With nothing coming in now though, I'm bleeding money. I've set a number that I don't want to dip down beyond. Considering I have no family trust fund to pull from and no money tree in the backyard, it's time to start making some money so I can refill the bucket.
This week I got back on the yoga mat for the first time since I was pregnant. I've missed it. I needed it to calm my mind. There's a lot of stuff swirling around in my head these days. Truthfully, I've let those thoughts spiral out of control. Big, ugly decisions to make revolving around finances, daycare, living space - all with multiple moving pieces. All of it has been keeping me up at night.
Do I stay in Squamish or move to somewhere where living is more affordable? Where is that? Do I find a job in Squamish and just get by or do I get a job in the city, where I am making a good wage, but I am commuting 2 hours per day and missing out in time with Bowie? And how do I do that without adequate childcare? Do I go back to school? Do I start my own business? To do what? Do I sacrifice my quality of life now, for a better one later?
So many questions. Even typing them out, my breath starts to shorten, my chest tightens and my heart races.
Almost two years ago, I was on a direct path to start over in Central America, to find my calling, to live a life less ordinary. I was so clear about what I wanted. Actually, it was exactly two years ago, because LinkedIn reminded me yesterday that it was my livethesaltylife.com anniversary. I've talked about this in previous blog posts, but it felt like the Universe was rooting for me, pointing me in the right direction, keeping me on course. Everything seemed to line up. I didn't have to look too far ahead to know what my next move was. This time, as I start to look for work, it doesn't feel like that at all. Everything feels hard and nothing seems to be coming together. I've come to learn that things get sticky for a reason: I'm either I'm not on the right path or I need to do some careful assessment.
The thought of going back to work gives me these waves of anxiety. For many reasons: because of the pressure to be able to take care of my daughter; because I don't want to miss her milestones; because starting anew is scary; because like most mothers returning to work from maternity leave, my confidence wanes; and lastly, because I've come to the realization that what I was doing for work before isn't going to fit the bill today. Plus, for the amount of money I would need to make to live and prosper, and the hours I'd need to put in to make that money, the career I've held in the Apparel industry for the last decade isn't sustainable for life as a single parent. Being a hostage to the task-heavy, meeting-heavy product lifecycle, yes, the money is there, but the hours are long and it is difficult to work remotely. I have considered moving more into Brand and Marketing Role within the Apparel industry.
With Bowie in tow, the stakes are elevated. I can't make any decision without considering the consequences and how it will affect her. I guess that is called being a parent. Wow, that's first time I've called myself that! Being a parent and having the means necessary to provide for my daughter. That is what keeps me up at night! I want to savour our moments together. I want to watch her grow up. I don’t want to be working and commuting long hours, running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to keep our life together. As a single parent, I realize the deck is already stacked against me. There will automatically be times that I have to work extremely hard to keep it together, which I expect, but I don’t want it to be our norm. Her happiness depends on my happiness and vice versa, I suppose. All the more reason I need to consider my employment decision carefully, so that we can live our best life.
Work is a big part, but I also factor our living/housing situation into our ‘best life’ scenario. In fact, the two are reliant on each other. The cost of living in the lower mainland is not sustainable for most, especially a single income household, and hasn't been for a number of years. It is one of the reasons I moved to Squamish in 2010. Back then it was more affordable to buy a home in Squamish than it was in Vancouver. The move made sense for me at the time. I could buy a house and live comfortably in a beautiful mountain town on the water, enjoy a more active lifestyle and still commute to my job in the city.
Squamish. This place is really special. Ask anyone. The landscape itself is breathtaking, the access to the outdoors is superb, but the people are what make it special. Bowie and I are fortunate to have found our tribe here. Our people. I don’t know how I would have made it through the last year without them. They say it take a village to raise a child and it was for this reason that I decided to return to Squamish from Costa Rica to give birth to and raise my baby. As much as I long to return to my tropic living dream one day, I can't imagine being anywhere else other than Squamish right now. It pains me to think that we may not be able to make it work here.
Regrettably, the disease of unaffordability has now crept into Squamish. An unaffordability that makes it hard for someone like me, a single income parent trying to get back into the housing market, to even make day-to-day life work. House prices have almost doubled in the last 5 years and so have house rental prices. This is where we are now. Rentals are atrocious. There is limited supply, a lot of which can be attributed to Airbnb rentals. This drives up the price. I read this morning that city council will be implementing more rules around rentals. To put it in perspective, four years ago, with my 3bdrm townhouse, I was lucky to get $1600. Now it would be easy to get $2300. People are taking advantage of the low supply to raise prices, but it's also that assessment values are so high now that people are trying to recoup costs in both monthly rentals and Airbnb to support their mortgage. You can't blame them. Either way, Squamish loses in the end. I don't know how other families, let alone single parents, survive here now. I came across this editorial in the local newspaper, the Squamish Chief, which seems to echo my thoughts. http://www.squamishchief.com/opinion/columnists/editorial-our-playground-for-the-rich-1.23068232
And this one http://www.squamishchief.com/opinion/columnists/editorial-squamish-no-9-least-affordable-1.20479707
With unaffordability, also comes competition - competition for housing, competition for jobs, competition for daycares, competition for beds in the maternity ward, competition for trails, competition for your spot in the brunch queue at Fergie's, etc. etc. You get the point. I am not the only one that wants to put down roots here. Word got out that Squamish is awesome when the New York Times listed Squamish as one of the top 52 places to go in 2015. According to the 2016 Census, Squamish is the 6th fastest growing community in Canada. Part of me is kicking myself that I stepped out of the real estate market when I did, but then I'm reminded that had I not sold my house, I wouldn't have my bouncing baby girl. Not only are we competing for places to live, but in Squamish we are all chasing that elusive 'work in Squamish, live in Squamish' dream.
