My childhood made me a dreamer. I dreamed of moving away and seeing the world. I dreamed of doing great things and making my mark. Honestly, I really just dreamed of living like the people on TV – hanging out in coffee shops, living in fabulous big city apartments. Yes, when I say people on TV I really just mean the characters on Friends.
I grew up in Whitehorse, Yukon. The capital of a territory with a population of 30,000. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. But also a place that made me feel like escape was necessary. I wanted a bigger life than I felt was possible in a town where everyone knows everyone else.
When I graduated from high school I moved to Ottawa to go to school at Carleton University. I’m sure most people would not count Ottawa as the “big city” but I loved it. The extensive and (mostly) reliable public transportation, the office buildings over four storeys tall, the Starbucks on every corner – I felt like I was in heaven.
Since I was eighteen, every choice I’ve made has been rooted in my desire not to move back home. When I graduated and couldn’t find a good job right away, I worked in retail – because at least I was working in a real city. While all my friends from high school were giving up and moving home, I was determined to set down roots here – the capital city not of the territory, but of Canada.
It’s now more than a decade later. I’m working in a job that I love. A job that I not only enjoy, but feel passionate about. A job that occasionally sees me rubbing shoulders with politicians, journalists, executives – the city’s elite. And I have to take a moment and think about how far I am from home.
There are over 5,000 kilometres between Ottawa and Whitehorse. But sometimes it feels like a different planet. When I go back to visit I’m happy and proud to talk about the life I’ve built so far away. And when I come back to Ottawa I’m always happy to be home.
I may not live in an apartment in the West Village, or spend all my time drinking lattes on a coffee shop couch. In real life, who has time for that? But I do feel like I’ve been successful in building a life I always wanted. And I have growing up in a northern town – and a television show about six best friends – to thank for that.