1. Racing home from school so that you could go out with your friends to play hidey or rounders or hang about outside Safeway on your micro-scooter because you were BADASS.
2. Asking your parents if you could stay out a bit later because “everyone else” was, knowing full well that “everyone else” was asking their parents the same thing.
3. Thinking that there was no pain that couldn’t be fixed with a plaster and a warm smile.
5. Swapping crisps with your friends at “playtime” while you compared lunch-boxes. Hearing some absolute chancer say, “I’ll give you my apple for your Twix,” as if that were a perfectly legitimate trade off then giving that bitch some SERIOUS nine-year-old side eye.
6. Climbing trees, grazing your knees and never being afraid of falling.
7. The heart-wrenching, soul-splitting dilemma caused by the question, “who’s your best friend?” If you gave two names, your interrogator would furrow her brow and narrow her eyes, ruthlessly indifferent to the battle raging within you. Then she’d say: “Yeah, but who’s your BEST best friend?”
PLEASE DO NOT MAKE ME CHOOSE, I WILL GIVE YOU ALL OF MY POKÉMON CARDS AND ALL OF MY FRUIT WINDERS FOR THE REST OF ETERNITY.
8. Sleeping over at your friend’s house because that was a huge event in itself and not because you took too many shots and she didn’t trust you to make it home.
This was even more exciting if it was a group sleepover where you all brought your sleeping bags and piled onto someone’s bedroom floor and watched terrible movies all night. There was always one person who couldn’t stop laughing even though everyone else was finally drifting off. If you’re struggling to remember who that person was, it was probably you.
8. Paper chains, hopscotch, “sticky willies,” frog-shaped bins, homework jotters, books with pictures and everything else about school that was so safe; so familiar.
9. Feeling like the smallest and simplest achievements were huge, important accomplishments.
10. Needing very little to make you truly happy.
11. Believing that no matter how down you felt or how hurt you were or how bad things seemed, tomorrow would always be better.
I like the way it feels to have the comforting weight of a book in my hands on the train and in my bed.
I like the way the thumb of my right hand pins the left page of my book in place while my third finger balances its spine and the others spread to cradle its word-worn wings.
I like tripping through tangled tales as sentences and similes grasp at my ankles like vines. Sometimes, they strike quickly, whipping my feet from the ground and lashing the air from my lungs. But often, they wait quietly, sleepily pulling me in to the parched, patient pages where they will bind me and keep me.
I like when the last words in each line of a poem fall in a different place on the page, leaving a meandering curve of thoughts that snake silently down the paper.
I like hearing sounds through someone else’s ears; seeing sights through someone else’s eyes; feeling hope and joy and fear through someone else’s heart.
I like pressing down corners of pages to mark the place of an unknown word to search for later or a perfect fragment to savour forever.
I like knowing that although what I am reading is not true, it is real.
But most of all, I like being someone else, somewhere else – even if it’s only for fifteen minutes while I eat lunch at my desk.
Thank you for being my wing-men. Not with the whole “helping me pick up guys at the bar” thing, but with the whole, y’know, “life” thing.
Thanks for letting thirteen-year-old me spend your money on octopus trousers and fingerless fishnet gloves from Tammy while most of the other girls were spending their parents’ money on bows and frills and fluffy things.
Thanks for giving me books instead of video games; time with my grandparents instead of time with a babysitter; confidence and belief instead of caution and doubt.
Thanks for always knowing the right drink for every occasion (coffee when I’m tired, Irn-Bru when I’m hungover, tea when I’m unwell and Jack Daniel’s when I’ve had a long day). Thanks for never putting the milk in before the teabag and for knowing that adding sugar to coffee is SACRILEGE.
Thanks for responding to my inappropriate jokes with equally – or more – disgusting comments instead of admonishing me. Thanks for being relatively cool about that time you were on holiday and a wall fell down in our house because I had a massive party which I advertised on Facebook. Thanks for never letting me advertise a party on Facebook ever again.
Thanks for liking Bruce Springsteen and Buddy’s burgers and Breaking Bad. Thanks for knowing how important it is to NEVER DELETE ANYTHING RUSSELL BRAND RELATED from the Sky+ planner.
