I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of mountains. In high school, I researched colleges in British Columbia, and fantasized about doing homework on a balcony, sipping tea, and enjoying the gorgeous view. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any writing programs out west that fit my needs, so I applied to Algonquin and accepted that I’d be stuck in Ottawa.
Pretty quickly, I became frustrated at myself as a writer because I felt that I didn’t have experiences to write about. I still felt like a suburban teenager who wasn’t ready for the next steps toward a career.
With this existential crisis in by back pocket, I dropped out of college and signed up for a temporary employment program in Alberta. Before long, I was cleaning hotel rooms in St. Albert, a small town right outside Edmonton. This was a lot of fun, but I still needed mountains. After a few months in St. Albert, I decided to move to Calgary. This posed as a challenge because I would have to find a new job and a place to live, all in a city that I had never experienced.
I looked for rooms on Kijiji and secured a place before buying an overnight bus ticket to get me there.
On Halloween night, I took the Greyhound and I was terrified by more than just the costumes. This was it, I was entirely alone. I had no idea what to expect.
I arrived at my new home early in the morning, and put my bags in my windowless room. I started to change into some nice clothes for applying to jobs, but before I could choose an outfit, I flopped onto the mattress on the floor and just cried uncontrollably. I finally got myself together and took my resume to the malls in my area after getting lost on the buses. I applied to every store and got a job within a week. So far, everything was working out.
I got to travel around Alberta and British Columbia, and it was incredible.
It didn’t take long for the anxiety to return though. After a few months, my job had less hours to give, so I was only working 20 hours a week and I had landlords steal from my deposits. I had no money. I spent all my time seeking new jobs and selling all of my old clothes and books. I eventually got a second job as a barista and was able to put enough money away to move back to Ottawa and come back to school
My experiences in Calgary were often terrifying, but I learned so much. I grew-up more quickly in a year than I did in my whole life, and finally felt that I was an adult and that I was ready for college. I would recommend gap-years to many high-schoolers because putting yourself in uncomfortable and unknown situations will teach you things that a classroom never can.
Marissa Bryans is a witty vegan who likes to question the rules of life. She uses humour to point out behaviours that shouldn't be dogmatically followed and hopes to make you think about new ways to live your life.