All I remember about the last Christmas I spent with my family four years ago is what I wore and my sister-in-law’s mother making rude comments about my recent divorce. Yes, my ex-husband is a wonderful guy. Giving me disapproving looks while forcefully saying so won’t make me want to be married to him.
I fly out west tomorrow. I’m nervous, but only because the last two times I’ve flown alone and been disastrous—showed up a day early and then a couple months later, a half hour late. I somehow feel as though I need someone around to bounce ideas off of in order to make it in the world alright. The truth is I do. We all do.
Humans are social creatures. It is with joy hinting toward that ecstatic frenzy positive transitions sometimes give me that I announce the results of my latest social experiment. This one I called, “Living Alone Dans Ville Avec Chat.”
The short of it? Success. The long answer? A little more complicated. Let’s start at the end, shall we?
I am writing this from my new home: a room in the top floor of a building buzzing with activity. There are language classes, church activities, community groups, offices and a pilates studio in the floors below me (just to name a few of the groups that use this space.)
I share a kitchen and common space with eight other people—students and international volunteers—and I absolutely love it. Sure, it’s only been a week and I’m about to fly away for a month, and I may still be in the honeymoon stage, but community life is the right kind of life for me.
Where have I come from? Think piles of unwashed dishes crowding kitchen counters and corners cloaked in cat hair. Eustache and I lived in a love-filled apartment, but it was also filled with weeks of bad habits attempting to entrench their way into my life longer than they were welcome. After a few Netflix marathons too many I knew I needed a change. So here I am in the Maison de l’Amitie (the House of Friendship) after very successfully realizing I want to live in community. A 3.5 apartment all to myself (that’s one bedroom for you non-Quebecers) is a luxurious life, but it’s not the life for me.
I much prefer to be gently woken to the sounds of housemates padding through the hall, chatting over a morning tea. I recognize how I don’t need to push myself into situations that make me feel uncomfortable with growth—I can do it gently and in ways that are appropriate for me. I learned a lot in my time alone. Lessons about independence, security and self-sufficiency, and now it’s time to apply them in other settings.
In the spirit of embracing my zest for community life, I am heading back to spend a good chunk of time with the first community I came to know and love: my family.
I’m pretty blessed to have such a raucous bunch of hooligans to call my kin. The people my brothers have brought into their lives (and the mini-people they’ve created with them) are pretty neat, too.
But family has a way of undermining even the most earnest amount of self-reflective work a person has done. The people that know us the best can often subtly bring up areas of growth for us, or keep us held into old identities. Sometimes, as is the case with my sister-in-law’s well-meaning mother, the criticism is rather thinly veiled. That doesn’t mean I have to identify with the version of me they used to know.
I’m looking forward to seeing people I’ve known my whole life, especially as I bring the person I am now back to familiar haunting grounds. I’ve never lived in a big city before, so I’m returning with the residue of a collective consciousness over two-million souls strong rubbed upon myself like charcoal. Like the heavy sprinkling of wet snow I witnessed this evening on my idyllic route home.
I can’t wait to be in a less populated area and to check-in with who I am now. See you soon Alberta and BC. Xox.