And so, after years of refusing to go to the corner store by myself, to go to school without a fight, and to do
anything even remotely or potentially embarrassing, I was off to university. Oh, I had no idea what the hell I
was going to do; all I knew was thatif I wanted to go North I had to go to university . I made some friends
- real friends that I could call on the phone or visit or go camping with. Not just "Can I borrow your notes" friends.
You know the difference.
In April of my first year at University, I got my chance to leave. Someone who knew someone who knew my mother
called and was looking for a babysitter for the summer in Iqaluit. Oh yes, it was my time. I asked my dad
for the money, and he said no. Whoa. This wasn't part of the grand scheme I had envisioned. His
worry was that I would get there and be the same pouty, insecure, miserable person I was at home and then I wouldn't make
any money and I'd have to come home. Little did he know of the plans to reinvent myself!
After much cajoling and a few creative efforts to sell my text books, I had the money and off I went. I was
away for eight months before I went back to NB for a visit. I decided not to go back to University for a year.
I got a job that allowed me to travel and see all of Baffin Island and two communities in the High Arctic. I
was hooked. And I really had no problems until one fateful trip to Grise Fiord (got your map
? Look at Ellesmere Island, right at the southern end. See the tiny community?) I was working for a travelling dental clinic
. Everything was going great until a kid about eight years old came in, took one look around, and started crying.
The translator was a high-school student and the kid's cousin. She finally got him to tell her what was wrong and he
said he was afraid that he would look like me if the dentist worked on him. There you have it. All my anger and
grief just sat in my chest like it did when I was a kid myself. I left the room and told the dentist to deal with it.
I had been working for three years at this point and I had almost forgotten that I was different. Damn.
I can't remember what happened after that. I know I cried in the bathroom for a while. I know that I had already
planned to leave the north and go back to school. I know that I was crushed.