I was sitting on the Skytrain yesterday behind a Chinese woman with a perm. As I looked at her black hair curling against its nature I thought about how so many people want what they don’t have. Many of us are perpetually stuck in a ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ mindset. I wonder, is it really part of our nature as humans to admire what is different or to strive to be what we are not … or where we are not.
I recently caught myself walking down a street in Vancouver imagining that I’m back in London walking down Oxford Street, the South Bank or Brick Lane sipping on an Americano from Cafe Nero or eating a sandwich from Pret a Manger (or possibly some place better). It’s strange to me because while I was living in London I pinned for my Vancouver life; for the mountains and the ocean, for chocolate chip chunk cookies from Capers and riding my bike on the right side of the road.
Three months after I arrived in London, on the last day of classes in December one of my classmates said to me, “You’re from Vancouver, right? I’m going there for the holidays. That’s where my boyfriend’s family lives.” With those three sentences tears streamed down my face; my homesickness catching me completely off guard.
Now I’m back living in Vancouver and am reminded of everything about this city that I don’t like. How people here are guarded and unfriendly, how some people think my art it too wacky and they don’t ‘get me,’ how the transit system here can’t compare to London’s. Just last week my father was talking to me about how he’d recently watched the movie Run Fat Boy Run, which was filmed in London, and was reminded of all the sites we took in when we went there for my graduation in December. As he talked about Hampstead Heath and Trafalgar Square I again became verklempt for a city I no longer lived in.
Like the cows this proverb references who long to munch pasture on the metaphorical other side of the fence I constantly compare my situation to others assuming that their lives are much more satisfying than my own. Or I imagine that my life in another city would be so much better. But it isn’t necessarily so. There were times in London I felt utterly alone, like a complete outsider and perpetually worried that I didn’t have what it took to succeed in that large pond.
Sometimes we can have what we don’t naturally have; Asians can get perms and Caucasians buy straighteners, women with no boobs get implants and large breasted ladies get reductions and I can move back to the UK – it’s just a Visa application away.
What I’m working on is being where I’m am and accepting what I’ve got. Right now, I’m living a boho life subletting my friend’s apartment in the West End of Vancouver, with my naturally wavy mousy brown hair in a messy up-do, looking out onto a rooftop with dying plants, broken lawn chairs and an old BBQ, beyond that are more apartments, a view of the North shore and a sky that isn’t raining, I have a hurt heart over a boy, yet I am so thankful to be in a city where many of my friends are here to comfort me. I am breathing and I can take time to notice the little things; like Asian women with perms.
Sure, the grass may be greener in London today but I’m learning to be satisfied that I once got to lay in it.