A love letter to my adopted home town

We are homesick most for the places we have never known.

Home.

I was born and raised in another city, in a classic red brick house, on a street that is the epitome of suburbia. If you are as fortunate as I am, you had one house to call home for your whole life. A single location that is the vault of all of your memories that are the foundation of your current self. I remember  learning to ride a bike on my neighbour’s driveway- skinned knees a testament to the power of gravity. I remember mom’s famous banana chocolate chip muffins. I remember my short lived “career” delivering Sears catalogues, dad faithfully pushing the wheelbarrow when those big Christmas catalogues came around.  I remember endless summer days spent in the pool, the only one in my group of friends with the chlorine oasis. I remember, I remember, I remember…

But then the “Born and Raised” days of my youth reached an end, a new chapter in the Book of Life was about to start- “Growing Up”.

I think that many would argue that growing up is what childhood is all about. I suffered through the literal growing pains of feeling my bones getting longer (perhaps my bones didn’t get the ‘societal norms for a girl’ message and kept chugging away until I reached the lofty height of six foot…). But during my Born and Raised days I was never a unique and independent creature, I was defined by choices that were influenced by my parents (all of  which I am utterly and completely grateful for, I love you so much Mom and Dad). Growing Up, I have come to realize, is to discover who you truly are as a person.

I am the first to admit that I believe in the grand romances that Hollywood has promised  us. I never saw it coming, but at the tender age of 17 I was struck with Cupid’s arrow in the most unexpected way possible- I fell in love with a university. And much to my mother’s sadness, this would take me away from home. Away from that red brick house, away from the memories of youth.

University was a vortex. I became a Gael, I bled Blue-Gold-Red. I shouted ridiculous chants in Gaelic. I survived coed bathrooms, caf food, and the weight of being 100% responsible for my own self. I laughed until I cried, I cried until I wanted to give up. I stayed up too late, and got up too early. I met the most amazing people who filled my heart with so much love I thought I would explode. 249 became my new favourite number. I was a nursing student, overworked and underappreciated. I learned my profession. I learned the nitty gritties of how the human body works, how to take a blood pressure, how to ask a perfect stranger without blinking an eye when they had their last bowel movement.

I loved university and didn’t think life could get any better. But then university ended. My best friends in the world, the rocks of the last four years of my life, left. I had to become a grown-up in a city that I thought I knew so well, but really I had only scratched the surface.

I became a Real Nurse. I was now going to get paid bi-weekly to do something that before I was doing on my own dime. I now had a career. I no longer had teachers to hold my hands, or a preceptor to guide me. I was to be responsible not only for myself but now for the lives of others. The first few months were hard. I felt like a ship who had lost my mooring and was now lost at sea.

But slowly, something amazing happened- I was welcomed into a work family. I was invited to social events, I was privy to workplace gossip, I got friend requests on FB. I could do this, I could make this work… A new stage of life in Kingston was about to begin.

My work family became the centre of my universe. I came to know a select few of my coworkers on a level more intimate and more precious than friendship. Nursing has a way of creating unshakable bonds. We ate breakfast together after working twelve hour nite shifts- I became the President of my own personal Breakfast Club.  We went out way late, nites becoming blurs of memory and time. We bonded over a love of cats. We went for long walks and every topic under the sun was discussed. We developed inside jokes. We celebrated each other’s accomplishments and life milestones. We consoled each other. We cheered each other on. Though I wandered away from the home floor, my heart never strayed far. You know who you are, I love you all so much.

I fell even more in love with Kingston. I never saw myself staying here this long, but Kingston had a tight hold on my heart. A predetermined love affair of four years turned into seven and a half. I learned the best place to get a sandwich. The best times to go to the gym and the grocery store. I came to have favourite restaurants and bars. I became fondly attached to certain bartenders and local shop clerks. I got a local library card. I made a half-hearted attempt at an Instagram account for the dogs around town that I fawned over. Lake Ontario became my primary source of solace and peace, I found the best secret spots to sit. I reveled in secret and not-so-secret crushes. I had my heart broken. I paid my own utility bill. I tried to keep a tidy apartment that was 100% my own domain. I had my first very own pet, the true love of my life. The Kingston Whig became my news. I kept updated on all things Kingston through Twitter. I had an opinion on the going-ons around town. My feet took me on many adventures, the streets of downtown as clear as if they were marked on the back of my hands. Though I originally fell in love with a university, I soon came to fall in love with a whole city. Kingston became my adopted home town. I Grew Up in Kingston.

And now with greatest sadness I may have ever felt, I am coming to say goodbye to Kingston…

“They say home is where the heart is
but my heart is wild and free
So am I homeless
Or just heartless?
Did I start this?
Did it start me?”

And with a wild and free heart, the world calls my name. No I couldn’t just move to Toronto, or back to Ottawa. I had to seek out the farthest place I could go.  What’s the next chapter after Growing Up I come to ask myself? My fingers flutter over the keyboard because I am short on words that accurately describe what I am feeling. I am so grateful for every moment I have spent here, and it feels like I am betraying the city that has taken me in as one of its own. I will be back one day. I know this to be true, I can feel it in my long stretched out bones.

Home.

Kingston you have become home.