Many moons ago, I ran away to Alberta. I remember being a terrified 18-year-old, alternately folding t-shirts and wiping tears. My little sister Beatrice, 8-years-old at the time, sat at the foot of my bed staring at me with big wet eyes. She didn’t want me to go. But I had to go.
A few months prior, I had found my acceptance letter to the Katimavik program in a dark, dirty crevice. Someone had probably tossed it on top of the fridge–a bad habit in this family–and it must have fallen onto the floor. Luckily, my father had forced me to clean behind the fridge just in time to see the letter and to embrace my fate.
I couldn’t believe I was about to spend nine months travelling Canada, volunteering in small communities, and living with ten peers and a project leader. I had never been away from my family for so long. Nine months seemed like an eternity to me.
But I had to prove myself. I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart, Dave–a frequent occurrence in our four year whirlwind of pubescent purgatory–and I was determined to be something more than someone’s girlfriend. I was restless and desperate to run out toward new horizons. To find the meaning of Fabiola.
“But Alberta is so far away!” cried Bebe, unfolding one of my t-shirts. She was still a little girl then, with baby fat and pink barrettes.
There was a pain in my chest. It hurt like fear, guilt and exhilaration. I remember telling her that everything was going to be ok, that I’d be back before she knew it.
The year I did Katimavik ended up being the best year of my life.
Now, I am 23-years-old and, again, I’m preparing myself to head out West. My sister, now 13, still looks at me with big wet eyes, but she’s losing the last of her baby fat. Now she’s big enough to share my t-shirts and sneaky enough to hide the ones she doesn’t want me to take.
When I told her I was going to UBC for my Master of Journalism, she got up from the kitchen table and locked herself in her room. I sat there with a familiar pain in my chest remembering how she begged me not to leave her again. Not the year she goes to highschool. Not ever.
“I don’t mean to leave you, Bebe.” I say softly to myself.
I close my eyes and imagine the mountains…the vast ocean, glistening in the sunlight…the rain…the endless rain.
Now I have Andrew to worry about…but this time, we aren’t breaking up. I can use the word “love” without blushing. This time, the pain stems from the fact that I actually see myself with him, though not geographically. At least not for a while.
(But what about my mother, my father, my brother, my grandma, my cousins, my pets, my friends, my…)
I have to do this for myself.
But it’s not easy to go when I’m not running away.