On a sunny morning on July 28, I was officially born in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
Two months later, we moved to Islamabad, Pakistan. We stayed there for about 2 years, my sister Elizabeth picked up Urdu quite well and when my Dad came home from work she would greet him in Urdu. I was young and have vague memories of the place. After Pakistan, we moved to Cairo, Egypt. Egypt was great, we had three turtles and lived in a really big apartment. My Dad would have Easter egg hunts at the Pyramids and I remember picking up delicious chapati bread from a local Egyptian that my sister and I both loved.
After Egypt, we moved to Ottawa, the capital of Canada. Elizabeth and I went to a bilingual school and became fluent in French. We joined swimming lessons, went to Brownies, went camping, did gymnastics and lived a normal Canadian lifestyle. Five years later my Dad got posted to Kingston, Jamaica.
Jamaica was a slice of heaven. We had a huge house with a pool and a trampoline. I remember getting the grand tour of the place and my sister and I could barely contain our excitement and immediately jumped in the pool. This was by far my most favourite post and most treasured period of my life. It was hot all the time, we swam in our pool daily, and whenever my Dad got off work he would get my sister and I to stand on the edge of the pool and do sergeant drills. When we got it wrong he pushed us in. We also played a game called “The Seven Spoons of Addis Ababa”, where he would throw in seven spoons arbitrarily in the pool and Elizabeth and I would have to retrieve them as quickly as possible. Elizabeth always won. We also visited this island called ‘Lime Quay’ every Sunday. Sometimes we would go up with a friend who owned a boat, other times we went to the local way and took a speedboat. My parents would sit by the water with their friends drinking beer while Elizabeth, my friends and I would run around the island exploring and playing. Those times were truly my best memories, thinking back on them now fills me with complete joy. It was perfect. Leaving Jamaica was extremely difficult, as a family we grew to love everything about that country. We made great friends and had a dog we absolutely loved, but my Dad was posted out to Accra, Ghana so we had to leave. We bid everyone goodbye, including our dog which was heartbreaking, and made our way to our next post.
Ghana was more challenging for us. I suppose because we were teenagers and it was much harder for us to make friends. Also, our sibling rivalry intensified. We both went to an international school and were not well liked, a lot of my classmates who were Ghanian would blame me for slavery. It was a strange time for me, I didn’t fit it and no one seemed to like me. I spent a year there and eventually became friends with two girls, a Brit and another from South Africa. People started to come around and became nicer to me as they realized I was no threat, just an awkward teenager. I remember one Ghanian girl playing with my hair and revelling in awe at the different tones of blonde that came out from the sun. That made me smile. One day after school my Dad told me he got a good deal so Elizabeth and I were going to be enrolled in Shawnigan Lake Boarding school, which was in Vancouver. I flat out refused but lost the case, we were going.
I spent three years there and it was probably one of the most challenging parts of my life. I was paralyzingly shy and had really low self-esteem. Living at your high school with bullies and humiliation on a daily basis forced me to toughen up. I remember on my first week in grade 8, I was late for sign in so as punishment I was forced to get up on the dinner table at breakfast and loudly sing ‘im a little teapot’ to the entire school as they laughed and pointed. The lists of embarrassments I had to go through as ‘punishment’ were endless, as were the hurtful words that anyone in high school experiences. It was a very hard time for me but by grade 9 I met and befriended two girls that would save my boarding school experience from being gut-wrenching awful to entertaining and bearable. They were twins from Edmonton and had that kind of quirk and unusualness that I so easily identified with. We did not fit in, and the three of us became inseparable. I wouldn’t have been able to handle boarding school without them. Still, to this day, I have not been as close friends to anyone else since. We were together through thick and thin. During my three years at boarding school, my parents left Ghana and were posted to Ukraine. I never lived in Ukraine but I spent my summers there. It wasn’t a very friendly place but then again I never really got close to any Ukrainians, nor did I bother to learn about their culture.
