alone in victoria

So I’ve officially moved into my new digs on the Island, and, thanks to my mum and grandma, my boxes are all unpacked, my kitchen is fully set up, and my fridge and cupboards are crammed full of food. I swapped my gas-guzzling automobile for a shiny new bike and bought a bookshelf and now I should be ready to start my new life in Victoria.

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My bike Lucy.

I’m really happy to be here–I swear, I am. I can’t wait to get dug into my Master’s program. But I wonder when this place will feel like home. Right now, I don’t feel like a visitor and I don’t feel like I belong here. It’s like I’m floating somewhere in-between and it’s uncomfortable and my landlord scares me and I’m afraid to ride my bike on the busy streets and I miss my mum and I don’t want to go home but I want here to feel like home.

That makes me sound spoiled, I know. But being in a new place all by yourself is an adjustment, no matter what the reason is. And it’s not like I’m unhappy to be here–I’m frickin’ ecstatic. I’m obsessed with learning and education (and going to school is way more fun and rewarding than a regular full-time job), so I can’t wait to be immersed in that environment again. But I’m nervous–about living alone for the first time in my life, about being 100% financially responsible (money is something I struggle with managing), about making the most out of my time at UVic, about making friends (good friends), and a bunch of other stuff too.

So I’m taking it day-by-day, and hour-by-hour, and hopefully I can figure out where I fit in this city.

If anybody has any advice on how to ride my bike, or buy groceries, or just live life as a functioning adult, I would love to hear it.

 

the ol’ pack & purge

I’m completely convinced that you have no idea how much shit you have until you have to consider the logistics of moving said shit across a province and an ocean and into a tiny basement suite on an island.

I started purging early. Or, at least I started trying to purge early (I’m a bit of a hoarder/packrat/overall disaster and I’m sentimental to boot). My early days of packing consisted of putting everything I wanted to keep in the big box that used to house a barbecue, and putting the 1 or 2 or maybe 3 things that I decided to donate in a black garbage bag (that’s still sitting in my room, by the way). Soon, the big BBQ box was overflowing, and I moved on to filling smaller boxes.

So, what I ended up with is all my shit rearranged into way too many boxes. Looking at it I know that it’ll be absolutely impossible to cram all of that into a minivan, and that means I’m going to have to go back and seriously purge.

And so I did.

I started going through my clothes again, and again, and then one more time for good measure. I think that’s the secret to a deep clean–repeated purging. Each time I went through my shrinking wardrobe I was able to get rid of something new. Some of it was too small (leftovers from my tiny days) and some of it was just not my style anymore (I went through a Missy Elliot-influenced Adidas zip-up phase) and some of it I was holding on to for sentimental reasons… and it’s not practical to hang on to an orange chiffon skirt and pink cardigan from Primark (although, as I write this, I am re-thinking getting rid of the skirt. Hmm.) just because I bought them on my trip to Scotland in 2012.

By the end of it, I was sweating buckets and my back was screaming at me, but I’d collected 3 almost-overflowing black garbage bags of goods to donate. Shoes, outerwear, jeans, dresses, etc. You name it; I donated it. So, if you live in Edmonton and you’re in the market for a nude pair of patent leather, platform Maryjane pumps, or black and white floral-patterned chinos… there’s a good chance they are coming to a VV near you. 

As much as it was a really emotional process–I have a tendency to get attached to things–it felt really, really good to clean out my closet in a real way. And I mean, all of this stuff was just sitting in my closet, never getting worn by me… but now it can have a new life and actually get used by someone else.

house hunting

I’m in Victoria this weekend with my mum searching for a place to live (thanks mum!), and I am already blown away by the city that’s going to be my new home.

Everything is so lush here. And everybody is so nice. And the university is so big (that last one I’m a bit anxious about, but I’m working through it).

The campus is huge, and I mean huge, but my supervisor has reassured me that I’ll mostly be hanging out in the Fine Arts building, probably in my office (!!!!) or one of the other rooms dedicated to massaging those creative juices. After a quick visit with my supervisor where we talked about all the amazing classes I can take for almost-free (thanks to scholarships, grants, etc.–god bless my big brain), my mum and I wandered over to the University Centre to pick up my ID card and check out the “cafeteria”.

I haven’t been in many cafeterias in my lifetime, but I’ve definitely never been in one that looked or smelled like this. It’s massive and it’s beautiful and it had a selection of food places that made the sad Subway in MacEwan’s Building 6 look even sadder in comparison.  Like, is this a university or a resort? 

Judging from the Brown-eyed Susans and cattails we saw on the way to the bookstore (our next stop), perhaps a bit of both?

