Like a lot of other people, I came to Waterloo when I was an 18-year-old kid: bright-eyed and eager to begin my university career. Seven years later and here I am, sitting alone in my apartment, getting ready to pack up and move to Toronto in a few weeks’ time. 

Over the past few weeks I’ve been asking myself, how do you say goodbye to city? There are so many places and faces, nooks and crannies all across Waterloo Region that I’ve come to love over my time living here that I will truly miss when I move. 

What if I can’t find a cinnamon bun in Toronto that’s as delicious as The Yeti’s? Or what if Toronto’s Public Library doesn’t have the perfect afternoon sun that KPL does? When I move to Toronto I won’t be able to walk past that spot in Waterloo Park where I asked my girlfriend if she would be my girlfriend. Or that spot beside Phil’s where … actually, I think it would be okay if I forgot that one. 

Nonetheless, I’ve filled my time in Waterloo Region with tons of memories, both good and bad. But just because I’m moving away from the place where I made them doesn’t mean that they will be gone forever; I get to take them all with me. 

When I first came to Waterloo, I was determined to leave as soon as I graduated because so many people that I knew who came here for school rarely ever stayed after graduation. I could have left right after my four years at Laurier, but I didn’t think I was done growing yet; Waterloo Region still had some things to teach me and I still had space to learn. 

Over the years, I have come to understand what it means to be part of a community. Part of making a place feel like home depends on what you put into it. At the end of the day, regardless of your gender, race, sexuality, profession, class — regardless of what makes us all different — all we want is to feel like we are a part of something. That we belong somewhere. And that we will be missed when we are gone. 

When I came to Waterloo those seven short years ago, I did not have much of a plan or any sort of idea of what I wanted to do with my life. Sometimes, I still don’t. But as I reflect back on the years I’ve spent living, working, and learning from everything Waterloo Region has to offer, I’ve managed to become a version of myself that my 18-year-old self never would have imagined, that my 18-year-old self would be proud of. And I have Waterloo Region to thank for that.