There’s Always A First Time

By Rachelle Rose

May 25th had suddenly arrived. I woke up that morning and looked to the right side of my room to see two large suitcases packed. Yet, it didn’t seem real to me that in less than six hours I would be leaving to work and live in Whitehorse for three months.

Three of my closest friends came over to say their goodbyes, but yet it still seemed as though I’d be scheduling to meet with them again later in the week. An hour or so later, my parents and I were packing up my mom’s vehicle with my suitcases. We drove down the street, turned right and were on our way to the airport. We picked up my grandmother, who lives nearby. Still it hadn’t clicked to me that we would all be separated for what feels like more than three months.

We arrived at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, I began the check-in process but of course, my bags were too heavy. Again, as I tried to determine what could stay behind, I weirdly was not able to grasp that I would be leaving my family behind. Finally, my bags were accepted, still a bit overweight, but let’s keep that a secret.

I walked towards security and all of a sudden, a wave of emotion hit me. It was now real. I had come to terms with the fact that I’d be living in another city, very far away from my family and friends, my room, and all the other comforts of home. I hugged my parents and my grandmother. I think I may have hugged my grandmother twice, but I am certain that I hugged my mother twice. During that second hug is when the tears really started to fall. Between you and I, I may have ruined her shirt with my tears. After a long moment, the hug ended, they all looked at me with sadness and pride as they watched me go through security. I tried not to look back, it was the only way I could keep it together. Suddenly, I was all alone seated outside my boarding gate patiently waiting to begin the adventure of a lifetime.

Living in Whitehorse, Yukon, was my first time being away from everyone I loved and everything I knew. There’s something very familiar and safe about living in the same city for your entire life. Of course, I had travelled but this time, I’d be away from home for three months all by myself. Just me!

I had previously heard a lot about the North. When I arrived in Whitehorse at 11:47 pm, the sun was still out and I was quickly captivated by the beauty of the mountains and lush greenery. The next day, my roommate drove me into town to pick up some groceries. I was surprised by all of the big-name stores, Sports Exports, Shoppers, Loblaws, Starbucks, Canadian Tire and Walmart. I’ll let you in on a secret, I definitely spent way too much time in Walmart.

It wasn’t just the affordable prices that made my trips so frequent, but the familiarity of the store. I don’t often shop at Walmart in Montreal but it was the store I was most familiar with. I would walk up and down the aisles and somehow it felt like I had a piece of home with me.

As previously mentioned, I had been warned about food security and cold temperatures, I quickly noticed that I had been prepared for a singular narrative of the North. I was fortunate that in my experiences, I had access to nutritious and somewhat affordable foods. As for the weather, it varied. The weather was not as hot as any Montreal summer but there were a few weeks during which the sun pleasantly danced on my face.

Living away from home for the first time was a big adjustment for me. There were times of great pride when I did something that I normally wouldn’t in Montreal, such as canoeing down Miles Canyon or having the privilege of participating in a Sacred Fire ceremony led by a well-recognized ceremonial leader in the territory.

My trip was also accompanied by moments of extreme loneliness. Three months is a long time to be away from your loved ones. Still, I met a lot of very interesting people in Whitehorse, many of whom acted as a social support for me during my time here. Someone was always offering to drive me to the grocery store or have me join them for an activity. Having a small community in Whitehorse helped reduce the feelings of loneliness.

I did a lot of growing in Whitehorse and engaged in a lot of self-reflection. I’ve learned so much from all that I’ve experienced here, both professionally and personally. I am now certain that I do not want to live far away from my loved ones for extended periods of time. But I now have the confidence that I can make big life changes and see them through (if only for a little while) successfully.

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