Five years in Alberta

I wasn’t going to do this now, but I can change my mind, so I am doing this now.

In my last post, I touched on (previewed, really, this post) the fact I’ve been in Alberta for five full years as of Nov. 23, 2015. And what a five years it’s been.

And what’s even more interesting is I’m posting this on the five-year anniversary of starting work at the Westlock News. So things are coming together rather nicely.

So, what kind of a five years has it been for me out here in Alberta?

First, I think we need to flash back to before I arrived out here. But by only two to three weeks. It was right after I was offered the gig in Westlock, when I sat down in a darkened living room with my parents, discussing whether I would actually take the job. Many of you know how my Meadow Lake experience went. I won’t rehash it, because let’s be honest, that was over six years ago and it was really a blip in my personal history.

Anyway, it was a fairly difficult and serious conversation. I had to decide whether I really, *really* wanted to move back to Western Canada barely a year after I left it. Ultimately, we all agreed that there was no harm in going for it, knowing if it all fell apart again, I could simply move back to Toronto again.

Clearly that didn’t happen.

That first year in Westlock started well, with none of the problems I had in Meadow Lake. The people were nice, the community was much nicer, and having Edmonton about an hour away was certainly more than welcome.

I can’t express how important it is to have people you like among your coworkers. If you’re coming into a new place, far and away from everything you ever knew, it’s the people you meet and deal with on a regular basis who will determine if you’ll succeed or fail. And in my case, I felt supported and welcome, which in turn helped my work.

If you don’t feel welcome and comfortable where you are, your work is going to suffer.

Clearly I did some things right and showed I had the skills needed to succeed, because less than a year into my time out here I found myself living and working 40 kilometres to the west in Barrhead.

Barrhead. That was an experience. I felt less welcomed than in Westlock, but still considerably more welcomed than in Meadow Lake. The Barrhead experience did not go as well as it could have.

Maybe it was because I had become set in my ways in Westlock and adjusting to a new environment wasn’t easy. Or perhaps it was I came off cocky and arrogant, and didn’t fit into the environment as well as others could. I do know there was a healthy degree of animosity and friction in that office. It wasn’t exactly a healthy situation.

It was in Barrhead I first started seriously entertaining leaving Alberta, but that clearly didn’t come to fruition.

Instead, I ended up leaving Barrhead after offending the Dutch Christians in Neerlandia, an act that was unintentional, but one for which I remain staunchly unrepentant. I think you all know what I did. I went on a twitter rant about it.

So I returned to Westlock after the second reporter who replaced me proved not to be up to the task.

Back in Westlock, things went as well as always. I reported and photographed things, I lived with a cat and its owner.

Then I became an editor again. That was interesting. I think what I learned from that is I a) am not a great editor, and b) I would be a good editor if I didn’t also have to produce a reporter’s worth of stories as well as guide a reporter.

The less said about the reporter I worked with, the better.

That second editorship was a nine-month gig, after which I returned to that in which I felt most comfortable – reporting.

About a year later, I found myself at the Edmonton Sun, where I have been now for about 14 months.

So looking at things professionally, it’s been a great ride, with a few hiccups and rough patches. But nothing I would say that could be construed as horrible.

Personally, it’s been a lot less great.

Still single. Still living with random room/housemates, when I’d rather be on my own or living with a female, conjugal house/room/bedmate. That will come, eventually, maybe, I hope.

I was never good at making friends, but I think I’ve found a community that I could possibly flourish in. Or at least be welcomed. All I need to do is work on calming down on the field and not really worry about wins and losses. I mean, so I win a sports game – I feel good for a while. But is there an actual tangible effect on my life? No. Same, but in reverse, goes for losing.

I have anger issues at times.

Anyway.

Five years in Alberta. When I left for this province in mid-November 2010, I hoped it would be a successful venture, but I never truly imagined it would be one that shows no signs of ending after more than five years. I really thought I’d stay here two, maybe three, years, and then head elsewhere. Maybe not back into the GTA, but somewhere in southern or eastern Ontario.

That all could still happen come spring 2016 (no way in hell am I moving in the winter, again), but right now I would be content to remain in Edmonton and Alberta for another five years.

Because I know this for sure – short of being fired/let go/downsized, there is no way I’m leaving this place without another gig lined up. And gigs are still a big tough to come by.

 

Six months in Edmonton

To be completely truthful, I have not actually lived in Edmonton for a full six months yet, but when have I ever let facts get in the way of a good story?

Actually, very rarely. That’s sort of what happens when you’re a journalist — facts are kind of critical.

But, nonetheless, I believe I shall take some time right now to reflect on what is almost a full half year living in Edmonton and working for the Edmonton Sun.

Here we go!

First off, I never hated living and working in Westlock. It was a nice little town, and the people were great. I got along well enough with everyone, so from that perspective there was no reason to leave. However, being the new guy in town brought with it a lot of problems that could not easily be overcome — namely the dating game. Notwithstanding I’ve had horrible luck with that to begin with, trying to date in a community where everyone has known each other since they were knee high to a grasshopper is very difficult. I found those women who were my age and in whom I was interested were either engaged or married already. Boo.

