What I Did On My Summer Vacation By Laurel Borrowman, Part 1

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On my summer vacation, I ate a lot of Freezies.

Summer vacation this year was pretty fun. I guess summer vacation started when I quit my two jobs in Vancouver. I quit my job at Central 1 Credit Union where I worked for 5 years as an editing and publishing specialist, working mostly with financial policies and procedures and forms in a 9-story brick building with about 300 other people. I rode the elevator everyday where most people would stare at their phones and the ceiling for the duration of their ride. My 12 immediate coworkers laughed at the same grammar and pun jokes as me. On Fridays at cookie time, most of them would talk about a new kitchen appliance that would be delivered on the weekend, their disdain toward the Canucks no matter how well or poorly the team was performing, or how much they were looking forward to sleeping until Monday. I also quit my hosting job at Save On Meats, a diner in the downtown eastside, where passersby would sometimes use the sandwich board outside as a weapon, where guests would sometimes use the bathroom for a nap or to use IV drugs, and where I’d often get yelled at for not allowing non-customers to use the bathroom.

After I quit those jobs, I packed up most of my studio apartment in Mount Pleasant, which I moved into alone after a breakup in the same building last September. It was across the alley from a freshly built condo with alternating purple and green glass balconies called THE EVAN. I think THE EVAN took about 5 years and 500 foul-mouthed construction workers running 500 jackhammers to build, even though I watched it start and finish and I’d lived there less than 2. I left my bed and favourite chair and couch and other stuff for an awesome subletter, who rented it from me for 6 months. I put my personal things in my storage locker. Then I packed everything I’d need for the summer that I could fit into my hatchback, including my bike and my dog, LB. Then I drove to the ferry after a night of watching Paul Anthony’s Talent time and packing with my best friend and I moved to Victoria for the summer.

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Leaving friends behind, even if temporarily and even if to go get better at being Laurel, is pretty hard.

I moved into the spare room at my mom and her partner Chris’s home in a Victoria suburb. It’s a three bedroom rancher with a big backyard, a carport, and a backyard with a pear tree, multiple tomato plants, a raspberry bush, and oodles of flower bushes, surrounded by a lush green lawn that Chris tended to and where LB pooped and snapped at flies, chomp chomp chomp, daily. It’s within a few hundred metre radius of a gas station, two churches, a college, and a medium security jail. Typical noises would be from things like one lawn mower, a three-person crew replacing a roof on the home where the annual summer potluck happens, or the neighbours calling over the fence asking if we wanted some plums or corn or the drill back. I slept on a hide-a-bed with a prominent cross bar and occupied most of the room. Mom cleared out some space for me on the shelves and in the closet and me and LB and all our stuff fit just fine.

Me and LB and Mom and Chris ate lots of delicious dinners together in the back yard. I hadn’t eaten that well on a regular basis since I lived at home 14 years ago.

The first week in Victoria was exciting. On my first night, a person in Vancouver I was sad I wouldn’t see for some time was in Victoria and we got to hang out and talk a lot and laugh so much and have fun. I was so happy for that visit. It was one of my favourite things this summer. Another thing that happened a few days later was when my friends in Gang Signs and Mu and Smoota all played shows on the same night and I rode my bike to all of them and had so much fun. I didn’t think Victoria could have so much musical excitement the way Vancouver did! Between all those fun people and things in just the first week and riding my bike everywhere, the summer to come was bound to be great, even in this new place where I didn’t know very many people.

June and July and August all came and went and no more weeks like that happened in Victoria on my summer vacation.

Every day this summer I went for walks with LB around my mom’s place. We walked through some trails where I let him off his leash and smell and roll in everything. We walked up the hill past the college to the radio tower and sat on a weathered wooden bench with initials and hearts carved in it and stared out at all of Victoria, across the Juan de Fuca Strait, to the Olympic Mountains in Washington. We walked around the sports fields and the suburban driveways lined with as many cars and trucks at each as varieties of recycling bins. We walked around the Panama Flats, which turns to a marshy bog in the winter after it’s rained for a month or so. LB would bound through the daisies like a little fluffy deer, disappearing when his paws were on the ground because at full bloom the daisies and the brush got almost as tall as me. We picked a lot of blackberries, which were everywhere and tasted so good. I got scraped by the thorns on my legs and arms trying to reach the high ones. Sometimes my mom and I walked together, picking blackberries and talking, but most of the time it was just me and LB.

