It’s been a little over a year since I put all my belongings in boxes, shipped them across the country (and in Canada, that means a quarter way across the world) and settled myself in Small Western Town, Alberta.
I’ve always thought of myself as a city girl. Before moving here, I refused to own a car, I was obsessive about my privacy, I spent my free time writing blog posts in artsy coffee shops and my interests included theatre, museums and window shopping.
Now, I rarely write, I rarely go to the coffee shop (there’s only one nearby, it closes early, is crowded and has no wireless) and, well, if I leave the house in my free time at all, it’s to go climb mountains. I drive everywhere, I put on 15 pounds and I’ve forgotten everything I ever understood about the concept of “waiting in line”. Or of waiting at all, really.
But I’m sold. I’m totally sold to small town life. If anything, I find that this town is too big and too far south. I find myself craving more remoteness, harsher climates and less privacy. I like being able to cross the street to get to work. I like the lack of traffic. I like that there’s no temptation to spend money. I love seeing the mountains from my kitchen/living room/bedroom window. I like recognizing people when I’m grocery shopping. I even like when people gossip about me. Makes me feel special.
I was worried that it would be hard to make friends, that everyone else my age would be totally different from me. That turned out to be true. I get along well with the other late-twentysomethings, but my road in life is education-then live it up-then have family-then show family how to live it up. Theirs is live it up-then have family-then regret not getting an education-then hire divorce lawyer.
Surprisingly, though, I don’t mind. After being around others for so long in school/roommates situations, I love my solitude. When an attempt at a romantic relationship failed a few months ago, I was sad for a couple of days, but it didn’t take long for relief to take over. Meditation, communing with nature, and, yes, getting caught up in my video gaming, have been so fulfilling that I don’t feel like anything’s missing. I love hanging out with the other young people in town once in awhile, but right now I feel so complete on my own that regular company of others just feels like excess baggage.
Going through school I felt like I’d sacrificed 10 years of my life. I still feel that way, but the sacrifice was worthwhile. I see so many girls and women around here having to depend on their spouses’ income and who can’t work a steady job due to having to schedule life around their kids. Because I put “real life” on hold for 10 years, I was able to start a career where I can afford to put money aside. Where I can do all the things I’ve dreamed of since I was little. Then when I get around adopting (because I’m not particularly interested in having my own), I can work part time and still have the resources give my kids a good life.
It’s not just about the money either. Education gave me a certain confidence. And it taught me tons about problem solving, and how to learn. I get this conversation all the time:
Me: Here, let me figure it out…. Got it!
Person: Ah, well, when you get to be my age, figuring things out just isn’t as easy anymore.
Me: You know I’m older than you, right?
(I’m starting to realize that in Small Town Alberta, if you don’t have kids, everyone assumes you’re under 20, because if you’re over 20, clearly you must have kids.)
There are some traits exclusive to Northern Alberta in my town. For example, our economy is good. Like, really good. Like, the mill, the mines and the oilfields hog most of the working force, leaving no one to work in stores, hotels or restaurants. Hiring is so painful. In the end, we sign contracts with other countries, so they send us some of their workers. But on the bright side, it makes for a lot of immigration, a lot of cultural diversity and a lot of open-mindedness. I didn’t have to deal with any of the snobbism and conservative attitude small towns are reputed with.
Quite the opposite, we’re all here, from all over the world, to make a good life for ourselves. And that makes for a great community.
So yeah, much to my surprise, I’m really enjoying small town life, and, especially, small town Northern Alberta life. I’ve got one more year here, then a year abroad, then, when I come back, I’m thinking of Yukon or the Northwest Territories. I’m really not in a hurry to find myself back in the city.