I woke up in an unfamiliar bed, light streaming through a purple curtain that I didn't remember, bathing my suitcases and purse in a warm glow. The day was going to be beautiful: warm and sunny, and I had nothing to do but enjoy it. Closing my eyes to the morning sun, I told myself things were going to be great. Life was a new adventure. No amount of closing and opening my eyes again would bring me back to the wooden-beamed loft with my double bed and windows with the view of the lake. The pictures on my night stand and clothes in the closet were packed in bags and boxes, waiting to fill the empty spaces of my new room.
Slowly, I sat up and leaned against the wall. I'd never had a wall beside my bed before, and it felt strange. Not bad really, just different. Everything felt different, kinda like putting on somebody else's running shoes.
I was amazed at what I'd done.
After living in the same two places for 24 years, I'd packed up my whole life and moved it 6 hours south - to a city where I knew a grand total of 4 people, and had visited 3 times. I had no job, no contacts, and no idea how I was going to survive on my own.
Filled with hope and excitement, I slipped on my robe and bounced downstairs, where Cindy, my new roommate was sipping coffee and listening to the radio. Together we sat on her back patio (a space that quickly became my favourite) and continued to get to know each other. I told her about my boyfriend Dan, who was angry that I'd chosen to move away. Part of me knew that we weren't meant to be together, and from that very first morning, she gently helped me to untangle my life from his. We talked about our parents, and how sweet mine were when we packed the car with all of my belongings. I tried not to cry when I thought about driving away from Ella Lake. We talked about our favourite foods and she recommended places to visit in the city. She was careful to recommend places I could go, not we - knowing it was time for me to step out and be on my own. That was hard, but necessary for both of us.
Cindy lived on Hope Street. I loved that name and thought it symbolic of my new situation. Despite the fear of being away from everything familiar, something told me that it was okay to hope - things were going to be just fine.
That October was full of new discoveries: I liked homemade sushi and peppermint tea, taking long drives and getting lost on purpose, and being able to meet up with my best friend without taking a 6 hour drive. I learned that people in Southern Ontario weren't as openly friendly as people in the North, and that smiling and saying hello to strangers on the street would usually bring a surly frown or bitchy expression in response. People were friendly, just not in the same small-town way that I was used to. I learned that procrastination is not an effective way to find a job. I was saddened by the discovery that all of the water in the area - lakes and rivers - were so polluted that people couldn't swim in them. As the month came to an end, I realized I'd fallen in love with the city. It wasn't perfect, I didn't know very many people, and things were pretty lonely so far, but there were gorgeous old houses, trees everywhere, fantastic restaurants and interesting little stores. There was an energy here that I'd never felt before.
Time marched on, bringing big changes. In November, I was hired as a technical support agent for a call centre - a job that was supposed to be temporary. (It wasn't). In December, I spent Christmas alone - unable to get enough days off due to lack of seniority. Christmas dinner was crab legs and a piece of cheesecake in front of a movie - a kind of non-Christmas that was supposed to be "fun". (It wasn't). My boyfriend and I fought constantly, but kept telling each other things would work out. (They didn't). In January, I officially broke up with Dan, severing another tie with my childhood home. That month, I was also spending a lot of time with a guy named Jeremy, who was the opposite of my ex. I told everybody we were either going to have a fling or be good friends. In February, he started calling me his girlfriend.
And in March, Cindy and Jeremy helped me move into my Very First Apartment: a teeny place that had wooden walls and felt like a log cabin. When he moved in, it was only supposed to be for a "little while". (It wasn't).
In the spring of 2003, I realized that London had become home. Not the same as the place I'd grown up, but a new kind of home: one I'd built for myself. I had lots of new friends, enjoyed my job, had a new boyfriend, and could drive around the city without needing directions anymore. I knew where the best Chinese food was, adored the giant pieces of pizza you could get downtown, and had a favourite bar. I was starting to cheer for their hockey team. Unknown streets turned familiar.
6 years ago today I had no debt, no job, and no idea how to survive on my own.
And I had no clue about what life had in store for me...