young woman standing in stairwell, medium length dark hair, orange and white top, grey sweater and jeans

the hardest thing i’ve ever done

When I was 5 years old, I moved with my parents from Toronto to Bermuda. I grew up on the island, went to school there, made lots of close friends, and then once I graduated high school, had to leave for postsecondary education. Bermuda has complicated immigration processes, and for me this meant that even though I am the daughter of a Bermudian, since I wasn’t born there I don’t have citizenship. While it is a path I can pursue, I think I already knew even then that while Bermuda had been my entire childhood, it might not be where my future was headed. It didn’t make leaving any easier though. I cried for hours the night before I left. Why would I want to leave my safe, warm home?

When I was 18 years old I moved to North Bay, Ontario where I attended Nipissing University. I lived there for 5 years and did more growing in that time than I ever thought possible. I had started university this painfully shy person who didn’t feel all that worthy of anything, and thanks to the friendship of some truly amazing people, I came out of my shell and started to really appreciate myself and the world around me. This sounds corny, but it felt like a golden era. I went to a university I adored, worked two jobs with co-workers who felt like family, and lived in a quirky, ancient apartment with some of my best friends. Coming from an island that no longer really seemed like home, I felt like I had finally found a place that was made for me.

When I was 23 years old, one of my jobs was eliminated, most of my friends were finished school and were moving away, and I had been accepted to Georgian College for a post-graduate certificate program. While I knew it was time, I still didn’t want to go. I didn’t feel ready. It was hard enough leaving the home I had grown up in, but now leaving the home I had built for myself felt like a sick joke. The thought of starting over again made me so anxious I couldn’t sleep some nights.

What I didn’t realize then was that I wasn’t starting over from scratch. When I moved to Barrie, I lived with the family of my best friend who I had met at Nipissing. They made me feel at home and treated me like a second daughter. On nights when I felt lonely, I could text or call my wonderful friends from Bermuda who I am thankfully still close with. When I started at Georgian, I didn’t have to be the same awkward, shy person I was when I started at Nipissing because I’d done it before. I’d already learned the skill sets for making new friends and being at a new school as an adult.

Now at the age of 25, with a good job and amazing friends and my whole future ahead of me, I know that it was those hardest things I ever had to do that made me who I am. When leaving a place is as hard as it was for me to leave Bermuda and then North Bay, it means that those places, and the beautiful people you leave behind, matter. I am so lucky to have lived in two places that matter so much to me. I’m sure that when it comes time for me to leave Barrie, I’ll have a whole new set of anxieties about starting over, and I won’t want to go. But maybe I’ll come back and read this post to remind myself that I’ve done this all before, and that everything always seems to turn out better than expected.

– Kirsten, planner, cautious optimist, hopeless romantic, cheap wine connoisseur