As a Come From Away (or a CFA as I’ve been referred to as), I have learned many lessons from the East Coast. Some of them through instruction, like the local lingo, and some of them indirectly. Today, I wanted to share a few of these lessons. I think we could all learn a lot from Maritimers and I also just want to thank the genuinely warm-hearted people I have met in such a short time here.
Before I dive into my lesson for the day, I wanted to share that several close friends I have here were welcomed into my life in the most unusual circumstances. Crossing paths at a recruitment fair, raising a glass after a difficult loss, randomly joining on a hike post-snowstorm, or even just party-crashing a table on a patio one night – these are just to name a few.
From each of the people I have wholeheartedly welcomed into my new East Coast life, I have learned so much and have felt so much warmth and kindness. To each of you, I thank you.
Love Thy Neighbour
Although I consider myself spiritual, religion has never been a large part of my life. Regardless, I had heard the bible verse growing up, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” From what I could find on Wikipedia, it refers to the Golden Rule of treating others how you wish to be treated. The neighbours here are unmatched.
Previously, I’ve never known my neighbours. Sure, the odd time I’ve met someone in passing, or chatted (or hung out with) someone I’ve lived in the same building as, but I’ve never felt like they genuinely cared about me. I would have never walked next door in Ontario and exclaimed to my neighbour that my basement was flooded and I needed help. Never would a neighbour have initiated socially-distanced exercise as a way to battle the disconnection during the pandemic. Never have I had a neighbour stop me on the street to genuinely take the time to get to know me – a stranger, new to the area.
There has never been a greater kindness in my life than when I moved to Cape Breton Island. I’ll never forget the envelope in the mailbox with a medical mask and a note that, “No one should be alone during these times. I’m just a text away if you need me.” I’ll forever be shocked at how quickly I was embraced by strangers. Not only do I feel like thy neighbour loves me, but I always want to make sure that they know I love thy neighbour too and I’m here for them.
It’s a real thing and not just in the Caribbean. When I enter the Maritimes, I literally feel my heart rate slow. There’s a calm that comes over me that I just can’t explain. When I cross the Causeway onto the Island? It drops further. I drive slower, I breathe more deeply, and life moves at a different pace, that I love.
Perhaps it is the same feeling we get when we go on vacation. That time slows down and we can embrace every moment a little bit longer. Being in Cape Breton is like that. Even when life has a normal routine, I feel more connected to every moment. There is something so incredibly peaceful about living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Maybe it’s the fact that Island time exists, or maybe it’s just the fact that we have the ability to be out in incredible, natural environments whenever we want; either way, you’ll want to embrace every calming moment of the Island life when you’re here.
Good Friends Are Just A Conversation Away
I mentioned this in my introduction here, but I can’t stress it enough. The stereotypes of East Coasters (generally) being conversationalists, story-tellers, and genuinely good people is just 100% true. If you want to make a friend in Cape Breton, I don’t even think it matters if you’re shy. Because if you do not start a conversation with someone, someone is going to start a conversation with you.
This year has been a trying one. Without the friends that I made in the most random situations, I don’t know what I’d do. Friends that delivered me goodies during self-isolation and the chip dip I was craving so greatly. People that I now consider family getting stuck (and clearing out the snow) in the narrow driveway during a snowstorm. The people who have made me feel so welcome in this community that has so quickly become home – thank you. Each day I feel blessed that I (or you) started a conversation.
Lastly, A Dictionary Might Be Necessary
This one is a bit of a joke, but there is truly a whole new language here. From the first time that I was corrected that lunch is dinner and dinner is supper to my friends now convincing me to work b’y into my everyday language, I am learning.
My dog is a sook; you might get a “go on” at the end of a good story; and if you articulate too strongly you’re immediately pegged as a Come From Away. Every time my over-articulation slips away and my vowels sound a little different, I feel even more at home. It takes time, but in the meantime, I’m glad I have this handy dictionary…
The Lessons Continue
“You look calmer than I’ve ever seen you,” said my friend when they first saw me ‘officially’ a Cape Bretoner. They weren’t wrong. Every step of this move has felt right, even when facing challenges. From my mountain tops to toes in the sand, from my loving and helpful neighbours to coworkers that quickly became friends, I appreciate every one of you and every experience you have shared with me. I look forward to every other lesson from the East Coast, because I know it will be just the lesson I need.