How Pretending to be West-Coast Saved my Psyche
It’s that time of year again! Christmas is coming, but so are final papers. It’s getting close to exam time and that means that all the work I’ve been putting off this semester must be tackled. Usually, I hide behind my BFF Netflix, hoping that my favourite characters will save me from the homework monster, or inspire me enough to get work done. But this time, I decided to run all the way out of town, and it was the best thing that happened to me this semester.
Scrolling one afternoon on my Facebook news feed, I see an invite to a beach fire from my pal Levi. I click “Going” on a whim without checking my Google Calendar. This is something I must fit in: a break from school, from city life, and cell service.
Let’s get out of here
On a cloudy afternoon, four of us hop in Levi’s car and cruise around Dallas Road in the search for firewood. In the summertime, it might seem like every gas station in town is advertising their large piles of fire fuel, but it was November in the middle of a suburb, so it was a bit trickier.
Finally, we found an elusive “free firewood” sign off the side of a construction site and started picking at the leftover kindling and loaded up the fuel-efficient hatchback. Still, we needed the big logs if we really wanted to keep warm.
After a quick Google Maps search, we were on our way out of town to China Beach. As we winded down Sooke Road, I could feel the knots caused by perpetual school stress start to release as we laughed about getting lost and finding wood that would keep the fire going.
After driving for about 45 minutes passing many “firewood for sale” signs too quickly to stop, we give up and pop in at a Home Hardware store. Thanks to rampant consumerism, you can now get perfectly chopped firewood in large plastic bags, with a convenient carrying handle. Then a quick trip to the grocery store, where we hunted through bags of chips, careful to avoid the ones that use palm seed oil.
It was here I noticed how typically West Coast we were being. We were the ones that my oil-field friends make fun of. Our whole objective was to get back to nature by driving there in our cars, buying plastic encased objects to keep us warm, and then post on Instagram about how we were so “connected to the earth.” As students in Victoria, we knew this was the norm: you have to try your best to appreciate your environment even if you’re doing it through consumerism.
Hugging the trees
After driving for about 30 more minutes cycling through scenarios about being lost in the back roads forever, we finally arrive at the China Beach day-use area. We loaded our bags and headed down through hundred-year-old trees. The sheer immensity made me feel small, made our goals seem insignificant, and made me forget all the stress of back home. Instead, I just felt in the moment. Even if we were being posers at first, I really started to feel better and connected to the area.
The rain filtered through the trees and just as we arrived at the water the rain fell at a speed reserved for statements like “Yep, it sure is coming down now, there’s no denying that.” Still, our cheeky young-adult determination allowed us to ignore the dampness while we crossed a small inlet and set up camp.
So far so good. We had our lunches, our firewood, and our friend in charge of matches finally showed. The guys took turns with the axe while discussing Instagram ratios. It was all very juxtaposed to the ocean’s rushing call back to us. Soon we stopped talking about Wifi and started noticing animals swimming in the water, and the way the ocean crept up the shore.
Finally, the fire was lit and Levi began filming it for one of his projects. While the main reason we went out there was for his film, the relaxation, and laughs that came along with it were the real meat of the day. We were trying so hard to be West Coast that we got to enjoy being on the West Coast. We tossed around a Frisbee on the beach, ate lunch around a fire, then snapped a few pictures because even out here if it’s not on Instagram, it didn’t happen.
By then, it didn’t matter that our original goals were to “try to be as West Coast as possible” because by trying to fake this connection, we got out of the city to experience it.
Plugging back in
Eventually, as the threat of hiking back in the dark drew near, we headed back to our cars, and back to our lives inundated by technology and city life stresses. I had managed to put off another whole day of homework, but I had never felt better.
It was like the experience put me on “airplane mode” and charged me up faster than ever before. Knowing how tangible a day like that is makes the mountain of work seem a bit less scary. Homework is only a small part of this big beautiful life, and the sooner I get it done, the sooner I can have another day like this again.
Thanks to Levi Hildebrand for the photos.