Twenty-Seven — Why Are We Here?

Ginger is doing a weekly prompted bloggity thingeroo .. you can participate too, if you want! I am going to answer both prompts because the first one is a very short answer.

Prompt one: Why did you start blogging?
A: I started blogging because I wanted people to read my words.

Prompt two: What is the best decision you ever made?

So much waffling. What IS the best decision I ever made? Moving to this townhouse, to the city of New Westminster, which seemed like an OK decision at the time, actually turned out to be a great decision. Having children was a pretty good decision, but I’m not sure it was the best ever. Career-wise, there haven’t been many great decisions, other than quitting the job with the creepy boss.

I think the best decision I EVER made was to move out on my own when I was 19.

It was 1993 and I had just finished my second year of university. I lived in Burnaby and went to school at UBC, so my bus trip was an hour each way. I spent a lot of time on the bus, scribbling in my journal or listening to my big, yellow Walkman and staring out the window at Hastings, Granville, Broadway, 10th Ave.

I was starting to really resent my overprotective father. While I was in high school, I complained bitterly but never really rebelled against the house rules. But when I got to UBC and started meeting new people, people I hadn’t known for five or ten years already, people who listened to grunge and electronica and folk music instead of top 40, people who wore cut off jeans, tights, combat boots, people who dyed their hair and pierced their faces and had tattoos and wrote poetry and made films…well, I desperately wanted to be a part of it. That life. The life that started with me being able to stay out past 10 pm.

In June, 1993, I blew away all the treaty negotiations. I decided it would be a good idea to celebrate writing my last exam of the year by drinking a lot of vodka and grapefruit juice in Stanley Park with my friend. Obliteratedly drunk I arrived home well before curfew but that didn’t matter as much as the fact that I was dropped off by a strange man in a pickup truck who had rescued my friend and me from the railroad tracks below Gastown. Apparently we had been wandering on and off the tracks, my friend had a hammer, and the guy with the truck –Bill, I think?– took pity on us and drove us home.

Whooee! was I in trouble. And rightly so. I had to go to my brand new part-time job at the cheese shop the next day with a wicked hangover and that was nearly punishment enough. As part of the fallout from the “discussion” that ensued, I declared that I would move out of the house that summer and get my own place. Dad said, “No you can’t.” Having a bit more than a little of his stubborn blood in my own veins, that was all I needed to hear.

In mid-July, my friend Joanna and I moved into our two-bedroom suite in a house at Main and 22nd Street. A month later, Sarah joined us and we were an amazingly big-haired trio of roommates for a year, after which we went through roommates and new apartments for a few years before settling down with our significant others, to whom we are all now married.

When I moved out I didn’t have any real plan, other than I would work at my job selling cheese and pay my rent and tuition and for food and drinks. Jobs came and went, tuition got paid, albeit more slowly than it had when Dad was paying it, and it took me an extra couple of years to get the credits to graduate, but I did. Eventually.

I learned how to survive; how to cook, clean, give notice on an apartment, quit a job, look for a new one, accept the kindness of strangers, be good to my friends, manage money (eventually..this was a very steep learning curve), maintain the relationships I needed to maintain and release the rest.

What I experienced living on my own made me into the person I am today; someone who understands that ordinary people make mistakes and deserve forgiveness and second, third, fourth chances, myself included. Someone who isn’t scared of smelly people, who sees something interesting in every conversation. Someone who has at least seen how the other half lives and knows how close she came to that poverty line, how close she was to crossing it.

I was young and stupid and lucky. I could easily have ended up on the other side of that line. If my parents hadn’t forgiven me, mellowed, held their tongues, invited me for dinner every few weeks, helped me move. If my friends hadn’t lent me money or fed me booze when I needed it, if, to start with, I hadn’t been young and white and educated, with all the privilege that those afford a person.

God watches over drunks and idiots; double-plus if you are both?

The most important thing I learned was that the real world is indeed a dangerous, wonderful place, and that I could handle it.

And the place where I hold all those lessons; the practical ones like how to budget and the people ones like how to talk to people on the bus, is the place I will draw from when my kids are out in the world and I’m scared for them. The world is a dangerous, wonderful place, and they can handle it.

4 thoughts on “Twenty-Seven — Why Are We Here?

  1. oilandgarlic

    I completely relate to your best decision. I did something similar in my early 20s. Luckily my parents forgave me, too. As a parent now, I hope to remember how important it is to forgive mistakes and keep the lines of communication open. Love the line “God watches over drunks and idiots!”

  2. Ginger

    This is so fantastic.
    I have long thought that one of the best best things my parents ever did was tell me that even if I had gone to school in my hometown, they wanted me to move out of the house. I was told in no uncertain terms that I would not be allowed to live at home–because they understood that I needed to learn who I was and how I fit in to the world without them there watching over me and doing all the heavy lifting.
    Living on your own teaches you so much about the world, and SO much about yourself.

    1. branch Post author

      Yay for your parents. It’s got to be hard to kick your kid out, but I fully intend to do it too (as early as next year! ha ha! kidding!)

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