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McMurray Musings

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People come here seeking opportunity, and often find far more than they ever expected…

IT’S FUNNY HOW CONVERSATIONS here in Fort McMurray often include comments about how people came here on “a plan.” I’ve heard people say they came on the “five-year plan,” the “two-year plan,” and the “ten-year plan.” This plan usually means they came here with the intent to stay for five years, two years, or ten years, and then leave, either back to where they originated or off to greener pastures. What’s even funnier is how often the comment is followed with a laugh as they explain how the five-year plan became fifteen years, the two years became ten, and the ten years became a lifetime. I think it’s because there is no such thing as a plan when it comes to choosing this region as home.

 People come here seeking opportunity, and often find far more than they ever expected. They arrive here looking for work, but find a career. They come looking for friends, but find community. For some they come alone, not really looking – but they find love. Suddenly a place that seemed like a wise choice for a five-year plan, a temporary stopping point, starts looking an awful lot like a long-term home instead.

I’ve lived in many other places, and I’ve never met anyone who moved there on a plan. Most moved to new communities with the expectation they would simply stay as long as they felt they wanted too, but without need for an “escape plan” tied to a number of years of residency. So why do those who move here come thinking they need a plan? Why do they arrive here with a number in their head, a finite number of days, months, weeks, or years that they intend to stay? I suspect it’s simply because they don’t understand the true nature of this place.

You see, it’s easy to think that this community will not become home. If one goes by the reports from national and international media, no one actually lives here and feels proud to do so. If one goes only by what one reads and hears, one would think you need to come here with a plan, with some sort of planned escape route so that at the end of that number you can pack up your things and get the hell out of Dodge. Except that at the end of those years most people choose to stay, it seems. Most people stay long beyond the end of their “plan.”

This region has been built on people who came here on two-year, five-year, and ten-year plans. It has been forged by those who came and intended to leave after a few years, but who ended up staying for decades. This community has grown into a collective of those who came on a plan and stayed because it became home. I suspect for most they never even noticed when the date on their plan expired, when it was six years instead of five, or four years instead of two. I imagine they were simply far too busy living their lives here – pursuing careers, finding love, raising children, buying homes, and just doing what we all do – to even look at the calendar to realize the date had passed.

Now when I meet someone newly arrived and they tell me they have come on a five-year plan I just look at them and grin. I don’t want to burst their bubble by telling them there is no such thing as a five-year plan in Fort McMurray, so I don’t say a word. I just suggest we make another date for coffee – in about six years.

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A freelance writer, blogger and professional communicator who is passionate about her child, her work, her pets, her community and the power of words, Theresa Wells believes perfection in life is achieved when she is surrounded by amazing people, fantastic stories, cold gin and really hot shoes.