I’m sitting at a square wooden table in the Brûlerie of Quebec City’s St. Roch – my neighborhood since December 2012. My ears will NOT defrost. I once read that Canada “is a country much too cold for good sense.” It’s -28°C outside. -38°C felt. I can only agree. A soya latte is slowly warming me up as I laugh at stories of New Yorkers whining over their winter weather. – 16°C, pfff…
A year ago, I quit my corporate job in Rome, my beloved home. I put my apartment for rent, and blindly followed love. Was I out of my mind? Probably.
With my French and US passports, five languages, numerous diplomas and certificates from good enough schools in hand, I thought it was going to be so easy to find a job – while my boyfriend wrapped up his studies at the Université Laval. I had managed to find work on my way from Prague (Czech Republic) to Santo Domingo de los Colorados (Ecuador); there would be no reasons for me to struggle in Québec City. Except I had missed out on an important point: Canada is a serious country – my first serious country. Rules are rules here. Period.
Since my Italian residency didn’t match either of my citizenships, I immediately had to forget about the Working Holiday Visa as an option to stay in Québec. So in March 2013, I applied for a Canadian Permanent Residency. Regardless of the many forms I sent with my name properly typed upon each of them (I do know how to spell my name), Immigration Canada managed to call me Julie “BARETTA” instead of “BERETTA”. How? I don’t understand. Point is, this slowed down a process that already seemed endless.
For a hyperactive people-person, raised Catholic, months with no label or tracks to follow made me feel guilty and afraid – unauthorized to take part in even an unpaid internship, I was suddenly living a long vacation I didn’t deserve. I was a 25-year-old leading the life of a retired woman – without having worked hard enough for it. And when people innocently asked, “What is it you do all day?” or repeated, “You’re so lucky!” I just wanted to punch them in the face.
Of course I was lucky. I was neither sick nor stuck in a war zone; I was in love, and money was not my problem. Still, I was unhappy. Despite the 11 a.m. Zumba classes, my housewife lifestyle didn’t suit me. Like most men and women my age, I wanted to start building a decent career. Have a title. Meet people. Fit in. Feel useful. And Québec’s laws prevented me from doing so.
Too often, my boyfriend would find me curled up on the bathroom floor, crying like I was seriously gonna die tomorrow. But he never judged my tears. He let me live my existential crisis fully, positive that I would find an exit. He was right.
Eventually tired of all the hours available to me, I got involved as a volunteer in the Mois Multi, an Art International Festival. There, I first heard of Kinomada, a Short-Film Workshop. I signed up as an actress (we’re all actors in the end, aren’t we?) and this is how I met the young director Felipe Martinez. I totally improvised my acting for his 999/1 movie, we somehow became friends, and he encouraged me to buy my year’s wisest investment: a Canon 60D.
After he returned to Cali (Colombia), I took a few shots of my cage with its golden bars and, inspired, wrote about Québec based on my photographs. The ghost town suddenly gained another dimension and I realized I liked doing this – shooting and writing. So I moved back into my past, and filled pages with my adventures in Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Israel… Through writing, I travelled again.
On August 15th 2013, I stumbled upon Matador – a network of travel writers, photographers, and filmmakers. I was no longer alone. Soon, life in Québec became filled with a kaleidoscope of words and images that pulled me out of my drama and put a smile back on my face.
Today, it is January 2nd 2014 and I’m still a tourist in Canada. Fear and guilt do catch up with me a little sometimes. Yet as Eckhart Tolle says, “the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it”. In reality, Québec has inspired me to use time to explore my passions and I suspect that when I’ll look back in a couple of years on this time, I shall have no regrets. Québec isn’t a parenthesis in my life; it is the beginning of a new path – I just needed to flip the coin.
About the Author: With her multicultural French, American and Italian origins, Julie Beretta has always been a dedicated traveler. Since she discovered the sharing of her stories enabled her to travel some more, she also became a passionate writer – who now mainly strives to travel so she can write; and write so she can travel more.
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