A Year In Review (or something like that)

If There Was an Intro, This Would Be It.

January 1st, 2016. I woke up with sore feet, in a tinsel-littered home, next to two close friends of mine. And then somehow, an entire year has passed from then until now, and I’m about to enter into 2017 and I can’t tell you quite yet how I’ll be waking up tomorrow morning, but I am sure I will let you know soon.

Last Christmas season, when I came home from B.C., I was walking a tightrope – attempting to balance the who-I-am-at-home, and the who-I-am-away-from-home versions of myself. This year, I was a little more prepared, and a little less concerned about needing to find a balance, because perhaps I have gotten closer to finding it – at least to some extent.

Some people write Christmas letters that detail the highlights of their past year, the good and the bad that is worth sharing – how their families have grown – what has changed… I suppose this is my version of something somewhat similar to that. And I’m trying really hard to remember what has happened, though I am more than sure that I will leave far too many things out.

When I headed back to B.C. last January, I did so with the utmost excitement. I remember looking out the window of the plane as I landed in Vancouver and being overwhelmed with dark blue mountains set against the back-drop of pink skies, and feeling a wave of contentment rush over me. I was greeted by two more-than-eager friends with signs that were pasted to my res dorm for the coming months, and then the three of us took off to the international arrival section of the airport to welcome the last member of our foursome. Then, our second semester at SFU began.

That One House Party

We filled that semester with as much as we could and kickstarted it with a well-remembered townhouse party equipped with many bottles of wine, a lot of shared saliva, and the traditional pizza and story-swapping that occurs the morning after. We’re good at the story-swapping stuff – good at getting out every last detail until we know far too much and never enough about one another. We’re also excellent at making one another laugh, running our hands through each other’s hair if we ever need to cry, and making sure that for the next few months we make light of every amusing moment that could possibly come to light.

We had a lot of that, that semester. A lot of pizza in the morning – or I guess afternoon, but we had just woken up – Grey’s Anatomy constantly, and sharing the details of our latest awkward or amusing encounters. Somewhere in there we had school too, I guess.

Alberta

On reading week my roommate and I woke up far too early and boarded a bus to Alberta. I was sick the entire trip – as I always am every, single reading week, but the two of us walked every single trail and still drank every single beer.

She laughed at me when I told her that while we were driving, I was bending my neck backwards to look out the window to try and see the tops of the mountains, and my eyes welled up with unwanted water, but she understood. I tried to blink quickly to get rid of the tears, but this was one of the very few times I had ever cried from being happy. I was looking out and up at the rocky mountains, and I had this feeling of my life coming together which was something like nostalgia mixed with hope and several cups of contentment. I remember thinking, I’ve never seen anything like this before, and deciding in that moment that I wanted to have many, many more, moments like that.

For a while I felt as though I was playing catch-up with all my friends who had stopped counting the number of plane rides they had been on. I felt like there was so much I hadn’t seen, and so much everyone else had, and somehow I wasn’t quite at the level that everyone else had seemingly reached. And it wasn’t until the first bonfire that night, that in conversation with another Ontario-born, B.C.-converted person, they looked at me and said, hey, you’re starting right now, and reminded me that there wasn’t a timeframe for anything, and starting then vs. now didn’t mean much at all. 

Needless to say, the Rockies are stunning, and through the cold, car-sickness, and dirty windows, I was constantly taken by surprise by how magnificent they are. I loved the feeling of being on the move, of waking up in different places and not knowing what the world was going to look like when the sun rose and you left the hotel to walk outside. I hope these feelings never get old.

The Week B.C. and ON Converged

Four wonderfully close friends of mine came out to B.C. the week after my own reading week ended. I won’t lie – and neither will they – there were complications. Something I guess to do with excess hormones crammed into a tiny res dorm which had very little breathing room, alongside navigating the changing dynamics within friendships. Maybe I blame B.C. a little bit, for the lack of sunshine that week – there should be a rule about putting the rain away when guests come to visit, shouldn’t there? But we made do, and we made memories. And it was weird I guess for me at times, because I don’t think I was fully settled in the place I had moved, and having some of the most special people in my life come to visit me, made me feel as though I needed to hold onto them extra tight. When I watched them walk away through the airport, I felt as though I should grab a bag and tag alongside them. But I was thankful to have them there that week. To show them bits and pieces of how my life was unfolding in B.C., and to try desperately to remind them that, despite the distance between all of us, I thought about them every single day.

Tofino

Why I haven’t had several pages dedicated to what happened in Tofino is beyond me. Perhaps it’s that place – that moment – that feeling, you can never put into words no matter how hard you try. Sometimes, when I’m nervous I ask a lot of questions. Like, what exactly is a rip current and where exactly do sharks hangout? And this isn’t just about mild anxiety, but a genuine lack of knowledge about the ocean considering, this would be the very first time I ever swam in it – and I was planning to have a surfboard attached to my leg. So I was allowed to be nervous, but I was also incredibly excited.

