Tag Archive: Halifax


Winter in Halifax

One might say my last term at Dal was a bit of a disaster. In fact that IS how I described it to people at first; as usual though, a little more perspective shows that everything worked out exactly the way it was supposed to. Here’s how it happened.

I came into the term already feeling a little unsettled: the work term didn’t clarify whether this was the right field for me, it was hard to connect with a whole new group of younger classmates, and most of my peeps from my previous terms were out of town on their second work term. Also a shoulder injury prevented me from swimming, and winter isn’t the time to go running or biking in Halifax, so I wasn’t getting any of the exercise that usually keeps me sane. I worked really hard to stay ahead of deadlines, and managed to stay afloat pretty well until about mid-way through the term. In fact I really loved my Design project, and other people seemed to think quite highly of it too, but at a certain point it stalled. There were some key issues that needed addressing, and as I tried to make adjustments to the design to accommodate new features, nothing worked, and it felt like the whole project was disintegrating in front of me. This went on for about a month, during which time I didn’t realize just how tightly I had braided my own sense of self worth with the success of this project, and it was literally making me crazy.

Most of the negative thoughts I was having were running in the background, but a day came when they became loud, persistent, and very dangerous. Having lost family to suicide, and having worked with people who were suicidal, I finally recognized that I was in real trouble. The myopia that comes during these moments meant that I could only see two options: death, or leaving the program. I chose the latter, and those terrifying thoughts fell quiet.

My school was really supportive throughout this, and together we worked out a less drastic plan: to finish some courses, and return next year to complete the others. I am determined to finish this degree. In the meantime I will work, save money, practice some of the skills that I felt weak on in school, and most importantly, do some counselling to address the roots of that negative thinking.

Had all this not happened, I would now be finished the degree, and looking for work in a very slow market, with those thoughts still lurking below my conscious awareness. I feel really fortunate to be given the chance to slow things down, learn something really important about myself, and be better prepared to move forward when I do graduate. One way or another, everything works out.

Speaking of the scenic route… I’m back in Halifax, here to pick up my baby. I couldn’t live in BC without my van for a full year, and I also couldn’t leave it where it was. Shipping it out to BC would’ve cost about $2200, so I decided to pick it up myself and take the long way home: Halifax to New York, to Oklahoma, to New Mexico, to California, then home up the coast. This route takes me to see family on both my maternal and paternal sides, family I don’t see enough and some of whom I’ve never even met… I’m very excited.

People asked me if I was relieved to be sleeping inside when I was in BC. I tell them it was alright. But sleeping my first night back in the van, that was great. All snug and warm and dark, I slept like a baby til about 9:30. Spent yesterday and today getting everything ready: making sure registration and insurance were in order, getting a new tire, figuring out what to do with models and drawings and tools from school.

Today was also for dropping in on Occupy Halifax at the Grand Parade. So good! Not quite as many people as I would have hoped, but sweet and committed and hopeful. The Peoples’ Mic (a call-and-answer system of unplugged amplification developed in New York because the police wouldn’t allow the occupiers to use loudspeakers) has already been embraced far beyond its functional purpose. It unites the crowd, keeps everyone engaged, it’s fun, and it’s a symbol of how this movement is already so different from what’s happened before. What an amazing time in history. My route, half-coincidentally, takes me through New York, LA, San Francisco, and several other American cities where the occupy movement is strong, so I plan to visit as many of them as I can.

Honestly, I’d rather be working in an architectural office, but this trip is going to be a pretty fantastic consolation prize.

Beach House

Beautiful big dump of snow today, yayyyyy!!! But this means I have to shovel my driveway. No really, I have a driveway now. With the overnight parking ban there are only a few places I can go at night, but one of those places is so utterly perfect that I’ve decided to make it my permanent winter home. It’s a little boat launch with a few parking spots right on the water, private and quiet, and as far as I can tell it’s totally legal to park there overnight. I share it with a squadron of ducks, and every so often I hear them squawking at each other. They sound exactly like Daffy Duck, it cracks me up. Anyway my one concern about this place is that there’s a bit of a slope to the entrance that could be tough to navigate when it’s icy, so the other day I bought a snow shovel and some de-icer. So I can take care of the driveway leading to my new waterfront property, ba ha!

Vandwelling and school

Hello! Been a long time; I’ll do my best to give a concise little update.

Well, Monday night around 7pm I temporarily lost my mind. It was time to pin up the term’s biggest project, “the pavilion”; I wasn’t ready, and even though I only had a little bit left to do, at that moment it felt completely hopeless and I became non-functional. After stumbling around in circles for a while I went out to the the van, curled up in bed, and had a little fantasy about taking my winter student loan money, driving south to the desert (Arcosanti!!), and never coming back. When I realized that wouldn’t work I called a friend, and she talked me down. I went back to the studio and did whatever, and of course it all turned out okay. I guess that was the climax of the term. Two other memorable events: the time I stayed up for 40 hours working on an assignment that I got a C on, and the group project that went horribly wrong and traumatized all of us.

The good news is, those intense experiences are only moments, and they’re vastly outnumbered by the moments of pure joy. I’ve become really fond of all my classmates, and I have lots of ideas about how to be more organized with my time next term. And when it comes down to it, all we do here is draw and make models; I still feel incredibly lucky to be doing this. I’m not one of the super-stars, and that’s fine; I can see how far I’ve come in just a few months, and that makes me think that one day I really will make it through.

Vandwelling and architecture school go surprisingly well together. One of the major problems of vandwelling is having a place to go, and architecture school takes care of that handily: each of us gets our own studio space that we have access to 24 hours a day, and our workload is so big it’s entirely normal for folks to be there all day and well into the wee hours, even on Friday and Saturday nights. School is also where I store all my food since I’m there all the time, and my diet has actually expanded now that I have regular use of a fridge and microwave. Being a student means I get to use the pool for free, and I hang my towel and swimsuit at studio, since with the fall weather here they wouldn’t ever dry in the van. And architecture students seem to find the idea of living in a van kinda cool… in fact they’re really sweet; on the first few nights that the temperature dropped below zero there were a few people that approached me and offered a place to stay if I needed it. Also you may remember Halifax has a winter ban on overnight street parking; that comes into effect Dec 12, and one of my kind studio-mates has offered his yard as a place to avoid the ticket-weasels. Overall I have to say, everything seems to be working out.

Tuesday I fly home for the holidays… I’m going to see all my Vancouver peeps and get nice and fat on my mom’s cooking, so my vandwelling adventures will be on hold til I get back in early January. Talk to you then… happy holidays, y’all!