In high school, I talked a big game. I had no interest in remaining in my little town, population 657,000 and change. I was going to travel the world, have exciting adventures, and settle down in a brownstone in Toronto or New York. (I did not watch Sex and the City but I’d seen enough American television to know about brownstones.)
Last week, I bought a t-shirt that says Still in Edmonton. Because I am.
The shirt spoke to me, and unfortunately for my introverted ass it’s also a major conversation starter. If you want to spend a lot of time talking to strangers, this shirt is where it’s at.
What this meant was I needed to come up with a better backstory than “uhh I was born here?” for the curious onlookers.
So why didn’t I leave? It wasn’t because of any innate love of Edmonton. Like many hometown girls I had a hate/hate relationship with the place. It was too suburban, too familiar, the downtown was dead – it was my parents’ city, not mine.
It didn’t occur to me to leave home for university, although some of my classmates did. Later, when I graduated, I was consumed with making my rent. It didn’t occur to me to sell my meager belongings and ship out.
I got married. My husband shared my dreams of a life Not Here. We went on many vacations together. But it didn’t occur to me to do anything but buy a house. (Probably the actual stupidest plan for aspiring world travellers.)
I got divorced. I rented out my home of four years in sleepy Mill Woods and moved to Old Strathcona, the hippest neighbourhood in Edmonton. By now, having assumed both the equity and substantial debt of an eight-year relationship, you would think fleeing the country might have sounded great.
But it didn’t even occur to me. My instinct was to stay here and run through the beautiful river valley until my pain faded into an appreciation for the quiet, summer trails.
The world traveller type I invented for myself turned about to be something I thought I wanted. The reality is I love Edmonton, and I love that my friends and family are here too. (I actually have a world travelling, backpacking type friend and whenever she tells me about it I’m like are you insane?, which is a fairly accurate indicator her lifestyle isn’t for me.)
I still love travel. I like making sense of a new place, learning where all the good food is and staring at artifacts of a time I can never visit. I also like coming home to where I unwittingly built a life by ignoring all the times I could have abandoned it.
I’m not looking to run anymore. I’m still in Edmonton. And it’s good here.