I’ve been living in Montreal for three months now. I don’t know if it feels like it’s been much longer or much shorter but I’m starting to understand my surroundings a little bit. Almost two years ago exactly, I left Montreal after spending two months here. I learned so much about myself in that time and I spent so much time reflecting on college and the months that prefaced me leaving and I felt alone with myself for the very first time. It was equal parts strange and inspiring, and a little sad. When I think about it now it seems like I was one of those writers who escapes to the middle of the woods for a couple months to write her book without distractions. Holls with a new city at her feet and nobody to distract me. I worked through a lot of emotions about the previous year, and I felt the tingling of absolute freedom weaving itself into my head. I could really stand on my own two feet and be alone with myself and find inspiration and joy in the tiny details of my life. One of the last days I spent in Montreal I was running errands around town before I would leave to Copenhagen for the next leg of my adventure. I was wandering around and reflecting on the time I’d spent and I wrote this little passage while on the bus in the Notes on my phone:
“What do we learn as we put ourselves into new and uncomfortable situations? What do we collect along the way? Pieces of others. New pieces of ourselves? What do we remember when we look back? I know that I will miss croissants. And the girl who always smiles at me and makes me iced coffee even though we don’t speak each other’s language. I learned I am a person who is sometimes too passive. And sometimes I speak too loudly and it startles the people around me. How it looks when you see the sky when the sun is setting and you’re on your way to the store. How the streets look when you emerge from your house at dusk. How your home feels when it’s filled only with you. How that changes when you add art. And when you add friends. How fast time goes by and sometimes it feels like you don’t exist. The day when you realize you have a new home. Or that a home is sort of a concept. You remember feeling lonely. And feeling brave. And scared. And missing your past. And endless curiosity for your future. How it feels to ride a bicycle through new neighborhoods. Finding a favorite coffee shop. A new friend. When realize you know how to get somewhere on the bus without looking it up. The first time you rode the bus and didn’t have enough change but the bus driver let you on anyway.
How do we adjust to life? How do we hold on to past lives. And how do we let them go. I’m learning learning learning. It hurts sometimes but mostly it’s sunny and bright and makes me feel really really awake and tastes sweet. Sometimes sour. Sometimes it tastes like cookie dough. And feels like a hangover. Sunny days. And snow. And watercolor paintings that you throw away. Or give away. Or cut into pieces. You hope to remember the times you felt really heard. And inspired. And excited. We move on. Sometimes we stay. And the tiny pieces add up to something after a few months or years or even a just moment. The process goes on and we plant new seeds and shed old leaves and I am becoming. Giving and taking from my surroundings. Soaking in the sun.”
I still feel so much of that now, even after so much time has passed and so many things about my self and life have changed. Its been so crazy being back in this city and another cool part of the experience this time around has been living in a completely different part of town than I was staying in the first time, I had never even been to this neighborhood! The place you live gives you such a unique experience and view of your city and the more time I spend here, the more I believe that if you love your neighborhood it will love you back! When I randomly showed up to a call for volunteers at the NDG Community Council in my neighborhood I had no idea that I would meet so many interesting people or learn so much about this community. Volunteering at the Council has been such a highlight of my week every week and I strongly recommend to anyone, whether you just moved to a new place or if you’ve lived there forever, to jump in and get involved in your community in some way! You won’t regret it (especially if you don’t have a job and you’re bored).
I’m also glad to not feel as lost as I did when I was here two years ago. I’m so grateful I had that time to spend alone and to reflect and grow. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO lost most of the time, but I have actually have a direction, a better understanding of myself and what I bring to the table, a partner in life, and am able to really pour myself into being here because I know for the first time that I’m not just stopping through. I still feel so free and infinitely curious and excited for the future. And many of those huge questions I’m still asking myself today. I love reading through my little Notes passage because it reminds me of how much has changed and reminds me to pay close attention to the little details that make life special, soaking it in as much as I can.