ALL our lives, we’re trained to be independent. From learning to take our first steps, to riding a bike without training wheels for the first time, to tossing our caps at high school graduation, our lives are about preparing to be on our own.
Yet when it comes to actually leaving, it’s tough.
It was Aug. 25, 2013, and my parents were driving through the rain to bring me into Winnipeg with a laundry basket of clothes, a cooler of food, a bundle of blankets, and hearts full of fears. I was trying my hardest — unsuccessfully — not to cry hysterically as my parents reminded me it would only be five days before I could come home again for the weekend and see them.
I was finally leaving my small town to become an independent city girl and college student. I didn’t know the people I was moving in with, I didn’t know anyone I would be going to school with, I didn’t know anybody in my neighbourhood — I hardly even knew my address.
The next day I got up, fears and worries and all, and took the No. 12 bus to Red River College’s Roblin Centre. The second I walked through the south atrium doors, I knew everything would be OK.
I walked into the most beautiful school. It was gorgeous the way the architecture blended the old-world style of the former bank buildings with the modern look of the elevator shafts. Looking far up one wall, I could see an old mural advertising Campbell’s Soup. It was a bit of comfort to know that the school, too, was holding onto bits and memories of the past while promoting flourishing futures.
Walking in for the first time on my own, I finally felt like I could breathe. The atrium and cafeteria, and basically every artery of the school, was so open that I didn’t feel the claustrophobia of downtown living. The skylights in the atrium and walls of glass panels invited the sun into the dreary city life.
In the past year, I’ve spent more time at that school than I have at home, because it became my home. I would be at school from about seven in the morning until at least seven at night, and it was by choice. I could find a friend around the corner, at a table or couch, if I wanted to talk, or I could sneak away to one of the study nooks and keep to myself.
When my friends and classmates would see me early in the morning, I’d give them an overwhelmingly chipper greeting, and they’d often asked me how I could be so cheery in the morning. That’s easy. My house was a lonely place for eating and sleeping, but college was the place for living.
I hear my other young friends complain about their post-secondary schools, whether it’s the unfamiliarity of their classmates, their dislike of courses, or the size of their campuses. Red River College’s Roblin Centre feels like a friend.
After high school, it was scary to think about leaving my hometown. I thought I would be out of place and overwhelmed in the big city. I was wrong. I found a place to thrive and become the best person I’ve ever been. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t walked through those doors last August.
Maybe it’s nerdy that my school is my favourite place to be in Winnipeg, but if it’s true that home is where the heart is, then Red River College is my home.
You can keep up with Amy Jean MacLean on her blog, shamyjean.wordpress.com, or on Twitter, @shamyjean.