“What the fuck have I done?” I thought as I laid awake on my tiny twin bed staring at the ceiling of my dorm room. “What was I trying to prove? Who did I think I was? I am not adventurous, I am not brave. What.the.fuck.was.I.thinking?”
I waited three days for my new roommates to arrive and for 72 hours I chastised myself for the worst decision I had ever made; the soundtrack in my head a compilation of self doubt, anger and crippling loneliness. I’d only moved 300 kilometres away from home but as I laid awake in those ikea sheets, it might as well have been 3000. I’d left everything I knew behind in search of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on anymore. I looked at pictures of my friends back home, taped to my concrete walls, and I couldn’t remember a single reason why I thought attending the University of Calgary was a good idea. “You always have to be different don’t you?” I scolded myself, “you couldn’t just be happy with the status quo.”
Deciding to move away for university seemed like a great idea at the time. I spent a year at Grant MacEwan as a commuter student, not investing any real time there or meeting many new friends. It was a good year but I wanted more. I wanted something different. Calgary was close enough for visits but far enough to gain the independence I was craving. Away I went… applied, accepted, arrived. My little dream had become reality but now I was certain that it was actually a nightmare. (Looking back, it seems ridiculous, but those three nights were some of the longest in my life.)
Eventually my roommates moved in and I was so pleasantly surprised: we drank. we talked. we clicked. (Well 3 out of 4 of us anyway…) We bonded with our quirky neighbour across the hall and over the next three years we embarked on a wild ride together. I made strong, important relationships with my new friends, I navigated my way through university (including switching my major in a mad mid semester panic), and I gained the confidence I needed through my new found independence.
We moved from the safety of our apartment style dorm to a mouse infested duplex and we dreamed together for hours on end about our futures and the people we would become. Booze, books and boys, we learned many lessons in many different facets of life. We challenged each other’s biases and we bonded over our similarities. It felt like we were on the cusp of everything and yet at times “real life” seemed so far away, we couldn’t wait for it to come.
Time has a way of romanticizing the past and erasing the hard edges of a memory. Sure, there were tears and heartbreak, loneliness and anxiety but there was so much more laughter and compassion. I can’t help but look back on my time at the University of Calgary and be amazed at how three short years could have made such an impact on the person I have become and the path that I took to get here.
As I crossed the C-train bridge and headed home after dropping off my final essay, I stopped to take a moment and soak in the view. The mountains to my right, the downtown core and iconic Calgary Tower to my left, I reflected on the scared 19 year old girl lying in that twin bed furious at herself. “This was the best decision you’ve ever made” I thought to myself, my eyes brimming with tears of joy, “You did it, you really did it.”