Finding My Place
Photo by Sarah Jones
By Terri Lucas, MA Graduate
I love this time of year. The crisp, brown leaves are falling from the trees. The new academic year has begun and fall is here. But I’m no longer a student and I am no longer in Vancouver. I completed my MA in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in August, and now I’m back in my hometown in the UK, thinking about all the questions you have when you finish a degree. What’s next? What can I do with my new knowledge? I completed this course because I want to make a difference. How can I do that?
My partner and I lived in Vancouver for a year while I studied at SFU. Returning home was a surreal experience for both of us, and now we’re trying to find our place in a city that is exactly as it was when we left.
One of the main things I noticed when we returned home is that sexism and heteronormativity are so much more rife than I had ever realised before. It’s so ubiquitous that I feel like I’ve gone back in time. I frequently hear people mocking gender issues and with that comes the assumption that everyone feels the same way. It trivialises inequalities and reinforces harmful norms. This environment is so different to the one I was in at SFU.
Studying in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies is one of the best experiences of my life. I learnt so much more than I imagined I could in 12 months, I made lifelong friends, and, for the first time, I felt like part of a community. Being in that environment made me a better person and a happier person. I felt more valued as a human being.
It’s an interesting paradox that the space in which I spent my time studying inequalities was the space in which I felt equal to everyone around me. It was empowering. I felt like I could finish my degree and go on to change the world – not necessarily in any major way but that I could do something that I consider to be significant. But it’s much easier to express your ideas to a room full of people who already agree with you than it is to even one person who sees the world in a different way. When I think back to my MA I feel like I lived in a utopian bubble, spending all my time with likeminded people.
Now I’m out in the world again with all sorts of people with different views and values. I’m trying to figure out what I can do to make a change and how I can go about doing it in a way that feels right to me. Do I do it through work? Do I do it through voluntary work? Do I try and find another community to be part of? Or do I actively try to be around people who have a different world view to me? In order to make a change, I need to share my views with others, to have debates and try and change their minds about some things. But I feel much happier being around likeminded people. And I’m trying to figure out if I can have it both ways. Can I make a difference if I find another bubble?
I don’t know when I’ll figure out the answers to these questions. I used to think that one day I would have to make a decision about what to do with my life. I thought I would have to live in one place and have one career. But a couple of years ago my partner and I, both in our 30s, decided to move to Vancouver for a year. The only reason not to go through with it was that it didn’t fit with the normal pattern of what we had been told we should do as adults. So that made us want to do it more. We had both been following the life pattern we had been told to follow and it didn’t work for us, so we packed our bags and went on an adventure.
Now, as the leaves fall from the trees, we are once again starting a new adventure. It’s exciting and scary. It involves asking these questions. Who knows how long this adventure will last before we move on to another one. We are enjoying the freedom of not being tied to one place or career. And with this, I also feel like I have more than one chance to do something significant.