Thursday, October 27, 2011

In-Flight Insights: YYZ - YVR

WestJet Flight WS 0713 at the boarding gate
     Fourth row from the front, aisle seat, 37,000 feet and rocketing along at 499 mph. I'm almost an hour into my return flight from Toronto to Vancouver as I write this post. I don't feel like looking out of the window at what seems to be an endless landscape of cotton; the scenery doesn't seem to offer much in terms of intellectual stimulation, though the shades of orange and pink are unquestionably beautiful as the sun sets to our left. Having the entire row to myself, there's no one to talk to either, and the two ladies in the seats across the aisle from me are chattering away with an enthusiasm that I doubt that I can muster at the moment. I've already had a short in-flight nap, so I'm hoping to take a little time to think, and God willing, upload this post from Vancouver YVR airport after touching down in about three-and-a-half hours or so.

    It's difficult to believe that a little over a week has gone by since I touched down in Toronto to visit my family. In one sense, it feels like a month has gone by since I last saw Vancouver or anyone there; so much has happened in the seven days that I've been away that heading back feels a little unreal. In another sense, it feels like I've just landed, glimpsed my family's faces, and taken off again. So many events have been squeezed into such a short span of time, and I'm finding time to reflect on all of it only now. I hope to write more about it over the next few days, before my vacation ends.

    Whatever my perception of the passage of the last 192 hours, it is without question that this trip has been memorable on many, many levels. I saw my family after just over a year. I met a dearly-loved cousin who I hadn't seen in almost six years (5 years and 10 months, by his precise reckoning), and his wife who I'd never met. We all went on a road trip to visit relatives in Canada's capital, Ottawa, and breifly ventured on an impromptu excursion into Quebec. I visited my high-school friend and former roomate Brendan, who is just past his first anniversary of marriage and two months away from becoming a first-time father, and reminisced about old times over a cup of his home-made chai tea. But most of all, it is the conversations with my family that I remember and cherish as I look back at the last 8 days that I've spent in Toronto. Conversations about life, love, marriage, family, hope, faith, purpose, suffering, trial, burden, heartbreak, God and the future, among so many others. It is not that I have not conversed with them about these things in some manner before, for we frequently have; rather, it was a difference in depth, openness and oneness of heart with which I felt as we engaged with each other. A difference in kind, and not just degree. And it has given me immense pleasure, much to reflect on, and much to miss until I see them again.

    It is definitely true that much has changed in my relationship with my parents. When visiting them last year, I had turned 29, just graduated university with my Master's degree, and was undergoing a time of transition as I began searching for work and wrestled with questions of the mind and heart, for which I wanted answers. I was also desperately wanting stability and to get started on a path to establishing myself, both professionally and personally. All of us were undergoing a time of trial and refining in our lives in differing situations, though I have no doubt that theirs was much more severe than mine. One year later, I had crossed the significant age of 30, found a deeply fulfilling job with a wonderful company, begun taking the first steps to standing on my own feet, persevered through some difficult and painful times of mental, emotional and spiritual refinement, growth and change and embarked on another stage of adventure in my journey with God. Over the last week, I found that in the process of all that had happened to me at the other end of the country, I had also come to understand and empathize with them better, to relate and connect with their joys, sorrows, disappointments, hopes, concerns and faith in Christ. Looking back at the years gone by, I found that I had a better perspective and appreciation of their thoughts, endeavours, effort, struggle and sacrifice for our family, and all that they had endured; looking forward, I found a better empathy and appreciation for their ongoing concern for our family's future, for the generation that now is and those to come. I love and appreciate my parents more than I have ever loved them in my life, and I do not write superficially when I make that statement. May my love for them grow only deeper and stronger.
My awesome parents :)
    As much as I have enjoyed this deeper connection with my parents, I have similarly enjoyed a closer relationship with my "little" sister, who is not so little now! With the kind of age gap that exists between us, we have had been apart for much of the last decade. Those have combined to bring about their own difficulties of being close in general, and being there for her when she needed me in particular, which on many fronts I have not done and not been the brother that I could have been. I have missed our times together of long ago when we were still children and had not come to the time where we had to "grow up". So I was happy to see her again, and connect with all that was going on in her life, especially as she goes through her own growing pains in university and other fronts. It meant a lot to me that we were able to watch the movie 'Soul Surfer' together, which has had a significant impact on my life and my sister felt was a really good movie. However, the most memorable moments that I had with her were actually quite simple - walking her to the bus stop across the main road from our house to see her off as she caught the bus to Square One shopping mall from where she would then catch the connecting express bus to York University. As I watched the bus pull away and we waved to each other, it brought back happy memories of long ago, when I was a teenager and she a toddler, and I would pick her up from her school bus stop after school. I am really looking forward to having her visit me in Vancouver when she is able to!
Seeing Tiffany off at the bus stop before heading to the airport
    There is so much more that I want to write, about my cousin Aju (whom my father lovingly calls his "other son") and his wonderful wife Indu, and all that I learned from my time with them. But I will stop here for now, and pick up my thoughts tomorrow of the trip that is speedily coming to an end, for we are just one hour away from Vancouver, and my battery is getting low. Hopefully, you will be reading this post after my safe landing at YVR and I'll see you in the next post. Bon Voyage and Godspeed to all my fellow travellers out there who are reading this!
- The Wisdom Seeker