Beyond the Sea: Our summer and our secrets

A little over a year ago, Zsolt and I arrived in Canada. It was a big deal. He immigrated, and we transferred all our items over to Canadian soil. Part of me knew living here would be a challenge, but honestly I thought that we’d gotten through the hard stuff already – and this (Canada, with my family) was simply going to work.

So it did, in a way, and it didn’t in others. Truth of the matter was it was an emotionally difficult year simply because we had a sense of failure – failure to make this grand home-coming as happy and life-changing as we’d hoped. We lived with my parents (and are still here, thanks to the patience of my Mom and Dad, though will be moving out come October) for just short of one year while Zsolt looked for work. When you’re 30 and married, really, living at home feels less than cool. With Zsolt not getting hired anywhere and our not progressing as I’d hoped (though my freelance writing started doing very well, and I’m so thankful for that! It was a bright spot) . . . it felt more and more like we were trudging through thickening, sticky molasses and were never going to move forward.

Of course, optimism is built into my DNA. And I would tell Zsolt in the evenings as we lay in bed and held our nightly conference of concerns: “It’s all going to work out. It always works out . . . eventually.”

Then one day while at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party, it was suggested that Zsolt look into a different field than research or academia; maybe he’d be a good fit for patents?

Patents: the reserving of rights for intellectual property . . . highly complex and technical ideas that need someone who can dissect concepts, research prior art and understand a novel design before writing these ideas up in legalize to be submitted for patent approval.


Yeah, Zsolt would be good at that. He’s a freaking Google wizard, and he’s also a research science with an advanced degree. Maybe, just maybe, for once, having a PhD wouldn’t be to his detriment.

OKAY! All this is leading somewhere. I just had to share it because this was happening for ages, and I could never directly write about it. It felt like crap holding back that struggle to find employment. But anyhow, I am going somewhere with all this. Hang with me . . .

He started applying to about 70 plus intellectual agency offices. AND – BAM – he caught a fish! Just one, but one is enough. He began acting as a consultant for an agency, and at one point they were even discussing hiring him on full time. An offer was about to be made for work to start in September.

So, back in June, we were so freaking excited about this that we went crazy. Literally, we went crazy. We booked a summer-long trip to Hungary, with a stop-over in Southampton to visit friends, followed by a boat cruise in the Queen Mary 2 to New York, where we’d hang with my cousin and then come up to Montreal by train to catch a bus that night back to Ottawa.

i.e. BIG TRIP.

Before you can say “maybeyoushouldsignacontractfirst” we had bought non-refundable boat tickets, train tickets, bus tickets and a one-way flight to Vienna (just beside Budapest). It was all ‘happy happy joy joy’ plus a bucket-load of relief.

And then one day Zsolt comes along and says to me: “I have bad news.”

“How bad is it?”


“How bad?”

“Come read this email.”

The job opportunity had fallen through. Oh my god, how freaking crushing.

“Oh shit. That’s bad.”

Now, nothing thus far, and hopefully nothing in the future will ever be as bad as hearing the words “It’s cancerous.” Okay? But nevertheless, after a year of hoping, thinking you can see the light, and then spending money on a grand trip, it was deeply disappointing. But we went on our trip anyhow.

And so we went to Hungary – saw Zsolt’s wonderful family, ate amazing food (including possibly unwise amounts of pistachio gelato), visited with friends, laughed a lot . . . swam, sunbathed, rode trains. But all along that realization was in the back of our minds: “you’re starting from scratch when you return back to Ottawa.” We had developed a plan to move out no matter what, with my freelance stuff and some part-time jobs. I could work; the plan was a little bit comforting. A little bit.

And then we went to England: meet with friends for Mexican Food, had a picnic in a backyard, saw beautiful  babies, slept in an attic, walked in the New Forest, chilled at Tragos . . . boarded the Queen Mary.

And then we sailed across the Atlantic. This was super cool. Okay, so I flew first class once between continents, and that was really nice. But this is a class unto itself. Beds made 2x a day with chocolates on the pillows (none of which we ate – I don’t know why); formal dining every evening; buffet with 24/7 access to tea and strawberries; big band playing in the evening as couples swirl around on the dance floor (we danced once to Beyond the Sea, which was our first dance at our wedding, but I’m such a garbage formal dancer that I couldn’t bring myself to dance any more. It was fun to watch, too.); a view of the ocean from our bedroom balcony that stretched out forever; dolphins in big groups swimming in from the distance then diving under the boat; whales flipping onto their backs; sunbathing on the upper deck and hot-tubbing at the back of the boat. Listen, if you’ve ever considered travelling between North America and England, and you’ve got at least a week to spare – this is the way to go.  Apart from one rough day, the weather was great and we had so much fun. It was totally restful, and I got loads of writing done too.

And then New York. Lord, that’s one big city. I think the highlight was two-fold: hanging out with my cousin, and meeting Anne Marie (of Chemobrain) for a cup of tea and some conversation. You can keep all your big buildings, impressive architecture and bridges for someone else; I like meeting people and spending a little time connecting. People are the best. Meeting Anne Marie in person was like seeing her in full-spectrum colour all of a sudden. Online friendships are great, but nothing beats the real-world exchanges.

And then back to Canada on the 12 hour train ride. Back to Ottawa. Back to . . . .

Oh wait, I forgot to tell you: Half way through the summer, toward the end of our time in Hungary, Zsolt was offered a job full time. Full time! And in the patent field, too. AMAZINGNESS! MIRACLES! Somehow, through the astounded state of shock, Zsolt gave an immediate ‘yes’ to the offer.

SO! Back to Ottawa. Back to . . .

. . . first day of work! Writing patents! Looking for apartments! Recovering old sofas so they get a new life! Shopping the ‘as is’ Ikea section for furniture! Putting down a rental deposit on a beautiful apartment! Getting involved in an awesome photography project! Taking a French test for a library position! Getting honoured by the CCTFA Foundation! And much more to come.

We’re doing things right this time around, and it only took a year to figure this out.

Whew. Big sigh of relief.

Stay tuned for coming adventures. (And in the meanwhile, I’m off to Pakenham for some more ice cream!!)

7 thoughts on “Beyond the Sea: Our summer and our secrets

  1. What a wonderful trip! I am a retired patent attorney in the biotech field in South San Francisco. I loved my job. I may yet return to it. Congratulations to Zsolt for landing a full-time job in patents. He’ll love it! xx

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