This Monday, my identity changed.
All of my life I’ve identified myself as a homeschooler. It’s been the centre of my life, it has shaped who I am and how I process things. Over the years I’ve grown used to walking into a grocery store with my mom and younger siblings and being asked if school was out that day, and dealing with the blank stare or constant questions that inevitably followed my answer. I can carry an in-depth conversation on Math-U-See versus Abecca and whether I preferred Sonlight or Konos when it came to Grade 5 Language Arts.
Even after I graduated, I still identified myself at the core as a homeschooler. It’s who I was, who I am. But now, I am more than that.
On Monday morning, I became a college student. More than that, I became a creative communications student- a crecommer.
I woke up early and headed into the city, bound for the Impark office where I was to pick up the keycard for the parkade where I’m going to be parking for the foreseeable future. I walked in, gave my name, and received an envelope with my keycard inside and my name scrawled on the front. Well, it said ‘Abbigill’ instead of Abbigail, but I’m used to having my name misspelled. After that, I headed off to 121 Princess Street, the location of my parkade.
When I got to Princess Street, I saw a parkade. The only problem was that this parkade had a fence across the entrance and a sign on said fence indicated that the parkade was under construction.
My first instinct was, as always, panic. Had I somehow rented a parking spot in a parkade that was under construction?
Just breathe, Abbi. Just breathe. You must be at the wrong address. Since I don’t have data on my phone (I know, what kind of teenager am I?), I called my brother and asked him to search the internet and see if 121 Princess was indeed Impark Lot 47. The answer was yes.
Next, I called my dad. At this point it was just after 10am, and orientation was to start at 11. I had just under an hour, and I couldn’t get into my parkade. I was nearly in tears while I explained the situation to him, but he was as level headed as ever. We agreed that I would drive to the nearest McDonalds or Timmies, get wifi and Google Map 121 Princess Street. Surely I was just at the wrong address. If I couldn’t figure it out, I would just have to park for the day and pay the fee.
I talked myself down on the way to get wifi. Surely I was just a couple of blocks away from my parkade. I must have just missed it, and as soon as I had a map I would be just fine.
Except, as it turns out, I wasn’t.
Google Maps brought me right back to the parkade that was under construction. I called my dad and let him know, then parked my car and paid the fee before heading into the campus, which had seemingly tripled in size since I had been there last. Maybe it was knowing that I would have to navigate the halls for the next few years that made it seem so intimidating, or maybe it was just the panic of the parking fiasco that was affecting me. Either way, I felt very small when I went inside.
After my initial nerves, everything went pretty well. Seventy five people seemed like a lot when I looked around at my fellow students, but the instructors and second year students made us all feel at home and the girls that led us around and gave us a tour were talkative, friendly and vivacious.
The trouble started when I got my locker. Why was this a problem?
Because I’m a homeschooler. And I’ve never used a combination lock in my life. Never. Ever. Not even once.
I stood at my locker, staring at the numbers and trying to remember how the kids in the movies did it. I tried spinning the dial the way I thought I was supposed to, and nothing happened. If I had been thorough and actually looked through all of the papers that the lovely woman at the desk had given me, I would have noticed a paper which told me exactly how to use this lock of mine. But, I didn’t. Instead I stood at my locker and spun the numbers over and over and over, tugging hopelessly at the lock in the hopes that it would miraculously pop open. (Spoiler: it didn’t).
Besides the lock, the rest of my day had gone pretty smoothly. I talked to my dad, who had texted me to let me know that he had sorted out the parking issue. It turned out that while the location of my parkade was 121 Princess Street, you had to access it from Rupert Street, and as the gentleman from Impark in Vancouver told him, if you mapped it then it did indeed bring you to a different parkade. So, while I was not at the right parkade, my mistake was completely understandable. To access my parkade I had to go through a ‘big white garage door’ off Rupert.
Mystery solved. Or so we thought, until I drove up the big white garage door off of Rupert and tapped my access card on the pad- and nothing happened. I backed up my car, thinking maybe I had pulled too far ahead. Still nothing. I searched in vain for a slot where I could slide my card through some sort of card reader, and called my dad for probably about the fifth time that day. “It’s not working,” I wailed. “I’m at the big white garage door and it says Impark and I held my card up to the screen and nothing is happening.”
He sent me back to the Impark office on Market Ave. It was 4:10 PM and the office closed at 4:30, so I had just enough time to go in and get a new card. The woman there was very gracious and said that it looked like my card hadn’t been activated. She gave me a new card, which looked identical to my previous one, and told me that this one would definitely work.
My confidence had returned by the time I was back on Rupert. I pulled up and tapped card number two and waited for the white garage door to open.
Spoiler: it didn’t.
A lady was pulling out of the parkade and I flagged her down. She showed me her card, which looked completely different from mine. “All I know is that this is lot 97,” she told me apologetically. “Maybe talk to Impark and get a new card.”
Wait, Lot 97? I had a spot at Lot 47.
That was embarrassing, I thought as I pulled up to the white garage doors set in the next building up the street. I hadn’t even considered that the white garage doors I had first seen could lead to a completely different Impark Lot.
Finally, after all that hassle, I had found my parkade. I drove up, full of relief and ready to just go home. I was going to tap my card, pull in, then drive right back out and go home.
I tapped my card.
That was when I gave up. The Impark office was closed, and I was out of patience. I called my dad, gave him a brief synopsis of my predicament, and told him I was coming home.
I got home that night physically, emotionally and mentally drained, with mascara smeared down my cheeks. “I can’t do this,” I told my sister that night. “I can’t handle this.”
“Tomorrow will be better,” was her extremely helpful response, eliciting a blank stare from me.
It turned out, she was right. I got to school on time, figured out my locker, bought the majority of my text books, and connected with students from my section. And the Impark situation? Well, let’s just say, it’s still a situation. But I’m managing.
I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing, and I definitely can’t get my locker open first try, but I’m learning. I’ve gone from a class of 5 to a class of twenty, and I have multiple teachers now instead of just my parents. I don’t do my classes in my pyjamas and I’ve gone up and down more flights of stairs in the past three days than I have in probably the past three months. I have to be able to decide in the morning what I want to eat for lunch that day, and then I actually have to eat it even if I’m not hungry.
I’m a homeschooler who’s going to ‘real’ school for the first time, and it’s a huge adjustment. I’m a college student now, but I’m still a homeschooler and I’m proud to be. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for homeschooling, and in five or ten years from now I’ll be able to say the same about Red River College. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This Monday, my identity changed.