I love Canada. Like, REALLY love it. Yes, it can be disappointing at times, but as someone I know used to say “just because I’m mad at you, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped loving you”.
Canada is the greatest country on Earth. Now, I’ve only been to 2 other countries, but I feel pretty confident in my statement. It’s big, beautiful, exciting, interesting, and a billion other words that I’ve actually heard people use to describe me. Oh, right, this isn’t about me. It’s about Canada. The country I love. And if you’re reading it, it’s probably the country you love, too.
Canada Day is my favourite holiday. I thought long and hard about this, and I originally decided that Christmas was my favourite holiday, but I’ve changed my mind. Canada Day is fun like Christmas, but the weather is (usually) nicer, and you don’t have to stress out over what to get Canada for a present. Canada is simply happy to just have a party. Canada’s nice like that.
I’ve seen a lot of Americans on Twitter ask how we celebrate Canada Day, and my answer is basically “Like the 4th of July, but politer”. We have fireworks, parades, BBQs, and a seemingly endless supply of flags.
For me, I celebrated by touring one of our Navy’s ships with my friend Denton (seen below rescuing a little girl’s balloon), eating poutine and beavertails (among other things), watching fireworks, and also watching America lose at soccer (sorry about that one, guys).
The only thing Christmas has over Canada Day is Boxing Day. The day after the holiday when you can relax, sleep in, eat leftovers, and recover from the festivities the day before. So, a plea to whomever runs in the next federal election: Give us a Canada Boxing Day. Please. Do it for your country.
Pictures can describe the fun better than I can, so below are just some of the photos I took yesterday in Halifax. If you look closely, maybe you’re in one of them!
We humans can endure a lot of pain if we know eventually we won’t hurt anymore. Okay, well, maybe there are some physical pains we can’t survive, but I’m not a doctor, and Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t been on in a while, so let’s just assume I’m right.
We can get through the flu and feeling like we’re going to die on our bathroom floor, because we know that in a day or so, we’ll feel better. We can get through a break up, because we know eventually we’ll get over the person who broke our heart, or we’ll find someone new who makes us feel good again. We can even get through grief. That one’s a little trickier, and will always hurt a little, but eventually, after some time, it does get easier.
We can get through sitting in the cold while our children play soccer, because we know in an hour the game will end and we can run to the car and turn on the heat. We can get through that movie our girlfriend or boyfriend really wants to see, because we know in 120 minutes, it’ll be over (plus, there’s popcorn).
I have dentophobia, and the only way I can get through a visit with my dentist without freaking out is to have him tell me approximately how long he thinks everything will take. If I know how long I can expect to be in pain or discomfort, it makes it easier to get through.
What I’m saying is that when we know eventually our pain will come to an end, we can suck it up and get through anything.
But what about depression? Low self esteem? The feeling that you’ll never, ever be happy?
I wish I had a crystal ball that I could look into and see the future. If it told me that one day I’d no longer feel a deep sadness, that I’d feel loved, and confident, and worth something, and that I wouldn’t feel so alone, I think I’d be able to handle it a lot better. I’d think “Oh, okay, I’m going to get through this for sure. Things will eventually be different, so I just gotta stick it out and get through the worst and then it’ll all be okay”.
Of course, that could backfire, though, because what if I looked in that crystal ball and it told me this was it? That this was the happiest I was ever going to feel, and it was never going to get any better. Would there be a point in continuing? Would I have to just learn to live with the pain? Would I want to?
The hopeful part of me feels like I don’t need that crystal ball. I feel like eventually all these things I’ve been working on; all these changes I’ve made, will eventually cause something to click and things will start to get better. I’m not even expecting actual happiness. For now, I’d settle for just feeling normal (whatever that means).
But when will that happen? I don’t want to waste my life being sad. What if things aren’t going to get better until, say, 9 years from now? I don’t want to look back when I’m 40 and think about how I spent half my life being miserable. Worse, what if I don’t feel any different until I’m 60? Or 70?