And even besides that, I am a city boy at heart and in truth. So living in a small town, even one that’s about an hour away from a major city, is not precisely my cup of tea.

And I’d been there for nearly four years, so the job and the stories I was doing were getting stale.

So, with those thoughts in mind, it was getting to the point where I was looking for a change.

Enter the Edmonton Sun’s open special sections reporter position. Here was my chance for a change and to get into a city again.

I never actually thought I would get it, however. But I did.

And things have been pretty good ever since.

I work considerably fewer hours, but there are times when the stress levels are considerably higher. But that’s the nature of the beast, I suppose.

Then there is the fact I can play ultimate more than once a week. In fact, that was pretty much my first thought once I accepted the job offer. I play not only for the exercise and because I enjoy it — I also play to meet people. Now, I wouldn’t say I’ve made “friends” in the strictest sense of the word, yet. But I have met a lot of people whom I like and who seem to like me, so that’s good.

Now, it hasn’t been all good, this whole living in Edmonton thing. I’ve had to deal with a sewer drain backing up in one place I lived, a car crash (which, to be honest, could have happened anywhere) and an emergency move (the result of the sewer drain issue). But I can’t let those dampen what has been a really good past (almost) six months.

Time to see what the next six months have to offer.

2014 in a nutshell

I would have to say 2014 has been quite the interesting year.

Many things happened in this year — not the least was I finally left the Westlock News.

Now, I don’t say “finally left” and mean it was a long time coming and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Although, some of that is true. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and would have been content to stay there longer. But at the same time it had been nearly four years I had worked there — notwithstanding my nine months in Barrhead — and I felt it was time to move on to something else.

I had the chance to move to the Olds Albertan, maybe, but I opted not to go that route because it wasn’t what I was looking for.

I also had the chance to take up residence with the Athabasca Advocate, but they went with someone else.

So in the end I ended up with the Edmonton Sun. And then Postmedia (Canwest/Southam) bought Sunmedia, so I don’t really know who I work for now.

Working for a daily, especially one that is part of a national conglomerate, has its perks. However, most of those perks don’t really appear until I begin seeking a new gig — being part of a national company means it’s easier to move around the country because I’m already a known commodity with the company. Or at least that’s how I view it.

Besides, it’s not like I’m looking to move somewhere, anyway. I’ve only been with the Sun for less than three months, and it’s winter. I am not moving in winter.

Then again, another reason I’m not looking for move anywhere is because I like my chances with a young woman I’ve met out here. I feel we get along well, but nothing has been formalized yet, so I’m considerably jumping the gun at the moment. So, moving on.

One big plus to working with the Sun is the opportunity to move to and live in Edmonton. In fact, the first thought that came to my mind was I get to play ulltimate more than one night a week. And through the winter, too.

So I would have to say I’ve played more ultimate in 2014 than I had ever played before.

I played summer league, played in three tournaments (including one in Saskatoon), played fall league, and I’m now playing two nights a week in winter league.

I have also been to some trainings, and want to go to more, if only they were not at 7am on a Saturday and I wasn’t sick.

I hate being sick.

What else happened in 2014 was my first trip home in more (or less) than two years. I say both because I arrived home less than two years after I left Toronto last time, but returned to Edmonton after I left Toronto last time. Does that make sense?

However, I guess the real point of my trip home, and by real point I mean the biggest deal was how it was my first time home for Christmas since I was still living at home in 2009. I had been a long time.

The there was the wedding I attended, which was the reason I went home. Because, seriously, I have only ever gone home to attend weddings. Or, more to the point, weddings are the only reasons I ever use the Edmonton international airport. I’m not kidding.

Hmm. So what else is there to say about 2014?

I lost contact with, or chose to reduce or severe contact with, a few people. It’s a natural part of life, I suppose, but part of me does ache doing it. But when people are not responsive, there’s only so much I’m going to put up with.

Yeah. That ought to do it.

Happy 2015, everybody!

I review my 2012, pt. 4

Well, it’s time to get to wrapping up my 2012.

In this chapter, we look at what happened in my life in the months of October, November and December.

In October I was quite settled back into my return in Westlock. Life at home was pretty good. I was happy with living with people again. As much as it’s nice to be able to do what I want when I want, there is something to be said about having humans around you can talk to and interact with. As October progressed, it got colder. We had snow before Halloween. For Halloween, I had plans to sit in a lawn chair with a pumpkin on my head and scare the everliving snot out of kids who came up our walkway. Nope. Never did it. It was too cold and I wasn’t willing to sit out there for a few hours. Maybe next year.

November was blah. Winter set in, but for the first time since I lived at home, I had a garage in which to park my car. The fact that’s my highlight of November tells you a lot.

Now, as for December. What can I say?

In December I boarded a plane back to Hogtown for a wedding. Not just any wedding, mind you. It was the wedding of one of my best friends. I cried. Not at the ceremony. Not even really at the reception. But it was at the reception, when I pulled the bride aside and asked her about something her new-hubby had told me. I won’t recount that here, because I don’t want to give away everything about me.

