Quebec City. Snow piled high. Icy footsteps on the sidewalk. Adventuring, alone. Black winter boots, a toque, and a splash of homesickness.
It was the winter of 2008. Christmas over, I travelled to Quebec. The program Une Année pour Dieu (A Year for God) was a time of discernment. I was seeking to find out if God was calling me to a religious vocation. I also volunteered for the Diocese of Quebec, joining a group of eight young adults preparing for the 49th Eucharistic Congress and discovering our vocations.
Had I been able to speak French fluently, I would have felt more at home. Missing a flight, I hardly slept while hugging my luggage in the airport. I had just visited my family for Christmas, and after arriving at the convent of the Sisters of The Good Shepherd, I went straight to bed. I was extremely fatigued and slept almost a whole day. They thought I had died because I slept so long. But the following evening when they heard the fridge door open in the middle of the night, they were relieved that I had awoken.
Early mornings. A new language. Living in a convent and working at the Diocese of Quebec was so different than my regular routine back home. I had a hard time adjusting to this new reality.
The side effects of my medication helping to balance my moods was uncomfortable, especially the cystic acne. I couldn’t speak the language well, so it was difficult to get the help I needed. I wasn’t used to the very cold, long winters of eastern Canada. I ripped a pair of frozen jeans when I arrived at the diocese. I shovelled the snow away from the wrong basement bedroom window. I was becoming frustrated and homesick. I was almost ready to take the next plane home. And the snow kept falling.
Looking for a cure for this new feeling of homesickness, I began to make more phone calls to my family. When my sister sent my sheet music to play the piano in the convent, I was delighted. Joining a church choir with my friend and roommate Isabelle brought unexpected joy. Dinners, prayers, and Mass at the community of Famille Marie-Jeunesse gave me a sense of belonging.
Another way I tried to cure my homesickness was to go for walks with friends. We would go sightseeing or stroll around the Plaines d’Abraham. Since Quebec City was hosting the International Eucharistic Congress, most churches were open in the evenings for silent adoration. Bundled up in my winter gear, I would trek through snowy streets to beautiful old churches. Walking uncluttered my mind, and an hour of adoration cheered my heart.
As my time in Quebec ended, I made a few realizations. First, that I wasn’t called to the consecrated life. And second, that even while living with bipolar disorder, I can be fearless. Moving across the country to discern God’s call, all while learning to speak a new language, took courage. This self-knowledge has helped me to challenge myself in different areas of my life. When I returned home, I continued to speak French, not wanting to lose the language. Occasionally, I even dream in French.
Homesickness reveals our love of family and desire for connection. Staying focussed on my goals and keeping in touch with family and friends helped get me through the year.
“The world promises you comfort. But you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI
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