Updated: Jan 27, 2020
I’m embarrassed to admit that I find my PhD fieldwork very challenging. I can almost hear everyone despairing as I type this; “What could be possibly be bad about studying coastal wolves on Vancouver Island?”. And you’d be right to despair, because really, I’m living my dream.
The only hiccup is that I’m doing it alone...for now.
In accepting this project and relocating to Canada, I moved away from all my family, my friends, and my best friend, and every day I’m filled with inner turmoil about whether I made the right choice. Constantly asking myself “Is this worth it?”.
This voice grows louder when I’m on the island.
Back in Kelowna I’ve built a support network: friends in the office, at the climbing gym, and in my home. I’ve found a stable where I can ride and a mountain l where I can ski. I put in the time and it’s paid off, Kelowna feels like a home in Canada and I’m happy to say that I’m happy there.
On the island, I struggle to find the same happiness. The temporary nature of fieldwork means I’m here for a few weeks and then I’m gone again. Some days I feel like a nomad, floating through this life in a state of impermanence, proud at my ability to uproot and change states. But some days, like today, I find myself walking wounded with a James-shaped hole in my life.
Weekends are the hardest because I’m not actually in the field.
This morning I sat in a cute little café overlooking the water. I watched bald eagles perch precariously on too-thin branches and as they soared high and swooped low, I felt calm. I walked along the shoreline in search of the sea lions I hear shouting every day, and when I found them, I smiled and felt happy. But then, as I turned to walk back to the house, I saw a little deer and was hit by sadness. This place is full of wonders that I don’t want to experience alone.
Loneliness isn’t a new challenge for me, but here on the island it floors me every time.
On the bright side, tomorrow is Monday and I’m heading to a more remote part of the island. May the cameras be filled with wolves and may the voice in my head say with a resounding conviction that yes, this is worth it! And maybe in time, the island will become a home too.