While home I also managed to see people I hadn’t seen in years, and others I’d just seen in July when I was last home. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here — letters, email, phone calls and texting can only do so much to keep in touch with friends; in the end you need to have physical contact to maintain that connection.

So there we have it. A very disjointed and rather pathetic recap of what my 2012 was like. And it only took me two weeks to finish.

I review my 2012, pt. 3

July, August and September.

Fun times were had.

I had the chance to go home for only the second time since I moved out to Alberta. And much like the last time I had been home (November 2011) it was about 20 C warmer in Toronto than it was in Edmonton/Westlock. I know I grew up with summers being in the 25-30 C plus humidex range, but when you leave that environment for over a year, coming back home certainly kicked me in the shins. I completely forgot what Toronto summers were like.

So what brought me back to the Big Smoke? Tess got married. I won’t say no to wedding invites. They’re pretty much the only excuse I have to come home. And they’re pretty much the only chance for me to see friends, as they don’t seem willing to come out and visit me.

Anyway. July was pretty awesome.

August.

To be honest, I have no clue what I did in August. I think a lot of it was getting back into the work rhythm.

September, on the other hand, was kind of interesting. School started again, and just like every September starting in 2009, I felt out of place not returning to a place of learning. See, being 26 at the time, I had been starting school every September from 1990 until 2008. In other words, I had been alive for 24 years and going to school for 18 of those. In even more other words, 75 per cent of my life’s Septembers had been spent going to school.

Um, so where was I going with this? I don’t know.

Come back later and I’ll tell you about October, November and December. Something actually happened during those months.

I review my 2012, pt. 2

Well, first off I should probably engage in some self-promotion.

I am 27 today! Happy Birthday to me!

Alright. Back to business.

———-

OK, now we’re getting into the stuff i remember more. It’s also the stuff that I need to be the most careful talking about.

In April, we had Easter. And we also learned that I really need to be careful about what I say. I also need to learn about the audience. What I’m talking about is my comment at the end of my Easter column, when I said that instead of “Happy Easter,” I prefer to say “All hail Zombie Jesus.” That comment essentially ended my time in Barrhead.

But it also gave me a reason to take a road trip. See, since I started out here way back in November 2010, I’ve wanted to take a trip up to Athabasca and Lac La Biche — in other words, the other two Town and Country communities. I lucked out with this trip. Even though it was April in Alberta, it was warm enough that I didn’t need my coat while exploring Lac La Biche in the afternoon. When it comes down to it, my trip north was to scope out a town where I may have moved, as the Lac La Biche Post was looking for a reporter at the time. I never got that job, and although it’s disappointing not to get a job, as you’ll read later, it all worked out in the end.

The end of April and early May was very nerve wracking. My fate at Barrhead was still up in the air, I was pretty much persona non grata around town, and all the stress was getting to me. Luckily, by the end of the month, things had finally sorted themselves out. My old job with the Westlock News opened up and I jumped at it. I still feel bad about how it came about, but I’m very happy to be back. I suppose things happen for a reason.

June. June was pretty much getting back up to speed in Westlock. For being away in Barrhead for about a pregnancy, I had lost track of everything that was going on in Westlock.

Even so, June was exciting in some ways. I got to be involved with the grand opening of Westlock’s new Spirit Centre. It is a stunning facility for a town of ~5000 people. Clearly, for having grown up in Toronto and doing university in Ottawa, I’ve seen considerably better facilities. The Ice House at Carleton comes to mind. But for Westlock, it’s amazing.

Then there was the completion of my return to Westlock when I moved back here. After leaving back in October 2011 under very bad terms because one of the people I lived with was a jerk, my return engagement was a lot better. I live in a basement, with near carte blanche access to the rest of the house. This is good because the only appliance I have in the basement is a fridge.

So there we have it. Come back later for July through December, in two parts.

I review my 2012, pt. 1

I do believe I shall break down my 2012 year in review into four parts, much like I’ve done in the past.

So, without further ado, I shall attempt to recap my January, February and March. Hopefully I remember what I did way back then. It’s been a long time.

January started with me starting to realize the Barrhead experiment wasn’t going to work out too well. It was becoming very apparent my strident anti-theist views would not mesh well with the staunchly christian community in the area, a point that would be driven home more strongly in April.

Still, things were interesting. I was continuing to love shooting in the local rink. Compared to what I had to work with at Westlock’s Jubilee Arena, the Agrena had NHL-caliber lighting. It was wonderful.

In February, I finally made my way down to Calgary for an Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association symposium. It was a fun experience, getting to gather and chat with my fellow journalists, as well as learn some things. However, on the learning side of things I did not do so well, mainly because I pretty much knew it all already. Still, it doesn’t hurt to get a refresher.

Looking back, I would have to say the AWNA symposium was the highlight of February. And that’s kind of sad.

When March rolled around, … you know what? I can’t really safely speak about January through March, and even into April. My thoughts on those months are not fit for this public a forum. That and March was a bore too.

So I’m going to cut this short here. When I do my April, May and June review, I can say more in general, and talk about a trip I took.

But for now, I’m done.

Cheers.

-30-