I’m used to the great lakes. And they have pretty big waves sometimes, but it’s not the same. They don’t curl over the same way, they don’t taste the same when they hit you in the face. So we got our surfboards and pulled up somewhat near the beach and I realized my arm strength wasn’t that great when I carried that board to the water.

It was a perfect day. The sun had been out for the majority of our winding-mountain drive, and so far I had been falling in love with everything around the next turn along with every song that came up next on the iPhone. But we got in the cold water with our wet suits on and the sun still over head and I tried to get an idea of what the surf board felt like – especially when you’re falling off of it. But then I managed to stand up on it – in the midst of the white-wash of course – but nonetheless, and I swear I’ve never felt freedom like that in my life.

It’s not just waves and water and surfing – not about learning something new and actually making it to your feet – but everything that gets you there. Because several years ago I wouldn’t have wanted to try this, but now, I didn’t want to stop trying. They said they liked the way I was scared and did it anyway, and I think for many years now that’s been extremely defining for me.

The trip to Tofino was made up of many other things aside from my momentary love affair with the ocean and a surfboard. Much to our surprise, we stayed in a different location each of the three nights, and learned that when the tent floods, Tinder can be a good resource to get a free place to say – which isn’t nearly as questionable as it sounds, especially if you could see the place we got to stay in. Our last night was spent in a cheap motel where I slept on the ground and didn’t mind it one bit, and everything down to an over-tired ferry ride home filled with cheap insults and uncontrollable laughter, made for a pretty perfect trip.

Not Goodbye But Cya Later

In the month of May, I stood in the airport and hugged something like an other-half goodbye – I mean, cya later. And it’s weird because at that point we had really only known each other a little over eight months, which, in retrospect isn’t that long, but felt an awful lot like a lifetime. Because somehow, that first day on campus, we clicked. And since then – and even now – we’ve never un-clicked. We’ve stayed stuck together even oceans apart and when I left the airport that day I felt certain I would see her again soon and so I held my tears in. That is, until I unwrapped a gift she had left me to reveal a journal in which she had a left a small but all-encompassing note on the first page – then I lost it.

I missed her the whole summer, the whole semester, and even now. But it’s a different kind of missing. One that is more good than bad, more of a consistent acknowledgement that somebody I love is an ocean away and though it is far, it is okay. We keep in touch, we send constant paragraphs over text detailing school, boys, friends, family, and any detail we can think to throw in even if its significance is largely limited. Since she left, my eyebrows have never been fully plucked, so I guess when I look in the mirror I can always tell there is a little bit of something missing.

Saying cya-later was hard but it was time – she needed to go home, and I needed to start figuring out this whole living-alone thing. And going back to my basement suite that day revealed all of this to me.

Sciatica-Summer and Other Unplanned Things

I should know by now, that nothing ever goes as planned, right? But you forget that from time to time. It’s as though the reality exists in the back of your mind, but when reality actually hits you still feel a bit blindsided. The summer was a lot like that. A lot of writing in my journal lists of things to be thankful for to combat the stress of everything else.

I can’t tell you what triggered what – whether pain triggered exhaustion which triggered anxiety, or if anxiety triggered pain which may have triggered exhaustion, and so on. Maybe it’s all interrelated, maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with each other. I’ll never know.

But I started a job the beginning of this past summer, and for whatever reason the natural anxiety that goes with starting new jobs never decreased, even when the job was no longer new. And while my mild sciatica pain had stayed at bay for many, many months, it was now deciding to hit full force. Working until 11pm and then attempting to limp my way to a bus stop or cab to get home and rest the pain that was shooting from the centre of my butt to the bottom of my foot, was exhausting. Naturally, I woke up more and more tired each day – a tiredness that only increases the severity of the pain that went alongside my sciatica.

I owe it largely to physio for beginning to combat the pain, but in order to really get any better it meant walking away from my job – which, while it would be good for my physical health was revealing to also be a good idea for my emotional health.

It seemed as though it was a summer where things just kept adding up, and my body wasn’t getting the break it needed. Most things, were incredibly minor, but piled upon one another, it still came out to be more and more tiring. The sciatica, the joblessness, the wisdom teeth removal, the trauma that comes with having an allergic reaction, made me crave more and more that summer would simply come to an end.

On top of that I was learning the ropes of what it means to live on your own, which, while I loved many aspects of it, proved to also be quite lonely when most people had left town for the summer. My lack of financial income kept me from most things that costed money, and the pain in my leg kept me from many things that would have been free, and ultimately, the tiredness kept me from trying harder to get better – and I know that for that, I am to blame.

