It can be hard to live in a place you didn’t grow up.
I didn’t grow up in the land of snow and ice. Vancouver weather is quite the opposite, and when it does snow, you can just stay inside for 14 hours and everything will be okay. But, the story isn’t the same for Prince George, and perhaps everywhere else in Canada.
Every winter when January kicks in and the grass is a distant memory I begin to feel trapped and overwhelmed by the outside situation: snow and ice. Every year, I tell myself “Bailey, you’re going to love winter this year: you’re going to learn to skate, or snowshoe, or maybe how to ski.” And every year, another year passes and I don’t learn these things.
I see other adult members of the community taking on the roadways in their skates, or stomping up a storm at Forests for the World, or hitting up any of the many slopes. But, I have no idea how to do any of that. Even snowshoeing is a bit of a mystery to me. I dont’ know where to snowshoe or if there’s a technique or how to do it with a gaggle of kids. The one time I went shoe showing I learnt from family afterwards I snowshoed on the wrong trail at Otway…
There’s also this nagging feeling of being left out because people do plan ski trips or ice skating adventures. I could tag along, but who wants a beginner lagging behind? So, now I need to learn these skills my other friends have to participate in the things I didn’t learn growing up because there wasn’t snow or ice in my childhood.
The thing is learning as an adult is really hard.
There’s always the issue of finding a babysitter for the kids (because like many others, I have a partner with an unreliable work schedule that prevents me from maintaining any sort of appointment).
But, if I could find a babysitter for the kids and take up the time to learn a new winter skill a whole new level of interesting. There are beginner classes and private lessons for adults, but there’s also a lot of shame that comes from not knowing these things that seem like everyone else knows. It’s just weird and it’s okay to admit that and say it out loud.
Learning a new skill as an adult is hard. It’s about body motions you didn’t know you need to know. It’s a lot of falling. And then there’s the gear and the complete overwhelm with even knowing where to rent gear, how to rent gear, and if you want to commit to making the purchase on a pair of skates, what does that look like?
Truthfully, every winter my husband tells me I’m shovelling snow wrong. Is it because he knows what is best or is it because I have no idea how to shovel snow?
Once you’ve taken a few lessons, feeling confident to go out into those places alone without a teacher holding your hand can feel and does feel scary. I know nobody cares or is looking at me, but it can feel like that. Sometimes, in the wintery places where you dont’ see people and when you do come across them there’s this instant feeling doing it all wrong and you shouldn’t be there. Winter is just a whole lot of anxiety.
Even when you do know, it’s hard to feel welcome in those places.
Last winter, my amazing sister-in-law took out cross country skiing a few times. It was my first time ever on skis and I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Excpet for the times that I fell and felt like misery the next day.
I would love to go this year, but I don’t really know how to do that. I’ve driven to Otway and seen everyone unload looking like they know what they are doing and hit the trails. I just sit in my van looking at the doors wondering if the anxiety will calm down enough to go inside and try the trails. Nobody wants to be that 6-foot tall woman falling every 3-4 feet in a place where people know what they are doing. It’s hard to be a beginner adult in a world of adults who grew up on skis.
There’s that and the fact that everyone else knows each other already. You can see it in the parking lots of the rinks and ski hills. Friendly faces start up a conversation and you begin to realise how alone you feel in this place you’re now living, even if it’s been 8 years because you didn’t go to school here.
No matter how hard we try, cliques always happen and are perceived by outsiders. To make friends who want to learn skills with you in a space dominated by people who already know how to do it is hard.
Just show up, but those three words are easier said than done.
I don’t know how to order skis at the rental shop, or know what type of pants I should wear outside. I don’t know what the rules are at outdoor rinks. I’ve googled them, but it’s easily forgotten and I’m scared to break the unspoken rules that people growing up in this community know and expect of others.
And then the kids…
Knowing where to sign up for lessons, what gear to get, how to support them in their lessons, and even where to meet up for the class is overwhleming. It’s hard to be in a place you didn’t grow up because sometimes you just don’t even know where the parking lot for a place is.
I would love for them to learn to love the winter, but I find myself overwhelmed with winter and not knowing if I can or cannot be in certain places. It’s hard to teach them how to winter if you feel you dont’ know how to do it yourself.
I try a lot, but today I’m feeling overwhelmed with anxiety about the place and spaces of the North. I know I’m not alone in these feelings. I’m not the only transplant to the North who don’t know how to ski or skate and wishes with all her heart she could take on the outdoors, but she doesn’t even know where to begin.
TL;DR – it’s a whole lot of anxiety to live in a place you don’t grow up in.
If you’re an adult in Northern BC and you want to write for us and share your story email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We know there are many expereinces of the North and want to build a community to share them. We would love to know you, or whatever you know. Even posts about what to expect at your first ski lesson are helpful for this community and space.