This isn't something I would have said when I was 16. Or probably anywhere between the ages of 12-18. My family? Yes. My house? Yes. But home, meaning Courtenay and the Comox Valley? Nope.
Why? Because growing up in a small town you always want to get out and explore. Everywhere you go someone knows you, your parents, your sisters (if you have highly talented incredible ones like mine) and they like to know what you're up to. As an angst ridden teenager I wasn't such a fan of being on everyone's radar constantly. I wasn't a fan of having to choose between staying home, going to a movie or partying in bushes, because that's pretty much all there was to do at night.
Don't get me wrong, I had a great time the majority of my teen years. I played pretty much every sport under the sun, captained basketball teams, ran student government, had the most amazing group of friends and did lots of fun things. However I still got that itch to get away and discover myself and the world outside the constraints of being Kim and Carrie's little sister, Kate the basketball player, Anne's daughter (my Mum honestly knows every single person ever) or any other such categories I fell into. As soon as I graduated high school I moved across the country to Kingston, Ontario for university.
I had always heard about Canadian winters with their 24/7 snow storms, 6 ft high snow banks and freezing so cold you never want to get out of bed weather. Then I lived one. It was dreadful. I really appreciated our hovering around zero degree winters where we really really wished for White Christmases but more often than not woke up to green grass (and one year a donkey sleeping in our front yard!!!!).
I thought living on a lake would be beautiful. And it was. However there were no waves, no mountain backdrops, it was pretty, but it wasn't an ocean. Call me spoiled (I would too) but I grew up a 7-10 minute walk from the ocean with vast mountain ranges in the background. Driving past it every day to school, sports and friend's houses, it seems like another obstacle having to go over bridges and all the way around the bay to get to the other side of town. But without it, when you're thousands of kilometres away throwing rocks in a grey lake, you really appreciate that ocean breeze, those scary big crabs, those barnacles that torn your feet apart as a child (I don't actually miss those), and the calmness that comes over you sitting by the sea.
After leaving university a year and a half later, I moved to Disney World in Orlando, Florida! No one knew me and I could create any persona for myself. Many of my friends did seem to recreate themselves down there, but I found myself having to continuously back track on stories to explain who the other people in them were or why I was where I was - and where exactly that was. I missed the small town effect of everyone knowing what Vanier is, where you go tubing, what Hornby and Denman are, the epicness of toga parties growing up, the differences and similarities between Cumberland, Black Creek, Merville, Comox, Royston, Union Bay etc are, and everything else related to home. Every short story or small quip became a dragged out explanation. Standing in a bar or pub and only knowing the one or two other people you came with when the place is full of hundreds of people can be super fun - it can also make you feel faceless in a crowd.
I thought making new friends from around the world would be amazing. And it is! I know people all across Canada and some of my greatest friends live on other continents. They are incredible friends and I am so very lucky to call them that, friends. This is probably not so much a leaving home thing, as much as a growing up thing, but when people enter your life in your 20s, you weren't there for their childhood or teens and vis versa. They don't know why October 18th is a bad day for you or why you use silly shorten words like 'strawbs' or 'sangy.' I love all of my friends, don't get me wrong, and I'm so excited to meet more new people that I will hopefully know for ever, but being home means those friends that don't need back stories, that know your family dynamics, the name of your dog and that you gave a speech on Disneyland in grade 10 English class.
I moved back to Muskoka, Ontario after leaving Florida and from there to Vancouver. I also lived in Alberta for a month when I was 18. You see, I've left home many many times. And Wednesday morning I will be leaving home again, for at least a year but more likely 4 or 5. And this brings me back to my original sentence.
I love home.
I love my house, I love my bedroom, I love my yard, I love my pool (spoiled alert again!), I love my cul-de-sac that we use to draw the most incredible chalk creations on and play road hockey. I love the flowers that line the streets through town and that at the end of 5th street (aka Main Street) there is the most magnificent view of the glacier (Queneesh!). I love the smell of the ocean, the farmer's market on Saturday mornings and how you can drive two minutes or walk 5 and be in the middle of a forest. I love the friendly way everyone you pass says Hi and how when someone asks how you are they really do want to hear an answer. I love the community feel, the festivals and markets, and that wherever you drive you almost always see deer! I love driving along the dyke and being able to count over 16 bald eagles within seconds. I love the friends I grew up with that know me so well and the hilarious conversations we have and the things we do and have done. I love my family so incredibly and fully. How many kids are lucky enough to have their grandparents move to their town when they're little and attend their performances, sporting events and graduation? I love my parents and sisters who inspire me everyday and have always been there for me. I love Goose Spit, Saratoga and Gartley. I love Edible Island and the movement for all things local lately. I love that there is a Bicycle Farm tour! I love that you can sit in the back yard and look up at the stars with no big lights to detract from the brilliance above.
It's a tough place to leave these days. I never really appreciated home until I left it. Throughout the past four years more and more I've discovered how much I treasure home. Sometimes when my visits extend a little too long there are still things that erk me about the place, but whenever it's time to leave, it's often too soon. My love for BC Ferries extends to the fact that when taking them it often means I'm almost home. When going through town there are so many places that bring back a wave of memories - both good and bad - which have formed who I am today.
Yesterday I went out for brunch with a few of my friends who are still in or home to the Valley like me. It was hilarious and so much fun. These are the girls I was talking about when I said they know you so well you can say anything and they'll still love you. A lot of the conversation revolved around the heat which led to many many sweat jokes. The food was fabulous! The Atlas Cafe is a locally owned restaurant with incredible food, great service and fair prices. If you're ever in the Comox Valley check it out, and then find out what all those other things I mentioned are ;)
I feel so incredibly lucky and proud to be from Royston, which was a regional district (apparently it now just 'is') of Courtenay which is one of the two main towns that make up the Comox Valley (there are many little towns/districts).
To be super dorky here is a quote from the Valley Tourism website, which shows I'm not the only one who likes this place:
There are places on Earth with an almost mythic capacity to draw us in, to inspire us, and to evoke a quality of spirit and creativity that becomes a part of us. The Comox Valley, on Vancouver Island British Columbia, is such a place where the sights, sounds and attractions convey - this is a destination like no other.With rich culinary bounty from land & sea, over 50 arts, music and sporting events & festivals a year, and stunning alpine to ocean resorts & spas; this place lends itself more easily to inspiration and exploration than others.It’s a place of supernatural beauty that offers rich cultural and outdoor experiences, and perhaps most importantly, it is a place for flat out fun...this is the Comox Valley.
Bazinga! How's that for an introduction! To sum it up, it's a valley surrounded by pristine snow covered mountains and vast blue oceans (with whales!) filled with friendly locals, friends and family I love and the majority of places I formed my memories. How could I not love home?
Comox Valley - I'll miss you. There I said it. I love you and I'll miss you. Not just my house and family, but the whole darn place. I want to soak up every little bit of you that I can before I leave. That is the morning after tomorrow, bright and early. And I still have to pack.
I know. Last minute. However I do have all my clothes picked out, it's just the actual putting them in the suitcase, as well as all my electronics and other odds and ends. I also have to photocopy all my paperwork - weeee!
I am SO excited to move to Orlando. I am SO excited to meet new people and make friends! I am SO excited to discover new places and things to do. (Yes I am aware of the ocean/gulf in Florida, I frequent them as often as possible). My heart is split across the coasts - home and family on one side, my dreams and hopefully future on the other.