My second week of classes at York was equally busy as my first, maybe even more so. I thought that I’d be stuck in the classroom and libraries by this point. I thought that it would be easier for me to be in those places, alone, than it would be to branch out and meet new people. Boy was I wrong . . .
During my bouts of anxiety previous to the big move to Toronto, my dad tried to give me practical advice: “Just meet a lot of people.” He encouraged me to try to make as many contacts as possible from many different areas and age groups. It sounded like a bunch of networking to me, a lot of stressful social interactions on top of the paperwork and other moving obstacles. I remembered the beginning of my study abroad at Oxford where, yes, I met a lot of people, but it took me weeks of unhappily wandering around at gatherings until I found friends that I trusted and with whom I had a sort of friendship chemistry. I thought, “Good advice, but I’ll have to find creative ways to make my introverted self toughen up for that challenge.”
But that has not been the case. I’m not sure what the “magic ingredient” has been this time, what quality I have recently acquired or have found in Canada or Toronto. I haven’t been with people at all times, but I have taken my dad’s advice without even feeling like it was a drag. I used Meetup.com, new friends from my department, professors from my classes and throughout the university, friends of friends through my Rice University network, and more to reach out to many, many different types of people and different communities. I may not have a best friend or soul mate up here just yet, but I have plenty of people to share my interests with, to ask advice. To hang out.
Even in the midst of all this, I did have a speck of loneliness on Wednesday night. There was something about being in the apartment alone (well, with the cat) and realizing that some of my best friends from Rice were visiting Houston this week and then I made the mistake of watching High School Musical 3 . . . But by Thursday night I felt entirely silly for feeling so down. I went to a pub night for American Expatriots. Even though there were a lot of newcomers in the group, I was the newest expat with less than a month in Toronto under my belt. And yet, most of them complained about not meeting anyone, that the Canadians were very clique-ish and would not invite you easily into their friend groups. In the midst of all this, here I was gushing about the new Canadian friends I’d met and the cool local places they’d shown me for entertainment, food, et cetera. Not to mention, I made at least one great connection out of all the American expats who is game for seeing all the theatre with me–so I don’t have to go by myself to the next performance.
There will still be lonely moments, but overall I am so lucky. Because I am living here for the year, I have better smart phone/internet/technological access to the important networks of family and friends back in the States. Since we all graduated and went our separated, I don’t have the same fear of missing out as I did during my study abroad term at Oxford. And in the intervening two years, I learned a lot about how to connect with new people and cultures–and how to make it fun instead of stressful. I can’t even begin to list all the festivals, events, lectures, etc that I’ve already attended in Canada.
. . . which leads me to my last point. My soon-to-be boss (professor I’ll be serving as “graduate assistant, but also a fellow Rice Owl) recently sent me an email titled: “Down to Business.” Since we haven’t met in person yet, I don’t think he meant it as stern advice and yet . . . as I looked at my schedule of festivals and fun, friend-making events for the upcoming weekend and then compared it to all the goals I have for the fall term, I realized that it’s advice I should start taking nonetheless. I suppose I’ve been so afraid of getting stuck being alone, I haven’t left enough solitary work time. The essential time for writing both academic and creative to occur. It’s not too late in the year for me to make this change. It’s not like I’m making bad decisions and spending way too much time out and about; I just need to continue working to find a balance. It seems like that’s going to be my challenge for the first part of graduate school: learning to give equal time to the assignments at hand and the independent projects that fuel not only my degree, but the so far undiscovered career approaching after it.
Thankfully nature has “cooperated” and inspired me to take less time walking around and more time sitting in a cozy place with my bolstering tea, books, and writing/study gear. It reminded me that I DO love writing essays, especially on topics like Noel Coward and three of his wittiest plays. Happy weekend studying, exploring, working, relaxing, and everything in between!