September 2014

The Day of Lasts

As the Scottawa adventures came to an end, Jack and I decided to revisit some of my favourite places. We spent my last day in Ottawa wandering down-town while reminiscing and telling stories about the people and places that we passed.aDSCF1300
We people-watched at the Second Cup on Bank Street which should be renamed The No.1 Place To Find Character Inspiration For Your Next Short Story. It’s a bizarre little haven of people living through good and bad and finding comfort in other strangers. I have witnessed the oddest and most life-affirming scenes in that coffee shop.

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And then we headed for Venus Envy. A place which reassures me that there are in fact other people who think like me and have similar convictions and beliefs. And yes, it is a sex shop. But it is an explosion of intersectional feminism and queer pride and sex-positive education for people of all genders, sexualities, races and abilities. I’m in love with Venus Envy… and I’m in love with everything they stand for.

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Among other favourites, I introduced Jack to David’s Tea, Miss Tiggy Winkles, The Papery, the weird cat shop in the Glebe (with a giant cat lounging around), and Mags & Fags.

But as the memories of these places already begin to lose their crispness in my mind, as faces grow pixelated and days blend together, I know that one kind of memory will always remain of Canada; the lessons I have learned there.

I came to this realisation as Jack and I stumbled upon an old memory of mine; a beautiful stone bridge overlooking the Rideau Canal where I once had my heart broken. But instead of looking at this bridge and only seeing the harsh memories that it represented, I decided to embrace a new memory there and see the bridge for all that it was; good and bad, just like life. And that is a lesson I had only begun to learn when I arrived in Canada thirteen months ago.

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For me, this year abroad has encompassed all the things which make life so incredibly unique, valuable and beautiful. I have learned difficult lessons and put my faith in people whom I should have thought twice about. I have learned that people can be cruel regardless of whether they mean to be or not. And that nobody comes from the same place; emotionally, mentally or physically. We must learn when to cut people a little slack and when it’s time to cut ties with them entirely. I have learned that everyone is born from different experiences but we can refuse to be defined by our circumstances and instead choose to feel, act and think differently.

But I believe the most important lesson I have learned is that no one is ever truly alone and you can find friends if you look hard enough and open your heart wide enough. You may think this friendship will never work and then discover that it’s one of the sweetest blessings in your life.

I’ve discovered that you can find friends in the strangest places and in the end it doesn’t even matter where you found each other, only that you did.

I spent my last evening in the company of friends; an odd handful of people whom would otherwise have never met each other. And seeing them together affirmed my belief that you can make a life for yourself anywhere, you can fall in love with any place, as long as you open your heart wide enough and smile at the world long enough.

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Canada was my home for so long and I experienced a great deal of life there. But although I am back in Scotland now to finish my degree and my Ottawa life has come to end. Let’s just say that I do have one Canadian adventure which is just beginning… And it only took all year.

Love Jill

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