Well hey there. It’s 10:30pm on an exceptionally snowy Sunday and the only time I ventured outside today in the blizzard was to buy some bran flakes because I’m sorry, Canadian weather alert or not, nothing is keeping me from my cereal. Breakfast is serious business as far as I’m concerned, especially before a Monday morning 8:30am lecture. Tess 1, Snowstorm nil.
It’s been a tough week. Probably one of the toughest weeks I’ve had here in months, and I’ve felt a little bit ‘out of it’ for the past few days. I won’t go into details as it’s not my story to share on the internet, but let it be said I cried quite a lot initially on finding out some sad news, have not been sleeping great, and have had an awful lot of time to Think About Things.
I’m alright now, and will keep getting better, but it’s unfortunately one of those situations which really hits home on a very personal and emotional level and you can’t snap back from immediately.
This post was inspired by a) an instagram caption I was very proud of (tragic I know) and b) a realisation I had the other day about one of my blog posts I wrote before I came to Canada. It was way back last summer during the time I was housebound with my busted ankle, and I was beginning to Fret. So naturally, in true Tess Fashion, I wrote a list, The One With a List of Fears, and felt better about things.
Reading that post back now is strangely surreal; I was amped up with so many expectations and and so much excitement, so much fear for the unknown and anticipation about how things would turn out. I was also, despite my best intentions and best stalking of year abroad blogs, hopelessly naive about what this year would be like.
It was on reading through my checklist of worries however, that I realised something. Every single one of my main fears about this year abroad has come true, in some way or another.
- Making Friends – I have most definitely struggled with making relationships out here, and far from falling into a welcoming group of lifelong soulmates, a little like I did in first year of university, I remain pretty much solely reliant on Emily. I’ve come to accept this as just being the way things are, and that I am lucky to have such a good friend here with me in the first place. This semester I’ve definitely begun to feel closer to my flatmate Nat, and now consider the girls on the team as ‘friends’ as opposed to just teammates, but these relationships have been a long time coming.
- Money Issues – I’ve had a few unpleasant realities during this year in terms of funds. Flights and travel can really add up, but food has been my main concern. More than once after a $60 trip to Loblaws have I checked my balance and realised with a somewhat sickening feeling that I have $19.34 to last me the fortnight. I honestly haven’t felt I’ve been reckless with money, but I have had to have a discussion with my Dad about the situation, and think hard about where I can cut back which I’ve never had to do before. I hate the thought that I’m overspending (I’m blaming my Yorkshire heritage for that), it makes me feels really ashamed and naive, but I don’t think that Canadian prices have helped me avoid that much.
- The Winter – Okay, so this, entertainingly enough, has been the least ‘realised’ of my fears, because as soon as I got a proper coat I adapted pretty well to the best cold Canada has to offer me. Emily’s experience of hypothermia was less enjoyable (a story for another time), but aside from a miserable week of -25 degrees celsius I’ve been alright.
- Health Issues – No amputations admittedly (see my original post for that ridiculous worry) but I have certainly not been in peak physical condition while I’ve been out here. In fact, practically every week of my year abroad thus far I’ve found myself trekking down to Minto Sports Centre to see the physio for my bloody ankle. That one I sprained 7 months ago? Yeah, still causing me pain. It’s super stiff in the mornings and clonks alarmingly in practice and aches when I rotate it and has just generally not progressed beyond 60% of what it used to be capable of. Not life-threatening for sure, but certainly the most persistent physical health issue I’ve ever had, and the most frustrating. Here’s hoping the MRI I’m hopefully going to be scheduled for sheds some light on it.
- Mental Health – The big one. So, did my Ultimate Fear of relapsing back to first year levels of lowness and depression whilst on my year abroad come true? You bet it did kids! Despite my best efforts, last semester I hit a real, real low. The lowest of the lows. But although it was shitty beyond belief, I followed my procedure for what I know works for me and got through it.
And that, really, is the crux of my Big Realisation. I got through it. I got through all of them, every single one of my worst fears about moving across the world and coming to Canada, and you know what, I’m still here. Still at my desk, typing away, sipping lukewarm Yorkshire tea and turning up the heating in my little apartment while snow silently piles up on the window sill.
Partly inspired by this, and partly inspired by the upsetting event of the past week, but mostly thanks to the fact I accompanied the team to Toronto for a basketball game this weekend and had a 4 hour coach journey to think about things, I’ve had some other realisations recently I thought I’d share as well:
- While I think I present myself outwardly as being pretty comfortable at accepting criticism, internally I’m still terrible at it. I think it’s one of the things I struggle with most; I desperately need to be good at things. Positive validation is very important for me, but I also think (thanks to basketball) I am getting better at taking constructive advice not as personal attacks and implications that I’m failing, but as honest opinions I should appreciate I’m being given. It’s a work in process though.
- Emily’s Weekly Realisation: $15 haircuts sound like a good deal but are Not Advisable.
- Canadian drivers seem to be happy to accept that when it’s snowed two feet in an afternoon and none of the pavements have been cleared pedestrians are going to walk on the road because it’s easier. Canadian drivers are cool.
- Flocking birds still fly towards the sunset even when it’s through a veritable blizzard and the poor things probably can’t see a bloody thing. Birds are cool.
- I probably overuse the word ‘cool’.
- People, and the relationships we maintain with them, are important above all else in life. The relationship you have with yourself counts as one of these. It requires maintenance and love and care.
- Cross-Country skiing is not my forté. Skiing in general will probably never be my forté. But fresh snow is as comfortable a place to fall over as any.
- Dads can be really quite shitty? I am very fortunate to have one who definitely isn’t. (Love you lots, Dad.)
- Hugs are important. If your friends don’t offer them up readily, inflict them upon them yourself.
- I’m actually very proud to be vegetarian (going on 2 years) and honestly think I’m going to keep on being one for the foreseeable future, but I don’t feel any pressure to ‘step up’ to veganism. (Emily and I agree on this. Cheese is too important to us. Bacon, on the other hand, is for realz very easy to live without.)
- Other people spend less time thinking about you than you think about you. Seriously. It’s your brain, of course you’re thinking about you, just don’t worry that everyone else is paying you as much attention.
- Purple cake made out of yams sounds weird as hell but tastes AMAZING.
- There’s something very unique and very special about the mentality of being part of a sports team. It’s hard work, but the immense sense of belonging and team effort is a quite incredible aspect of the human experience. I realised the other day just quite how much I am going to miss this team and how in some ways I wish I could stay to keep on with them.
- Going back to a place you’ve already been to in a different season is a very cool experience. As is standing on the edge of a completely frozen lake, while snowflakes get land on your eyelashes.
- I am enormously lucky to have friends and family back in the UK so important to me that I miss them deeply. I’m also lucky that I can be comforted by the knowledge I’m going to return to them all, when there are so many people in the world separated from their loved ones indefinitely.
- No matter what is going on in life, enough sleep and regular meals are an essential. They can always be fitted in, and if they can’t, something needs to change elsewhere.
And the 2 most important ones from this week:
- It takes less than 20 seconds to send a message asking someone genuinely if they’re alright or to say something kind. It takes less than 5 seconds to grab them on their own to do this in person. You can always make that time.
- This whole experience of a year abroad so far, is, when I take a step back, pretty incredible. I’m astonishingly fortunate to have done the things I have done, and to have experienced a wholly different approach to life. Do I want to stay in Canada forever? Gosh no. Do I miss home? Far more than I thought I could or would. Would I do it all again, with the knowledge I’d face all the difficulties I have? Absolutely.
Take care of yourselves x