Mississauga, you are my nostalgia, my hometown.

This week hasn’t been an anticipation to anything in particular. Last week, I was preparing for my first youth tech & STEM workshop of the school year. Right now, I’m in one of those calmer weeks where everything is moving but nothing is culminating in excitement yet.

About thirty minutes ago, I was in a regular statistics class, a mandatory part of my electrical engineering degree, taking notes while listening to what the prof emphasizes and scrolling on Twitter — like I said, a regular statistics class. Then, I came across this tweet.

oh, the nostalgia.

I remember the first time I heard Wali Shah perform in public at Ink Movement’s first youth arts conference in Mississauga that I helped organize in 2014, Project Inkwell. This was also our largest event of the year, the opportunity that allowed me to hold my first gigantic photo-op cheque, and another one of those things that made my final year of high school memorable. I had heard Wali’s story countless times and followed him on social media as he became the city’s Poet Laureate to a frequenter of We Day. It seems full circle that his words about the city be installed on the steps to City Hall, the (previously literal) icon of Mississauga.

throwback to Project Inkwell 2014

The tweet’s photo only captures a snapshot of his work but even without the full piece, it struck my nostalgia chord so much that I was immediately filled with flashbacks to my hometown days.

…you are what we remember…

The city has evolved over the years. I remember Central Mississauga with two movie theatres, Toonie Tuesdays for go-karting at Playdium, and when there were only two Starbucks’s to choose from for happy hour frappucinos. I remember bussing to Square One on Early Release Days for bubble tea and buying presents for everyone at every holiday at this mall. I treasure the days where I would go through the double doors and show my friends the shortcut to the food court where Build-a-Bear workshop used to be, or at least, I think.

…by the lakefront or the Applewood trail…

People say that the city is boring but like everything, it’s what you make of it. There were movies under the stars in the summer, skating on the fountain in the winter, and the trusty central library for all my study day needs. To me, the hidden gem of Mississauga is its infrastructure of bike trails and paths throughout the city connecting Streetsville to Erindale Park to Lakeshore and more. One of my favourite summer camps was the mountain biking one without any actual mountains but discovering ramps at the BMX bike parks and trails by Credit River — still clearcut memories. My dad would take me biking before dinner on the weekends and I remember how he always pushed me to follow through with what I committed to — or maybe that’s an elaborate take on him encouraging me to keep biking up a steep hill rather than walking it.

…from newcomers to lifers…

I might not be considered a lifer but maybe I can call myself a youther. Joining Ink Movement and Glenforest’s Student Writers’ Guild manifested my hobby of poetry into a mindset that writing was a skill I had. And seeing Project Inkwell hosted in the Noel Ryan Auditorium of the Central Library reminded me of the years and years I was on the stage playing pieces and concertos for piano recitals. How I define myself now is essentially how I defined myself back then but perhaps with a bit more clarity.

…thank you for supporting our youth…

When I meet new people now, it’s amazing how many people know about the city I call home and their unique ties to the city through extended family, where the Toronto airport is, or that city where their Amazon packages ship from. The people I met growing up in Sauga have done phenomenal things and quite literally, are my inspiration. They are the future doctors, engineers, lawyers, fancy-name labels, and changemakers in my life and I’m sure they will cross your path one day as well.

We have each taken our own paths in creating a name for ourselves but the feeling of home and the locations we tie our adventures to are things that remind us of where we first found familiarity.

When I look back at the senior years of high school, I joke about how my friends and I ran the city’s youth initiatives — the councils, the non-profits, the clubs. But it was that common drive to do things that sparked our interests as much as we could that pushed me into the opportunity-seeking mindset I carry forward now. My passions, interests, and excitement-inducers are things I found in my youth and were fostered when I was in high school. Once you discover something about yourself that is linked intrinsically to your character, it remains a part of you regardless of whether you build on it or not. It may tap you on the shoulder to remind you of the parts of you that exist even when frequently unacknowledged. It will be patient in your mind of priorities and stick with you through time. It might be a lost interest, a childhood friend, a memory, anything.

We are constantly chasing the next big thing, our dreams, deadlines. But the reason why we chase these things always render down to occurrences in our past that have shaped us. I hold myself accountable to stay relevant and linked to the people I have met, taken chances on me, and believed in me. And I find that if I retrace my path far enough, it takes me back to the time when everything was practically a first — when it was hardest to find that support and then creates an internal loop of thankfulness and self-belief.

I’m always looking for ways to escape familiarity as I know it but really, I’m trying to establish familiarity wherever I go, around the world.