About four and a half years ago, my wife and I moved our 3 kids to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada to be closer to family. We did so without having full time work lined up and no solid plan. Most people thought we were crazy, but a lot of people congratulated us and said they wished they could do it. It was a easy decision to make but hard to execute. It took a major leap of faith to know we would be taken care of no matter what.
I had established myself in a career as a video producer living near Washington, DC. I liked my job and loved my boss. I had the chance to work on some pretty cool projects, but the DC area is a hard place to live. There are a lot of high profile, important people there, and there are even more people who work for high profile, important people. Just about everyone else THINKS they’re important and acts accordingly. I read a statistic that said in the Washington, DC area traffic, you are more than 4 times more likely to be run into on purpose than anywhere else in North America. I blame that on the inflated sense of self importance of the National Capital Region.
I have dual (US/CAN) citizenship, but my wife is full blooded American. The border guards didn’t want to let her in at first but we managed to work it out. One border guard said “I want to live in France, but I can’t just show up on their doorstep!” When they finally let us in, we had to say the rifles and shotguns I had were Amy’s since, as a Canadian citizen, I didn’t have the correct paperwork to own a firearm in Canada. Amy is terrified of guns and has never touched them. It took her more than 2 years for her to get permanent residency so she could finally earn an income and get the healthcare benefit we love so much in Canada.
In the meantime, I was the only income for a household of 5. I resorted to working construction, an industry in which I had absolutely zero experience. I started at the bottom of the barrel making just $12/hour which is a startling difference from the $85k/yr I was making as a producer. We had an amazing support network through family and our church. We made it through, but we depleted our life savings in the process. I had a couple nibbles at video work, but nothing panned out. I was finding it was a struggle to sit behind a computer all day.
The other thing I found was that I LOVED working construction. I loved the guys, I loved working hard, I loved challenging myself to do things well. Thinking back, I am pretty mad at all the people who say you need to go to college and get a “real” job. I would have been much happier as a carpenter or mechanic. A big lesson I learned is that I could be happy no matter how big the number on my paycheque. I was as happy and healthy working on the tools with the guys as I had ever been. That happiness has much more to do with the people in your life, and your own generosity than what you can afford. That’s right, you can be generous without having anything. You can be generous with your smile, a compliment, with service, and with knowledge. Having very little can teach a person a lot about contentment and generosity.
I think the company I ended up with is a bit of an anomaly in the construction industry which helped my transition. We have a very low turnover rate, and many of our guys have some sort of post-secondary education. I still work for that same company more than 4 years later! In that first year, the owners recognized that I was finishing my bachelors degree in business management, so I was quickly promoted to the management team.
So here I am in the office again which is a strain on my mental health. To sooth my sanity, I needed a creative outlet. As you know from my first post, I found it in pottery which then became leatherworking. I also dabbled in knitting (which I found took far too long to complete a project) and am exploring sewing with textiles as well in hopes that will parlay nicely with my leatherwork. I have found these crafts to work wonders when my mental health may need a bit of a perk. I would encourage those of you who experience anxiety, depression, ADD, PTSD or other issues to give it a try. Find something healthy you can focus on and be proud of and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Feel free to reach out to me. I will do what I can to point you in a direction that can help. I’ve been there at many points in my life. For now, I’m on the other side, but I care deeply for those who struggle.