I want to feel different now. I’ve wasted enough time. Things have hurt for too long. I’ve done the enduring thing, and now I’m ready for it to be over. I’ve proven a million times over that I can get through anything, so when does it end?
Depression sucks. People will tell those of us who have it to “try to appreciate what we have”, or “smile, and think positive”, and a million other things you’d see on a refrigerator magnet. We’ve heard them all. We know you mean well, but trust us, they don’t work. We’ve tried. We’re experts on trying. So we endure. We wait, and we hope that eventually something will change. That we’ll start to see that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and be able to relax. But it’s a long tunnel.
I don’t want to spend my life underground. I want the stairs to the surface, and I want them now.
But at least I believe the tunnel has an end, and that’s how I get through it.
And in the meantime, I have a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy to catch up on.
I’ve kept this story mostly to myself for a long time. I can think of 2, maybe 3 people I’ve told it to, because it felt far too personal, and brought up a lot of feelings I wasn’t ready to face. But, given the events of this past weekend out of UCSB, and the events that just seem to keep happening all around the world, I felt like maybe it was time to share it. So, here goes:
When I was in my early 20s, I lived in a 2 bedroom house with 2 other women, and I worked the graveyard shift as a baker at a coffee shop. Yes, probably the one you’re thinking of. One morning, my roommates asked me if they could throw a party that evening. I had just finished 5 night shifts in a row, and was incredibly tired, and knowing I was about to have a night off, planned to stay awake so I could sleep like a regular human that night. I wanted to say no. I hated parties on a good day, especially when they were happening in my house, and the idea of having to entertain a bunch of loud, drunken strangers while being dead on my feet held no appeal for me whatsoever. But I said yes. I wanted to keep harmony in the house, and I figured I could be social for an hour or so, and then quietly sneak away to my bed, and nobody would even notice.
I was wrong.
By the time evening rolled around, and people started arriving, I was barely awake. I was the kind of tired that made “What’s your name?” seem like an advanced algebra question. I was the kind of tired that meant when someone asked “Where’s your boyfriend tonight?”, I actually forgot for a minute that I even had a boyfriend.
At one point, I was leaning against the kitchen sink, drinking a glass of water, when a fairly attractive man I had never met before (let’s call him Carl), came up and started chatting with me. From what I can remember, I was friendly, pleasant, and probably even a little flirty. But I was also really, really tired. So I told him that. I told him it was nice to meet him, and on any other day I would love to stay and talk to him, but that I needed sleep before I decided to curl up and nap under the kitchen table.
When I got to my room, I didn’t even bother turning on the lights or getting undressed. I did have the forethought to lock my bedroom door, but forgot to check to see if the door leading to my ensuite bathroom, which also had a door leading out to the living room, was locked. Instead, I just climbed into bed and was asleep within seconds.
Some time later (I’m not entirely sure how long), the door leading to the bathroom opened, and Carl came into my bedroom. I heard him ask me if I was awake, and since I was the kind of awake where technically I could hear him, but wasn’t sure if I was dreaming him, or even what year it was, I just mumbled something. That must have sounded like “Sure, come on in” to Carl, because he did.
He lied down next to me on the bed, and said he just wanted a quiet place to get away for a bit, and maybe to chat with me, too. Again, I mumbled something. This must have sounded like “Please kiss me” to Carl, because he did.
I didn’t kiss back. I didn’t even open my eyes. I was barely even awake.
I heard him unzip his jeans.
I felt him unzip mine.
I felt his penis when he took my hand and started stroking himself with it.
I felt his hand when he stuck it in my underwear and started stroking me.
I was awake then. I was terrified. I was frozen.
This continued for a few minutes (it was hard to tell how long, but felt like forever), until my bedroom door opened, and another man stuck his head in. My mind told me two things: “Oh, god, this is so embarrassing.”, and “Now this man will make Carl stop”.
Instead, he only said “Carl, finish up what you’re doing. We’re leaving.”, and then he closed the door and left.
