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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

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The Life I Had Seen on TV

By Tiffany Anderson

After returning from Europe in 2007, sleeping in the old white rock basement suite with my mother was painful. For 6 months I had back packed through the UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal. I had run to trains and busses, 70 pounds on the back of my 130 pound frame. I had visited cathedrals and ruins hundreds and thousands of years old. I had blacked out in Greek night clubs, and had my purse stolen while having sex with my new British lover on the secluded Spanish beach. I had aged significantly in the span of just a few months. Now returning back to the same city I had graduated high school in felt like stepping back in time. I had learned so much about life and myself, and yet here I was again as if nothing had happened.

It was that Autumn that I told my mother I would be moving 45 minutes away, to the great big city of Vancouver. At 19, only having visited the city a handful of times the idea both exhilarated and exhausted me. Everything would be new in Vancouver, everything would bring me closer to that life of art, culture, and independence I had seen on TV.

My biggest plan was to get accepted into Langara’s Studio 58 program for acting. Once I had that acceptance letter the city would unlock its doors, recognizing me as an actor, a true artist, and thus my lucrative career in theatre would begin.

My first night living in the city felt like a stay in cheap motel. The basement suite me and my room mate chose near the Langara campus was comfortable but stepping out to get groceries completely broke the illusion. There was no glamour in this area of town, the tiny family run corner stores and busy industrial intersections were far from the designer clothing shops and vintage theatres I had seen downtown. But
the dream was there, and so I busily began to prepare my audition.

In my imagination Studio 58 was waiting with baited breath for the star actress from Elgin Park Secondary. Surely they had heard about, or even bared witness to my senior production of “The Breakfast Club”, and decided that I was more than worthy of acceptance into the program.
In reality, my audition was a luke warm performance, featuring me barely breathing, eagerly looking to the panel every few seconds for validation that I was doing something, ANYTHING right.

My rejection was, as one might expect, met with a much better performance than I had given to Studio 58. Stone faced I delivered the news to my roommate and family, a single tear forming and then silently inching its way down my cheek. After three weeks of academy award winning emotional break downs full of debilitating self -doubt, I resolved to audition again next year, when Studio 58 had realized their mistake…and I had taken in a few acting classes.

It was in this time, 4 months after I had left White Rock that my savings had begun to run out. The clothing store I had been working at, the one I had hand selected upon moving to Vancouver, which had provided many fantasies about meeting new hip best friends, and learning how to dress with myself with both irony and good taste had failed me. Now all I had was a terrible triangle shaped haircut, a lot of discounted clothing, and the faux knowledge of French New Wave cinema I had adopted in order to seem cool. If anything my efforts had had the opposite effect. Truffaut is pronounced with a silent “T” I later learned.

With 200 dollars left in my account I answered the ad of a temp agency and at the ripe age of 21, landed myself a permanent job working at the front desk of a company who sold life rafts. As both a coping mechanism and preparation for my looming second audition I pretended I was an actor undercover, prepping for a role in an intense and beautifully written new summer blockbuster….about life rafts. This began in the interview for said job when I quite soulfully told my employers, “I would be honoured to work for a company whose product saves lives.”

The experience had many highs and lows, the lowest of which featured a middle aged Fijian man trying to feel me up in the back of the warehouse, and the highest of which was free stationary. 9 months later, after being denied time off for my audition, and having nearly been caught in one of the fancy lies I had spun regarding my aspirations in the company, I decided to stop selling life rafts.

My second audition at Studio 58 was also met with rejection. Upon receiving my second “Thanks, but no thanks” letter, I felt completely defeated. I was lost, living 10 blocks away from the school I had dreamed of, in a neighbourhood I hated. In addition, Me and my room mate were not getting along, I had mildew in my closet, and I had quit my job in the assumption that I would soon be starting school and receiving my student loans.

It was then that my life in Vancouver really began, and I realized that big city living was not going to be what I had seen on TV. I was not, nor was I ever going to be Mary Tyler Moore throwing my hat up in the air, or Blair Waldorf living in the Penthouse suite. Here I was, a young woman in her early 20’s, learning that dreams don’t just come true, you have to work for them…and even when you do, they may not turn out the way you planned.

Today I live in a cozy apartment in my dream neighbourhood, working 4 jobs to pay the bills while I spend my spare time working, writing, and performing in Theatre. As of last year I received my Bachelor of Performing Arts from Capilano University, after 4 very trying and fulfilling years of theatre school. I have never worked so hard in my life, but I have also never been happier.

6 years after moving to Vancouver I no longer feel lost. I have found a home, and I am slowly but surely finding myself.

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