When I pack my moderately-priced duffel bag in preparation for one of my routine trips to crash with family, I prefer to wedge my clothes in tiny balls. I convince myself it somehow saves space, and the trick worked wonders when I relocated from NL to ON way back in the summer of 2000. I was only allowed one duffel, a backpack, and a huge stuffed bunny gifted to me from my mother’s ex-fiance. Every summer, as August approaches, I remember piling into my best friend’s uncle Dave’s minivan, bunny in tow, with butterflies performing kamikaze swan dives in my stomach. I was, after all, about to abandon the place I’d grown up in. All superfluous belongings had been sold or donated or put into storage in one of my grandmother’s spare bedrooms, and I had only my most prized possessions in the world. I learned a lot about downsizing that summer. I learned a lot of other things, too.
With nothing but the past fading in the rearview mirror and an uncertain future laid out in front of us, we hit the open road. The further we got from my hometown, the more excited and apprehensive I became. The weather was hot but the air conditioning kept the van’s temperature somewhere around freezing. Dave insisted on putting his ABBA CD on repeat and playing it at a volume loud enough to rattle my teeth in their beds, resulting in tinnitus and a lifelong hatred of “Dancing Queen”. (Sorry, ABBA fans, but listening to their greatest hits at top volume for three straight days should be classified as torture.)
We stopped at a Days Inn in Montreal to catch some real shut-eye. I accidentally took double doses of my sinus medication and somehow managed to order Big Macs for everyone without making a complete ass of myself. Although, I might add, it wasn’t easy.
The first place we stopped when we finally made it to Ontario was Thornhill. We went to Dave’s apartment to stay the night before heading to Uxbridge to live with my aunt. My mother stayed in one room, and my sis and I spent the night on the floor in another room lined with boxes of outdated porn magazines. I’ve never seen such a comprehensive collection of photographed naked women, and if you think a twelve-year-old girl isn’t burning with curiosity about the female form, you’re wrong. My sis quickly lost interest but I kept flipping through, hiding each magazine beneath the threadbare sheet I was to sleep under any time I heard footsteps approaching. I almost got busted when my mom came in to say goodnight and told us not to snoop through anything.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself in confusing, awkward situations. My first trip to Toronto, I waited for three hours at Yorkdale station for a guy only to realize I had no interest in sleeping with him. I was eighteen and didn’t know how to say “no”, and since the last bus back to Beaverton had long since departed, I swallowed my pride and anxiousness, followed him home, let him do his thing, and promptly faked sleep. The next morning I woke up to him standing over me. He told me he had a thing to do today and asked if I’d be mad if we cut our visit short. Truthfully, I was relieved. He bought me a sandwich from the Tim Horton’s down the street and he went with me to Yorkdale, telling me he’d see me again soon.
Fuck that, I never spoke to him again.
My past with Toronto has been kind of rickety. My past has been kind of rickety in general. If every decision you make really does create an alternate universe in which the exact opposite happens, I can’t help but wonder if I always would have ended up here. What would have happened if I had never left Newfoundland? Would I have finished high school and pursued some kind of career? Would I have fallen as far into depression as I did? What would my life be like if, when my mother called my sis and I into her room to ask us if we wanted to move to Ontario, we had both said “hell no”? The trouble with thinking about the past and analyzing those decisions too much is that no matter what you do, you can’t go back and fix anything. You have to always assume that at any given time, you’re exactly where you need to be.
I wouldn’t call myself a big believer of fate, I think we all have choices to make and some form of control over our lives. That being said, a vast majority of my life decisions have been made based on pure gut instinct. I met my boyfriend of nearly four years on a sketchy-as-fuck dating site after sending him a message on a whim because the picture of him with a pickle hanging out of his mouth made me laugh. I don’t really put a lot of thought into where my life is going, or what impact my sudden decisions are going to have on my future. And although those decisions have led to some truly great stories, what will it add up to? As I’m getting older I’m beginning to realize the value of thinking things through. I’ve made some really bad decisions, of course, but I wouldn’t change a single one of them or I wouldn’t have any stories to tell.
The only thing you can do in life is keep going, do the best you can, and try to have as much fun as possible. Tomorrow is never promised to us so we can really only focus on today. Today, I can choose who I’m going to be. I’m going to choose not to smoke, and to get my work done. I choose not to procrastinate, not to dwell on negative thoughts, and not to let anyone tell me what to do. I choose to accept myself for who I am today and not let my mood interfere with my ultimate happiness.
In the end, I’m glad I chose to move here and I can’t wait to see where I end up next.