Check out this view.
This is the view off my balcony. On sunny days, I can sit outside and gaze at the people biking or running along the seawall. I can watch the Pride parade go by from the comfort of my own home, and in the summer when there are fireworks. I just take the elevator downstairs to the private concrete terrace and avoid the hundreds of thousands of visitors.
I can go for runs along the seawall, and there is no housing closer to the beach than mine. It’s almost literally my front yard.
It’s pretty swell.
Before I continue that train of thought, let’s go back 10 years. To when I was still a teenager, living at home in Winnipeg, and working a minimum wage job.
I remember being so happy with my life. For the first time, I had a lot of money, even though it was only a few hundred dollars a month. I felt like such a grown up because I could go out for sushi with my friends (something my parents didn’t do) and buy manga.
My mom jokingly asked me, “It’s so little money and you spend it all without saving. What will you do as an adult?”
I replied seriously, “I don’t need much to be happy. I’d just like to eat sushi once a week, buy manga once in a while, and go listen to the symphony. That’s good enough.”
In Winnipeg, there are no mountains and there is no ocean. In my suburb, there was a man-made lake surrounded by trees that I liked to take walks around. To me, it was the most ‘nature’. The lake was a big body of water, and I remember enviously looking at all the waterfront properties that backed onto the lake.
“They’re so lucky! They can go to their backyard and see the water! They must be so happy living there.”
Then, when I first moved to Vancouver at 17, I thought it was the most beautiful place in the world. I remember being awestruck taking public transit over the Granville Street bridge – confronted by the view of mountains, skyscrapers, and the inlet all at once.
I couldn’t believe that my university schoolmates grew up here. They got to spend their childhood around the ocean, take ski trips up to Whistler while I had to drive 2 hours to go to Winnipeg beach. (and get chased back home by a thunderstorm)
I was determined to live here.
As a kid, I always imagined that adulthood would naturally allow me to have my own condo in the heart of the city. I would have huge windows that overlooked the city lights, an exposed brick wall (because I watched too many movies based in New York), and soft jazz music playing at all times. I would stand there, in my living room, sipping a glass of red wine with heels on and a formidable black power suit (?) – my equally formidable friends would chatter softly in the background as they talked about something cultured while nibbling on hor d’oeuvres. Ah, yes, what a life. In that moment, I was sure I’d be completely satisfied.
In 2012, I rented my very first apartment in the heart of downtown with my boyfriend. It was a 2 story loft right off of Granville Street in a new high-rise. It was so bright with its two-story ceiling height and windows. There was a den, and a space on top of the den which the previous tenant used as a little music room. You had to climb a ladder to get there, and it was set up with a guitar and some cushions. It fit in perfectly with my idealized image of adulthood.
In reality, we grew tired of that apartment quickly. It was annoying to walk home on weekend evenings surrounded by drunk people, and even during weekdays we would wake up constantly from people yelling outside at 3am or cop sirens wailing. There was no sound barrier or privacy between the bottom level and top level and it was inconvenient to walk up and down stairs in the middle of the night to go to the washroom.
Oh, I never used the ‘music room’ because climbing the ladder was actually kind of scary.
When I first viewed my current apartment 5 years ago, I fell in love immediately. The large windows and airy white curtains seemed magnificent contrasted against the city and ocean views they offered. The carpet was plush and light. There was plenty of storage with floor to ceiling mirrors. (So many mirrors!) The exterior balcony was large and clean, perfect for reading on a breezy spring day. Most importantly, the neighbourhood in the West End was peaceful compared to the hectic commotion in the heart of downtown.
When I walk outside everyday, I am immediately confronted by the beach and mountains. Depending on the tide, it’s a completely different scene each day. Even on rainy days, the ocean is majestic.
I’ve lived here for 5 years this coming September. I was happy for much of that time. Sure, in the summer it can get pretty crowded and my favorite watering holes are packed with non-locals, but for the most part, it’s quiet and enjoyable.
Last year I visited a neighbour’s apartment on a higher floor facing a different direction. I was stunned when I walked into her living room. She looked out directly West over the English Bay. With water as far as the eye could see and mountains looming over. The sun was setting at that point and the rays of golden light filtered through the apartment. She said something along the lines of, “It’s pretty small but we make do.” but all I could focus on was the gorgeous skyline.
