Coming to you live from San Francisco

After a long blogging hiatus, I am making my comeback!


After five long years, I have finally made it to my final semester of college. I’ve already “graduated” – had my ceremony, walked across the stage in my fancy cap and gown, and got the hell away from Gordon. Now, I’m finishing my last semester of college in San Francisco. I’m living in a giant house across the street from the Panhandle (an extension of Golden Gate Park) with 24 other people.

I’ve been here for almost two weeks now, and I can already tell this semester is going to be full of adventures. Here’s a list of some of the things I’ve experienced in San Francisco thus far.

  • Witnessed a car crash in an Uber on the way to my AirBnB from the airport.
  • Became friends with my awesome AirBnB host. I now walk his beautiful dog Luna.
  • Went on a “walk about” with my housemates. We walked 7.7 miles through Bernal Heights, the Mission, the Castro, the Haight, and finally back to our house in NoPa (5 of the different districts that make up the city of San Francisco. See map for more details).

  • Served lunch for 1500 people at St. Anthony’s dining room, and had the privilege of eating lunch with a wonderful man who gifted me with his story. He moved to America from Fiji and has since been a nurse, a real estate agent, and an Uber driver, but due to the cost of living here in San Francisco, is currently homeless.
  • Interviewed and was offered a practicum placement at Eviction Defence Collaborative. Made an attorney cry with my answers.
  • Attended a very cool, historic United Methodist church called Glide, and reconnected with my wonderful friend Amnoni.
  • Interviewed at Sojourn Chaplaincy at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (I really want to do my practicum here). Following the interview, I went to the cafeteria to check out the vibe of the place, and a man started screaming about how he wanted to execute us all. Definitely thought I was going to die that day, but made it out alive. I just kept thinking about how cliche it would be to die in a mass shooting in a cafeteria. Thank God no one got hurt.
  • Witnessed a man pooping in a bus stop. I hear it won’t be the last time I see that.
  • Met a cool Ethiopian man who’s a chef at a Vietnamese restaurant on the bus. We started talking about housing prices in San Francisco, and he told me how he’s living in a rent controlled apartment and is scared because everyone around him has been getting evicted. He invited me and my friends to come eat at his restaurant and he will introduce me to Vietnamese food. Will be doing that soon.
  • Saw a large, bald, heavily tattooed man walking downtown carrying a very small dog in a pink tutu wearing a tiara. Wanted to meet said man and dog, but they disappeared around the corner too quickly.
  • Interviewed at Larkin Street Youth Services. It’s such a comprehensive program for at-risk and marginalized youth here in San Francisco. Also a strong contender for practicum placement. It’s in the Tenderloin – one of the most impoverished districts in the city – but there are so many really great social service agencies meeting the members of the community where they’re at and providing really practical services for them. At the Larkin Academy on the lower level of the building, they’re currently in the process of building a recording studio for the youth to use.
  • Smiled at a man in the Tenderloin. He was walking towards me looking very intimidating and looked me in the eye. I smiled at him. He stopped and stared at me, then his whole posture changed. He stood up straight, smiled back at me, and stated, “You just made my day. It’s been too long since someone has smiled at me. Thank you.” I watched him as he turned and walked away. He was standing tall with his head up. I guess it’s true what they say – you never know how much a simple smile can impact someone’s life.
  • Had coffee with a super cool pastor of a super cool church. Haven’t actually attended the church yet, but will definitely be checking it out on Sunday after I go to Oakland Pride.

I never know what a day is going to hold. I’m learning to expect the unexpected and to be open to new experiences at all times. I’m learning once again to embrace difference without judgment, and to pay attention to populations that are too often overlooked. I’m learning that there is no better place to be an emerging adult than right here in San Francisco – where everyone else is learning as they go too.

I’m not going to say the transition has been super easy. I’ve definitely felt quite depressed. I’ve chosen to go gluten free while I’m here in San Francisco to see if it helps with my autoimmune condition and inflammation, and that is pretty triggering as it brings up associations of restricting and eating disorder behaviour, but I’m managing. I’ve had a hard time feeling secure in my identity here at the house, but I’m gradually opening up to the people around me and realizing that safe people do exist in the Christian college sphere. Not everywhere is like Gordon, so that’s nice.

I am living outside of my comfort zone here, but I’m in good company.

Stay turned for more of my adventures in San Francisco!


Throwback Thursday: What is home?

Originally posted February 28, 2012

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

~ Maya Angelou

For my entire life…I’ve moved from one house to another to another. I’ve had many different bedrooms, schools, groups of friends. Each time, I have had to adjust to a new “home”.

Unfortunately though, I’ve never felt safe at my house, my school, or with whatever group of friends I have had at a certain time.

I have never had a true home.

You may ask, “What? How could you have never had a home?”

