I took an interesting walk this past weekend.
When I’m writing fiction there are certain places I always return to, places that always show up, in some form or another, in my stories.
There may be a few things changed, like the colour of the walls or the lighting, but the general atmosphere, the feeling of the place is always the same.
A lot of those places are in Brantford, Ontario.
I’ve thought about this a lot. There are some places from where I grew up in Kitchener, like the pond and forest near my house (Deadman’s Forest as it was called has actually made an appearance in one of my short stories) but most of the places I take my characters too are real places and, like I said, many of them are in Brantford.
Spending four years in this town for university, I got to know it pretty well, but I don’t think that’s the main reason.
I think perhaps because your university years are those years when you’re growing the most, learning the most about what you want to do with your life and what type of person you are going to be. Along the way, I think the place where these realizations come to you, becomes almost a fixture in your mind.
Well, this past weekend I went back to Brantford for the first time in years, a good friend of mine owns a house there now, and her and I spent the evening exploring the very places the two of us frequented in university.
The first stop was the pub, then the house I lived in in second year, then the house our friends lived in (where we spent a lot of time) and a few other places.
My four years in Brantford were some of the happiest in my life so far, I met my best friends there, I met (and lost) a couple girlfriends there, and I met the love of my life there.
But like anything in life, those years weren’t perfect, not just because there were certain things that didn’t go my way, but I look back on some of the things that I did and I shake my head.
Not the time I peed in the alleyway and almost got arrested or the time my friends and I went to lecture half-drunk on St. Patricks Day, those aren’t the things I’m talking about.
During our walk through town, it wasn’t the places we visited that got me the most, and when I say “got”, I mean that hit of nostalgia in your stomach that’s like a shot of whiskey, warm at first then sour as it settles. It was the walking itself.
When I was in school, for three of my four years I lived about a 15 minute walk away from campus. It was during these walks that I would plug my headphones in, toss up my hood (because I was cool like that) and just think, well no, I would just worry.
My head was always filled with doubt and worry during those days. I was always worried about what was first and foremost, like most students, lectures, exams, readings, essays. I constantly worried about that stuff. But layered on top of that were worries about the future, where I was going to be, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it, and then on top of that were worries about girls, why was my girlfriend acting the way she was, why hadn’t she text me back, where was the relationship going.
I think you get the idea.
And this wasn’t just an occasional thing. It was everyday.
Whenever I wasn’t around people, which, when you’re living with roommates is rare. But it was in those moments, those little intermissions from one part of my day to the next as I walked, that I worried.
I ruined a lot of days that way. I would worry myself into a bad mood, like each worry that came to mind pushed me further and further back inside my head, and when I finally reached home I was so far back that whoever was there to talk to me couldn’t really get me out.
Now, walking those same routes. I not only felt much older, but I realized that all the worrying was really for nothing.
I realized that I was actually doing something that these four years of school had prepared me for and I was a better person because of it.
A part of me has always felt a slight weight, a lump in my chest whenever I drove back to Brantford because that feeling would always come with it.
But now it’s gone.
It’s like the part of me that was stuck inside that dark cave in the back of my mind has finally found his way out.
He may have been strolling around in the dark for years, but hell, I guess it made for an interesting walk.
Thanks for reading.
(Pictures taken this past weekend, hiking in Glen Morris, ON)