Him

He was a big part of everything good that happened during the summer. He picked me up in his car, and we drove to White Rock and I forgot about most things for a little while. He held my hand during the day, and held my head if I ever needed to cry. I looked at him and the world felt right and he had a hand that I never wanted to let go of. The peanut-free cafe became our place, and we tried to go there almost every time he came down to Van to visit.

He wasn’t anything new – he was a romance that had been developing since our first day on campus when we both apparently sucked at a group game and ended up getting ‘out’ pretty fast. But we kept it as a friendship for quite a while. I guess I was scared – no – I was definitely terrified. I wanted to be single, and at the same time, I wanted him, and those two things don’t go together whatsoever, do they?

But we grew together, became closer than many other friendships I had ever had with a guy, and we navigated the romance vs. friendship aspects for a while but not without certain mistakes I had made. In May we made things official because it felt right – it was right. Relationships are learning experiences and while I know there are always things that can be worked on, our relationship was pretty damn great.

We went on a few hikes that summer, introduced each other to our friend’s, and introduced each other to our families, and it was good. I always wanted a summer romance – I got one – and a little bit more.

Whistler & My Crazy Friend

Introducing my crazy friend: she comes to B.C. for one of her many visits, decides during that visit she’d like to move out here for the summer. She goes home, and returns about a week or so later to go job-hunting and Whistler and live with her friend for the next four months. So she’s really not crazy, she’s just super good at spontaneity and leaving all essence of anxiety out of her mind at all times. Sometimes, I envy her. But thanks to her, I got to got to hop on a greyhound a few times this summer and head up to Whistler for a few drinks or so and spending time in the summer-sun and mountain air. She’s more than a good friend – I learn a lot from her, many things that she is immune to and can barely recognize when she looks in a mirror – but I see them.

Family Reunion On My Turf

August, my Mom & Dad, brother, and his wife, came out to B.C. to visit me. First, my mom and I spent an entire week together just the two of us. Naturally, we got tattoos – the outline of a moon on our wrists signifying the endless I love you to the moon and back’s that have been shared over the years. We walked the sea wall endlessly and much to our own surprise given that both of us struggle with sciatica. We ate ice cream, all the time – peanut free vegan ice cream from the best little ice cream shop in Yaletown, and we road the little sea bus from Granville Island and sat in awe over the city scape and salt water.

When the rest of the family joined, we continued our adventures. We sat on cliff rocks at the oceans edge and scrambled to the shore when the tide came in and we realized we had become almost, but not really, stranded. They met my boyfriend-at-the-time, and him and I took them to our favourite places in White Rock, and we ate fish and chips at a picnic table by the ocean. They got along perfectly. On my mom’s day off, the rest of us hiked the Chief and I watched my dad fall in love with distant mountain peaks and I cherished the look on his face. I cherished watching my brother try and get to know my boyfriend better – even when I was worried they weren’t going to make it running down a mountain and all.

My family and I spent a full day in Whistler – my brother and I even shared the aux cord on the way up. I watched my family fall in love with the mountain peaks I had fallen in love with not long ago, and I was never sure if I was ever ready to let them go.

But we had the best couple weeks together – weeks that didn’t have fighting – weeks that went honestly, pretty damn smoothly. And we needed this – we really needed this.

A Fresh Start or Something Like That

Maybe I’ve written enough posts on it already – maybe I’ve got a lot more to say. But sometimes it’s not enough to love somebody else, if you’re losing touch with how to love yourself, right? I’m not sure when I lost touch – when loving myself became mixed up within a whirlwind of anxiety surrounding whether I was ready to love somebody else. Are we ever ready?

And my dad told me that relationships are about compromise and that when you love someone you’re willing to give certain things up. Perhaps I am not ready to give my complete and utter independence up. Perhaps I fell in love with a person but not a relationship and I know more than you can imagine, that that doesn’t make very much sense. But most things don’t make all that much sense until you’re the one feeling them – until you feel them in the back of your eyes while you’re falling asleep, and in your chest as you’re waking up.

I wasn’t ready – I’m not ready, and sometimes I wish I was. But most days I am perfectly fine with the fact that I am not. Needless to say, somewhere in September I went through a breakup, and as all breakups inevitably do, it sucked. But amidst the turmoil of walking away from somebody that I still loved, it also felt right. So I suppose this was my fresh start, or something like that, after a whirlwind of a summer and a million and one emotional dilemma’s.