 

After walking, walking, and more walking around campus, we dragged our tired, hungry and maybe kind of grumpy (on my part, anyway) butts to get food at this little pasta place, aptly named The Lil Pasta Place. We enjoyed the most delicious pasta I’ve ever had, the freshest tasting calamari in the world (I’m convinced) and authentic, in-house-made tiramisu. Yeah, it was pretty tasty. But, it might have been trumped by the seaside fare we enjoyed for dinner–mussels and clams for me, a piece of deep-fried fish for my mum, followed by my favourite treat: ice-cream! All eaten dock-side–it doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

 

Basically, it’s not going to be a hardship to live here… in some ways. I know that I’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and that I’ll go through a roller coaster of emotions when I move out here and have to go to school and meet new people and do new things and take care of myself completely, but, if those mussels are any indication, living almost ocean-side will be worth it.

 

 

As long as I can actually find a place to live.

 

Finding the ocean–no problem! Finding a place to live however…

 

reasons I’m scared to move: chapter 2

I like to think that I’ve got it pretty together, most of the time. And I do a decent enough job of taking care of myself and making it through most days relatively unscathed.

Until my car breaks down on the side of the highway and I’m stranded in Red Deer and I’m blocking holiday traffic, anyway.

I’ve always had the urge to be fiercely independent–probably because I’m shy and socially awkward and it’s just easier to do things solo. If you want something done right… well, you know. But there are certain things that I can’t do alone (tow my car, or replace its timing belt, for example) and when those things arise… I lose my mind. 

In situations where normal people would just, I don’t know, ask for help… my brain short circuits and instead of reaching out, I implode. And then I explode. And then I can’t recall what happens next because I’m probably in the throes of a panic attack.

Luckily, I’ve got a very understanding mother who has spent the last 26 years bringing me down to earth when I spiral out of control. And a dad who’s willing to shell out the money to pay to have my car repaired.

But what am I going to do when I’m 895 kilometres away? This past weekend sent me into a spiral of catastrophization–I was going to starve to death, fail out of school, lose my apartment, and just be overall incapable of taking care of myself when I lived away from home.

How can I take care of myself when I can barely take care of myself?

I don’t know and I’m terrified to find out.

reasons I’m scared to move: chapter 1

I have terrible social skills.

I always have. I don’t know why–both my brothers are well-adjusted, sociable, likeable people, so it can’t be an environmental thing. I’m backwards, though. Shy. Weird. It made things difficult when I was younger. I remember I hated going to church because church meant Sunday School and Sunday School meant sitting in a room full of other kids who I didn’t know how to talk to.

The worst part about being socially awkward is being forced into social situations. It only makes it more uncomfortable. I’d get overwhelmed and I’d lose track of the conversation and my timing would be just a tick behind–so close, but when something is that close to being normal it makes it seem so much further off.

Regular school was tough, too. Every single first day gave me severe anxiety (although, back then I had no idea that this was even a thing–I knew I was different but I thought that I could force myself to be the same as everybody else. You can imagine how well that worked). Even if I remembered faces, names, friends, from past semesters… I didn’t know how to engage with them. Our relationship was forged in the confines of a particular classroom, and outside of that context I had no idea what to do or say. I didn’t have my script. I didn’t have a schema. And everybody else seemed to be doing just fine without one.

When I’m around new people I forget how to be myself. I know I’m inside me; I can feel my personality pressing against the inside of my skin. But there’s just something stopping me from letting it out.

I’m always just a few steps behind. It’s awful.

When I was in my late teens-early twenties, I drank. A lot. I drank because I couldn’t be social sober. I needed to drink until my inhibitions were completely wiped out. That means I don’t remember a lot of 19, 20, 21. Luckily, camera phones barely existed and apps like Snapchat and Instagram were merely a glint in their creators’ eyes, so I don’t have embarrassing photos/videos to fill in the gaps. I drank until I was funny. I drank until I knew the right things to say. I drank until I was drunk, and the rest I can’t quite remember.

University helped. I think it’s because in order to have any level of success in post-secondary school you’ve got to put yourself out there. Even if it’s just a little bit. I also managed to somehow make really good friends. Although, I’ve never had a problem forming strong bonds with people one-on-one–it’s group situations that really throw me off. But in school I found my way.

I faked it, mostly.

I stole behaviour from my best friend (a social situation wizard, god bless her). I would ask myself: What Would My BFF Do (WWMBFFD)?  And go from there. It helped me quite a bit, and I’m grateful for her because of that (and for a multitude of other reasons as well).

In between the social anxiety and faked social competency, I stumbled into myself. I took a creative writing class and that creative writing class led to another creative writing class which led to another… and before I knew it, I was part of a community. Some of it, I built. And some of it was pre-fab. But all of it is a safe space where I can be all the parts of myself, comfortably.

I’m writing this because I’m moving in three months and I’m terrified to leave this community behind. I know I’m going to have to start all over, and that’s scary. I’m afraid this was a fluke. An accident. A mistake. 

And I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it happen again.