Part I: Where and What is Home?

Part One

Over the years, I have often wondered, and learned about what and where is home? It is an answer that has continued to evolve for me. As many know, this last year I have been back in my hometown connecting back to my Regina, Saskatchewan Roots. This year (paired with COVID-19) has yielded some fitting lessons on my understandings of “home” which I feel are worth sharing. 

Phase One: Home is a Place

Where and what is home? This is a question I have asked myself from a young age. Growing up my parents made the realization it would be best if they were separated and decided to get a divorce. Given the social norms of the 90’s, expectations for a nuclear family, and a Luthern (paternal) mixed with Catholic (maternal) upbringing, this decision was not an easy one to be made- despite it being for our families best interest. As a child, this meant I ended up having two places I would live: there was life with Mom and life with Dad. Both were very different but it gave me exposure to see and experience there are different ways to live. I thought it was cool to have x2 bedrooms plus I ended up knowing both cities of Regina and Saskatoon. 

This taught me there is more than one ‘right’ way to do things and with every switch from Mom to Dad and Dad to Mom I began making the choices on what I needed versus wanted. I became very good at packing my bag and knowing what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do it. With obvious parental help from both sides, I believed I grew up in a very comfortable life with roof over head, food on the table, new clothes, lots of toys, and a public library card with access of endless books to read. 

After years of living back and forth with increasing time spent at my Mom’s, at 15 my Dad made the choice to move without telling us. My Mom found out from friends who lived nearby that there was a sold sign on the house and I can imagine it was a deer in the headlights moment for her. I found out at the kitchen table when Mom was the one who told me my Dad had moved. We didn’t know where to. We didn’t know when. Deep down we both knew he was likely not coming back. 

It felt like it had been a long time coming, but it was the first time I had a feeling of loss where one of my homes was taken away. My 15-year old brain saw it as, now you’re like normal, you have only one home. Also, I wonder when I’ll see him next? The last thought was one that I was used to. Until writing this now, I don’t think I realized it was along the literal lines of there likely isn’t a next time.

My ignorant 15 year old self lacked the compassion to realize this was probably the real day my Mom truly lost her husband and felt the full weight of catholic guilt and the unfair label of “divorced-single-Mom.” Had I understood this, I probably would have been less of a teenager and hopefully more kind to my Mom. It’s taken me a long time to see the stigma of the above because to me she has always been my loving, work hard, and kind Mom or Auntie Sandy. I didn’t realize not everyone treated her or saw her this way too. 

For some reason, loss is a taboo thing to discuss and a difficult thing to process. Like grieving, loss doesn’t offer a physical wound that needs healing, it’s more of a personal pit, that eventually is replaced with love and kindness in the new life and joys that come over time. Despite feeling loss or grief, life continued moving forward around me and eventually I found I was pushed forward in the motions of school, dancing, and working. I still believe as an adult there is some work for me to do with a loss like this, but for this post, the loss of home and a house option I had taken for granted is the emphasis. Despite this gentle first loss of a “house” or “home” I was very safe in that I had so many other welcoming environments and places that still felt like home. 

Phase Two: Home is a Feeling

In reflection, there were many places that have felt like home to me. 

The dance studio, the family farm, Mom’s house, Dad’s place, Grandma’s house, a volleyball court, a work-place, at the cabin, driving in my own car, at the lake, and the track to name a few. 

What does home feel like? A judgement free place, where I am welcome as I am. Where I can be my authentic self. In sweats, no make-up, and free. Feel relaxed, comfort, safe. A place I can wear my retainers without worry of who may see them. Growing up I have for the most part had a place where I feel at home available to me on the daily. Without a conscious awareness, for a long time home has been a feeling for me.

Phase Three: Learning the difference of House-Less Vs. Home-Less

When I moved to Vancouver Island, it was the first time I was truly on my own and experienced the feeling of being house-less. Yes, I had found a rental where I would live, but I had a longing to make the space feel like home. In that moment, I never considered myself homeless because I had a roof over my head, yet I found it strange I desired a place that felt like home. This lead me to wonder, what would make this place feel like home? 

It took having a horror story rental that left me unexpectedly house-less over Thanksgiving weekend and x2 years of settling for an okay rental where I realized the difference between houseless and homeless. Also HUGE thanks to my training partner Casey who insisted she put a roof over my head that weekend despite the fact her and her family were hosting an already busy Thanksgiving weekend with extended friends and family.

In conclusion:

House-less: When I do not have a reliable nor tangible roof over my head.

Home-less: When I do not feel comfortable in the space I am in.

Eventually I found my home on Treetop Heights and for two years lived in my suite that for the first time genuinely felt like home for me while living on Vancouver Island. My Treetop Home met the feeling described in Phase 2 and was also a tangible space that was uniquely mine and a reliable safe place. I could go on about why I loved this place but the main reason was I felt at home here.

That feeling of home on Vancouver Island
Keys to my First on my own place in Victoria – Treetop Home!

Phase Four: Home is a Person

The summer my best friend Darah was getting married she had a great conversation and exert in her wedding speech where she explained what home was for her. Having also grown up in Saskatchewan she experienced a big move to Waterloo, Ontario to attend school and become an Optometrist. After four years of school she was faced with the choice of where she would want to be a practicing optometrist? In Saskatchewan where her family was or in Ontario where her soon-to-be husband, Dave would be? Where would home be? Through that decision process, the one must-have in home, was that she would end up wherever her and Dave could both successfully thrive. For her, home had become a person rather than a place. It didn’t matter which city she would be in, home would forever be marked by where they would be together. 

