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A Peek Inside My Diary: Finding My Way Home in Montreal

Being in the midst of miserable midterms means something more than just binge eating and library-living: it means that first semester is halfway over. Weird, right? As a third year heading on exchange next semester, I’ll admit, it freaks me out a bit. I can’t believe that, once this semester is over, I’ll only have one more year left of the best years of my life. Sure, we all complain about how McGill screws us over and how we wish we were anywhere but McLennan, but really guys, it’s probably never going to get any better than this.

Think about it. Do you really think there’s a whole week in the real world dedicated to dressing up in onesies and chugging cheap beer from flimsy cups for bragging rights and glory? No. And if you’re ever expecting to live in a building filled with your closest friends and some of the smartest kids in the world again, you are sadly mistaken. McGill, Montreal and university in general give us opportunities we will never find anywhere else, and memories that will last longer than the cheesy-titled Facebook albums we put our never-ending Snapchat screenshots in.

It’s crazy to think back to your first trip to visit the campus, and even crazier to imagine how you survived your first day, stripped of comfort and everything you had ever known. What I love the most though, is thinking back to those bare beginnings and realizing how Montreal and McGill now feel like home. It’s for this reason that at about this time two years ago, halfway through my first semester of first year, I wrote the following about my first day in Montreal. It was inspired by the trip I took up to Mont Royal with other new students in my rez the night after my parents left, and I was truly by myself for the first time. Take a peek inside my diary, and take a walk in my shoes.

October 24/2013

Maybe it was the lights. The fluorescent pinpoints spotting over my vision, threatening to consume my focus entirely. “Bright lights, big city” is one thing, but certainly no one had warned me about the sovereignty of these synthetic galaxies.

How did I end up here? 100 feet in the air with only a cold metal bar separating me from the city of Montreal, I looked down at my home for the next four years. Mont Royal will always dog-ear an important page in my life story as the location where I waved goodbye to comfort, cash flow and childhood, and timorously welcomed independence. Surrounded by uniform introductions and vacant visages from fellow freshmen, I wondered if freedom would ever taste as saccharine as it looked in the brochures, or if family could ever be found in these unfamiliar faces.

Only a day earlier I had trekked for ceaseless hours, clammy and anxious in an overstocked IKEA warehouse on wheels. I held my breath as the GPS informed me that my destination was ahead: McGill University. My parents by my side I received a key that wasn’t to my front door, bought books that wouldn’t end up on my kitchen counter and smiled for a student ID card that I wouldn’t lose between the cracks of my living room couch. The empty warehouse was now parked 632.8 km away from where I stood. An endless street home, I bypassed the easy road.  

Soiling my sneakers as I took the path less travelled both up the mountain and towards my future, I reached the top with pride but certainly not with grace. Reaching the summit, I never once regretted my travels.

Looking out at the lights as the breeze splashed goose bumps upon my flesh, I realized that maybe home doesn’t have to be where your family lives. Perhaps it’s not where you grew up or where your mind wanders when someone asks you where you’re from. Maybe you can cry in your home, feel shame in your home or even want to go home while you are home.

I gazed out at the specks and the splatters of buildings and listened to the symphony of sounds conducted by nightfall. The city wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t sleep that night. That’s when I realized.

Maybe home is where you can kiss yourself goodnight and still wake up in the morning.

Maybe home is where your sweet tooth overwhelms your satisfaction with bitterness.

Or maybe home is just where you’ll be proud of yourself for keeping your feet on the ground, even if your shoes get dirty along the way.

I found home in Montreal, and I never want to stop finding my way home.  

To all you freshmen out there who are still finding your paths and feeling like home will forever be in the same place as your high school, I hope this gives you hope that you will get there, and reminds you of your first experiences here, as well.

And to everyone else, I hope this feels relatable, and I hope you get the chance to feel the way that I do in Montreal, because there’s nothing quite as sweet as finding your way home. 


Images obtained from Tumblr