Carl took his hand out of my pants, zipped up his, kissed me on the lips, said “It was great meeting you”, and left.
I did nothing but get up and lock the door behind him. I then sat in the dark and listened to the party happening on the other side of the door.
I never saw Carl again.
But it didn’t end there.
I told my boyfriend what had happened, and instead of getting angry, and demanding to know every little detail about Carl and how to find him, he instead got angry at me and said he “knew how I was”, and that I probably gave him the wrong idea by flirting with him.
He didn’t stay my boyfriend much longer.
For a long time I tried to forget that night. I told myself “He didn’t rape me. Nothing really even happened. Worse things happen to women all the time. It’s not a big deal.”
But it is a big deal. And I haven’t been able to forget it.
Carl sexually assaulted me, and had his friend not walked in, I can only assume he would have raped me, too. And not only did he not think anything was wrong with that, but my own boyfriend didn’t think so, either. The even sadder thing is that there are hundreds, thousands, millions of women with stories like mine, or even worse.
Some may say “You should have locked the door”, or “You should have told him no, instead of mumbling”, and for a long time I thought that myself. But it wasn’t my fault. I said goodnight to Carl, and that should have been the end of it. Everything after that was because he felt entitled, and he didn’t really care about my feelings at all. He thought what he was doing was okay.
And there are still men who feel that way. And it doesn’t look like it’s getting any better. We’re taught not to walk alone at night. We’re taught to defend ourselves. We’re taught to ignore harassment on the streets. We’re taught that men can’t be trusted.
And sadly, until men are taught to keep their hands, penises, and misogynistic thoughts to themselves, they can’t.
If you disagree with me, check out the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. If you still disagree with me, then maybe you’re part of the problem.
I now have some truly amazing, women-loving, respectful, decent men in my life, and men like Carl, and Elliot Rodgers, and countless others, make me so incredibly grateful for them. I won’t forget that. But hopefully, someday soon, things will change, and I’ll be able to forget Carl.
But until then, I will always double check the locks.
I have written 100,000 tweets.
One hundred thousand.
At maximum 140 characters apiece, that’s…..well, someone smarter than me can do the math, but that’s a lot of characters.
The average novel (if you can call a novel average) is about 50,000 words. If each of my tweets was only one word, that would still be two novels.
My tweets are definitely not just one word, though. Come on, people. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that brevity is not really my thing. No, like the Native Americans and the buffalo (or so I was taught in History class), I like to use every part of a tweet.
That’s a joke. Please don’t start a hashtag to get my blog canceled.
So, if my tweets are more than one word; hell, probably more than, say, 15 words, that’s like….well, a lot of novels. Again, I’m not good with math.
I’ve been tweeting for 5 years. I actually did the math on that, and that’s roughly 55 tweets PER DAY. This is why you should never do math. It could show you things you don’t want to know about yourself.
The #1 item on my bucket list is to write a book (okay, I don’t actually have a bucket list, but if I did, that would be on the top of it). I tell myself that one day I will do it, if I ever find the motivation and energy. Writing takes discipline. It takes time. It takes thought. “I can’t write a book”, I tell myself, “I wouldn’t know what to say”.
However, apparently 55 times a day I know what to say. Or at least, I think I know what to say. Whether my followers agree with me is something you’d have to ask them.
I joined Twitter in 2009, about 3 weeks after my husband left me. I was sad, I was scared, and I was lonely. I had heard that people on Twitter might have some experience with that. I also knew that I was about to move all the way across the country, and I’d have to find some way to meet people. And, over the next 5 years, I did. I really, really did. I have met so many people that pretty much any time anyone asks me how <insert name of friend here> and I met, the answer is almost always “Twitter”.
The 3 people I call my best friends? I met them on Twitter. The last two guys I dated? Met them on Twitter, too. The last two jobs I’ve had were a result of meeting someone on Twitter. The first one turned out to be a nightmare, but it did allow me the freedom to spend every other weekend in Halifax with, you guessed it, people I met on Twitter. When I finally decided to move here, I moved in with two people I met as a result of Twitter.
