It seems strange that I am nearly done this very long chapter of my life. As I go through each day, I am keenly aware that all that is familiar to me now – driving down Wellington Crescent in fall, seeing old friends in the street, going to Safeway – I am likely experiencing for the last season. It is strange to think that I may be experiencing my last Winnipeg fall for a very long time; perhaps my last first day of school, my last first snow (which can’t be the same anywhere else in the world), and most of all, my last year in which I can take for granted that my family and friends are a phone call or a short drive away. This is deeply saddening, even though I would not abandon my dreams and my calling just in order to keep familiarity close. I feel as though each day holds more weight somehow.

I remember one day in Paris, halfway through my semester there, when I stayed in bed ’till 1pm on purpose, just to enjoy the luxury of being in Paris and being able to take it for granted. I felt lucky to be able to waste time in a city that most North Americans rush through, trying to see everything and drink it all in. In my last week in Paris, when I was looking over my lists and remembering things I intended to do or see, but didn’t have time, I deeply regretted that particular day, my luxurious waste. Now, as I look back over my life so far, especially my university years in Winnipeg, I am glad for the times I decided to take a deep breath, forget everything on my plate for the moment, and enjoy a conversation with my mom, or the fall leaves on Wellington, or a cozy evening when it was snowing. I am suddenly realizing that whatever I thought was mundane, whatever I once took for granted, will make the happy memories I will cling to when I am lonely or homesick in a foreign country, or when I think of my upbringing and how it has so markedly defined who I am.

That brings me to a very important statement, which I feel the need to share. Even though I have much to glean from the world, and even though opportunity beckons me away from my home and my family, I am very proud of my identity – where I come from, who I am associated with, and which experiences have defined my characteristics. I would not feel able to follow my dreams, and would not be able to put in the hard work required to refine my gifts, without my parents, my brother, my extended family, teachers, and friends, and the experiences they gave me – camping, cleaning, caring about good grades, being well-rounded, loving, fighting, and not running away from problems or from situations that required patience. When I leave, and in whatever engagement or endeavor I take on, I want to remember these things as part of the artist that I am, and each note I sing will be shaped not only by personal ambition or ability, but by the heart that is shaped by the people who brought me up.