Wing It, Find Yourself

Josie Teed’s memoir “British Columbiana” follows a young woman as she moves to a small town in British Columbia in search of work and self-acceptance.

British Columbiana
Josie Teed
Dundurn Press, March 2023

In her memoir, British Columbiana, Josie Teed shares her story of her transformative year living in Wells, B.C. and working at Barkerville Historic Town & Park. Published amidst a cultural push for girls and women to practice self-acceptance, Teed’s memoir is refreshing — it shows what the messy process of self-acceptance is actually like for a woman in her early twenties.

Unsure where to go after finishing her master’s degree in archaeology in the United Kingdom, 24-year-old Teed decides to take her only job offer as a curatorial intern at Barkerville Historic Town & Park.

The memoir begins when Teed moves to Wells and into the museum staff house where she lives with two roommates, Logan and Hannah. Logan quickly becomes her closest friend. Teed immerses herself in the small community, attending local events like the chili cook-off, hanging out at the pub with Wells locals and museum staff, and becoming a volunteer firefighter. Teed is in awe of the nature around her in Wells, and she describes the “softly curving mountains,” abundance of pine trees, and the clean and cold air that “felt like drinking a glass of water.”

While trying to create a home and community in Wells, Teed feels pressure to make others like her while constantly judging and second-guessing herself. Sometimes I wanted to reach through the book and shake Teed’s shoulders and yell “YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH.” Other times I wanted to comfort her because I completely understood what she was feeling. Teed’s memoir talks candidly about thoughts and feelings that many others, including myself, are too ashamed to voice. For example, Teed wants to be liked without even considering if she likes the people whose opinions she puts on a pedestal.

What stands out most in Teed’s memoir is her vulnerability, especially when it comes to talking about her self-image and self-worth. Teed goes to therapy for the first time because she believes it is something a person should do if they can afford it, and because she hopes a professional can figure out what is “precisely wrong” with her. In her conversations with her therapist, Barb, Teed grapples with her relationships with men, her friendships, how others perceive her, and feeling like everyone but her has things figured out. In one therapy conversation, Teed says, “I just wish someone would tell me what I have to do to have a normal relationship with the world around me.”

In Wells, Teed has to acclimate to being around people with drastically different beliefs than her own. During a harrowing conversation with Logan, Teed finds out Logan believes men are allowed to have multiple sexual partners, but if a woman does, she is a “slut.” Teed is shocked that her friend who is so like her in many ways has a completely different viewpoint of sexual expression. 

This conversation is pivotal in the memoir. Teed seems to realize that other people’s opinions shouldn’t influence how she thinks about herself. When talking about her conversation with Logan in therapy, Barb tells Teed, “You do have some control over how you see the world.”

As a reader in my early twenties trying to figure out who I am, I found comfort in this scene. Teed’s book suggests that while we don’t have control over what happens to us, we do have control over how we react to it. By the end of the memoir, Teed starts to take control of her life and the people she allows in it.

Teed and Logan’s conversation about sexual expression also connects to Teed’s internalized misogyny that makes her crave male validation for self-confidence. Teed has a variety of relationships with men in Wells, including going on a date with a man with a penchant for fedoras and developing a crush on a married priest. She often romanticizes the men she likes, and it isn’t until after the potential relationship falls apart does Teed realize the men were never that great in the first place. Many of Teed’s friendships and romantic endeavours have crumbled by the end of her time in Wells, and when offered an extension to stay at Barkerville for another season, she declines. It’s time for Teed to move on.

Despite this being Teed’s first book, she is able to describe her experiences in a way that makes the reader feel like they are right there beside her, teaching a class in the Barkerville schoolhouse or patrolling Wells at night in the town firetruck. Even though Teed remarks in her memoir that she is poor at expressing her feelings in writing, it’s when she’s writing about her feelings that her memoir shines. She lets readers know they are not alone in their thoughts.

Women who are entering adulthood and are trying to learn their self-worth and navigate romantic relationships and female friendships will see themselves in British Columbiana’s pages. This memoir is for anyone trying to figure out who they are or what they want to do with their life or for those who want to live vicariously through someone who’s winging it as they strive to find themselves and their place in the world.

Christina Klysh

Christina (she/her) loves a good bookstore, visiting new countries, playing basketball, and expressing herself through fashion. She hopes to combine one of the things she loves with a career where she can be creative.
Connect with Christina on LinkedIn