I’ve met a lot of great people online. I’ve also met a lot of not-so-great people, but they’ve only made me appreciate the good ones more.
Twitter helped me discover that I’m funny. In fact, a few years ago I created an alternate Twitter account that I had hoped to keep anonymous, so I could post passive-aggressive comments about my ex-boyfriend, but it ended up getting too popular, and eventually everyone figured out it was me. And then it got fun. I started to embrace my sense of humour. I started keeping up more with current events, just so I could have something to make jokes about. I had a few tweets acquire thousands of retweets, and was even shown on CNN, TWICE. After 2 years, I had 8,000 followers, and had “met” some really great people from all around the world. One of whom I actually consider a personal friend, even though he lives in California, thinks all Canadians are part polar bear, and we have never met.
And then, during a particularly vulnerable period in my life, 2 years ago, a man told me I should delete my account. Because I liked him in a stupid girly way, and I never make good decisions when it comes to men, I did it. I deleted the account. And shortly after, he deleted me from his life, so yeah, I remind you that I don’t always make the best decisions. I regret deleting the account, and I tried to rebuild it again, but it didn’t go anywhere. It’s gone.
I learned how to combine that persona with my “real life” persona, though, and I started to better understand who I actually am. I started really trying to figure myself out, and finally started dealing with the thing I had been denying most of my life: my mental illness.
Twitter has been amazing for my mental health. There are millions of users talking about it, posting resources, sharing stories, and even, like me, cracking jokes. If you feel like you have nobody to talk to, go to Twitter.com and type #mentalhealth into the search box. You’ll find people to talk to. You’ll find websites to visit. You’ll even find podcasts to listen to. And, if you’re like me, you’ll start to understand why you feel the way you do, and realize that you’re not suffering alone, and you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
I still use Twitter to tell jokes, but I also use it to talk about current events, get the news, keep up with my friends, post photos, and of course, talk about my cat, Rory. Rory is not the cat I had when I started tweeting, though. Rory is new. 5 months ago, I lost my best friend of 20 years, my cat Sebastian. We had been through so much together, and I knew I was never going to be able to get through losing her alone. And I didn’t have to. My friends, and Twitter, were amazing. And on the days where it still hurts like hell, they continue to be supportive. I don’t think I could ever really express how much that has meant to me.
So, some people say I tweet too much. Some people say “It’s just Twitter. It doesn’t matter.” Some people say that social media actually makes us anti-social. As you can guess, I disagree with all of that. Twitter isn’t some mindless, useless entity. I mean, sure, there are a lot of accounts run by bots, or actual people with the personality of a bot, but there are also some wonderful, intelligent, hilarious, talented, and interesting people on there, with real lives, real feelings, and real opinions. Those are the people I follow, and who follow me. To you it might be just be a website, but to me, it’s like a coffee shop full of my favourite people.
So, I’ve written 100,000 tweets. Perhaps in another 5 years, I’ll be writing about having written 200,000.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll be writing about having finished writing a book.
But first, I need to go tweet about this blog post.
I love the Olympics. I consider myself an Olympics “junkie”. I love the competitions, the camaraderie, the humanity, and the culture. I want to see all the events and hear all the stories. I know a lot of you like the Olympics, but I love them. And I think it’s because they make me think of my family.
I’ve written a bit about my family here, so I think you all know by now that we weren’t exactly the Brady Bunch. In fact, we didn’t even like each other, and the years we were forced to live together felt a lot like biding time until our prison sentence was over. They aren’t in my life now, and I do as much as I can to avoid even thinking about them.
But, as in most things, it wasn’t all bad. I even have some fond memories of our time together. Most of those memories, however, involve sports. We were a big sports family. Maybe it’s because it gave us reasons to not be home, but all of us were involved in multiple sports. For me it was figure skating, volleyball, horseback riding, soccer, track & field, biathlon, and even hockey, for a bit. But the sport that stuck was downhill skiing. The whole family got involved, and all of us even worked at our local ski hill at some point throughout the decade or so we all lived together. My mother, my oldest brother, and I even became ski instructors. I was, at the age of 11, the youngest ski instructor that hill had ever had (it helped that I always looked much older than I actually was, and we weren’t allowed to tell clients my actual age until I turned 16).
