I was born in Porto Velho, Brazil to missionary parents. I grew up in a little village in the jungle outside of the city with other missionaries from around the world. I spent almost all of my childhood playing in the amazon rainforest and developed a deep love and respect for nature. There were at most three other people in my class, and we learned American english along with Portuguese from our parents or volunteer teachers. As part of missionary work, we sometimes had to tour America and Canada singing in church and telling our stories…this is how we earned our money to live.
Then in 2005, my parents planned to move to Canada for two years before moving to another mission centre in Papua New Guinea (where my dad was born), Africa, or Texas. So we arrived in a snowy March to a tiny Ontario town. I showed up to my first day of Public school, 11 years old, tan, buck tooth, and naive. After being introduced to the class, I went to sit down in my chair but tripped and fell on the leg of the desk. Yup.
I quickly learned that there were many English words that we were not taught, and growing up without TV or access to popular media, made the culture shock even more substantial.
Two years went by, and we were still in our small Canadian town. Was this going to be home? Did we count as Canadians? I still struggle with those questions. But we didn’t move.
I experienced some intense bullying before and during high school (as most kids do), and it caused me to constantly change face to try and find what would be the most acceptable. What if I was nerdy? Punk? Artsy? Sports-y? This began my relationship with the depression that my entire family has struggled with.
As I went through teenage-hood I wanted to be an interior designer, fashion designer and a dancer. I tried to catch up as quickly as possible on who Britney Spears was, and what “going out” with someone meant. It went fairly well for a while. I won a national art competition in grade nine, and got my first start as a point guard on our basketball team.
Then when I was 14, my parents decided to split up. My mom and my little sister moved 5000km away to BC. My family “quit” Christianity, and I faced the world for the first time without the strict fundamental religious ruling that I had been used to all my life.
In such a weird time, I turned to Oreos, glitter eye shadow and running.
After a while I decided to try and live with my Mother and sister and my new step family in BC. I went to an even bigger public school in the first city I lived in (though many would not count Victoria, BC as such). I spent most of my time missing my boyfriend in Ontario and eating my lunch on the steps of my school – watching the rain fog the distant mountains.
I moved back to Ontario after one semester with an expanded world view and some incredible new friends – in spite of my attitude.
And the changes continued. My father was not able to house me and my siblings, so at 16 I packed up and moved out.
My older brother went with me to the haunted house that we found to rent. We had a tower and a dirt floored cave of a basement. We learned how difficult it is to wash mac n cheese off of a pan when it has sat there for a few weeks. My brother’s band adorned our living room. My little sister came and spent that summer with us-and I learned what parent worry felt like.
When my brother graduated and moved to Toronto and then BC, I was left totally alone for the first time. I had lost most of my high school friends in the process of so many changes, and spent the beginning of my grade 12 year eating lunch on the back steps of our school.
While competing in physics contests and working at a pizza store, I moved to a trailer on a dirt road in the country for a few months, and then to an attic in the farm house of my boyfriend’s dad. The attic was two bedrooms and a washroom and I made it into a house by using a toaster on a mini fridge in the hallway as my kitchen, and the bathtub to wash my dishes. After living there for a year, my boyfriend and I moved to a beautiful stone apartment beside a river in a nearby town. I had graduated high school and was taking a year to “earn some money” as a waitress – though the earning money part wasn’t working out so well.
I spent more time budgeting my dwindling funds than I did working shifts. I had had many jobs throughout high school and my savings had paid my rent for a while, but now I was running out. I had applied to go to Ryerson University in Toronto the next September for Mechanical Engineering, and I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. The stress reached a critical point, and then my perspective was forever changed.
That February my high school friend killed himself.
It was a shock to us all, and a complete dismantling of our previous world views. After disbelief, I started the strange cycles of grief and confusion and guilt. I wanted to grieve “appropriately” and not more or less than what was allowed me based on how well I knew him. I didn’t want to take attention from his story, and I felt that I was being judged for being too sad.
I reached a critically low point a few months after that, being emitted to the hospital. I sold my car, quit my job and broke up with my long term boyfriend to make an emergency move to live with my family. With seven people in the house, I converted my little sisters closet to be my bedroom (it was actually my favourite space yet!), and spent many hours of the day reading and meditating. Though I planned for that to be my new life, I moved back to my boyfriend’s apartment after one month.
I got my old factory job back and worked that summer, my sole goal was to get in to school and make it through that year. Finally I did it, and I packed my lamps, bookshelf, and chair to move to Toronto. Luckily my friend had the foresight to know that I would need a mattress, and she gave me a desk and a sewing machine too (thank you so much dear Elizabeth and Scott for all you have done for me!).
That first day, staring at the impossibly tall buildings, I felt like the luckiest student in the world. I couldn’t believe that I had made it.
I lived in a red house right downtown with my brother’s old band. We had parties and philosophical debates and a record player.
It was a wonderful and difficult adjustment period, with my depression getting worse and finally, finally getting better. I started going to counselling, and completely changed my diet. I taught myself the violin, and started painting again. I began my blog and realized that the most important part of my life is sharing my own experiences and those of others. I realized that I would always be a little bit odd, and so instead of trying to be cool or fit in, I could use my oddity as a calling sign to others for when they wanted to share something honest or embarrassing about themselves. In grade 12 I was asked what my ideal style was – and I decided that I wanted it to be “approachable”.
I fell absolutely fully in love with the weird and embarrassing parts of humanity. I learned how to love and laugh at myself, and discovered how to interact in my male dominated world in a way that still retained my feminine integrity.
This year, my family moved back to Ontario for the first time. I now live with them in Hamilton and commute 4 hours a day to downtown Toronto, continuing my awesome and interesting mechanical engineering degree. I still go to counselling and am constantly learning about mental health and alternative ways of living within our consciousness. I hope to one day live on a fully self sustainable homestead, with a machine shop and an art studio. I want to have a food forest garden where I can bring school kids and adults to rediscover how fun mud and bugs are.
I love being different than what you might expect. I am a survivor-man solo camper, I am a dancer, I am a Raptors fan, I am a dirt biker, I am an herbalist, I am an artist, I am an engineer, I’m a farmer, I am a fashionista, I am an introverted valedictorian, and I am a philosopher.
Let’s share our honest selves with each other!