Of course her family home in Saskatchewan is also a place of home as this is where her family is based, but home still remains defined by the people she shares a space with. This makes sense to me and I agree with this version of home, because anytime I visit her at any place in the world, I feel that feeling of home with her and Dave as one of my best friends. 

Part II: Where and What is Home: Finding Home on the Gravel Roads

Phase Five: Home is a State of Mind

When I began working with a new mental performance guide in Victoria, my initial goal was to work on consciously tapping into a mental high-performance arena. I had gone through my PB races and the common denominator was my head space in all of them. I wanted his help to learn how I could plan to get into this headspace on demand. This was a tall order, but I do believe we made headway as I did manage to run multiple PB times every year I have raced. 

In my last year at the AC West Hub, I realized I was no longer working on strategies on how to groom my high-performance arena. Instead I was using my mental performance time to work on strategies of:

– How to shield myself and cope when I overheard teammates gossiping

– How to complete my workouts based on what I need, even though it was different than teammates. 

– How to belong to a team where I felt I had to hide and belittle my self

– How to win a race knowing my success will likely not be celebrated

– Why do I feel guilty doing well in a race and in key workouts?

– How to find “my space” by warming up in the corner and training on the outskirts of the team

Somehow I managed to lose my focus and shift away from my initial goal. 

The little voice was clearly indicating things were wrong and for the first time in 2019 I realized the only place I felt homesick was at the track. After a month of training camp and a return to our home-based training centre in Victoria, I did my first post-flight flush workout and confided I felt hollow, empty, and tired. This was devastating to me because the track had previously served as a place I associated a feeling of home and belonging. I don’t have an exact date of when, but in that moment I knew the Victoria track was no longer a place of home for me. Accepting this realization was difficult because outside of the track I had a beautiful home and life I had created on the island with my work colleagues, neighbours, and friends. These good-byes were very difficult, but the relief and freedom I felt in my decision to continue with my next chapter in sport gave me hope for what was to come next. 

One would think coming to my hometown would be an easy way to feel at home. But I was different, the city had changed, and I was very jet-lagged. I realized home had become unfamiliar. My family home still had the same layout, but I was out of touch with it. Likely because I was out of touch with my self. While I did my year review and planning for 2020  I realized that this year was scheduled to be Tokyo 2020 Olympic Year and I revisited my mental goals to achieve my high-performance arena. I realized I had been there once I made my decision to move home back to Regina. It felt good there. I ran PB Fast at Nationals, in the South, and Europe by embracing this HP arena. 

Without immediate races on my horizon, I have been working on how I can tap into this space beyond a race scenario. This ultimately has been leading me back to the question: What is home and how do I get there? 

Despite the obvious chaos of COVID-19 this year I spent a lot of time on the gravel roads outside the city because the track, weight room, pool, and well pretty much all of the City of Regina was closed. Open sky, gravel roads, the wind, and Adrea-time. There was comfort, beauty, snow, sunshine, animals, sunsets, and ultimately growth. That go for a run “kumbaya” feeling where I belong, feel safe, and am welcome. Away from the city noise, away from racing and every day conflicts. Just running in the middle of nowhere present in the now. The more I normalized the gravel roads into my new normal training grounds, I slowly started finding myself slipping back into my Home state-of-mind which was becoming synonymous with my high-performance arena. I was running free. I was looking forward to running. I was doing 200m repeats in a straight line. My passion was coming back. 

Eventually the track re-opened in an unexpected unveiling of the SK Re-open plan. When I made my way onto the Outdoor Douglas Park track I was startled that I dreaded being there and how uncomfortable I was. Not only was I shocked to see other people, but a part of me immediately cringed and felt uncomfortable. That first night I went to the track I found out it closed 30 minutes later, but in that brief time I walked back to my car and realized I didn’t want to go back to the track. I wanted to continue my workouts on the gravel roads. I wasn’t ready to leave home. (Flashback to my Victoria experience of homesickness!) I convinced myself it was because the gravel roads were closer than the track and this saved me a trip across the city. There were fewer people which made it easier to implement social + physical distancing to ultimately feel safe. Plus the track had restricted and often changing hours outside of when I initially planned to run. 

After x4 weeks of workouts and telling myself the above story, I finally acknowledged the real reason I didn’t want to go to the track. The track had become a place of business, work, and a reminder of the loss of home I had previously felt at the track. On the other hand the gravel roads had become home, a place of thriving, fitness, friendly neighbours, and a place where I felt passion towards running and my sport. My question became how do I feel at home at the track again? 

Starting with once a week I slowly made an effort to be at the track. For strides. For a warm-up before a run around the lake. For drills. Slowly acknowledging the previous shielding and other strategies I had been previously relying on to be at a track. After a few weeks I started realizing I didn’t need to do this anymore. It was okay for me to return to the track and in fact my return was welcomed by friendly and familiar faces. 

I finally realized, I was home. 

Recently I met with U. Regina Teammate Arthur Ward and fellow Olympic hopeful Astrid Nyame to do a photoshoot with Arthur Images highlighting how Saskatchewan athletes have been staying ready and motivated in our time away from competition and being back at home in SK. I am thrilled with Arthur’s project and how it turned out. Seeing my interview in filmed footage reminds me my journey this year with COVID was to fall back in love with running, and learn the lesson of how to move forward from loss. Now that I am home, physically and mentally, I am ready to continue building my empire with the hope for a 2021 competition season. Whether or not it comes to fruition. I will be ready. 

Sportrait Story: Gravel Roads + the Track By Arthur Images

#AdreaMade #TeamAlger #StayReady