In Ottawa

So: a number of people (okay, three) have asked me what happened to my blog, where did all the content go, etc. I’m flattered that anyone noticed that it not only hasn’t been updated in a long while, but that it sort of… disappeared. The answer I’ve given them is that I’ve removed/made private the majority of the posts as I figure out what I want to do with it. This is true, but it is also true that making a decision like that is rather daunting, so I’ve decided to go with the obvious. Maybe this one will stick! I present my current theme:

Being in Ottawa.

This is really easy as I am in Ottawa and foresee myself, barring any miracles, being here for at least a couple more years. It is also a convenient way of keeping friends and family updated (“haha!” you laugh) without having to resort to putting everything on, say, Facebook. The fun thing about a blog rather than a site like Facebook is that I have the illusion of greater privacy/control despite the fact that this is blasted all over the Internet and is searchable (“googleable,” even). Perhaps I will explore the odd irrationality of that feeling later as I fear I am already veering off course.

So! Ottawa. I live here. I am finally, in conversations when travelling, “from Ottawa.” It took a long time for me to feel comfortable saying that, and perhaps I only really did once I realized that I’ve lived in Ottawa longer than I lived in Toronto. Still, Toronto leaves a mark on people, I’ve noticed, an identity hard to remove even if I wanted it gone. Part of me feels like my absence from there is only temporary and that I will return one day, but of course there are no guarantees and I am here now. I might as well live where I am, no? Part of the trouble is that although I lived in Montreal for six years, I very quickly lost any sense of being a Montrealer, or even being from Quebec at all despite having lived in the province from age five or so. Toronto, for whatever reason, fit me better and it has been hard to shake the feeling of being from there despite not really having been from there at all.

Here I am in Ottawa, though. Oh, also, I’m pregnant (yay!), so my child’s passport will forever be marked by Ottawa. I’d better get cozy with the place. Part of this, however, means trying to actually figure out just what this place is and just what it is not. The longer I’m here, the more I realize that some of the initial assumptions I’d had about the place are wrong — in a good way — but infuriatingly, many of the people who live here cling to those same ideas about the city as gospel. Through casual conversation, I’ve come to learn that many of the people who live here think that Ottawa is, specifically compared with Toronto or Montreal,

1) Sleepy or slow

2) At one with nature/green

3) Particularly active/outdoorsy

4) A place where you need a car

5) Family-friendly

6) Small

7) (Primarily) a government town

8) Conservative, in the political sense

I suppose there are elements of truth to each of the above, but surprise, surprise, the truth is a bit more complicated. At least, what I’ve made of the city is a bit more complicated. I’ve had the privilege of doing a lot of travelling in the last few years (New York and cities in Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand just in the last year!), which has provoked a lot of thought on my part regarding what I like/dislike and need/really don’t need in a city. For example: as a non-driver, good public transit is pretty much always at the top of my list. Parking, not so much, though I’m sure for drivers that is at the top of their list. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but everything is subjective.

Because everything is subjective, a few things about me in no particular order to help provide a sense of my demographic:

1) I’m pregnant, as I mentioned. I did not mention, however, that this is my first child and that my husband and I have no family in Ottawa.

2) I am a woman in the latter half of my twenties.

3) As should be clear from 1), I’m married.

4) I have a BA and an MA (McGill: English lit and UofT: medieval studies, if you were at all wondering).

5) I don’t drive. I never have. I don’t foresee myself doing so in the immediate future but it is not outside the realm of possibilities. My husband also does not drive. He knows how to, but I’ve never actually seen him drive and we’ve known each other for about eight years.

6) I lean left, as they say. I am, however, right-handed.

7) I grew up in the suburbs of Quebec City and left as soon as I could. Before anyone asks, my French is terrible. I was born in Winnipeg and have also lived in Montreal, Vancouver (for a summer), Toronto, and (of course) Ottawa.

8) I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my twenties. I also travelled a lot as a child, but I don’t think that counts as much.

9) Gluten makes me ill. This probably seems like a random thing to include, but it does affect my experiences in different places.

10) I work from home. Mostly editing, but some writing as well.

11) I lost my not-even-two-months-old iPhone the other day somewhere between the taxi from the train station and my home. This makes me sad and also makes me realize how irrationally happy I was to have an iPhone, probably because I’m a loser and don’t have any friends in Ottawa. If you’re in Ottawa and found a white iPhone 4s in a black case, let me know.

And that is about it.


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