Valeria Velazquez // Columnist
When I first came to Vancouver I thought, “This is it. This is the place I want to live in for the rest of my life.” But if there’s something I’ve been reassured of time and time again, especially during this pandemic: things don’t always happen the way we plan them to. Two and a half years later, I’m unsure if I will settle here.
Before coming to Vancouver, I felt like something was missing in my life. I needed more freedom, opportunities, and safety. After months of trying to convince my parents to let me study abroad, they finally agreed. At the end of 2017, I applied for admission to the Communication Studies Diploma at Capilano University, and in January 2018 I began my journey.
In the beginning, I loved everything about this city. I could see the seasons change (something that doesn’t happen in Mexico, where the temperature stays pretty much the same year-round). I adored the Capilano University campus in the middle of the woods, and I admired the politeness of the Canadian people. But as time passed, I realized that such a thing as a “perfect place” doesn’t exist, at least not forever.
I eventually began to see the flaws. The emblematic Canadian “sorry” is more of a habit than an actual apology. The months of clouds and rain seem endless and make the city appear lifeless. The coldness of Vancouverites and almost non-existent sense of community made me feel, more often than not, lonely.
Not to say that Vancouver isn’t beautiful—it is. There are so many things I love about it: the accessibility of public transit, the mountain scenery that can be appreciated from almost anywhere in the city, and the safety I feel in comparison to my hometown. But the good things about it are not enough to convince me to create a life here.
Nevertheless, I still thought of Vancouver as my back-up city, and of Canada as a place I could keep coming back to for at least three more years after I graduated. After all, I had already spent two and a half years creating a life for myself here. I planned on travelling to Mexico after graduating and only coming back here when I needed to make some money to continue exploring Latin America. I thought I could leave and come back whenever I wanted to, and that I would do so until I decided what I wanted to do with my life.
Turns out that as an immigrant, things aren’t as easy. Instead of getting my post-graduate work permit for three years as I expected, I got it for only a year and a half. The safety net I thought I’d have was gone, and the three years I thought I could spend figuring my life out were shortened to a year and a half.
My plan of travelling to Mexico after graduation was still underway. Although I had purchased my flight tickets before my plans of staying for three years came crashing down, I still questioned whether or not I should go home for a few months. I had friends and family members tell me that I should just stay and take advantage of as much time in Vancouver as possible. They’d say afterwards that I could maybe apply for residency, go through the immigration process—then I’d be able to come and go how I pleased.
There is this perception that because Canada is a “first-world” country and Mexico is not, it’s better if I make a life here in Vancouver. The overall safety, better economy and quality of life in general makes them think that if I don’t try my best to stay here for good, I’d be making a mistake. I was even starting to believe this myself, but deep down I know that staying here for the long haul isn’t what I want.
I am not willing to spend another year or longer without being able to go home, without walking through the streets I grew up in, without eating my grandma’s delicious food, or catching up with my lifelong friends.
For some time now, this urge in me to connect to my roots, my country and my ancestors has been growing. My heart has been talking and it’s guiding me towards the things that will make me truly happy. And I know for a fact that what will make me happy now is not to stay here. What will make me happy is to go, travel, learn, eat, see, smell, feel, experience all of the things about Mexico I’ve missed while being here, things that I overlooked when I was living there.
There’s a popular saying that goes: “There is no worse blind man than the one who doesn’t want to see.” And I was definitely the worst type of blind when I was back home. There were things about the world around me and about myself that I was ignoring. It took me years and a distance of over 4000 km to start noticing these patterns, traumas, injustices—but also the beauty ingrained in my own country.
Now it’s time for me to go back and not see these things from afar, but actually experience them. I want to fight against the injustices of an extremely misogynist and patriarchal system. I want to demand and provide an example for equity and justice. I want to heal my own personal relationships with my family.
Going back to Mexico will help me authentically connect with my country, and only then will I be able to connect to myself. And I’ve realized that no matter where I go, if I truly connect to myself, I will always be home—because “home” won’t be in the place I go to, home will already be within me.