Contemplating Calgary, endings, beginnings and maybe goodbyes
Megan Orr, Opinions Editor // Photo provided by Megan Orr, age 4/5 feeding her Grandad’s horses
The air of the foothills is searing hot in the summer, many days reaching more than 30 degrees. The combination of the Rocky Mountains to the west and flat dry prairies to the east also makes it perfect ground for glorious, earth shattering thunderstorms that can flood the streets, damage property and scare even the most bold housepet. They can also sometimes only last for several minutes. For 10 days in July the entire city practically shuts down as the place is filled with both real and wannabe cowboys, breaking out their ill-fitting western wear and testing their livers and wallets. It’s home to the greatest outdoor show on earth: The Calgary Stampede.
It’s also home to me. Or at least it was. I have played around with calling Vancouver my home for more than six years, even switching over my license several years back making me an official British Columbian. However, I still fluctuate between calling Calgary and Vancouver home. When I am going to visit my family, I say I am going home. Then when I am coming back, I say that I am going home too. I haven’t really found much of a literal home here, having lived in seven different places over the years, not including the stint last summer where I actually moved back to Calgary for work.
The point is, home… is complicated. With my long, long six years at Capilano University coming to a close this semester, and with it, my time at the Courier, I have been reflecting on what it means to be home. I have never imagined, or really wanted, to move back to Calgary. But now, faced with an unforgiving housing and job market, the home of my adolescence has more appeal to me.
There is certainly the allure of returning to something that is familiar. Staying in Vancouver would mean continuing to embark on completely uncharted territories. I have few professional connections here and feel very much like an island unto oneself in my post-grad job search. Whereas, in Calgary, I have my family and friends to fall back on, as well as a vast network of people there who would like to see me succeed. Here, even though I have friends and colleagues that certainly aren’t rooting for my failure, there aren’t many people who would cook me my favourite meal, let me live with them and drive me to job interviews when the going gets tough. Not to mention the cost of living – no, actually, don’t mention it. I can’t even talk about it because the comparison makes me want to weep.
Every Christmas and every summer I have gone back to Calgary. While this is arguably a choice, and I am grateful to have family and friends that want to see me and that I want to see as well, I have sometimes found myself resenting that choice. It is expensive to travel within Canada, so in choosing to go to Alberta it means that I am choosing to not go elsewhere. I spend my vacation time in Calgary, which isn’t always a vacation what with social obligations and responsibilities, so I haven’t had a proper vacation in years.
Every July I go back to Calgary during Stampede. This isn’t by choice. I go back for my nephew’s birthday, which is around the same time. The Stampede is not to be missed if you have the opportunity to go, but as someone who has gone nearly every year of their life, I don’t get as excited about the drunk faux-cowboys and the whole city smelling like cow shit for 10 days. I have always considered it a bit of a social obligation as well. People have parties and pancake breakfasts and barbeques, and businesses use it as an opportunity to woo potential clients.
I have at times felt a little bit ashamed of where I come from. I didn’t know I was supposed to until I moved here and the people I told I was from Calgary would jokingly say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!” like something bad had happened to me. After spending last summer there as well as having the pleasure of the Courier crew joining me in Calgary for the NASH student journalism conference this past January, I have realized that Calgary is actually a pretty alright place.
It is home for me in a lot of ways – it’s where my family and childhood live. It’s where I swam in lakes in the summer and learned to fish. It’s where I built snowmen every single winter and fell in love for the first time, and the second. It’s where my nephews are growing up and will live and love in the same places that I did, in my grandparents’ old house, too. It’s maybe where my kids will grow and live and love as well. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but hey, at least it’s not Edmonton.