Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Reflections

[Christmas family portrait at Log Cabin - 28oC]

This Christmas, Stephen and I received the wonderful gift of a trip home for the holidays. Both our parents brought us over the Pacific and up the coast to arrive in Whitehorse just two days after Stephens' last day of school. We knew we were in for a busy time, but we were looking forward to seeing friends and family and meeting the newest member of the family, our nephew, Kieran.

We had two weeks to cram in as much visiting and Yukon-ing as possible. But where to begin?! There was skiing to do and people to visit, places to see and meals to be shared, we were drawn out in every direction and hardly had a moment to ourselves. Throughout it all, between the family traditions and our own new beginnings, I found myself contending with a new dilemma. The end of school.

I have been studying now for almost two years and here at the University of Canterbury a PhD is a three year program. So theoretically, this will be my last year and after that I will need to think of a new direction. A place to land. Something worth pursuing. And everyone, understandably so, wanted to know what that was. Unfortunately, I had (and still have) no idea. A major part of answering that question relates to where I want to end up, not just what. Our trip to the Yukon was reaffirming both Stephen and my desires to return there eventually, but there were also certain parts of our home in New Zealand that we didn't want to leave behind.

Most notably, the space and freedom to develop in any direction we want. Without other people's opinions or beliefs or suggestions getting in the way. The beauty and downfall of living in a small town is that everyone knows you and the place you fill, making it hard to branch out from there and do something different. It was a strange feeling to come back to the place we had grown up after two years away and be treated as if nothing had changed. As if our lives on the other side of the world were simply dreams that hadn't really happened. But I suppose if you haven't shared an experience with another person, to them it is just a dream, a thought, an idea. And all you are left with is the memory.

[Driving home in the dark]

So with all this mulling about in my head I was lost a lot in the depths of my head. Thinking about life, the universe, and everything. Then, one day, during a lovely, long and lonely ski at -25oC I realized that I was okay with New Zealand being a memory and a dream, but the Yukon and Canada were very much a place I wanted and needed to be and to live. They were who I was, even while I am here in New Zealand, I am Canadian, a Yukoner, yet while I am in Canada, I am only someone who has visited and lived in New Zealand. And that is okay. I felt much better after this revelation and was able to make my way home along the ski trails in the dark to sit in the sauna and enjoy my new found knowledge. Moments of self-realization are a wonderful gift and should be fully enjoyed whenever they occur. This moment was short lived of course as I moved onto the idea of how on earth I would become employed in my small town with my current schooling.

[Playing Puerto Rico with Dad, Andrew and Stephen]

Life moves on though and we went off for a lovely family dinner afterwards and left these troubling thoughts for another night, another ski. Beyond the shady realm of my deep and labyrinthine thoughts, Christmas was filled with skiing, cold weather, family (and all the joys and frustrations they bring), friends, good food and Christmas tree hunting (for a more detailed account of this, please see dad's blog at http://yukonrambles.blogspot.com/2010/12/perfect-christmas-tree.html). Too soon it was time for us to board our plane and head home (at least the current physical one in which our cat lives).

[Driving home to the summit]

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