Skiing became my escape from my life. In the winter it became my life. I practically lived at the ski hill, and I probably would have if I didn’t have to go to school. There were more than a few times I was at the hill when I should have been at school. When I wasn’t teaching lessons, or off skiing with friends or by myself, I was taking lessons from the various coaches that I became acquainted with in my years there. I was never going to be an Olympian, and that was never my goal, but I loved the sport and I wanted to try EVERYTHING. I tried downhill racing, and it was terrifying. I love flying down the hill at high speed, but definitely not at the speeds those guys go. I tried aerials, and I was really good at them, until it came time to land. Let’s just say it was a good thing I was wearing a helmet. I learned how to do moguls, and the smaller jumps, and was fairly decent, but I had no desire to compete. It was all just fun for me. A way to make friends, see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, keep in shape, make some money, and get out of my house.
Since my entire family was a ski family, we’d see each other around the mountain, but we didn’t interact too much. It was a big mountain.
But then, every 4 years, the Winter Olympics would be on, and like magic, the games brought us all together. We’d become obsessed with them. We’d eat all our meals in front of the TV, watching events or watching highlights of events. We had friendly rivalries (I was a huge Kurt Browning fan, while Dad preferred Elvis Stojko). I wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi, and not just because we shared a first name. We’d all high five each other whenever Canada won a medal. We’d stand together in our tiny living room whenever the national anthem played. We learned the names of all our favourite athletes, and learned as much about them as we could. We’d have hockey tournaments against the neighbours on our skating pond and fight over who got to be Team Canada. This was before the internet, so we’d all eat breakfast together and share results we’d read in the daily paper.
We’d travel up to the ski hill together, listening to the games on the radio. We’d eat lunch together and catch up on what some of us might have missed throughout the day.
Every 4 years, for 2 weeks, we became friends. We had something in common. We were a team. We were a family.
A lot of time has passed, and my family is no longer a part of my life at all. I haven’t spoken to my Dad in almost 10 years. I hardly even think about him (except when I dream about him, or curse him for my PTSD), and I certainly don’t miss him.
But now, as I sit here watching the 2014 Olympics by myself, I wonder if my family is watching them, too. And I wonder, when Dad hears Kurt Browning providing commentary during the figure skating events, if he thinks of me, as I’m thinking of him. I wonder if my brothers are watching the mogul events and having the same “I could totally do that” thoughts that I’m having. I wonder if they, too, stand and sing Oh Canada when it plays.
We’ll never watch the Olympics together again, but I will never stop being a fan. And even though many memories of my family are painful and sad, the Olympics will always remind me that every 4 years, we liked each other a little bit. The Olympics made us a family.
And that is why I love them.
By now, you’re likely aware of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign that has taken over social media here in Canada today. Admittedly, along with many others, I was annoyed that yet again a large corporation was using charity to garner praise and attention. I would have preferred that the campaign just be called “Let’s Talk”, while leaving the name of the company out of it. Or at least making it less obvious.
However, it’s no secret that one of the most important issues I support and advocate for is mental health, and I believed the message to be far too important, so I put my cynicism aside. A lot of people did. Today, people are talking about mental health. They’re spreading the message, sharing their stories, and supporting each other. Today, people are speaking out.
But what about tomorrow? Where were all these people yesterday? The stigma associated with mental illness is not something that can be fixed in just one day. It’s a long term project. It’s going to take everyone pitching in and working together.
Those of us with mental illness aren’t just affected one day a year. It affects us every day. We carry it with us everywhere we go. Some of us are comfortable talking about it, but many of us suffer in silence.
There are many reasons people with mental illness choose not to talk about it. Jen, on Twitter, says that having mental illness makes her angry.
