I recently made a huge shift in my life. Like huge. Huge huge. Sitcom-worthy huge. After spending six years of my life living in one of the hottest cities in North America I made the move, just two days ago, to middle of nowhere rural northern Alberta. This really wasn’t necessarily an action born out of choice per se.
Back in February, my parents relocated to the small town of Valleyview for work-related purposes. The transition was striking for them. After a lifetime vacillating between booming cities and towns , a farming and oil town of 1885 residents was nothing short of a complete cultural grenade. But tough economic times call for tough situations to which one must adapt in order to keep going. My mother, in particular, struggled to settle into her new life. A socialite with a flair far too fashionably regal for my own ability, she found the switch from weekly parties and dinners to the pinnacle of socialization being dinner with my father slightly difficult. Despite this, however, her appreciation and love for the town would grow. She appreciated having time away from the melange of pettiness and gossip that pervaded her social circles. She now, after all, had time to return her concentration to her marriage, helping her husband in their new life together.My father, on the other hand, found little struggle when it came to the socialization aspect. A recluse by nature, my father’s only social solace was and has been his family. Instead, my father struggled with taking a mediocre franchise store and reviving it into the success that it has become now, months later. Sleepless nights and mounting stress characterized his first few weeks and months in Valleyview. Doubt was quick to settle in – was this really all worth it? The store’s initial business wasn’t any where near the grandiose promises made. Instead it seemed that all the work that was being put into the store was, instead, leading to little financial fruit. This pending realization was, without a doubt, painful to confront. My parents at the age of 52 had uprooted themselves completely, relocated and taken a chance on an opportunity with no guaranteed success. There was no going back and the uncertainty of securing a better life and future of their children was a frightening one. Faith in God was the only certainty onto which they could hold.
When I first heard about my parents’ move and the town to which they were moving I was, needless to say, beyond shocked. I could not fathom how my parents, at their age, could make the transition that they were seeking to make. Having your typical immigrant story, my family’s economic situation has been unstable for years – oscillating more rigorously with each fluctuation of the economy. Yet while our financial situation, whilst living in Vancouver, had been relatively stable for a few years, supporting extended family and my education undoubtedly served as burdens. Yet both were never treated as such – rather, my parents welcomed any way they could ease the burdens faced by members of their family. Thus, while I was happy that there was a prospect for some semblance of stability in my parents bank accounts, their new migration concerned me nevertheless. I suppose this has something to do with the fact that the older we all grow the more sense of responsibility I feel for taking care of them. In a way I think it’s some sort of misplaced self-righteousness, which definitely isn’t cool. Regardless, I felt and feel as I do and that now visceral sense of responsibility and duty will only strengthen with time, aided by years of witnessing years of struggle.
Despite that, however, I was totally mortified when I learned that I had really little choice other than to return to my family’s new home upon completing my MA. I had and have no desire of remaining in Montréal for the long term, thus signing any lease made little sense. And I definitely did not want to deal with the aches of limbo residence. Additionally, there was direly little prospect of finding a job in the city, so there was pretty much no way in hell that I’d just sit around until I found a job elsewhere – there was no way of affording it. Most importantly, it had been over a year since I’d been able to spend significant time with my family and it was high time that I use the time I had been given in this period of transition to reconnect with them.
But it was primarily because my parents were all like aw-hell-no on any further stay in Montréal.
The plan initially was that I would stay until October, return to Montreal until I’d find a job. My mother, with all her maternal guilt-tripping and authority however, felt quite to the contrary.
So, I bought a one-way ticket to what will be the next few months of my life in the middle of nowhere rural Alberta. I’m not going to lie, I was terrified. I’m a city girl. I find a boisterous suburb suffocating. I need constant stimulation and I need certain things to be easily accessible. And yes, I realize how preciously spoiled I sound, but we all have our environmental preferences.
Getting that email confirmation of my ticket purchase was absolutely terrifying. Here I was, trading in my fun, lively and unpredictable life in a cosmopolitan city for, well, the boonies.
CBC, I really hope you’re reading this.
Next post: First impressions.