Ever since then, my own suite hasn’t been quite the same.
I look out of my window and I wish there was ‘more ocean’. I wish there wasn’t that other building blocking the view. The carpet gets annoying to clean and I wish I had a newer suite with laminate floors. The floor to ceiling mirrors always have fingerprints on them and are always dirty. Stuff spills out of the closets, I don’t have enough storage space. I’m so tired after work, I just come home and quickly change into pajamas and veg out on the couch.
I would love to move into my neighbour’s suite instead. If I could come home every night after work to that view, I wouldn’t be tired or play video games. Instead, I would sit for hours just staring at the ocean. I could write some poetry. Listen to soft jazz against candlelight. Maybe I could get rid of the TV (let’s assume my BF goes along with it) and evenings would be spent painting watercolors.
(Are you tired of hearing about the soft jazz? I am, yet it’s still somehow ingrained in this ideal life of mine.)
I’ve been out of university for almost 6 years now. When I got my first ‘big-girl’ job and made $40K. I remember that feeling of being enormously wealthy, just like when I got my first part-time job.
Being a university student meant I had to choose things as cheaply as possible and was always worried about money. All of a sudden, I had a four figure, bi-weekly paycheque. It’s like the money never stops! I could buy coffee whenever I wanted, clothes that weren’t on sale, I didn’t have to choose cheap restaurants, I could ‘waste’ money and still be fine.
Now, even though I make quite a bit more money than my first year working, I feel as if there’s never quite enough. I don’t have enough saved up to buy a townhome, I don’t have enough saved up for retirement. I don’t have enough saved to pay off a fancy wedding and still hit my other goals. Not to mention the future, even the present bills never end. Groceries are expensive. Medicine is expensive. My car is expensive. I feel poorer than my first year out of school.
On paper, I make more than I used to, but I don’t feel like it’s a lot. On paper, I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but I find myself being dissatisfied often.
My apartment is the same one it always was, but now I find myself wanting something with a better view and newer finishings. (Please, a dishwasher, a built-in laundry machine, and why can’t it be pet friendly??)
Sometimes I worry that nothing will ever satisfy me.
Nothing has changed in the past 10 years about my mindset. I idealized the future, imagining things would be perfect once I get them, yet even as I achieve the things I longed for in the past (living in Vancouver, living downtown, waterview) there’s always something more I’m missing.
If anything, it’s gotten worse. Now that I actually have experiences compared to back when I didn’t have many, it takes a BIGGER and BETTER experience to satisfy my wants.
I look back at the little girl at 16 who was awed by a man-made lake and the sights of the city, and I look at myself now – I don’t ride the bus unless I absolutely have to, I taxi on Friday and Saturday nights home from the bar, if there’s something cute I see in a shop – chances are I can have it. My boyfriend and I signed up for a symphony season pass a couple of years back, by the end of the series, we were both bored and tired of going. I eat sushi more often than I can remember – at the very best restaurants like Tojo’s and Miku. I even went all the way to Japan and ate sushi there. Yet it’s not enough. I’m that typical privileged millennial that other generations roll their eyes at.
I’m tired of this endless cycle of idealism vs reality. Of wanting things, getting them, and still not being satisfied. It’s one thing to wake up at 27 and think this, but I don’t want to wake up at 57 and realize I spent my life longing for things I didn’t have.
I want to be content in the present – to be thankful (and not just saying it, but truly believing it). I want to feel proud of myself, even if it’s wearing pajamas with a food stain on it at the end of the work day and playing video games – even if my house is messy. I want to wake up each morning with a sense of wonder at the beauty of the world. I want to appreciate each day for what it is – and not what it ‘should’ be. I want to look in the mirror and believe that I’m ok the way I am.
What I want now, more than anything, is just to be happy with the ocean I have.
(It’s a little hypocritical, isn’t it? To simultaneously scold myself for wanting things I don’t have, and then wanting myself to appreciate things the way they are – but today I wrote this post, today I thought about things, and today they are a little more clear than yesterday – and so today I’m happy.)
“Youth is wasted on the young.”
– George Bernard Shaw