Crossroads at Victoria Station

I left Fredericton after my second year of undergrad. Born and raised in the city, it was time to get away. I had stayed here after high school to go to St. Thomas University for its journalism program. But I didn’t love the program or the school or even journalism.

For me, it all seemed like an extension of high school, and really, isn’t high school long enough?

So in September of 2009 I packed my bags and boarded a plane for the motherland. I took a couple Benadryl and closed my eyes and slunk into Ryan Adams’ Rock N’ Roll album. I woke up as the sun streamed through my tiny porthole window and the 747 thumped the runway at Heathrow Airport.

I came out of the Underground at Victoria Station and my feet touched London concrete. The station was high and wide and airy. Coffee shops lined the walls of the atrium and big notice boards with numbers and city names hung over the room like a crucifix.

I had some time to kill so I grabbed a coffee and headed to Trafalgar’s Square. I stood on the steps of the National Gallery and beheld Nelson on his column and the four docile lions guarding him. From there I could see Big Ben and the London Eye. Streets stretched on for miles between tall, stone buildings. I felt like I was standing at the crossroads of my world.

***

When it was time, I headed back to Victoria Station to collect my things and catch my train to the north.

I spent nine months in the U.K. Its sunsets aren’t like any I’ve ever seen. In the winter months, by mid-afternoon the sun hangs low in the sky, its orange light mirrored on plunging hills.

In March, some friends and I went backpacking. We made our way through the continent. Paris, the South of France—Barcelona was a whirlwind.

As the weather improved, we left our thick sweaters and warm clothing behind in hostels and cheap hotels. We substituted food for coffee and walked from dawn till dusk and danced till dawn again. The Coliseum left me breathless and the Pyramids in awe. The sunlit diamonds that sparkled on the Aegean blew me away.

It felt like On the Road, there were no rules and no limits (except money).

As we trotted through cities and countries, learning words from a new language every other day, I was overwhelmed by the sense of freedom that must only come when everything you need is on your back and by your side.

We were stranded in the south of Spain when the ash-cloud struck Europe. Some in our group took trains to Germany or managed to get flights back home. But my best friend and I sat on the beach for a week in Picasso’s hometown and ate canned corn and rice cakes.

***

A few months and another couple of countries later I found myself, once again, in a STU classroom. My skin was tanned and my wardrobe had changed completely.

I was the new girl in a group of journalism students that had been together for a year.

I thought my year away would lead me in a different direction, taking me far from College Hill and far from Fredericton. But here I was.

I knew I would be here for two more years and that seemed like forever—but it hasn’t been.

I wrote a story for The Aquinian that October. I had never had anything published and the thought of someone reading something I’d written made me want to puke – and I almost did.

It was about the love of my life: baseball.

It’s funny, how my first love led me to my second love; how the storied game led me to tell stories and through it, and several more stories, I’ve found I made the right decision in coming back to STU. I ended up having a university experience beyond classes and curriculum—something I didn’t expect.

And so as I ready to leave the redbrick of St. Thomas and let my feet touch the concrete of the real world, I finally know the direction I’m heading. It’s not that I don’t dream of great architecture and cathedrals anymore, but I’ve learned you have to build them one story, one friendship, at a time.

 

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