A year ago this evening, I was enjoying dinner with Tristan at Joseph Leonard in the West Village. I had a steak, many tiny French pickles, and perhaps one too many Hendrick’s and tonics. I was in New York to take part in ITP Summer Camp at NYU. Tristan was in New York to get out of Toronto for a few days, and to help me celebrate my birthday.
A year ago this evening, I turned 30.
Tonight, on the occasion of my 31st birthday, I’m sitting on the back deck of our Queen Street apartment, as the city slowly cools down after the muggiest day in recent memory. And because celebration without reflection is empty and hollow, I’m sitting here, reflecting on the year I spent being 30.
It was a good year. Full of change.
I’ve never been more places in a year of my life. I spent the beginning of 30 in New York, and about a week later, returned to our home base of Lyon, France. Almost immediately after returning, Jenna, Dom and I spent several days cycling the Loire Valley, visiting castles and wineries. When friends and family visited, we showed them our favourite places in Lyon, did underground degustations in Beaune, and hit up Nuit Blanche in Paris. I visited London, Venice, and Edinburgh for the first time. My in-laws visited, and we drove around Belgium and northern France, visiting cemetaries, memorials, and battlefields. I saw Vimy, Dieppe, and Juno Beach – up until then, places I’d only ever read about in history books.
Standing in direct contrast to the inexpensive EasyJet flights we took full advantage of, I also had the opportunity at 30 to take a decidedly old-timey means of travel. Returning from our year abroad, Jenna and I spent six nights at sea, crossing the North Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2. A serious amount of fun. And seasickness.
Though it’s far from perfect, I improved my French, thanks to a handful of patient conversation partners. My understanding of French language and culture deepened, as did friendships with our friends in Lyon.
Despite being out of the country for a year, my professional life somehow continued to improve. I taught a course I’d never taught before at Ryerson, and I got a full-on promotion at CBC (I’m now officially a Producer, assigned to Spark).
At 30, I became a home owner. Or rather, Jenna and I are about to become home owners. We bought a tiny little house on Percy Street in Toronto, and we’re looking forward to moving in later this summer. If we ever get through the home inspections, lawyers, mortgages, and insurance paperwork, that is.
And, on a sadder note, I lost my Grammy this year. My mom’s mom died. It was hard. Mostly in the “I’m really sad and everyone around me is really sad and there isn’t really anything I can do about it” kind of way.
My grandmother was, and continues to be, a real inspiration to me. She was born in Reserve Mines, Nova Scotia in the year 1930, just in time to spend almost the entire Great Depression living in a coal mining town in Cape Breton. Twenty-one years later, she married my grandfather Charles, in the same town she grew up in. Over the next few years, they started a family. By December 1960, they had three daughters, and were expecting another child.
That’s when my grandfather was killed in a workplace accident in New York State.
Sitting here, typing this out, and doing the arithmetic, it’s hard to imagine. Grammy, thirty years old, married less than a decade, suddenly widowed with three kids and another on the way.
Suffice it to say, Grammy was a strong woman. Her 30 was a very different 30 than mine. Losing her was hard, and immensely sad. But thinking about her life and her strength helps put things in perspective.
It helps me realize that I am a lucky son of a gun. I am married to a wonderful, beautiful woman that I love. I have a job that not only pays the bills, but that I find incredibly fulfilling. I have friends that I can count on, and colleagues I respect.
I have no idea what 31 will bring, but I’m excited to find out.