I can relate to that. There are some days when I get so frustrated by the constant battles happening between the part of my brain that is happy, and the part of my brain that wants to do nothing but run away and hide. I wish the two parts would just take their fighting elsewhere and leave me out of it. I get angry at myself for not being able to control my thoughts better. Then I get angry at myself for being angry about something I spend a lot of time trying to convince people is nothing to be angry about. Did you get that? It’s a lot of anger.
Some people don’t want to talk about mental illness because they think it will make them look weak. I cannot stress enough how wrong they are about that. Talking about mental illness makes you stronger. Having the courage to admit that you need help is one of the bravest things you can do, in my opinion.
I didn’t always believe that, though. I used to be embarrassed by my mental illness. I used to think there was something wrong with me; that I was a horrible person, or a loser because I was so emotional all the time. I used to think that anti-depressants were for freaks or drama queens. I didn’t think I had a mental illness; I thought I just had a shitty life. I thought that if I just kept trying to eliminate the things in my life that were making me miserable, I’d be happy. I moved around a lot, I quit jobs, I ended relationships and friendships, always believing that eventually I would just leave the pain and sadness behind. Admittedly some of that was the case. I did have a lot of terrible things happen, and a lot of horrible people in my life, but there were also amazing people in my life, and they stood by, helpless, as I refused to recognize that the biggest problem was inside me. I wasn’t going to be able to leave it behind, and if I kept trying, I was going to end up with nothing and nobody left.
I didn’t want to talk about it.
And then one day, my dear friend Andrew made me. He was sick of staying quiet, and he took a big risk and he spoke up. He told me, gently, that he believed I needed help. He told me I should see a doctor. He told me I needed to talk to someone. He showed me that he cared, and that got me talking. And I talked. And talked. I haven’t stopped talking. I’ll talk to anyone who will listen. He opened a floodgate and there’s no closing it now.
That was a year and a half ago, and the difference in how I feel now is like night and day. Talking about my mental illness with friends who care, with people in my support group, with my coworkers, and most of all on this blog, has opened up my mind in a big way. I don’t feel ashamed anymore. I feel stronger. I understand more, and with that understanding comes control. I’ve learned a lot, and I continue to learn more every day.
I asked Andrew earlier today how he felt about me giving him credit for helping me, because some people aren’t like Bell, and they get uncomfortable with praise and attention. He said he didn’t mind and that today “is a day to speak out, after all”. I smiled to myself, made a mental note that he was fine with it, and went back to what I was doing. But then I realized what he had said. “TODAY is a day to speak out” is only partly true. EVERY DAY is a day to speak out.
We can’t just talk about mental health one day and expect that to be enough. We can’t just do it because a corporation tells us to, or because it’s trendy. We need to keep talking. We need to talk about it so much that it becomes a normal, accepted part of our culture. We need to never stop talking about it. We need to remove the stigma.
It’s everyone’s responsibility. Not just the people who have mental illness, but those who love us, like us, work with us, interact with us, and care about us. If you have a mental illness, trust someone and confide in them. If you decide to keep quiet, you’re only hurting yourself. Give people a chance to help you. If someone you know has a mental illness, or you think that they might, let them know you care, that you don’t judge, and that you’re there for them.
My good friend Stéphane and I have a deal. We talk every day, and I asked him a while back to stop asking “how are you?” when he greets me. There will be times when I won’t have a positive answer to that question, and I know he only wants to hear that I’m okay. He argues with me on that point, but he agreed to stop asking (I can be a pain in the ass when we argue). But he asked that I be honest with him when he really does want to know how I’m feeling. He has a knack for understanding my brain that surprises me all the time, and it is almost impossible for me to hide a bad mood from him. So I’ve agreed to always be honest when I can tell he’s legitimately asking out of concern and care. Because of this, he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of sobbing and sniffling on my part. And he doesn’t mind. And I am grateful.
