The City That Doesn’t Judge (Leisha Senko, @LeishaSenko)

I’ve never been the best judge of what’s normal. Many moons ago I missed that ship, and it’s only now that I’m becoming truly aware. Of course, the red flags were present. For all of Grade 7 I refused to eat with anything other than Korean chopsticks, including at such exotic locations as Swiss Chalet. In Grade 10, I would regularly wear full sleeve shirts with quarter sleeve sweaters. And, when prom rolled around, I insisted on dressing as a feminist flapper girl, despite the fact that the event had decidedly no theme. All in all, I really should have seen it sooner.

And yet growing up, the opportunity never seemed to present itself. As an only child, I didn’t have any siblings to aggressively mock the weird out of me, my friends throughout high school and middle school just seemed to go with the flow, and in later years I found that my teachers were exponentially more strange than I could ever hope to be. To my great delight, it would never foreseeably be an issue. I planned, much like any slightly unorthodox individual, to move to the city and simply blend. And I knew there would be things waiting for me: comic book stores, vegan cafes, roller derby tryouts and rolling protests. Maybe, just maybe, I would have liked it, but as my future began to align, it became perfectly clear that I’d be coming here to Brantford. Equally clear was the fact that this is where I wanted to be.

It wasn’t easy though. Laurier Brantford functioned a lot more like a high school, back when I was in first year, than a post-secondary institution. The classes were small and the extracurriculars were hauntingly minimal. Yoga pants and Ugg boots were the norm. Everyone, it seemed, knew everything about everyone.

I found it difficult to blend. I know now that a lot of people did. During my time here, I’ve met some delightfully kooky and wonderfully out there individuals. From people who spontaneously break into broadway song and dance while studying, to those who play board games on Thursday nights instead of going out. My roommates, luckily, are of just this variety. We sunbathe on our driveway, pretend to be airplanes buzzing down the sidewalk, and sing in public when so inclined – all things I would never have the guts to do in Toronto.

We’ve even taken to calling Brantford the city that doesn’t judge. Unfortunately, for many involved within this city, it may seem like a laughable concept. Brantford non-judgemental? I’m sure I risk eliciting some hearty laughs, but I stand by my point. I think there is often an atmosphere of acceptance here that is broadly overlooked. Sure we squabble and we nitpick, but we’re forced by proximity, geography and possibly even curiosity to hear each other out. Believe it or not, you don’t see that everywhere. In big cities it’s easier to put blinders on and ignore the people and ideas you find undesirable. We just can’t do that here.

We’re locked into this together. Like Wesley with his iocane powder in the movie The Princess Bride, we too have slowly built up an immunity to what others often find extremely unpleasant – approaching others with an open mind. Although there will always be naysayers, people who like to poke fun or sneer at those who are different, Brantford has always had more marvellous misfits than crotchety critics. A place that’s growing and changing, embracing its oddness in all the right ways. In my mind it’ll always be a community where it’s okay to be a little bit weird.

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