Okay forget what I said about Squamish being awesome. Er, Squamish sucks, yeah, don’t go.
Unfortunately, there aren't enough good jobs (read: careers that pay well) to go around. Squamish is on a tipping point in terms of growth. There is much on the horizon from a commercial development perspective, but it just isn’t there yet. I think it will be 5 years before the waterfront project is up and running and then we will see some changes and some bigger companies moving in. For Squamish, growth is a double edged sword. Most of us don't really want to see those bigger companies moving in. We like the town the size it is, the way it is. Until that growth happens and starts to trend upwards, the majority of us will still be commuting the one hour to the city down the sea-to-sky highway or 45 minutes up to Whistler. Currently, there are no public transit options. Commuting two hours per day would be a challenge for me as a single parent. Not to mention that I hate driving…and traffic. Lead foot over here. [Points to self].
Finding a full-time daycare spot was, and continues to be, a struggle, but it's the first thing that needed to happen in my chain of events. I couldn't even begin to make decisions about work until I had some free time away from Bowie – time I need to think and organize my thoughts. Going back to the competition conversation though, everyone moving to Squamish seems to be newly married, pregnant or have young children. In my opinion, Squamish is not prepared for the influx of children in any capacity (Hospitals and Schools included). It will be interesting (and decidedly painful) to see how it all pans out. The daycare waiting lists are insanely long. I'm trying to get Bowie into a group daycare vs a family daycare, which is just my personal preference. She has been on every waitlist since she was born, to no avail. I recently managed to get 2 days/week at 2 different in-home daycares, but still nothing full time. We're shuttling between the two. It's not ideal, but it will work for the time being until I find a spot in a group daycare and/or I have more of an idea of what our path looks like - our path, it is no longer just mine.
Really, the biggest decision I’m facing is what do I do for work that doesn't feel like work, that will keep me happy and engaged, will pay me enough money for us to thrive, while giving Bowie and I quality time together AND keep our household in order?
I’ve decided to professionally reinvent myself. I’m going to set out on a new career path and let the cards fall where they may. It’s the only way I can see that will allow me the things I want and need for Bowie and I to live our best life. In a perfect world, work looks like this:
- I work from anywhere in the world (with a wifi connection)
- I have a flexible work schedule – days of week and hours of day, and where that didn't exist, be able to delegate
- I have a minimal commute time, if any.
- I make 6 figures
- I interact with people one-on-one
- I work in a fun, relaxed environment in space
- I work out of a space with lots of light, with big windows and access to outdoors
- I incorporate everything I'm good at, with the experience I already have
- I bring ideas to fruition
- I have a creative outlet
Things that make me feel fulfilled/are important to me: (PASSION)
- Bowie (obviously)
- My animals
- Getting my hands dirty
- Making, creating
- Newly found love of taking pictures
- Blog writing
- Good coffee
- Sunny, bright places
- Outdoor spaces
- Active outdoor endeavors
- Social interaction in a relaxed setting
- Having free time: to breathe, to be spontaneous
- Yoga/surf culture
The thing I'm struggling with and I think I've always struggled with, is that I don't want to just have a 'job'. I have never been one that wants to live to work. I don't want to just 'get by'. If I'm going to spend more than half my life working, I want purpose and passion, I want to thrive, I want freedom to choose, I want flexibility. But I also need to support my daughter… And this is wherein my struggle lies. Did you know that the average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime? That is insane!
Then how do I take this, coupled with my work experience and fire up my economic engine? I think the answer to that right now is that I have more learning to do. I have been flip-flopping over whether to return to school or start my own business, but I think it's actually both. Deep down I think I've always known that I need to be in business for myself.
The area that is speaking to me now is Social Media. I think it’s at least worth some exploration, as it fits the bill for me on a number of levels [see above list]. Starting my blog was the catalyst. I've been trying to gather more information about the industry and specifics about the job, so I had a conversation with a friend of a friend who owns a successful Digital Marketing business. There was one thing that he said that struck a chord. It was an 'aha!' moment for me. Something along the lines of 'do one thing and do it well'. This isn't a new concept for me, but it is a reminder. When it comes to being successful in social media, you need to find your niche. I guess you could say this is true of most things in business. So I'm off to find my niche...
Writing this blog allows me to work through things. It’s my white board. By the time I wrote the end of this post, I clarified the decision I need to make.
Here it is, with a big sigh: In December we're moving back to Ladner, a suburb outside of Vancouver, to live with my sister. Here I can get some help with Bowie, work part time on a tv series, put some money back in the bucket, while I take courses in Social Media. I've given myself until April, when the tv series ends, to figure out what our next steps are.
Moving out of Squamish right now is a hard pill to swallow. It is a decision that has brought me to tears. I don't want to miss out. Just as there was something pulling me to Central America in 2015, there is an outside force pulling me out of Squamish. I need to pay attention to the signs. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is not where we’re supposed to be right now. I need to look at this move as a means to an end and something that will get us further along the path to our best life - a sacrifice, if you will. Today I was reminded in yoga that consciously moving towards "letting go" creates space for becoming more engaged and connected with our inner wisdom. I'm no enlightened yogi, but this seems an analogy for life. Now that I’ve surrendered to this decision, the obstacles seem to be dropping away. Which leads me to think that we're back on OUR path. The lesson here is to let go of the things that don't serve you. All this worry about the unknown is not serving me. Learn to surrender and trust that everything will work out as it is supposed to.