Haven away from home

Well folks, it’s mid-November and this is my second-to-last column, so I thought I’d make it an especially personal instalment. Here’s the story of how I discovered what is rapidly becoming my favourite place in the Vancouver area: MBC 2900, The Peak offices.

I moved to Vancouver for love. That’s not as romantic as it might sound. In fact, this move has been and continues to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m young, independent, and non-committal to a fault — leaving my life in Chicago to follow a guy to a foreign country was never a part of my plan.

He had been in Vancouver for a year before I decided to join him and, when I did make the decision, I made it suddenly and irresponsibly. I was tired of being cautious and afraid and, although I had no plan at all, I jumped into Vancouver.

Almost a year ago, I flew to the city jobless and permit-less. I moved into my boyfriend’s one bedroom apartment in Kits and the clock started ticking: technically, I was allowed to be in Canada as a visitor for six months.

November and December 2012 were miserable. I couldn’t work without a work permit; I couldn’t obtain a work permit without a job offer; I couldn’t get an interview without already having a work permit . . . it was a vicious cycle.

School seemed the perfect solution to my loneliness.

I started applying to graduate programs but my idleness was driving me insane. I had no friends and no real means of making friends. The weather was dismal, our apartment was tiny, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt trapped and angry and terribly alone.

So, I left. It was a test for my relationship, but I needed to figure my shit out. I went home at Christmas and stayed home. I moved back into my parents’ house in Michigan and got a job as a receptionist at a real estate office. I thought I’d save some money until I could plan my next move. It was awful — I felt I had taken 10 steps backward. I felt like a failure.

Fortunately, I was accepted into SFU’s French MA program in mid-February and I made another rash decision: I said yes. I asked if I could start that summer and I bought a plane ticket back to Vancouver. I was hopeful. I had a goal; I had a reason to be here outside of my relationship, a reason that was my own. I was ready to meet new people and make new friends and school seemed the perfect solution to my loneliness.

My undergraduate degree is in French but it’s also in journalism. At Clubs Days, I saw The Peak’s table and jotted down my name on their mailing list. I began contributing pieces and, though I didn’t meet my editors face-to-face for a long while, I felt connected to them, connected to Simon Fraser, but most importantly, connected to something.

The Peak offices are almost impossible to find. Embedded in the parking garage, they are windowless and lit by unfriendly fluorescent lights — and it’s in this unlikely space that I found my home away from home.

Bear with me. This column isn’t an ode to The Peak: it’s a student organization with its flaws and weaknesses just like any other student organization.

But, it fits. For me, it fits. And those offices saved me, in a way. I’ve made friends. I’m able to work and create something each week alongside people that I relate to, people who challenge me. I feel growth, again. A space can be made beautiful; it can take the shape of a haven. It all depends on what you discover there.