Why I Am Grateful to Fort McMurray

Reflecting on the year 2012, I am most happy to have completed one full summer in Fort McMurray.

Aerial view of downtown Fort McMurray

Aerial view of downtown Fort McMurray

This is the first chapter in, what I have chosen to call, “My Temporary Lifestyle.” With The Consultant bidding on and attaining contract work, we never know for sure where we’ll wind up or for how long.

Summer 2012 was in Fort McMurray, the epitome of The Temporary Lifestyle. During our six months in town, I realized we were among the multitudes of others who are living it.

I joined my husband in May, hesitant and resistant to the experience, but I had a plan. I would connect to the community and make something of my time there. Ah, the best laid plans.

It didn’t take long for me to learn that the good citizens of Fort McMurray are reluctant to get involved with and attached to temporary residents like me. As much as I understood, I still felt singled out and deflated by unsuccessful attempts to know people.

But, in spite of failed connections, I look back now and recognize the good that came out of this stint.

I have realized:

  1. I don’t want to live in a condo. I now call condo living, glorified camping. You can hear the business of all your neighbours, know their comings and goings, and are forced to share musical tastes at any time of day.
  1. I need deep connection with women to be happy. Although the intense togetherness my husband and I were experiencing was enjoyable, I am a woman.  Women need other women. All “my gals” were at minimum 8 highway hours away. I couldn’t buzz them up for a quick visit over coffee and I missed them terribly.
  1. Calgary isn’t so bad.  Many Calgarians feel an urge to get off the treadmill and flee the rat race. Being away has given me perspective so I see Calgary in a new light. There is quality to life here with many opportunities for young families to excel. Exposure to cultural, sport, and career experiences are varied and easily attained. Our’s is a large community of caring individuals so all that is required is the desire for volunteer involvement and you’re in. The city is modern and progressive, which makes it exciting without the impersonal feel you would expect from a city of over one million. In Calgary, you are bound to find your people.
  1. Technology makes my world go round. Thanks to email, Skype and text messages, I was in the loop and felt connected.  My need to maintain meaningful relationships is strong.
  1. A LARGE dose of time on my own is productive and deeply satisfying. With The Consultant working ten to twelve-hour days, it could be very intimidating for me to have such huge chunks of alone time. When one has goals and something to work toward, unallocated time is a great gift. I explored the writing craft, set priorities and took risks.
  1. It is the little things that make a difference.  In a small fashion, I contributed to the happiness of a few local ladies. Whether it was acknowledging the experiences of a new Canadian or sharing information on child rearing, in the big picture, there was a connection that was mutually beneficial and satisfying.
  1. I want to be near my family. My family values are strong and my immediate family has been extremely close. I don’t know that I was ready to live away from my adult children.  At the very least, I would like the option to be with them often. I have grown up with sisters and we’ve all experienced great loss recently. We appreciate each other and our time together more than ever. I missed them.
  1. I am more attached to my house than I realized. My house has never been my dream home but it is the home where I raised my kids. It holds my memories, my peace, my comfort and my sense of normalcy amidst so much change.
  1. “Stuff” does not make me happy. I am not attached to very much and I like life that way. This is not new. It is a confirmation. We lived very simply in Fort McMurray. Our condo held only what I really needed. It freed me from distractions to confirm that life is all about relationships and experiences.

I have a new awareness of myself. Fort McMurray helped me see what I do and do not need in my life. It helped me define my course and reconfirm my priorities. I am grateful for the experience however; in the end I knew that Fort McMurray would never be my home.  As I drove Highway 63 south last October, there was no looking back.

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