When I first moved to Vancouver, Google Maps was my best friend.
I mean this in multiple senses of the word because: A) The city confused the hell out of me and B) I didn’t really know anyone.
Having the ability to hop in my car and drive away from my eight-by-ten, concrete walled jail cell of a residence room, was a bit of solace in a very lonely first six months. I filled my tiny mini-fridge with fresh fruit and pre-prepared food to avoid the lonely slog to the dining hall and tried to cover the cold concrete with happy photos but never actually felt at home. When I left campus, I racked up a data bill like no other, using Google Maps as a vice to counter the panic I used to feel turning down the wrong road in this city. It was a time filled with a lot of introspection, hesitant perseverance and more than a few bathroom cries.
Now I find myself almost two years later, reflecting on how much things have changed since then and I want to reach back in time, give nineteen-year-old Noelle a little squeeze on the shoulder and tell her:
“Just you wait and see how good it’s gonna get.”
When I was a fresh newcomer to this city and this life, I was so determined that I would find my people almost immediately. I scrambled to find the type of interactions usually tied to the tales of those moving to new places but things felt forced, uncomfortable and just genuinely didn’t fit.
I will always be so thankful to the little voice in the back of my mind that told me to line up for puppy therapy ~by myself~ two months into my semester, because otherwise my life would be missing the massive, sparkly puzzle pieces that are my university girlfriends, the first friends I made that semester and the ones who have made my life infinitely brighter. I owe everything to the girls who saw something in me that day and continue to help me grow into the person I want to be.
In January of this year, I had made a deal with myself that I wasn’t going to make resolutions, because to me it seems to have become a practice stuffed with empty promises and inevitable letdowns. I did however, allow myself to jot down a few attainable goals and aspirations I could slowly chip away at during the new year, ideas that I felt would help fill some of the gaps I was still seeing in my Vancouver life, a year and a half in.
“Find a community, find your tribe”
Focusing on healing from my injury kept me away from my rugby team and although I would always be able to rely on my close girlfriends, I missed the feeling that came with having a big group where I just fit. Allowing myself to try different activities and branch out into several different communities put me on the right path towards discovering that new tribe, but a lot of the time I still didn’t feel like much was sticking. I was seeking a tribe based around a multitude of single interests and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I found what I was really bound to latch onto, was a group of individuals interwoven, but way too extraordinary to simply place into a single category.
And I want to take a moment to express a little gratitude for those who burst into my life all at once.
The ones I met on St. Patrick’s day at a party where I felt instantly comfortable, although stone-cold sober. The following weeks of considerable banter, group bedroom chats at house parties, sunset beers and 2am gastown stumblings have allowed me to believe that sometimes the best things don’t necessarily require time, just memories and a dry sense of humour.
The ones who helped me rediscover my love of skiing, who didn’t care that I was a little rusty and watched me fall on my face off jumps and rails. Thank you for pushing me to be a little bolder, reinforcing friendships, and sharing chairlifts and beers with me.
The ones I met when we were all dressed in gold and bedsheets, the ones who made my birthday an incredibly blurry series of belly laughs I wish I could remember more of. Skipping past the small talk and straight into the drunk swapping of sexual war stories is the shit I live for.
To the one who hit the road with me, who dealt with three days of damp clothes and snoring bunkmates and hurricane-force winds. Sharing beach burritos and bottles of wine all the while figuring out just how many parts of ourselves overlapped, was an absolutely perfect start to summer and I wouldn’t have changed a single moment of it.
Finally, the one who made my last week in town one I had been waiting on for a long time, who made me feel comfortable and happy and a lot less pleased to go. You made a difficult day exciting and put an easy smile on my face much quicker than I had expected. You’ve made me feel like my leaving isn’t abandoning, but maybe instead just incentive to come back sooner.
It wasn’t until this week that it hit me just how much everything around me had shifted in such a short period of time. Things finally felt as if they were coming together, like I had spent months building off good habits and following my gut – therefore discovering a path that felt right. School had wrapped itself up nicely and allowing myself to feel proud of the work I put in felt like a good reward in the end. I spent the week prior beaming about nabbing the job I’ve been waiting for for years, running off the high of what is to come in the following months.
The overwhelming rush of gratitude hadn’t truly hit me until yesterday when I looked at the people around me and realized just how amazing things have become, thanks to those who ran full force into my life all at once.
A day buzzed off of caffeine and sangria, soaking up the sun on long walks and ugly-laughing over popsicles.
A day waking up and going to bed with the same smile on my face from the day before.
A day that told me the difference between those who say “congrats” and those who say “I’m so incredibly proud of you” when I talk about my new job – reminding me that these are the ones who believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.
A day that showed me how Calgary is my hometown but Vancouver is now my home.
I have my favourite places in the city, I have my handful of good coffee shops where the baristas know my name and I no longer have to use Google Maps when I drive.
But honestly, none of it would matter if I wasn’t able to spend my time with the people in this city who have built me. I’m grateful for days so filled with happiness and confidence in where I’m headed.
Although driving back to my hometown leaves my heart a little heavy knowing the next couple months will look a lot different than the last, I count myself lucky to have enough light in my life to feel blue about putting those parts on hold for a bit.
Forever thankful for people who jump into our lives head first and are more than happy to stick around for a while.