Me and my first boyfriend, Ryan

Click here to read part one of my life story

In the summer before grade 10, I met my first serious boyfriend. His name was Ryan. He was three years older than me (scandalous for our age group!), but just as short and skinny. He was funny and an incredible artist. We had a really wonderful, loving relationship for three years and learned a lot from one another.

Soon after we met, I went on the birth control shot, Depo Provera. As many ladies can attest to the skin clearing effect of hormonal birth control, this was the best time of my skin’s life.

However, Depo Provera also caused me quite an unusual and distressing side effect. It caused a skin tenderness in a certain area so that sex became extremely painful to the point where I couldn’t even have it. I lived with this for two years, as no doctors seemed to know what was causing it. It was extremely scary – I wondered if I was ever going to be normal again. I had stayed on the Depo because of the clear skin and the lack of periods that it provided. When I finally found out it was the birth control causing me these problems, I stopped using it immediately and I eventually got better.

This was my first disillusionment with taking prescription drugs. I had seen first hand what kind of side effects are possible, and I did not like it. I was just lucky they weren’t permanent.

Unfortunately, after I stopped the Depo shot, my skin began to slowly break out more and more. Frustrated, I ran to the internet, found, and bought me some benzoyl peroxide. I slapped that on my face night and day for four years, in which I continued to have mild to moderate acne, mostly around my chin. Sometimes it would be better than other times, but the acne never stayed away for long. It’s not like the BP worked miracles, but I just assumed that if I wasn’t using it, things would be a lot worse. I was very emotionally attached to it.

Around the same time that I went off birth control and became reacquainted with our darling friend Mr. P. Acnes, I was graduating high school. I had always had a passion for the world and an adventurous, free spirit, and I was eager to start exploring all those places I had dreamed about while grazing our old picture atlas of the world.

I desperately wanted to travel, but I didn’t want to lose Ryan, so I practically forced him to come with me. But a few months before we left, I quite suddenly felt that we weren’t right for each other anymore. Something in my heart had changed, and the urge to move on and spread my wings on my own was too overwhelming. I broke his heart and it was a long process of hurt and guilt that I had to work through.

Soon after I arrived in Sydney, Australia when I was 18

So off I went to Australia for a whole year on my own. I landed in Sydney and thus began the backpacker circuit – staying in hostels, going on fun tours, meeting other foreigners, partying and drinking bags of cheap wine (affectionately nicknamed “goon”).

Almost as soon as I landed in Sydney, I quite suddenly came down with a fairly severe case of back acne. This confused me, as I had never had a problem with back acne before. As it wasn’t on my face, it wasn’t as distressing as it could have been, but being in Australia, I was spending a fair bit of time at the beach and there was no way to cover it up.

As soon as I left Sydney, my back acne disappeared almost as mysteriously as it had come. I have never had a problem with it since. Another interesting acne mystery was that I went for a few months in the middle of the trip to South East Asia. My face became perfectly clear the entire time, but the minute I arrived back in Australia, there it was again – back to drive me crazy.

My whole trip was a fantastic learning experience that I never would have experienced to the fullest if I had gone with my high school boyfriend. I felt proud for having done such a brave thing all by myself – and all I wanted to do was travel more.

Me in the Moroccan Sahara when I was 21

I spent the next three or four years moving around, trying to half-assedly figure out what I wanted to do with my life – never living in the same place for more than 6 months. I lived in Victoria, Vancouver, Powell River, and I did end up traveling again, this time in Europe and Morocco. I have always felt restless… looking for the next situation or adventure to finally satisfy me, to make me happy, but never being satisfied when that thing comes.

I did have one puzzle piece fall into place for me though, in terms of finding a bit of grounding. The summer after I arrived home from Australia, I attended an event that took place on one of the gulf islands considered to be part of my hometown. It was an outdoor festival called Diversity. I was humming and hawing about going, but someone ended up convincing me. I consider this to be a turning point in my life, because I suddenly felt a place of belonging and excitement.

Click here to read part three