Phantom Familiar


A lonely walk on a cold Saturday night
A lonely walk on a cold Saturday night to a Tim Horton’s on King Street West in Kitchener. Permission to use freely as long as credit is given to the author (me)

One suggestion I’ve heard from a few people — friends,  employment assistance centre representatives, even readers of my blog and those who comment on my YouTube videos — is that I should move to another city, province, or country in order to find work.  I’ve stated on many occasions that moving to a new locale to find a job is no easy task. It’s not just about packing up a suitcase and getting your travel papers in order:  I’ve often stated the psychological duress felt when leaving behind your friends, family, community, the familiar. When I came to realize it was time for me to move away from my home city of nearly 50 years to search for work in Kitchener, it was very difficult for me to cope at first with the feelings that came with that decision. It’s been two weeks since my move and I thought that I was getting over those feelings and adjusting in Kitchener. I was wrong.

My sister and brother-in-law, whom I am staying with at the moment until I get back on my feet, had plans to meet with their friends at a bar. I’m on good terms with their friends and even had dinner with them on more than one occasion. I assumed — stupidly on my part — that I had an open seat to join them and blurted out to my brother-in-law, “So what time are we meeting (them) at (the bar)?”. My brother-in-law looked at me like I lost my mind and said “What do you mean, ‘we’?”

Awkward. Moment. Incarnate.

I was so embarrassed. I apologized for assuming I was coming along. My brother-in-law, always forgiving,  took it in stride and thought nothing of it after, but the dull ache in my heart remained even after he left to meet up with the rest.

I realized at that point that just because I was living in my sister and brother-in-law’s home does not mean I have equal and open access to their private lives, including their social circle. Their friends might like me, may even do their best to help me find work here in Kitchener, but they are not part of my social circle that I had back in Toronto. Unlike my laptop and computer, my clothes, and my toothbrush and deodorant for my move,  that cannot be packed into a moving bin.  I also realized,  despite my past mentions of the subject in my blog and videos, I never really understood the psychological loss experienced from moving in order to find a job until that moment.

Most damning of all, I discovered I was too busy looking for a job to understand the ramifications of my decision to move until now. I was spending six to eight hours a day searching for work using (on occasion) the resources at the Northern Lights employment assistance centre. I was exploring Kitchener, dropping off resumes and filling out job applications.  I was visiting temporary employment agencies and dialing telephone numbers in the want ads of the Waterloo Record newspaper. A great job search to be sure, but I was unintentionally diverting my attention from what I had to cope with. Now, two weeks later since my move, I’m suddenly trying to cope with my relocation and I’m not doing a good job of it.

I need to put as much time into building a new social circle as I have done with my job search,  a circle apart from the ones my family already enjoys but I cannot take for granted as being mine as well. Going to community centres and the library will be one of many steps I’ll need to take to start feeling socially comfortable in Kitchener, a sense of belonging. A sense of familiarity, of feeling real.

Until that day comes, I don’t feel real right now. Despite the fact I am making imprints in the snow-covered sidewalks of the street I am walking on and seeing the steam of my breath in the cold November air, I might as well be a phantom if the only person I know, outside of family, is myself.

Thanks for reading.

David

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