It sounds like forever.
It sounds like nothing.
Before this, I had no concept for seven years beyond the fact that I’ve been alive for longer. That may sound obvious, and even stupid, but this month marks 7 years straight in one city. This is the longest I’ve lived in any one place; the longest I’ve spent getting to know streetnames, backalleys, shopping malls, and local parks. The longest I’ve ever surrounded myself with nostalgia and familiarity to the point that, no matter where I wander in this city, I feel comfortable. I know people here. I know where I’m going, I know how to get back. Sometimes, I even wonder if I feel like I belong.
The “Remember This?” post reminders from Facebook are equal parts bitter and sweet. As long as I keep my account open, every year, the algorithms will remind me during the month of May that, “x number of years ago, you moved back to Canada from the City of Love!” I could make the necessary changes so that this doesn’t happen again. I could change some dates or remove some things – I could remove my account entirely and never get another notification about anything. (I’ve considered it, I’m still on the fence. Don’t contact me about this, I’ll block you.)
But there’s something tender and loving in the way these reminders creep up on me. As long as I live in Abbotsford, every day of my little life is record-breaking. Every single hour is a chance for me to become more intimately connected to this place called “home” – more connected than I have ever been with any street, city, country, or continent.
This intimacy comes with the stings of pain and whispers of beauty tied to every home I ever left behind. There is grief in the remembering, and joy in the reminiscing. Less than a balancing act, it’s like a teeter-totter. Sometimes I lean more towards the bitter, sometimes towards the sweet. But there something heartwarming and heartbreaking about looking back and saying:
“Every day of my life is a milestone: 7 years and counting.“
Then again, every day that I’m alive is a milestone. For the past twenty-four years I have kept on waking up, getting up, and showing up for life. Sometimes bitterly, sometimes sweetly, and sometimes fully apathetic to the world. But I am still here, I haven’t given up, and that’s a true thing for anyone still drawing breath on this spinning ball called earth (or off of it – hello astronauts).
Another day, another milestone. Thank you for living another day on the planet with me. Your life, just like mine, is a constant celebration of what it means to be alive: sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, but always a new and record-breaking adventure.
Because I get asked every so often, below is a chronolocial list of where I lived, and for how long, until the year of this post. Instead of me watching your eyes glaze over as I try to explain the timeline, you can now prove your love and loyalty to me by reading through it yourself.
(There will be a quiz. French school taught me strict, negative-reinforcement so for every question you get wrong, I’ll yell at you for being a conard ou connasse and strike you on the back of the head. You can thank Maître Jean-Yves for that.)
Born: Lethbridge, Alberta
We did a stint in Quebec in the midst of these years, so don’t ask me how long we lived in Lethbridge. I’m fuzzy on the details, my newborn brain is pretty much just as good at remembering things as my current brain, and if you know me at all you know I don’t have a great track-record.
2-3 year stay.
Kindergarten: Calgary, Alberta
We moved here before I started Kindergarten, possibly a couple years before. Again, retention in these years was no better than it is now. Please do not request specifics.
2-3 year stay.
Grade One: Abbotsford, British-Columbia
1 year stay.
Grade Two: Albertville, France
Technically, this was Grade One again, since I was forced to repeat for the sake of language-learning.
1 year stay.
Grade Three to Five: Fez, Morocco
After repeating Grade One in France, I skipped Grade Two here because I was ahead of all the French speakers in the Grade Two class. They bumped me up to Grade Three partway through the year. I cried in my first Grade Three class because I didn’t know how to do the homework. That’s how I made two of my best friends – pity, the binding force of all childhood nightmares!)
3 year stay.
Grade Six: Abbotsford, British-Columbia
Correspondance Learning through a French program. I had to mail all my assignments overseas to have them graded, and people still tell me I don’t know what snail-mail is like because I’m a millenial.
Grade Seven to Nine: Abbotsford, British-Columbia
But at two different schools: Grades Seven and Eight at a middle school in French Immersion, Grade Nine at a high school in French Immersion.
4 year stay.
Grade Ten Part I: Paris, France
Storytime: this is a two parter. When we first arrived in Paris, I had to do two different placement exams to assess my grade level. I ended up being bumped back to repeat Grade Nine, or 3eme Annee, the French equivalent. I started school late, in October, and dropped out after 4 months due to extreme levels of depression.
Grade Ten Part II and Eleven: Paris, France
Storytime Part II: after dropping out of the French system, I did my Grade Ten year through Abbotsford Virtual School. I had to go through another round of assessments by the French School Board to determine whether the Canadian program offered adequate education. I was approved and able to continue my Grade Eleven year in this way, social-isolation style. Yeah, I did social isolation before it was cool. Facebook was my social life. My bedroom was my life. It’s still not cool, let’s be real. It sucks for all of us.
1 year 10 month stay.
Grade Twelve and beyond: Abbotsford, British-Columbia
I returned to the same high school where I attended Grade Nine and was able to reconnect with my closest friends from those years. They got me through the transition, such as it was, and I’ve been in Abbotsford ever since. I took two years off to work, before deciding to attend college at a bible college for my first year of post-secondary education. I ended up not continuing there and switched to a continuing studies program at a different university for a year, before finding myself at my current university studying towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Graphic Design.
7 years and counting …