here’s the truth about packing your bags, saying goodbye, and moving across the country.
I can’t really remember a time when I liked my hometown.
I spent most of my teenage years whining to anyone who would listen about how much I loathed being trapped somewhere with no bars (not that it would even have mattered since I was 14), no concert venues, no cozy cafes, and no new people. From the time that I was eight years old I knew almost my whole graduating class! No wonder I could never get a boyfriend; everyone I knew was there to bear witness to every awkward phase I ever went through (ie, trying to have sidebangs, not plucking my eyebrows, sending awkward facebook messages to boys I liked, wearing checkered tights under jean shorts…… you get the picture). I couldn’t wait to get out and get on with my life. So when I got my acceptance letter from UBC in Vancouver I was over the moon!
And then… I didn’t go.
There were a lot of reasons that I chose to go to the University of Victoria (an hour’s drive from my little hometown) — my family was on the island, I already knew my way around Victoria, Vancouver was too expensive, a lot of my friends would be at UVic…. but the real reason, the thing I couldn’t say out loud, was that I was…. scared.
So when September rolled around I packed my things and moved into a tiny apartment in Victoria and got ready to start the rest of my life.
Being from a town of about 8,000 people, I was pretty sure I was moving to a bustling metropolis. I was so excited to meet all these new people, to explore new places, to blossom into the big city babe I was certain I was meant to be.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Victoria only barely qualifies as a city. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and magical and there are record stores and vintage boutiques and cafes galore… but the streets still roll up at 8pm, I still felt out of place, and there were still no concerts. I didn’t know what to do.
Truth be told, I got pretty depressed. I spent a lot of time sleeping, texting my ex, eating takeout, and watching Gilmore Girls instead of going to lectures. I didn’t want to see any of my friends from high school — this was supposed to be a fresh start! — but I didn’t have a whole lot of new friends, so I spent a lot of time by myself.
I had some good times, too; I discovered sociology on a fluke, and it became my major; I got a job at a restaurant downtown and got to flirt with cute bartenders every day; I took a philosophy class with a professor who is still my favourite years later; and I spent a lot of nights drinking and dancing and hugging my friends and eating pizza. All the usual university things, really. But at the end of the day, I felt… unfulfilled.
I was in the car with my mom one day, trying to convey my unhappiness without seeming like a mess. “Have you thought about… changing schools? You always wanted to live in Toronto… why don’t you go?”
She was right — ever since I was a kid, Toronto was kind of my dream city. I’d been before, though I had no recollection of the city; all I knew was that it was the biggest one we had here in Canada. As I got older, though, it seemed farther and farther away; it wasn’t a real option. It was a pipe dream. At least until my mom suggested I look into it again; suddenly it seemed real.
At first I was angry at myself. Why on earth had I not applied to schools in Toronto in the first place? Why had I moved to Victoria? Why had I wasted my money, and my time, on something I knew wasn’t going to make me happy? Looking back it seemed so obvious… but the truth is, my time in Victoria was exactly what I needed. And then, after I had done my time there, what I needed was… to leave.
It was a bit of a process, but long story short, I applied to transfer to Ryerson, and I made arrangements to stay with my uncle for a few months while I looked for a place. He got me a job, some of the most magical and inspirational people I’ve ever met took me under their wing, and I started taking the subway downtown as often as humanly possible. I found new neighbourhoods to explore, I bought cool, city girl clothes, and I went to as many concerts as I could possibly manage. When September rolled around I found a room in a house full of students downtown, and I got back to studying my favourite thing in this world; People.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; I can’t tell you how many times I thought this was a mistake… I’m not cut out for this. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and there are struggles that you aren’t expecting to encounter. Everything in the city is more expensive, and people expect more here — which is tough, because at some point during my UVic experience I morphed into a chronic underachiever. When I first started school and I knew nobody and I had no money and I didn’t know my way around I came real close to falling back into my old habits (sleeping through all my classes/eating microwave meals 2x a day/staying up all night crying over Gilmore Girls). In fact for a while, maybe I did a little bit start doing those things. But I reminded myself that this was the dream, and I kicked my ass into gear. The truth is I wouldn’t change it for the world; I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I knew I would be. And when I start to think that this was a mistake, that I’ve made a mess of things, that I can’t do this? I think about the feeling of opening that acceptance letter (I started crying in Tim Hortons), or the day I bought my plane ticket, or the day I realized it was all real and happening and I literally just started jumping up and down in the shower. That feeling was pure magic, and it’s crazy to think how excited I was about something that is just my life now.
Things don’t have to happen immediately after you decide you want them; sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it takes more than one try. And sometimes it might not look exactly like you pictured! But at the end of the day if you want it bad enough then you deserve to have it.
People will caution you that running away doesn’t make your problems disappear, and they’re right! But if you need a new set of problems, then buy yourself that plane ticket — once you do, there’s no going back.