I reached an important age-based anniversary this week…a milestone of sorts. I reached the point where I have officially lived half of my life in Ottawa.
I started off life in Peterborough. This is a “new photo” of our old house compliments of everyone’s favorite online mapping tool, and I lived there for just over 23 years of my life.
Then I headed off to university in Victoria, and it was simply easiest to take a spot in residence when I got there since I knew nothing about the city, had never lived on my own before, etc. Ah, Poole Residence. I remember you well. I was on the third floor, and if I stretched a bit at my window, I could see the ocean.
Near the end of that first academic year, mainly as a result of personal changes going on, I rented a basement apartment near campus. The house did not look anywhere this nice when I lived there, and the closed in area to the left under the “balcony” was actually completely open, leading to my side entrance. Not a great experience overall, and I only lasted about eight months.
Then I moved to Ottawa for a 4-month co-op, and about all I knew was that I wanted to be fairly close to DFAIT and I was worried about monthly costs. A basement apartment had the right price, and I didn’t know that Vanier wasn’t the hotbed of gentrification. My area was fine, and with all the cops hanging out two streets over at all hours of the day, surprisingly safe. I lasted four months in a basement apartment, which is shown as entering at the front, but used to be at the back. I was 24.5 years old-ish, and I expected to only live here four months.
When I got extended at DFAIT for four more months, I opted for summer living at Brooks Residence at the University of Ottawa. It was okay, not a great fit for me.
I got extended again, and I headed out towards Carlingwood to grab a basement suite for four more months. I liked this place a lot, as you’ll see in a minute.
I had a really weird experience at this point — DFAIT extended me at the eleventh hour, and I was actually homeless in theory…I had already given up my apartment for the term. The landlords upstairs let me crash for another couple of days while I looked for a new place in the new year, and they actually found it for me — the wife’s brother had a place with a rough basement apartment not quite ready for full habitation, but could be fine with a little work. More like an empty basement to add a bed, couch, fridge, etc., with a washroom, and I could share the shower and kitchen upstairs. Not ideal, but like I said, I was near homeless. It was great for four months. (I was in the left half).
If this next place looks familiar, it’s because it is the same place I lived in before — I went back to the sister’s place when the current tenant left, and I let the brother keep working on finishing off his basement properly. I hung out here for another year or so, and it was great for me.
At this point, I had been in Ottawa just over two years (28 months in total), and I was unemployed with no prospects and no EI. I had dropped out of UVic, and while I had some savings, they were going downhill fast. I needed a cheaper living option than the Carlingwood area, and I opted for a basement room out in Nepean. So much happened in the time I lived there, it’s hard to imagine it was only two years.
My finances were rebounding, and my social life was non-existent. I had become a workaholic and was drowning in suburbia. I had almost no friends, and no options to even see anyone if I didn’t want to take a 90 minute ride on a series of buses to get home. I needed a life, and a chance conversation with a work friend turned me on to a tall regular-style building in Sandy Hill with one bedroom apartments that weren’t too expensive all things considered. No more basement suites for me. I started off on the 4th floor, great little apartment. Then my friend moved out and I grabbed her 2BR apartment on the 9th and top floor with two balconies. It was a steal. The management company wasn’t awesome, but I was there for 7 years. I confess there was a small 3 month excursion where I stayed at the Beekman Hotel in New York for work, but I’m ignoring that since I kept my permanent residence here.
When I moved out of here, I moved to Parkdale with my then-girlfriend Andrea. The house was okay, I wouldn’t want to live in it again, but it has a bit of nostalgia for me since it is where Andrea and I first lived together. We were in the place on the right.
Then it was time to buy. We hadn’t really planned to buy, it just happened, and was all done in 9 short days. Another we’re-about-to-be-homeless situation, and it worked out okay. Not the most beautiful of houses, but it met our needs for space, and we liked it on the inside.
The house had some flaws, way too much lawn to cut, location wasn’t great for Andrea, and when J came along, we started thinking the layout and design was just not working for us anymore. We considered renovations, as the equity position was good, but that wasn’t going to change the location or some of the fundamental flaws. It was possible, but just easier to move. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to live through such a massive series of renovations considering our later experiences. So we bought our forever home.
And with all these little moves, and places to live, it all adds up. I’ve now been in Ottawa just over half my life. I still feel some ties to Peterborough, but they have significantly faded. I don’t feel ties to Victoria, nor probably half of the places I’ve lived above. For those playing along at home, this house is my 12th permanent residence since I was born (i.e. excluding the 3 month stay at the hotel in NYC), or 13th if you take into account that I lived in one of the places twice. 🙂
Anyway, I found it a strange age-anniversary this past Monday. I felt almost like I should go to the Parliament Buildings to celebrate or something. I can’t say like I feel Ottawa is “home”, I suspect I’ll always feel a bit like a transplant, but I can’t see myself likely living anywhere else. For better or worse, you’re stuck with me, Ottawa.