Dealing Hope, LizaMcC, Reflections

February 16, 2021

My Heart Away from Home

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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Shy Liza did not like first-year university. My residence roommate, who I had always dreamed about having as a life long best friend, moved out after three days and crushed all my hopes of having my instant-residence-roommate-BFF being a bridesmaid at my wedding one day. I cried a lot because orientation week was a week spent not being myself. I was forced to play games, learn dances, chant songs, and what have you. It was the typical orientation deal and obviously Shy Liza didn’t like it. There is so much pressure to make friends. To be ‘on’ all the time. I was worried that people like Shy Liza wouldn’t really fit in at university after seeing the high energy intensity of orientation week. For a person who recharges in the quiet or around her few favourite people, being surrounded by hundreds of people all the time was a completely foreign experience. I wanted to go home so badly. I couldn’t imagine feeling at home in my residence room and surrounded by strangers. I had only ever felt a sense of home in my family in my childhood home. I didn’t think this same sense of home was possible anywhere else. Now, as much as I wanted to drop out, move home and never look back, I am happy that I challenged myself to manage this week, but you could not pay me enough money to ever do it again. 

I promise this story gets happier. Hold tight. 

A few months into university, you have to start deciding where you are going to live in the next school year. You barely know the people around you and you barely know the city, but student leases start being signed in January. It’s a wild thought that students have to make this huge decision so quickly with very little information to go on. It’s a stressful time amongst students in first year, let me tell you. I was completely overwhelmed, there is so much pressure to pick the right people, the right place and the right landlord. So much pressure on students who literally have no idea what they are doing. 

I toured a few places with a group of girls from my floor. Long story short, this didn’t work out. Some of the girls wanted to live in one place and some of us didn’t. So, me and one of my current roommates, started to look for a place on our own. I kid you not we maybe emailed fifty landlords and spent some frustrating hours at our desks trying to navigate the student rental world for the first time. We quickly realized that finding student housing at a reasonable price for two people is not the easiest task. So we posted in the Facebook group for Western students looking for roommates. Again, long story short, we met up with a few potential candidates and none of them felt right, until one really did. We met, V, at a sticky table in the University Community Centre and she was quite literally perfect. 

Long story short (x3), our little family of three formed and we have lived together ever since. Sure, there is a huge risk meeting a stranger online and then signing a lease with them within a few weeks. We knew this. But there was an equal risk that it would be perfect. And perfect it was. The three of us instantly clicked. I have heard horror stories of student rental arrangements, and I fully acknowledge my gratitude and privilege that this story had a happy ending for me.  I live with two of my best friends who make me feel at home when I am not at home. They are my heart away from home. Not just my home away from home because they are so much more than just my roommates and have such a special place in my heart. I finally found a sense of home outside of my childhood house. Which, young, scared, Shy Liza never thought was possible. 

We watch cheesy rom-coms and horrible reality television. We drink wine and cheers to making it through another week of exams and assignments. We keep our Christmas decorations up all year round. We all sit in our bedroom doorways and talk about everything under the sun. We dig our cars out of the snow together. We make each other homemade cards. We cry and laugh and celebrate. 

It really reminds me of the importance of finding your people wherever you go. Find people who laugh at your jokes, want to leave the party at the same time as you, and care about the same things you do. If you have your people, you can pretty much do anything. It usually takes some time and a whole lot of tears, but when it clicks it feels so safe and happy. It doesn’t matter that our student house has sketchy internet or a temperamental furnace. It does matter that I have people to scream at the internet modem with me and people who will spend the day sitting in front of a small space heater with me. 

To my roomies – I am sorry this post is so sappy. But I’m obsessed with you and can’t wait to keep taking on the world together. Thanks for being my heart away from home. 

From hating university and living alone in a residence room. To now loving university and living with two of my favourite humans – it really feels like a full circle moment for Shy Liza.

Finding your people is not an easy task. But it turns this scary world into a safe one.

Liza McClelland

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  1. […] you’ve read My Heart Away from Home – you know that the beginning of university was tough for me. I hated literally every second […]

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Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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