Day 03 Bernadette (4th person I approached)
January 03, 2014 - Here’s the thing about giving myself permission to do or not do something. It can be a slippery slope. I have a pretty nasty head cold right now, and my voice sounds really rough. I think I might have even scared the first person I approached. I already have a deep voice to begin with, and today it’s exceptionally raspy and guttural. With a full year of meeting strangers every single day behind me, I’ve decided that this year I might take a day off here and there. I was slumping on the couch today, pondering if this was going to be the first one. I’m happy to say I got up, dressed extra warm, and headed out to find today’s story. Giving myself permission to take a day off sometime, makes it easier to do. It just needn't be today. But be advised - that first day off might be happening sooner than later.
Bernadette was on a break and didn’t mind chatting with me while she ate her lunch. She was turning her head at an angle when I was first telling her about the project, before telling me
“I’m a bit hard of hearing,” she says. We’re sitting in a busy deli, Bernadette's listening intently while I’m trying to not sound like a creature from a horror movie, yet still speaking loud enough, so she can hear me. I’m sure we looked and sounded amusing to those seated nearby. Yay for community tables.
Bernadette was born near Prince Albert, in Saskatchewan.
“I’m the second of five children, one brother and three sisters,” she says. She has a lovely French accent.
“My grandparents came from Quebec, and moved to Saskatchewan. My father was born in Quebec, but his family moved to Saskatchewan when he was very young. I grew up speaking French at home,” Bernadette tells me. They lived on a farm in a rural area outside of Prince Albert.
“I milked the cows before school. There were always chores that needed doing. We had every animal conceivable, including cats and dogs. I love animals,” she said, smiling.
School was a single classroom, with children from Grades one to eight in the class.
“I learned English at school, and we learned French as well. There wasn't any sports or anything like that. We were in the middle of nowhere. I went to another school for Grades nine through twelve. There were only two grades in each class in high-school." After graduating high-school, Bernadette went to business school.
“I learned to become sort of like a secretary in an office,” she told me. The most popular career choices at the time were either nurse, teacher or secretary, for many young woman. After business school, she got a job in an office and worked there for a couple of years.
“When I was twenty, I moved to Montreal,” she said.
“It was my first time moving away. My parents weren’t that eager for me to do it. I mean, they had enough with the other kids, they didn’t particularly need me around, that’s not why they didn’t want me to go. They were concerned for me going to big city Montreal. Looking back, I was quite determined to do it.” Bernadette had relatives in Quebec but in Montreal, she was on her own.
“It was a big city, exciting and still, very scary at the same time,” she told me.
“I got a job working in an office, and I stayed there for four years.”
“I moved to Vancouver,” she said, telling me a little shyly,
“With my boyfriend at the time.” They had arrived in Vancouver during the grey rainy month of October.
“It was difficult to get used to how much it rains here. But on our first Christmas Day here, it was sunny, and I knew that I had made a good move. By February, I was experiencing times when I couldn’t breathe, I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the city.”
“A good friend convinced me that I should get a degree,” Bernadette said, chuckling to herself.
“He said it would create opportunities for me. I really didn’t want to do it, but I ended up going to SFU (Simon Fraser University) a few years later. I took my time completing everything. I only went part-time. Towards the end I actually did go full-time,” she said. Bernadette graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business.
“I’ve worked in finance and insurance ever since then, she said.
“That friend gave me some of the best advice I ever got. That degree really did open doors for me.” Bernadette had finished her lunch, and had to go back to work.
I asked her is she was happy in life.
“Yeah, I am. I read, go to movies, do my yoga. I had a great childhood. Looking back, by today’s standards, people would say we were deprived as children. But we were happy. I grew up in a midsize family and we had everything we needed,” she said, standing up to leave.
“The funny thing is, now, everyone wants to live their life the way I grew up.” #notastranger