Dad – thanks for knowing all the words to “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and turning the radio up to full volume so we can rap them loudly in the car together. Mum – thanks for looking on with thinly veiled amusement and tutting with mock disapproval.
Thanks for missing me so much that you now have Skype, WhatsApp and FaceTime installed on your laptops, phones and iPads. Thanks for having no idea how to use any of them and constantly sending me accidental crotch shots.
Thanks for keeping me in line but pushing me forwards; for holding my hair back and keeping my chin up.
Thanks for my love of reading, my appreciation of nature and my ability to drop a few pounds without losing anything from my chest. I got all of this from you, and so much more. (Well, maybe I just have my mum to thank for that last one – AM I RIGHT, LORNA?!)
Thanks for caring, for loving, for sharing, for giving, for learning, for teaching, for laughing, for believing.
Thanks for being my parents, my mentors and my best friends; now, then and always.
In early September last year, I squeezed my life into a suitcase, dragged it to Glasgow International Airport and boarded a plane to Toronto. Now, I’ve been in Canada for over five months and I still feel like I did the first day I stepped off of the plane and into a new home, a new job – a new life.
On paper, Canada and the UK have a lot in common. We speak the same language, share the same Head of State (props to my homegirl, Lizzy, for keepin’ it real in Buckingham Palace) and with the legal drinking age being 19 in most of Canada, it would appear that, legally speaking, we share a similar attitude towards alcohol. This was one of the first things I checked before deciding to come here and I am not proud of what that says about my priorities but beer is an important part of my life. Okay? Okay.
Along with a mutual appreciation of alcohol, Canada and the UK also enjoy their fair share of eccentric politicians. If Rob Ford – the crack-smoking, (allegedly) colleague-groping Mayor of Toronto – hasn’t met Boris Johnson yet, then someone needs to make this happen IMMEDIATELY.
Despite these similarities, the reality is that Canada is very different from the UK. You pick up on these differences when you least expect to; when you’re wandering through the city or ordering dinner in a restaurant or riding your moose through Toronto and rubbing maple syrup all over yourself while bellowing, “CANADA, EH?!” at the top of your lungs (because that’s what we do here – swiftly followed by profuse apologies and a friendly game of ice hockey, of course).
Once you notice them, these trivial little differences have a habit of wriggling deep into the darkest corners of your backpack and burrowing in with the ticket stubs and travel cards you’ve collected along the way. They remind you that neither your growing closeness with your new friends, the sense of comfort you feel in your new home nor the dwindling number of times you get lost each week will change the fact that you are not from here.
That somewhere, thousands of miles away, you have a mother, a father and a brother; uncles and aunts and cousins; best friends and good friends and old friends and new friends, all of whom are living their lives without you, just like you’re living yours without them – as if this was what you had always done.
Yes, there’s Skype. And there’s Facebook. Not to mention WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and email. But sometimes these things – the ones that are designed to bring people together – are the very things that make you feel even further away from home.
People don’t stop asking where you’re from. It takes you a while to adjust to the idea that you have the foreign accent, not them – or maybe you never quite adjust to that idea at all.
You lifted yourself away from everything you knew and planted your raw roots in this strange area. You tethered yourself to it with things you could not help but carry with you. You were uncertain and incongruous – you were new. You were so close to the roads and the people and the places that formed this city’s landscape; so close to becoming part of that, but you weren’t quite sure where to start.
Gradually, the tenuous ties that keep your roots just beneath the surface begin to strengthen and push through soil. The familiar sight of your apartment door after a long day at work becomes a source of pleasant relief. You start to notice if the homeless man who sleeps in the doorway of your favourite coffee shop isn’t there when you walk by in the morning. You learn how to miss the rush of commuters on the subway and you never allow yourself to travel to work without a book.
Occasionally, just when you think you’ve got the hang of it all, you mistake a quarter for a nickel or you ask for chips and are handed a bag of crisps. Perhaps you even try to pay a co-worker a compliment on her trousers and end up feeling embarrassed because you have just said, “I love your pants!” out loud to someone and you can’t quite distract yourself from thinking about the implications such a statement would have at home.
That feeling of being far away – of being “from somewhere else” – it doesn’t dissipate over time.
But it’s that same feeling that drives you to do things you would never do at home; to go places you have never seen before and to forget what you think you have and focus on the opportunity and possibility of what you could find.