Every-Two-Week House Party’s

Contrary to what I post on social media, I did actually go to school this past year, and I did work hard – though sometimes not as hard as I should have. This past semester in particular, was pretty damn hard, and it’s semesters like these where you need a relief. So thank goodness to a good friend of mine and her pretty awesome house, and the every-two-week’s house party’s that they continuously threw. Far too many bottles of wine went into each and every second week, a friendly dose of peer pressure, unnecessary showers, necessary showers, text messages with youtube links, text messages with fruit emoticons that have nothing to do with fruit, terrible beer pong games, great beer pong games, unnecessarily demanding rides home, far too many blurry pictures, and the absolute best stories to share the next morning.

I loved these parties, in a way that makes me probably a bit of a loser because a party is just a party, right? But it’s not. Because the people who showed up every second week were great people – the type of people you’d like to see more than every second week but you take what you can get and you make it count even if it’s foggy the next day. These party’s kept the semester interesting – they filled it with far too many and not near enough stories to keep us going when the school part of university got hard. All I can say is that I hope this doesn’t change in 2017.

The Wedding

Just under a full year later, I returned to Ontario for one of my oldest friend’s wedding – and it wasn’t the easiest week for anybody, but she pushed through, because that’s what you do. And watching her marry her best friend on that church stage was absolutely everything it was supposed to be. I don’t remember when I met her – that’s how long I’ve known her. So I can say I’ve watched her grow over the past many years from days of counting hot boys on the tips of our fingers, to watching her grow in her relationship. I’ve been there to see her push through the hard times, even when I was never as close as I would have liked. And on her wedding day it felt like everything was colliding and I was watching this person step out of the confines of everything she had gone through, and step into something new, and I was excited for her. She needed this, she deserved this.

That week I saw as many friends as possible and held onto each and every hug as though it could make up for the past 11 months. Leaving is a lot easier when you know you will be returning just a few weeks later. Still, I felt nervous heading back into what I knew would be a stressful end of the semester, and I was really enjoying my mom’s cooking.  

Exam Season & The Christmas Party

The moment final papers and final exams begin to hit, is the moment your sleep schedule, eating habits, and social lives change dramatically. Suddenly, I was leaving the house at 7am and coming home at midnight and spending most of my waking hours with a friend who I shared almost every class with – alongside several term papers. Fast food became more consistent than I’d like to admit – and it’s during this exam season that I learned how devastating it can be to come home at midnight and realize McDonald’s forgot to put your fries in the take-out bag.

Study dates are rarely study dates if wine is involved – in fact, they’re rarely study dates when good friends are involved. Somehow, even amidst the busiest couple weeks of our semesters, we still have enough stories to swap back and forth that little studying gets done.

So during the incredibly busy, stressful, few weeks, it was of course necessary to have a Christmas party that continued the every-two-weeks house party theme. Naturally, most of us went, and sat in the living room wearing our ugly Christmas sweaters and drinking hot chocolate that is definitely not suitable for children.

Here I Am Again

And now I’m here again. Back in Ontario for the Christmas holidays, and thankful for the extra long period of time I have at home which has already been filled with many memorable moments. From the moment I stepped into the airport and saw my family and friends dressed up in Santa hats and singing along to the song my brother was playing on guitar, to melting snow to fill up the toilet at the cottage and getting naked by the frozen lake with friends, to driving through snow storms to go snowboarding, bar nights, low key nights, and so on, I’ve never been happier to be home for the holidays.

Some moments, I miss the B.C. Ash – as if she may be slightly different than the version of me that is being portrayed here. I can’t fully explain to you why this is – perhaps it is another one of those things that you cannot describe in words, but can only feel in specific moments. When the 8th of January comes, I will be ready to go back to B.C., I will fall in love once again with the mountains as the plane lands in Vancouver, and I will count down the seconds until I can wrap myself around the friends I have out there… But until then, I am here, and I am loving every second of it.

Cheers to 2017 and unplanned things.

As for the current moment – well, I am in a room full of girls who have been drinking champagne and orange juice since about 4pm. We’re talking louder than the background music, and if any of us hadn’t had several drinks already, we’d probably be telling one another to quiet down – but nobody wants a quiet NYE right?

So cheers to 2017, to a million and one more unplanned things – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Cheers to friendships that surpass borders and oceans – to friends that you can pick up where you left off with – to people that make house parties a million times better – and to those that you can’t wait to swap stories with. Cheers to kissing, drinking wine, climbing mountains, and falling in love with yourself and your own independence (because maybe that’s what 2017 should be about for some of us – right?)

I’m not sure what I think of 2016. From what I’ve heard – many people hated it, but it’s just another learning experience isn’t it? A year combined with things that built you up to be the person you are in this moment, whether you like it or not. We don’t have to be happy with the year, but there’s really not much we can do about it now. So yeah, I hope 2017 is better – but regardless of what it brings, I thank God for everything I have in this moment.

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