Thursday, November 12, 2015

NaBloPoMo Day 12: Nunavut

Today the topic I have chosen is Nunavut, and I'm not really sure what I thought I'd write about. I've been wondering what to say about it. Since I've moved back, people often say to me, "Wow, you lived in Nunavut? What was THAT like?" and I always want to say, "You want me to summarize 4 years of my life in one sentence?" It's an impossible question, so I usually just smile and say, "Life changing."

I wasn't sure if I should make this a top ten list with something like "top ten life lessons from the north" or "top ten Nunavut memories." But I decided, I already have the topic. "Nunavut, what was that like?" Talking about it does involve me talking about my ex which some may find tacky of me now that I'm remarried, but I'd like to think there is a respectful way to cover the topic.

In spring 2006, I was dating my now ex-husband, J. We were living in London, ON and both of us were unhappy with our lives there. We disliked our jobs and didn't have any hobbies or friends; we were just going through the motions. I was applying to go to college and was accepted into the Computer Systems Technology program at Fanshawe College. Meanwhile, J started applying to interesting jobs around the country. I will never forget our initial discussions about Nunavut; I was completely repulsed by the idea. As his application progress for a position in Rankin Inlet moved along in a promising way, I warmed up the idea and was absolutely pumped when they offered him the job.

Me in an igloo, April 2010

We'd been together 2.5 years at that point and felt like we were in it for the long haul, so we decided to get married before we moved, which we did, and it was a small but fun wedding.

After frantically researching the best we could about how to prepare ourselves, we moved up on August 1st, 2006. I spent August exploring town and falling in love with the north. In September I started in the Management Studies at Nunavut Arctic College, which was a fun way to spend the next 6 months as I got to meet people and make friends. One of my instructors had actually been an instructor at Fanshawe and had lived a few blocks from us in London.

I don't want to discuss specifics, but things started to get difficult in early 2007; however, we were enjoying ourselves nevertheless. By the time school was over in April, we had made some friends and I was offered a temporary position with the federal government. That summer was some of the most fun I've ever had. Saturday nights at the Legion, board game nights with friends, weekend nights at our friend's cabin, quad rides out on the land. It was awesome. I was covered in mosquito bites, but it was awesome.

Things started to go more downhill in August. For still unknown reasons, I started to form massive blisters on the palms of my hands and fingers. They were extremely painful and spread quickly. The doctors and nurses couldn't figure out what was wrong, and they were throwing pills and creams at me like nobody's business. It was very unsettling as the problem got worse, and the doctors only got more confused. It was so bad that my hands were literally immobile. I couldn't unzip my fly, open doors, wash my hair, use utensils, etc. I was on a steady dose of Tylenol 3 which wasn't helping. Eventually I was diagnosed with dyshidrotic eczema and to this day, I never seen photos of a case as bad as mine. The photos on the Internet are laughably minor compared to what I went through. Fortunately it has never come back, which makes the whole thing all the more baffling.

Cape Dorset, April 2009

However, as that nightmarish episode of my life was improving by September, there was more drama in our lives. It really isn't my place to talk about it on this blog, but suffice it to say, it involved J more than it involved me, although it sent me into a tailspin of stress and depression. We were both medicating ourselves with alcohol which obviously doesn't work.

By the new year, things had only gotten worse, and our relationship was massively suffering. I looked at my life at the time; I was 21 and felt I was too young to be going through what I was dealing with, so I made the decision to walk away from the marriage and from Rankin Inlet. I could have handled the situation better, but life doesn't hand you a manual about how to navigate divorce, especially as a 21 year old.

I was offered another contract in Iqaluit so I moved there in March 2008. I'd never lived alone before and found the adjustment difficult, but also liberating. By summer I was emerging from my depression and found happiness in my life in Iqaluit. I made friends, was going to the gym, loved my job...things were great. My best friend Tori even came to visit me in December 2008 which was one of the highlights of my time in the north. In early 2009, I was given a permanent position with the government and was finally able to move into my own apartment. I had either been living in a staff house, house sitting, or living with a coworker for that first year. Moving into my own apartment was amazing, and I really settled into life.

Repulse Bay, November 2009

2009 was a great year. I feel like that's when I really started to come out of my shell and make friends. However, Iqaluit is a small place and the more time I spent out of the house, the more people started gossiping about me, which was awful. Unsurprisingly, the gossip made my life seem a lot more interesting than it actually was. I'd spend a Saturday night at home alone and then hear on Monday about how wild I had been at a party. Yup, if the "party" was my couch and "wild" was me falling asleep at 9pm.

By fall 2009, I started to look at ways to move on from Iqaluit. I began the process of applying to become a police officer with the RCMP and was optimistic and excited about it. That December, I began talking to Anthony online, not thinking much about it. I went home for Christmas and we met up with zero intentions of dating, and yeah. Here we are 6 years later, married.

By the end of my trip home that December, I knew I had to cancel my application process for the RCMP and pursue things with Anthony. I've gotten slack about it over the years from various people but I have no regrets. I flew Anthony up in April and July 2010, the latter trip was to help me finish packing to move. I left on July 21st, 2010 with mixed emotions.

April 2010

The adjustment back to life here was difficult, but I refused to acknowledge it at the time. I had been so used to the idea that I was doing something unique with my life, and then suddenly I was back in plain old southwestern Ontario, unemployed, living with my dad. I also started suffering from anxiety about driving, which is still an ongoing issue for me.

It has now been more than 5 years since I left. At this point, I don't think I would ever move back. I enjoyed my time there and learned so much about life, but it often felt like living in a fishbowl. I enjoy my anonymity here, especially now that nobody recognizes me post-weight loss and jaw surgeries. I enjoy Chipotle down here and being able to go on a weekend road trips. Anthony and I have had so many adventures, and I am looking forward to moving stateside and starting a new life there.

Sometimes I try to think about what my life would be like had I not moved to Nunavut, but it bothers me to think about it. I feel like I "grew up" there for all intents and purposes, and it has made me into the person I am now. I feel like I appreciate the small things in life, like a warm breeze or a mailbox full of Amazon shipments. :-) I am grateful for the people who stand by me in hard times, and for 24 hour grocery stores. I made some lifelong friends there and have so many cherished memories, there's no way I would have been able to fit them into a top ten list.

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