Following Ukraine, my Dad was posted back to Ottawa. We left Shawnigan and were enrolled in a public high school. It was my first real heartbreak, saying goodbye to my two best friends, who I felt became a part of me. My grandmother picked me up from school and I cried the entire ride from Shawnigan all the way back to her house. I was absolutely hysterical.We made plans to visit each other all the time, but a part of me knew it would never be the same. Although I am still friends with them today, our current lives take precedence and maintaining contact with friends become increasingly difficult. When we got to Ottawa my Dad got a house right behind a school. Heartbroken and miserable, Elizabeth and I dragged ourselves to school every day attempting to make friends in grade 11. Elizabeth had a more difficult than me, I luckily stumbled upon two people who became my saving grace: Maryse and Eric. They were the reason why I bothered to go to school. Although school in Ottawa was far easier, no one bullied me, no one paid any attention to me, and best of all I didn’t live on campus.
After graduation, I went to a college and studied Pre Media and Communications. This was an amazing year for me. School was easy and I met my very first boyfriend who was studying radio broadcasting. He was a musician with a wicked sense of humour. He was so hilarious I would often end up on the floor laughing. He rented out an apartment with his roommate and his roommate’s cat named Felix. Since it was so close to the school we would go over often and get high. I loved his way of appreciating art and music, I remember getting high with him and laying on the bed listening intently to a song by Mogwai or The Shins or another obscure band he knew about in complete silence appreciating every part of the song. His love for music was infectious, we went to lots of different music festivals and he even taught me how to play a song on the guitar. I loved his spontaneity. We would take road trips to Montreal just to see a band and return that night. We went to a Radiohead concert once and it downpoured but it didn’t bother him, he ran away and came back with two ponchos. We laughed, danced and sang along. It was a great memory and that band will always remind me of our relationship. But, we broke up. I remember not too long after breaking up, listening to his radio show and hearing him dedicate “Australia” by The Shins to me. It was probably one of the sweetest things anyone had ever done for me.
I ended up graduating with a certificate in media and communications and still had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. I knew I liked travelling and a lot of my good friends were joining Travel and Tourism, so I did too. Two years later I graduated with my diploma still unable to figure out what I wanted to do. But during my years at Algonquin, I was working at Sears and my colleague was studying psychology at university. I couldn’t get enough of all that she was learning and found myself willingly reading her textbooks. I ended up applying for my BA in psychology at Carleton University, and to my surprise, got in. I’ve never been an academic, I rarely did well in school. Other than art and P.E. I didn’t dedicate myself. I never felt smart, even though being smart was something I so badly wished I was. I desperately wanted to, and still do, be that type of effortlessly smart person that just knows so much about everything and can just as easily pick up information and have it stick. I find intelligent people to be extremely attractive. During my time in university, I met a shy, withdrawn guy who was the polar opposite of my college boyfriend. He was quiet and disliked being the center of attention. I fell hard for him. But initially it wasn’t mutual, he was in the process of getting over a break-up. Time passed and my impatience eventually won him over. However, I learned that sometimes there’s a reason to be patient and sometimes you need to back away to allow things to play their course. He was an amazing person, a fantastic cook, an amazing listener, an incredible athlete and extremely hardworking. We dated for three years until last year I made the decision to leave Ottawa behind and start a life in Beijing, China. It wasn’t my initial plan though, I was scared to leave the known for the unknown and told everyone I would stay for only three months. But clearly, somewhere in my subconscious, I realized my relationship with him was beginning to wither and I wasn’t growing anymore as a person. However, he will always remain to be one of the most important people in my life. He helped me during a time when life was at it’s worst in my family and provided me with a refuge and sanctuary where I could go, unwind and relax. He listened to me cry and did whatever he could to help ease the pain I went through while I watched my family experience some of the most horrible problems. I really owe it to him for getting me through that period of my life.
If you have read my previous post then you probably know that during my first year in Beijing my older sister died. It was on October 13, 2013. It still hurts me greatly to write this and I still have so much healing to do. I have realized in the past four months I have gone through incredible extents to distract myself from the pain. I’m not sure how to deal with a loss like this, I’ve never had someone this close die. I am learning and navigating my way, day by day. I have realized that writing my feelings seems to be the best type of release for me. That is why I started this blog. To write and to release. Because I tried so many other unhealthy things to avoid the pain, this is the most constructive and positive one.