It’s over, it’s over.
It’s done with.
I can’t begin to describe the strangeness of it all from having spent 22 weeks in an isolated town that has no roads to escape from, of how the chances of getting eaten by a polar bear is a daily risk from stepping outside your front door. People from my old life told me I must be crazy for moving to Manitoba. I must admit, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
When I first stepped off the train onto the flat lands of Churchill, Manitoba – from having spent 5 days in a beat up car, leaving my shame and sorrow back in the concrete jungle, I couldn’t help but feel scared, regretful for having made such a choice. I looked around and wondered what has become of my life that I had to run away to a place where you can’t run away from. But, I knew I had to bite my tongue and pull forward into the great unknown once more and I found myself falling into something I never would have imagined possible.
I had spent most of my days having worked and worked and working some more. Constantly breaking my back day after day because nothing in my life ever goes according to plan. I’ve drank late into the night, telling myself that tomorrow I’ll go sober. Always hoping that I’ll be better the next time around. Once again, I find myself being let down by the people I worked with, having to take on twice the amount of work to fix others mistakes. No one having a clue what to say or do.
But, there have been some moments that were worth it all. Within the first couple days, the boys and I all went around and explained why we all decided to move to Polar Bear Land. Everybody seemed to have needed to escape home from having a bad break-up. They looked at me with questioning eyes, waiting to hear all my secrets. I lied and said I just had nothing better else to do. But, that wasn’t the truth. The real reason was because I made a fool of myself, time after time, drunken mistakes impacting my life, the torture of grief deep in my heart with trying to deal with the loss of a loved one. I came to Churchill to bury my past and leave it all behind. I needed to start all over, to begin again.
But, always taking the harder road, I struggled day in and day out. I kept quiet about my life for the first little bit. I kept my head down and tried to move with the motions of things. I did backflips for my job, a monkey dancing for his meal. Sunrise to sunset, I was struggling to keep up with the work load. I got drunk most days after work, needing a break, a moment to get away from everywhere. Most days, I took long walks to the liquor store and disappeared for a while. This was my life.
And so, I had to come crashing down in a fiery mess as I always do. Except, this time was different. There was something more to it. Something other-worldly. I think I had given myself enough time and space from it all that it began to make sense. I understood the pain I was going through and letting it all fall to pieces, letting it happen naturally. It was the most human way possible. I was leaving behind all the bad things that have happened to me in my life. Suddenly, I was watching sunsets again. I smoked some funny stuff late at night with some good friends that let the starry heavens dance for us. I watched the raw beauty of nature and the wildlife unfold all around me. Not too long, I had met some wonderful people while singing songs in the bar that all the good people end up in. I realized I was a part of life. I was a part of something.
After 2 and half months of working my ass off, never having time to myself, I took off like a bat out of hell, feeling the need to run until I couldn’t run anymore. Churchill and I needed a break for me to figure some things out. I managed to escape and see some beautiful sights to see. I met more amazing people while traipsing across the eastern side of Canada. I had answered the call of adventure and was almost swept off my feet into the unknown. I got to take a breather from isolation and let it all sink in.
I had to come back though. I was nervous to come back, to return to the craziness of life in Churchill. I wasn’t sure if I could make it. I didn’t think I could survive. I was panic-stricken the whole train ride up. My first day back and all I wanted to do was run again. I wanted to grab my bags and get the hell out before the bad things started happening to me. I felt a bad omen with the people around me. And I almost did jump on that train and never looked back. It wasn’t until after I got drunk by myself in my room, not coming out into human contact until I was good and inebriated. Then, with all my thoughts and emotions suppressed by my favorite cheap beer, I stepped out of my door and found myself singing songs at the usual bar, feeling the night coursing through my body. And there I found the regular crowd was waiting for me. They opened their arms as soon as they saw me and said “Welcome home”.
That had to have been the surrealist moment I had in a long time. The way it was to have people I hardly knew be so open and accepting and deeply loving. Without knowing when or how, I had felt happy. Genuinely happy. I realized that the beautiful weirdos in my life were right, I was home. I felt my heart open up wide and large and I could breathe again. I was enjoying life.
