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The Five-Year Plan

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We came here in 2009 with a five year plan, a marriage that was rocky at best, no kids, no dog and no expectations.

It's 2014. Five years and the FOR SALE sign is the yard, pictures are on MLS and the lockbox is out, so why am I crying as I think of leaving and going back to BC? I mean this was the plan, right? Come up here for five years make a bunch of money and go home just like everyone else’s plan.

I came with an attitude that I am embarrassed to admit any longer about this town. “I hate this place, there is nothing to do here, the people just drink and smoke. What am I even doing here? I am WAY above this sh*thole. They can’t even get it together enough to light all the letters in Casino.”

I struggled quite a bit when I first got here but it wasn’t with the town; it was with me. I already had friends, friends that were way cooler and smarter; friends that knew the difference between “seen” and “saw”. How could I even subject myself to this?

I remember the first day that my husband had gone to work and I was alone, not sure where to go or what to do. I mean, I didn’t know anyone. I saw a lady across the street getting her toddler organized into a stroller to go for a walk on that brisk spring day. With an enormous amount of fear I walked across the street and said, “Hi! I am new in town and I was wondering if I could walk with you?” I had sunglasses on to block the tears welling in my eyes while I thought about what I would do if she said no, but she didn’t. She invited me to come with her, and together we walked, and she told me all about her life and how hard it was to come up. But now things were better because she “got out there…whatever that meant”.

I had a great walk and it felt good, but you know what? I never asked her again to go for a walk and so I ask myself Why? I was still so new, and maybe she was just being polite. Plus, she had a child and I had no interest in kids and their restrictions. I was foreign to the idea of coming over and having coffee in your home. “Aren’t we going to go to the local coffee house?” This place is weird.

Is it weird, or was it that I had to go outside of my comfort zone? Is it a terrible place or is it me that has a terrible attitude about this place?

For nine months I partied as much as possible, and I bitched to all my friends in BC as much as they would listen. I talked about everybody and all of their flaws and not once in those nine months did I ever look at myself in the mirror and say, “What do I want from this experience?” “Where else in the country can my husband get a job that is TRIPLE his last year’s income?” I didn’t care about him; I cared about me and how much this sucked for me. I didn’t care that he left his friends and his family, that this was a new place for him to fit in as well. I didn’t care! I just DID NOT CARE!

And then the turning point came. We were not leaving, so “You better suck it up, Princess”. In January 2010, I gave myself an attitude adjustment. I started applying for jobs left, right and center. Jobs I had no experience for, but I didn’t care…I knew I had to get out there! And then it came: a call from a radio station to be a sales rep, a position I would not even be considered for at home, but one I knew I could do.

My Fort McMurray life changed forever. I was introduced to people that loved it here, that saw the opportunities this town provided and took them for their own. I met people that donate more money to those in need than I could ever imagine. I met people that vacationed four times a year, snowmobiled in the winter and boated in the summer and who were always thankful for what this town has provided for them.

It is now 2014 and I am writing this while the winter sun shines into our playroom, watching my two children play alongside one another, and I think…..I am not sure that I want to leave. My husband is still going to commute back and forth and I could stay and take my kickass job back or even go to site and we could make MORE MONEY. But after all these years it turns out that my reason for coming started out as a financial one, but really I needed to work on myself, be humbled and open my eyes to the diversity everyone can offer.

We came here to make money and we came here to escape the crippling economy that was facing the rest of the country (including ourselves), and we gained so much more than money can buy. We are not rich. We do not have enough money to retire our butts on some beach, but the knowledge, friendship and experience that we have gained is more than I could have ever imagined. The confidence of being a part of the most influential and talked about town in North America is personal. Now when someone asks or talks about Fort McMurray, I am the first to say, “You don’t know the town until you have lived there, and even then you don’t know it until you have put yourself out there.”

I am so thankful that we came to Fort McMurray, and I am also happy to embrace my new adventure.

The friends we have met here in five years are like friends I have known my entire life…but better because they like/love me for who I am now, not because we have known each other since we were in diapers. They are from places in the country I had never heard of and so my connection to this beautiful country we live in feels stronger, as I now have a better understanding of this country’s diversity.

Tears roll down my face as I think of the people I will be leaving, and again I wonder is this the right thing to do. I am leaving people that have supported me, shown me kindness and challenged me. I am leaving a town that has so much opportunity that the sky’s the limit.

So what am I trying to say, you might ask. Well here goes…

  • If you are new to town and you don’t like it, why not adjust your attitude just a little?
  • Is it this town that sucks or is it your attitude about this town?
  • Is there nothing to do here or have you even tried to find something to do?
  • Is there a reason you are here that is beyond money?

We could have all stayed at home…we really could have. Why didn’t we? We left because we wanted a new life.


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