McMurray Musings - Not Your Usual Suspect... Kaitlin Armstrong
When Kaitlin Armstrong relocated to Fort McMurray from Vancouver Island four years ago it was the beginning of a life journey she had never really anticipated. Like many journeys, though, the first few steps she took were difficult ones, and for a short period led her away from the path she pursues today.
“My initial experience was challenging and I imagine many others also share this feeling. I was welcomed by many friendly and kind people at my job and in the community, but I was unhappy with my work and the shock of the long cold winters felt very isolating. It took my first year of working in an unfulfilling job as well as neglecting my passions to cause me to hit my rock bottom. During this time I was struggling with health issues including infertility and I desperately missed the joys I indulged in regularly back home. I dwelled on how Fort McMurray was to blame and never looked at my own attitude as the problem,” says Armstrong of her rough start in her new home.
Armstrong didn’t give up on herself, though, or Fort McMurray: “I finally realized that I had a choice in my circumstances and my feelings about where I lived and how I spent my time. I started positive affirmations, quit my job, built a yoga community and celebrated my creative passions. This community shifted from a cold and lonely, miserable place to a glorious and supportive city that offered me the opportunity to do a job that I loved and surround myself with people that inspire me while I continue to learn and grow and explore all my creative expressions.”
Armstrong took those early challenges and dark days and used them as a starting point to change her life, eventually changing other lives she touched along the way. She says of her life now: “I am an entrepreneur and passion filled yoga instructor! I have my own company called In Balance For Life that offers yoga retreats, yoga teacher trainings and intensives and other yoga and health events. I am so blessed to work at Higher Health Yoga, an authentic and holistic community where I teach classes that are unique to my style of teaching. I also teach indoor cycling classes at the YMCA. I have a fall Yoga Teacher Training coming up in town and two retreats to Mexico and Costa Rica this winter. And then after that who knows - I want to keep raising the bar and challenging myself to share what I love and what makes me happy. Sometimes I think my employment should be called ‘Loving life every second’! This past spring I put on a Health and Arts Festival with my wonderful friend Pattie Dwyer that collaborated with all the other beautiful healers, yogis, artists and practitioners alike in the community and that offered three days of fun filled classes, workshops and presentations as well as a market and live performances to over 350 attendees. This community is amazing for supporting doers and dreamers like myself in making set goals come to fruition.”
When she changed her attitude, her view on Fort McMurray changed, too. Says Armstrong: “There are no words that can truly express my gratitude to Fort McMurray. It was no coincidence I ended up in this amazing community where the impossible is always possible. I found my true calling and purpose in life on the Birchwood trails and on my yoga mat at Higher Health. I have made so many amazing friends here and I am blessed to call them my family. I didn’t expect to wake up every morning with a smile on my face and do a job I absolutely love and be surrounded by other inspiring individuals that continue to choose their happiness over any monetary value or status. I am humbled by my journey so far and can truly see now that life is truly as awesome or as awful as you make it. I love that Fort McMurray has shown me my true power in living a life of meaning and joy.”
There is no doubt that Armstrong, while not your usual suspect, has become a strong community advocate. When asked what she would say to someone considering their own relocation to Fort McMurray she says, with her ever-present beaming smile in full force, “This community will be exactly what you make it. There is so much beauty and generosity here as well as opportunity to be the person you have always dreamed - so take it! Don’t wait for life to happen to you - make life happen for you. Get involved in whatever makes you happy - this community has so much going on. Surround yourself with people that uplift you. Know this more than anything – it’s not Fort McMurray that sucks, it’s your attitude. Open your eyes and heart and you will see why every three-year plan turns into 10!”