Since moving to Niagara, I have changed a lot.
As I look back over the last few years, I have realized that City Jo was very different from Niagara Jo. Now these weren’t overnight, dramatic changes. The older I get I realize that most of life – and the process of change in particular – is a subtle, gradual thing.
City Jo was stressed, irritable, and in many ways unhappy. Now, I can’t totally blame the city for this. There are many, many things that I think are fabulous about Toronto. It is, after all, the place I was born, and it was my home for 43 years. I have lots of memories from my life there – some great, some not so great. But I don’t think you make it to mid-life without a few regrets or mistakes.
Personally, my life had been a whirlwind of change and upheaval since 2007. As a result, I was burnt out physically and emotionally. My health wasn’t the greatest. I was exhausted, yet wasn’t sleeping. I had no energy to do the hardcore workouts I used to love so much. Heck, sometimes I had no energy to even make it through the day. And honestly, the pace of the city was getting a little too fast for me. It seemed like my fellow city-dwellers were always in such a frantic rush, and most seemed unhappy or downright angry about it. I felt like I never had time for anything. My business was failing. I was under severe financial stress. Then, after yet another major move with renovations, we discovered that Ken needed heart surgery.
When that horribly difficult time was finally over and he recovered, we looked at each other and said, “Perhaps it’s time for a change…. Perhaps this way of life isn’t working for us anymore…. Maybe it’s time to really pursue what we want to do.” But we still weren’t exactly sure what that was.
So, one summer day in 2013, we came to see a play at the Shaw Festival. As we walked the streets of beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake we were inspired. “Remember when we talked about one day running a Bed and Breakfast? Maybe now is the time.”
Three weeks later we had Highbrook.
On the outside, deciding to make a major life change like that looked pretty sudden and dramatic. It wasn’t. I realize now that I had wanted to make this type of change for a long time, but hadn’t previously thought it was possible.
So we moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake in the midst of a horrible snowstorm, taking possession of our new home in December 2013.
I gradually got settled into our new life, and prepared to receive our first guests at Highbrook. We opened almost two months later than we expected, but in hindsight the timing was perfect. It was a fabulous first season, and I met so many wonderful people from all over the world. Lots of lively discussions were held at the breakfast table, or over a glass of wine in the afternoon.
Then finally, one day – oh, around August 2014 – I began to notice some things.
I was sleeping better. I was feeling stronger. I was laughing more. I finally had some energy to do my long-missed workouts. I wasn’t as frantic or irritable or stressed. Things that used to drive me crazy, somehow just didn’t anymore.
That got me thinking. Have these changes occurred because I am in a new environment, and a place that I love in Niagara? Or would these changes have occurred anyway, because I was so ready for them? Perhaps this would have happened no matter where I was, and with some concerted effort, I could have been this way in the city.
I don’t think I will ever know for sure. All that I do know, is living in my beautiful new town has helped me to make some changes I so desperately needed. Niagara has blessed me with many gifts.
And I am so thankful for that.