Meadow Lake wasn’t a complete waste

Well, here I am. I’ve been at the Westlock News now for over six months.

Six months! I can hardly believe the time has flown so quickly. It honestly feels like I only got here yesterday.

In these past six months, I have covered numerous rollovers on Alberta highways. I have written about what I perceive to be a coup in the Village of Clyde (it may be completely legitimate, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it). I have written more advancers than I frankly care for. In short, I have lived the life of a small-town reporter.

But, more than anything else, I have learned that for everything I hated about living in Meadow Lake, Sask. and working at the Meadow Lake Northern Pride, it has proven to have been a valuable experience that I needed to become who I am today.

And that’s something I find hard to admit, but it’s something I need to admit.

So here’s why Meadow Lake, and the four months I spent working there have turned out not to have been a total waste of my time and effort and sanity.

Living in Westlock, Alta., a town with a population of close to 5 000 people, is much like Meadow Lake, a ‘city’ with a population close to 5 000 people. Sure, Westlock is only about an hour away from Edmonton, and Meadow Lake is in the middle of butt-f*** nowhere, but in terms of size, they are quite similar. So all the aggravation I experienced in Meadow Lake with respect to how people seem to know everyone and are friendly, I now know what to expect when I go out here.

Another major lesson Meadow Lake taught me was what it takes to be a reporter. Meadow Lake practically threw me in the deep end and expected me to swim. Well, I didn’t fare too well. And I thought their approach was wrong and needed to be more nurturing of someone so fresh out of school. In fact, I still believe they expected too much of me too fast. But the main thing here is that it appears I needed to be thrown into a high-demand environment right off the bat. I have taken some of the things I learned (on my own, not was taught) in Meadow Lake and applied them here in Westlock. Things like the willingness to get out and meet people (OK, I’m still working on that), or to put in extra hours, or to actively take on stories instead of having them assigned to me. It’s that last one that’s the most important. I now actually show interest in some of my stories, and know that I need to work at my craft, instead of thinking I’m all that (well, OK, that was beaten out of me within two weeks of starting at the Northern Pride).

Meadow Lake also taught me that, in order to be successful, I need to step outside my comfort zone. Think about it. I moved to Meadow Lake, for f***’s sake! I then moved out to Westlock, even further from home than Meadow Lake was. Sure, I was apprehensive with this move. I would have been worried if I wasn’t apprehensive. But after what I went through in Meadow Lake, I knew what I needed to do to be successful here. I had already experienced small-town life, so I knew roughly what to expect.

So yeah. After much consideration, I have come to the conclusion that my time in Meadow Lake, despite all the aggravation and stress and unhappiness and loneliness and all that, it was not a total waste.

Now, of course the next question is this – would I do it again? The answer is no. No matter all the benefits I have managed to pull out of the experience, I would not go back there as my first job out of school. Maybe it’s somewhere I would go if I had been somewhere else first. But as a first job, not on your life. No degree of learning and benefits is worth how much I suffered while I was there.