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  • Meg Cuthbert

What I’ve Learned from One Year in Maple Bay

One year ago I moved to Maple Bay. It was Saint Patrick’s Day 2016 when we loaded a U-haul Van in Vancouver, filling it to the brim of our possessions (which we had way more than expected — of course). Everything went smoothly as we hauled ourselves to the ferry and made our ocean voyage back to the Island.

Once in Maple Bay, we shoved all our stuff into the basement of our new home and took off to the neighbourhood pub for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations announcing that “we live here now!” Maple Bay is my partner Daniel’s hometown. It actually isn’t a town, more of an area just outside of Duncan BC. He grew up here, people know him and his family, I’m the outsider. Being the outsider has its own benefits and challenges, for example, it lets you start fresh but can also be lonely.

Besides leaving the city and moving to a not-town outside of a small town, the biggest change of the year was work. When we moved to the Island Daniel and I decided to work together full-time on our video production business. This has been the only time since I was 15 that I haven’t had a real employer.

We moved from 750 square feet in Vancouver to an acre in Cowichan. Moving to Cowichan was a complicated decision that had a lot of moving parts, but ultimately the choice was easy. City life was fun and expensive, just the way everyone says it is. We ate sushi three times a week, walked everywhere and had no money. Unfortunately the city had no future for us, no chance of owning property, not enough space, and terminal debt.

I’m not one for motivational quotes but if the past twelve months had a motto it would be: challenges are opportunities in disguise.

The move changed things in our lives and our relationship. We have to cook more. A lot more. The pub is the only restaurant within easy walking distance and we quickly became too familiar there. We have to deal with a lawn, not so much lawn as an acre of brambles, but things have to be mowed, pruned, hedged, trimmed, raked, shovelled (not that we did very much of this - just ask our neighbours). We had to renovate. Turning a 1974 doublewide (with a basement!) into a home and an office/audio-visual studio takes a lot of work and a lot of skills I still don’t have. This year I also learned how to crappily apply tar to a mental roof, so there’s that.

The first six months of our move to Cowichan were tough on our business. As in, we didn’t work very hard on the business. Instead we focused on renovations of the the house/studio. We focused on life and spent the summer adventuring and soaking in the sun. We would pay for this later, but at the time it was perfect.

We took off for a month and went to Australia, feeling like we needed a vacation our easy breezy lifestyle. When we came back it was winter, we were broke, we had little-to-no business prospects, and we can truthfully say we did it to ourselves.

We kicked our own asses and hit the pavement, it was finally time to actually run this production company like a business not a hobby. I’ve always heard that entrepreneurs never stop working, and at first I didn’t believe it (we barely worked and we were business owners — right?). Then I started actually working at working. It’s not that entrepreneurs never stop working, it’s that successful entrepreneurs never stop working.

We had to adapt, not just our lives but also our business. Video production is great, it’s fun, exciting, and always changing. But we had to adapt the business for working in Cowichan. When we saw that most clients asked for video when they really wanted marketing we changed the business from a video production focus to a marketing focus.

Three things happened at the same: 1) We started asking for help 2) We changed the focus of the business 3) We started getting new clients.

It just all happened. Now, I’m in no way saying that we are successful, hot shot, cool car driving business people. We’re still us, but we don’t buy our groceries on a credit card (or at least not right now).

In the past year I feel like I’ve become more flexible and more brittle. I rollercoaster from being extremely stressed out to being completely stress-free. For the first time I had someone younger than me ask for career advice. Hilarious, I couldn’t even afford new underwear at the time.

Here are four things I actually learned this year. They aren’t incredibly profound and they are repeated in the text above, but they are actual honest-to-goodness lessons from the past year, all of which I should have already known.

  1. It’s nice to know your neighbours. It’s nice to have a neighbourhood pub. It’s nice to know who to ask for help when you need it and help to others when they do. It’s just freaking nice to be part of a real community, where things happen in person, not online. Sometimes you make an ass of yourself, like the time I thought Cheryl’s house was on fire but really the fire department was just doing drills. Making a scene, that’s what neighbours do.

  2. If you’re business is meant to sustain you, you have to work. You have to work harder and be available all the time. But you also don’t have a boss, which means you can also take off in the middle of the day to go to the beach.

  3. You have to be able to adapt. We adapted our business and now we make enough money to feed ourselves. We adapted to a rural life and now we have more fun.

  4. You might as well enjoy where you live. We live in a gorgeous part of the world and we’re thankful everyday for the move that we made. It’s easy to appreciate natures beauty here and I think because of that we are able to live in gratitude more often. That’s a bit hippy-dippy but it’s true and I believe it!

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