For the month of February, we asked different writers to expand on the theme of ‘Separation.’ Read Separation is Part of Your Being & Real Friends Are Never Too Far.

I moved from my sleepy hometown in Nova Scotia to Montreal the day after I graduated, and I never looked back.

nova scotia attraction

In high school I was monumentally shy and painfully naïve. I grew up among the same few hundred kids from the time I was five. I had a reputation in that community as being shy and sweet. My friends and family would constantly take me under their wings, to protect me from whatever it was they thought I was too timid to handle on my own. This is who I am in my hometown.

As teenagers, my friends and I got our kicks driving around the suburbs in our parents’ cars, listening to indie music and visiting our friends at their respective part-time jobs at Tim Horton’s or Sobeys. Every weekend meant camping out in our basement bedrooms, drinking room temperature rum and coke, and gawking at our classmates’ Facebook profiles. We’d predict which of our peers would be the first to get married or have a baby. We were just bumming around, laughing at ourselves and everyone else in our town.

It wasn’t until I was reunited with my hometown after being separated for many months that I got the sense that I have changed. I began dating a French guy who taught me about wine and cheese, and the benefits of experiencing foods other than cheap pizza. (Indian is my current favourite, Trinidadian a close second.) I worked at a downtown café, which strengthened my ability to deal with stressful situations–unruly protesters, drunk people, and even the occasional gang fight.

One evening I was closing the store when a visibly drunk man dropped his pants in the middle of the café and began harassing patrons for money. Instead of taking charge, my manager ran into the back of the store, asking me to deal with it while he hid in safety. I succeeded with a threat to call the police uttered in very broken French, and the man stumbled out the door. When I told my mom about this over the phone the next day, she panicked and regretted letting me move. I thought she was crazy.


With each trip back to my hometown, I notice the effects of the separation more and more. My old friends are still driving around aimlessly like it’s a school night, and my mom still insists I give her a play-by-play when I go out with them. When I’m at home, she expects the same shy, familiar eighteen year old that I was when I lived there, but that’s simply not who I am anymore.

The last time I was home, I was invited to a holiday wine and cheese party thrown by some old friends. On offer was a flavored Californian wine that was basically spiked juice served with Ritz cheese and crackers. How could I share the delicious Camembert and Beaujolais Nouveau I would normally have in Montreal, without seeming like a complete snob? Of course I was happy to see old friends, but my fear of judgment and inability to share the wine I brought made me feel like an outsider. I felt ashamed for bringing something from my new life. I didn’t want them to know I was different than who I used to be, that my tastes had changed.

A few days later, I stopped by the café I worked at as a teenager. I was delighted to see some old co-workers and ordered a latte and a bagel. “What did you just call it? A bae-gel? You mean bahgel, you little snob!” She was joking, of course, but now I avoid the word. I wouldn’t dare order a bagel pronounced the Montreal way.

lower sackville

On one of my last days in town, I stopped at a gas station to grab a coffee. Behind the counter sat one of the old bullies from my high school. She used to come into the café I worked at all the time, demanding I remake her drinks over and over while her friends watched, laughing. She insinuated that I must not have been working at the café today, because if I were, I wouldn’t be getting a gas station coffee. I told her that I hadn’t worked at that café in over three years. That I had been living in Montreal and Toronto, attending university and writing. Her face stiffened while she muttered, almost inaudibly, “Good for you.” This girl hadn’t gotten out, high school had been her prime and now she was stuck here. I had finally silenced the token mean girl, but it didn’t feel good.

At the end of each trip to my hometown, I’m always filled with a tender melancholy before returning to the city. A part of me will always long for the simple days of being an eighteen-year-old high school student in a small town. Everything seems easier in small towns–time slows down, and things are a little friendlier, a little safer. Despite the occasional odd look, I still smile when I make eye contact with passersby in the streets of Montreal, and I still hold the door open for the person walking behind me. I’m glad that I grew up where everybody knew my name. I’ve realized how great that can be for certain people, but for me it has never been enough.

Living away and experiencing what the city has to offer, the separation from my hometown has made me see it in a new way, to appreciate everything it has to offer. Despite itching to get out as an eighteen year old, with fresh eyes, I will always look forward to coming home for the weekend.

Kaitlyn McInnis is a freelance writer and literature student whose work has appeared in FLARE magazine and Yahoo Canada, among others. She currently lives in Montreal with her boyfriend, Morgan, and two black cats, Ollivander and Remus. Follow her on Instagram: @raspberryberet and Twitter: @kaitlynamcinnis.