Well, to me, a home is a safe haven. It is a place where I can go escape from the troubles of my world and just be myself. It is a place where I know that I am loved unconditionally and I will never be rejected.

To me, a home is consistent. There is a sense of continuity – a place that I am comfortable enough to put down roots without the fear that everything will be torn out from underneath me. It is not a place where I don’t know what to expect from day to day. I have never felt safe enough to settle and put down roots.

There is a sense of privacy and boundaries are respected, but there is also a supportive environment that enables a person to grow into the best person that they can be. There is balance somewhere between having to be independent and take care of myself and being smothered and overprotected.

A home should be a place where kids are allowed to be kids. They shouldn’t have to take on adult responsibilities in elementary school. Age appropriate expectations are so important.

I have lived my entire life in fear – of my parents, of my peers, of lack, of myself.

Throughout my life, I’ve come up with different ways to keep myself safe and meet my need for security. The most consistent method that I have used is my eating disorder.

My eating disorder has been there for me to fall back on in times where everything seems uncertain. It is the perfect place to retreat into when I don’t feel safe. Through my eating disorder, I was essentially able to say that I don’t have needs, so I wasn’t disappointed when they didn’t get met. At the most extreme times of the eating disorder, I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t think about anything other than food, and that was good. My life was crumbling around me and I was being abused and taken advantage of, but I was okay because I had my eating disorder. Thinking about it now, it’s like the eating disorder became my protective shell…it became my home, and it stayed that way for many years.

The only other place that I felt safe was at Mercy. I allowed myself to come out of my protective shell and put myself out there. I still feel at home whenever I walk through the doors of Mercy Ministries. At Mercy, I fit. I belonged there. All my needs were met. I had support, and I created a family. Sometimes I get glimpses of “home” when I talk to some of the girls I was there with, specifically my friend Katherine. We may not be related by blood, but there is no doubt that we are sisters.

Anyways, now that I am going to treatment and the eating disorder isn’t functioning in the role that it used to function in, I feel lost. I feel more lonely than ever, and this time, I don’t know what to do about it. I kind of want to move – to recreate Alexis yet again…because that’s what I know how to do.

Every time I have moved, I have gone into it hoping that I finally find a place to call home, but after all those unsuccessful attempts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not location that determines a home.

I have to find a place within myself where I am satisfied with myself in order to be at a place where I can maintain a “home” environment. I need to surround myself with the right kind of people.

It’s not the location that matters.

It’s me.

The concept of home still holds so much power for me.

When I wrote that post, I was really struggling to find where I belonged. I was commuting to college in Toronto, living at home, searching for schools to transfer to in the States, and still, struggling intensly with the eating disorder. I wanted to run away or to disappear inside myself because I couldn’t figure out where on earth I was supposed to be.

Now? I’ve created a home for myself in Massachusetts. It may not be my forever home, but it is for now. I’ve put down roots. I’ve invested in people, and they’ve invested in me. I’m learning to have healthy boundaries with the people that I love, that has only served to strengthen the relationships that we’ve developed over the last year and a half. Being at a Christian college with res life guidelines and expectations from the college provide me with structure and expectations, but I’m still treated like a grown up. I still go off campus and I do my own thing. My friends have seen me at my lowest, and they’ve loved me through it. They’ve stood by me when they were absolutely terrified, and they walked with me as I grew into a person who could stand on my own two feet.

There’s a familiar rhythm to life when I’m home in Massachusetts. Life is filled with unexpected obstacles and extraordinary victories, and I don’t always feel happy or comfortable. I don’t ever want to feel completely comfortable anywhere that I go, because that doesn’t foster continual growth.

I was right about one thing though. I did have to go through a process of giving myself permission to just be where I was before I began to feel like I belonged.

Home is me, absolutely, but it’s so much more than that.

Life’s Punctuation

Tonight is my last night of treatment.

Every time I’ve left treatment in the past, there’s been an ellipses at the end…

I’ve been waiting for the, “what next?” – the inevitable relapse that comes once I finish treatment. Sometimes I’ve waited longer than others, but it always comes eventually.

This time there is a period. I don’t feel like I’m waiting anymore.

Today, June 16, 2014, is closure. It is the end of a chapter. It is fear, hope, peace, anxiety, and cautious optimism.

Tomorrow, June 17, 2014, I turn the page and begin to write the rest of the story. I don’t have a full map of what that’s going to look like, but I know that this chapter will transform tragedy into triumph. This chapter will be the launching pad for the rest of the story that is my life.

As with any good story, I hope to carry forward certain themes. I want people to look at my life and see hope. To look at my footsteps and see the power of choice. To hear the sound of my voice and know that their words, too, are valuable. To look at my imperfections and see the reflection of grace.

Tonight is my last night of treatment. I’m scared and I don’t feel ready, but I have been equipped with all the right tools to embark on this next chapter.