Most of the time this summer, it was just me and LB.

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On my summer vacation, I decided I wanted to go back to school. Actually that was before I quit my jobs in Vancouver. I applied to finish a degree I started but did not finish over 10 years ago at UBC. I started a Bachelor of Human Kinetics, but I wanted to finish a BFA in Creative Writing. I applied to it and a week before my last day of work I received a rejection letter. They said a lot of people applied and they only admit 25 and I should not be discouraged, apply again next year. I  was admitted to the Faculty of Arts though, where I could enter year three with plenty of twentysomethings taking subjects like film studies and psychology and English in classes of 70 to 200 students.

After my summer vacation, I didn’t know what else I’d want to do, so I registered for psychology and English courses with the twentysomethings so at least I had a backup plan. Then my mom convinced me to apply to a master’s in communications at Royal Roads in Victoria, but I thought that was a waste of time because I don’t have a bachelor degree and I’m not good enough for that. But I called the admissions people anyways and reviewed the criteria for flexible admission and thought I might actually be qualified and if I was that would be a lot better than spending two years on a general arts bachelor at UBC where everything costed twice as much and I’d have to retrace many of those steps from over a decade ago.

Grad school applications are hard. I was very stressed because I had to get two reference letters and write a personal statement about my goals and intentions and why I should be allowed there even without a bachelor degree. I had to give them all my grade transcripts including my As from my writing and editing diploma at Douglas College and my Fs from UBC. I wrote a 5-page resume describing all my experience in media relations and copywriting and editing and communications and my technical skills and seminars and professional development. I was very nervous, but if you ever feel down on your life because you are 32 and sleeping on the hide-a-bed at your mom’s and don’t really have a job, doing a grad school application might make you feel better. You’ve probably achieved a lot more in the last 5 years than you think.

A week after I submitted my application, a Friday night, I was driving toward the Save On Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria because the Tragically Hip were playing their first show of their last tour. It was sold out and I wanted to see if I could lay on the grass outside and listen. I felt sad that I couldn’t go watch it inside and sad I couldn’t see it in Vancouver with lots of other people I knew were seeing it like my brother and my sister-in-law and everyone else on Facebook and Instagram. I listened to Fully Completely in the car as I drove there, which I’d bought for $3 at a thrift store a month earlier. My phone booped with the new email sound and I saw that it was an email from Royal Roads admission. I pulled over and looked at it and it was an auto generated email with a PDF attached and the letter was from the dean of admissions and it said I was admitted to the Master of Arts in Professional Communications program. Some people go to parties or a movie on Friday nights but Royal Roads sends acceptance letters and I thought that was pretty nice of them.

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It was better than any party I’d been to on a Friday in a very long time. I screamed and then almost couldn’t breathe and then I cried because I hadn’t felt so happy or validated in a very very long time. It was a very big professional accomplishment and I had to re-read the letter 6 times because I wanted to make sure it was true. Then I called my best friend who was in Portland playing a house show who didn’t answer at first but then called back and we screamed together while she was in ‘Merca and I was in Victoria trying to listen to Tragically Hip outside in Victoria on a Friday night.

I couldn’t hear the show very well from outside the arena and I was too antsy to sit still and I wanted to scream the good news from the top of a mountain so instead I got in the car and turned up 100.3 The Q really loud because the Tragically Hip were their house band so they were playing them all day that day. I drove around and listened to the radio really loudly for a while then got a bottle of cider and went to mom and Chris’s to share the good news and have a toast. They said congratulations and mom said I told you so and LB went OoooWWWWWrrrRRRRRRrrrrrwwwwwwwwwrrrrrr and licked my face.

It was too late to call my dad because he goes to bed early and I didn’t want to bug him, so I called him the next day.    

 

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