hello vancouver, i’m home

September 4, 2011 | 7 Comments

Sunny picture of our street

I’ve been waking up early unable to fall back asleep. My mind is like a toddler in a room full of buttons. Steve and Emma are still asleep and unpacking would rustle them, which makes this the perfect time to write.

This is my second morning waking up a property-owning, Burnaby resident. It’s the second morning I’ve woken up to the thought, “This is really happening!”

We made it through the mountains without a hitch (well, technically that’s not true since there was a hitch for the trailer that pulled our car behind the Uhaul), Emma made a friend across the alley while we loaded the truck and we haven’t seen her since, I landed a teaching job with a continuing contract, and by the end of today we should be completely unpacked.

THE UNIVERSE IS FREAKIN’ ME OUT A LITTLE. Who has it this good, you guys?

After my interview on Monday with two HR reps from my new division, I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a big deal that they picked me from a pile of probably hundreds of applicants. Even considering the fact that mid-July I emailed them directly and said, “I notice some of the positions I’ve applied for are yet to be filled and I would seriously rock a few of them if you’d give my resume a second look.” The final part of Monday’s interview was in French, and because it’s where I’m most at home, I tend to stick to past and present tenses, which isn’t true fluency. It’s the main reason I signed up for two conversational French meetup groups in Vancouver three weeks ago.

I can pull off French, and did for the four years I taught immersion, but it’s not where I shine. So there was that and there was the fact that I had yet to start the process of getting licensed to teach in BC. The whole thing seemed so overwhelming to me in the midst of writing cover letters and packing that I decided to put it off until our arrival. When they stressed how important it was I get the process underway, I wondered if it was maybe a deal-breaker.

I took their advice and printed off the application that night and handed out my character references the following day. Everything was underway! My references started getting emails on Tuesday night to fill out a survey based on their working relationship with me. By Wednesday, when I hadn’t heard anything yet, a couple of my references were bummed because they had gushed over me. Normally the silence would have dragged my mind into pessimism land, too, but I felt uncharacteristically collected.

The last five months have taught me that I’m all I have to offer the world and it really is good enough. Take it or leave it. I revealed my teaching heart in that interview and I figured if it wasn’t a match for their needs, then I could handle that and I would find something else. Eventually. And maybe had the outcome been different I would have been crushed by the news, but I really don’t think so. I have a new sense of self that has been waiting for my heart and mind to embrace. I have so much to offer, and for the first time in my life I actually believe it.

On Thursday, squeezed tightly between two no-service zones, my phone rang and it was HR wondering if I could come meet everyone the next day once we pulled into Burnaby. He said the French was filled but they had a Resource role left. It was a bit cryptic and I was too excited to ask for clarification, but I took it as a good sign. Once I hung up the phone I radioed back to Emma who was travelling with Steve’s parents behind us that “Someone just got called for part B of an interview.”

Emma held down the button on the walkie talkie long enough for me to hear a chorus of cheers in the background. I could have cried. It was symbolic of the buckets of support and love I’ve received from everyone in my life this last while. Friends, family and acquaintances who fill my heart, head and cheering section with their well-wishes and words of love and strength. My world is full of the most beautiful people.

That night when we arrived in Kamploops we checked into the hotel and trudged over to the mall to buy me some interview clothes since my travel bag contained only ripped jeans and ratty t-shirts. After a good pout that my shopping muse and best friend, Cindy, was not present to do her magic, the sales assistant was finally able to help a reluctant me find an outfit that turned out to be pretty magical. I know it would have gotten the Cindy stamp of approval.

Three hours after we pulled into Burnaby I was on my way to the Board office. Because I didn’t get much information about the meeting, I assumed it would be an informal time to meet HR and the admin staff of the school I may teach at just to make sure we’re a good fit. An hour later I laughed at how wrong I was. There were five people in the room asking me very formal questions. I’m thankful I didn’t know this ahead of time; I’m sure I would have tangled myself into a ball of incoherent nerves.

I almost interrupted my answers to bring everyone’s attention to the fact that my hands weren’t shaking. This is rare for me in pressure situations. The thought that followed that was always, “I have totally got this!” It was a completely different interview experience than pre-teaching ones. Pre-teaching I felt like I was writing a test I’d studied for last minute. My answers weren’t part of me; they were based on the hypothetical.

This time I confidently talked about what I lived for the last seven years. As I spoke I realized that teaching had changed me; I am no longer the high school graduate working in an office believing I’m dumb and powerless. I got a bulk email from Lou Tice last week that said skill is the biggest source of confidence. This rang true for me once I realized that hey, I have skills!

During the interview there were a few awkward silences where I thought, “Okay, that sure didn’t connect with them.” But there were more moments of vigorous head-nodding and laughter. HR told me that my references had really wonderful things to say about me and that it’s clear I will be missed in Alberta. He said I should be very proud. And I am. And dance-in-the-streets thankful.

They had me sit outside while they discussed me. HR was like a proud parent. He came around the corner, shrugged up his shoulders and finger-waved me back in with a big smile. I had to stop myself from hugging my new administrator while she spoke because Mr. Poker Face gave away the punch-line. “Shannon, I would really love to offer you the position of Resource Teacher at our school.”

“Wow.” Was all I could say.

“I take it that’s a yes?” She smiled.


HR ushered me down to meet his assistant where he gushed about me a little more and gave me the most amazing news yet: they’re giving me a continuing contract immediately. I swallowed the scream in my throat. “That is so very generous. Thank you.” He said someone had just resigned from the position I’m filling and they didn’t have time to advertise it. “The Minister may force me to advertise it in the Spring, and if for some reason he does and the position is filled, I will place you in another position. We want you in our district long-term.”


And that, my friends, is why I’ve woken up the past two mornings thinking, “This is really happening!”

My heart is aching over all of the goodbyes and from the final blow of driving away from Todd and Cindy and Seth, our neighbours and kindred spirits. When I think of little Seth’s face, I have to take some deep breaths and remind myself I’ll see him in November. I miss my people madly.

All of this good takes some of the sting away.

I love you, my friends. Thank you for believing me. For knowing me. For seeing my strength and power when I didn’t. For being patient enough to wait for me to find it.

I found it. I’m home.

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