There have been a lot of craziness from working in Churchill, but I’ve come to understand that I am in love with it all. I enjoyed the ridiculous prices for groceries, the odd buildings with misshapen insides that just don’t make sense. I love the Lazy Bear Lodge, Blue Sky, the Complex that has a school, hospital, movie theatre and recreational facilities all rolled into one building. I love how the summer sun never really sets, just sitting a little under the horizon for a couple hours. I love the beautiful Northern Lights and the way they move across the beautiful dark canvas of the universe, letting heaven twinkle in our eyes. I loved how we all sang Wagon Wheel every god damn open mic night at the Tundra Pub. I loved the beer vendors at the Seaport, the expensive cigarettes and those fucking mosquitoes. I love the fact how you can see everyone in town by just walking down Kelsey Boulevard. That has been my life these past few months, it’s what kept me alive and feeling the full extent of the world around me. The true beauty of what the earth can be and the raw human emotions and conditions that of which we really are. The thing I’ve loved most about living in Churchill is the mindset of the people that live there. Nobody has ever questioned my existence, my background, what my story is or who it is that I may be. There is none of that. The beautiful people of Churchill just let you be as you are. They don’t care about skin colour, facial features, whatever accent you may have or what kind of lifestyle you live. As long as you can laugh into the night, sing the songs we all love, and able to share some good stories. It’s all about just being alive and present and holding all that you love and care for in this world.
I’m going to miss those late nights at a bonfire, the way the fog rolls in and how it shrouds the town in mystery. I will miss Polar Bear alley, shooting off guns and drinking beer down in the flat lands. Those days where adventure is a foot as soon as you leave your house and will take you every which way and that. I miss Halloween night, the Seaport lounge, 100km wind chill, and the 10 o’clock alarm that rings through the town. I will miss the bartenders at Tundra and Seaport and how they always know which beer it is that I’ll order. I will miss all the “oh, you know’s” and the drunken fort building and late night rides on the quad. I don’t think I’ll ever let go of Churchill sunsets, the beluga whales, all the artic and red foxes with hares running this way and that. I don’t ever want to forget the way I had felt in that amazing town. All the good and bad stuff made me what I am now. I’m not the same person I was when I first arrived.
You see, I’ve learned to accept the fact that the things that happen in life will happen, and you just have to go with it to survive, just to get to the end. The fighting of the world around you will never take you anywhere else but. I’ve learned to be more open about the struggles I go through, that the people that really care for you will be there no matter what. And the ones that can’t handle you will never last. I’ve learned that I need to be more selective about my friends. Not the ones that find reasons to hate you, that love to gossip and turn the rumor mill. I’ve learned to turn away the ones that want to be your friend for selfish reasons and not love you for who you truly are. I’ve found the people that can really see what goes on inside a person, the horrendous stuff, but won’t treat you any different. I’ve learned that love will come out of nowhere and hit you like a ton of bricks and knock the breath right out of you and you have to learn to love it for the love that love really is. For me, the things that are unexpected tend to cling on to my life and that is the way I am, the life I live and there is no good fighting it.
So, I just want to say thank you, Churchill. Thank you to the amazing human beings I had the pleasure of meeting. Thank you Manitoban sunsets for making me think of heaven and the ones I love most. Thank you for making me realize the mortality and frailty of the world and how we all must take and give a little kindness and respect. And I’m sorry for those moments where I get quiet. Those moments where I can’t be a part of everything. I’m sorry if I seemed bitter and mean sometimes. I don’t mean to be. But, I’m learning to see the positive side of life. How amazing it is to take each breath. How the most amazing things in this world is more that skin-deep beauty. That if you really want to find the amazing places with wonderful people, you gotta have to do a little digging. Thank you for making me see beyond the surface of what most people only see with their own two eyes. That there will always be something more. That life isn’t so black and white. That people aren’t so black and white.
I leave with a heavy heart and goodbye stuck in my throat. But, having the beautiful and amazing experience I did have is more than enough. One day soon, I’ll definitely be back for another round of adventure. I promise.