Having a mental illness isn’t all about take, either. I give as well. I’ve been the listener, the advice-giver, the shoulder-to-cry-on for others. I have friends who come to me to talk about their depression or anxiety because they trust me and know that I’ll understand because I can relate. Knowing you aren’t alone is the most valuable thing you can learn when you’re feeling the weight of the world. Helping others realize that helps me, too. We’re all in this together, and we need to help each other out in any way we can.
We need to keep talking about it. We need to keep learning about it. We need to stop being ashamed, or making others feel ashamed of it.
One day is not enough. Money is not enough.
So, please, keep tweeting about it. Keep sending your text messages. Keep posting on Facebook about it.
The campaign lasts until midnight, but the stigma will go on long past that.
So keep talking tomorrow. Keep talking the next day. Keep talking every day.
Communicate in any medium you want, but just please keep talking.
Today is the five-year anniversary of the best day of my life.
Historically, it was Barack Obama’s first day as President of the United States.
It was also the day my marriage ended.
Obviously, that day didn’t feel anything like the best day of my life. In fact, I was pretty sure it was the worst. I was devastated. I was hurt, scared, and very, very alone.
Up until that point, I had never been a very independent person. In fact, most would say I wasn’t independent at all. I had never really lived alone, and I was never the greatest at taking care of things on my own. When my husband left, I didn’t even know how to pay the phone bill. I mean literally, I didn’t know how people did it. Did they do it online? Did they mail in a cheque? And what about hydro (in British Columbia, that’s what we call “power”)? I had never seen any of our bills, and I had never been in charge of our finances. Before I was married, I had roommates, boyfriends, and parents that took care of all that stuff.
I didn’t even know how to adjust the thermostat in our house. To be fair, we had a state-of-the-art system, but still. These are things a person should know. But I didn’t.
Knowing how much I’ve grown up since that day makes it easier to admit that I was a codependent, spoiled princess. The first man I lived with even called me Princess. If a guy called me that now, I’d definitely take it as an insult.
I know it’s cliché to blame your parents for these types of things, but in my case, they partly are to blame. My parents didn’t teach me the things parents should teach their children before sending them out in the world. In fact, my parents didn’t send me out; I escaped. And when it came time for me to live in the real world, there was always a man or roommate there to do a lot of things for me. I didn’t want to learn because I didn’t have to.
When my husband left, and my parents were not a part of my life, and I had no close friends to speak of, I had to learn. And I was terrified.
But I had no choice. It wasn’t even sink or swim, because I no longer had the luxury of sinking. Swimming was the only thing I could do. So, I packed myself, Sebastian, and everything I owned (which fit snugly into a u-haul trailer), and set off across the country from Chilliwack, British Columbia, to Moncton, New Brunswick. A place where I knew nobody, had no job, and no place to live.
I always tell people that I grew up in British Columbia, but the truth is, I don’t think I actually grew up until I left.
Over the past 5 years I have struggled to find my footing, and it took 4 of those years to realize the place I needed to be was Halifax, where I met people I love, found a job I love, and live completely alone in an apartment I love. For 3 of those years, I did everything on my own. I taught myself to be alone and independent. I learned how to be a responsible adult (although you’ll notice I didn’t say “mature”). I found strength I never thought possible. I discovered abilities and talents I didn’t even know I had. I became a different person.
I also learned not to expect help, but also that it’s okay to ask for it sometimes. And I found people willing to give it out of love and kindness, with no strings attached. I’ll forever be grateful to them.
I’m not the same Kristi I was 5 years ago. I don’t even look the same. If my mother could see me now, she wouldn’t recognize me. My ex-husband definitely wouldn’t (which will come in handy on the slim chance I should ever see him on the street).
So, while it didn’t feel like it at the time, his leaving me was the best thing he ever did for me. He forced me to finally become an adult, to be responsible, and to actually become a person people liked having around.
On that day 5 years ago, I felt like my life was over.
But it was just getting started.
And that was the best day of my life.
Oh, and for the record, I know how to pay my phone bill now, too.