What I Missed When I Left Home
Please read in the voice of the narrator from The Wonder Years.
I was 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house and into residence at the University of Toronto. Somehow, it didn’t fully occur to me that I was actually moving out of my parents’ house until it was too late, and I was plugging in my mini-fridge and putting my shampoo in a shower caddy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that someday, I’d move back. Time would slowly curl itself back up like a fruit roll-up, and I’d age in reverse; my brother and I would find our childhood toys in the basement, go out and play in the backyard, and eat freezies.
That didn’t happen. I stayed 18 (for a while). It was uncomfortable. I missed my family, even though for the previous three years, I’d wanted nothing more than to strike out on my own. So what did I miss? Always having fresh groceries, for one thing. I’d go shopping at the sketchy convenience-slash-grocery stores downtown, and have a mental crisis trying to figure out what kind of tuna to buy. Picture the cupboard at home, Alanna: red tin? White tin? Which one is correct? I made a note to check the next time I visited.
“Time would slowly curl itself back up like a fruit roll-up, and I’d age in reverse.”
Eventually, the anxiety abated. A squishy, amorphous kind of apathy started to envelop me, and brought with it an unexpected side effect: confidence. I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else, I realised. We’re all new here. We’re all just muddling through. I started to notice incidents of insecurity in other people: students trying not to look like they were lost on campus, young people self-consciously using their laptops on the subway. Kids a little too dressed-up just to go to class. They made me feel better, probably because misery loves company. I started to be able to focus in class, instead of being distracted by a mental soundtrack of “You’re sitting in a university lecture hall! This is it! You’re a grown-up now! Aaaah!”
One day, I bought a can of tuna that was not the brand my parents bought. I guess I just really wanted tuna. I thought, Somebody somewhere buys this brand, and they have a perfectly good reason for doing so. Nothing bad is going to happen, Alanna. Just mash it up and shove it in your face.
You know what? It was the best goddamned tuna I have ever eaten in my life.
Photo courtesy: Kenny Louie