When I was invited to write a guest blog for Kikki Planet, a hot Edmonton website, I didn't expect much to happen. Once again I under-estimated the interest in our community, and once again I was caught a bit off-guard by all the attention.
You see, when I began writing this blog in April I thought it would be a quiet little blog about life in Fort Mac. I thought a few people would read it, but not many. I thought I'd remain anonymous (and yes, if you're looking, my name and photo aren't on the blog - and that's not likely to change, either). I thought it would have a pretty minimal impact on anyone, including me. I thought wrong.
This blog caught the attention of a few people, and then a few more. Suddenly my readership was not just local, but national - and international. I began to realize the interest in our community was much larger than I anticipated. I began to realize that there was a hunger to hear stories about life in Fort Mac, but not about the negative stuff. There was a desire to hear the other side.
So, I began to write about real life in Fort Mac. The good, the bad, and the reality. I began to meet new people - people who inspired me, people who amazed me, and people who touched my heart. I made so many new friends, from all walks of life. I began to see my own community with new eyes, and I learned something new about it every single day.
As I wrote I became more and more passionate about the community. I began to find that I wanted to share with the world who we are, and what we want to become. I began to find myself more and more defensive of our community, too, unwilling to let unkind media jabs go unanswered.
So, when Kathleen Smith, or Kikki, contacted me and asked me to write a guest blog I agreed, of course. It was a chance to spread that message just a bit further, to address the soured neighbour relationship between Fort Mac and Edmonton, and to forge a new bridge between our communities. I wrote it, submitted it (along with Steve Reeve's equally fantastic guest blog post) and thought that would be my opportunity to spread the word about Fort Mac. I thought that would be the end of it.
Once again, though, I was wrong. I learned very quickly that the blogs on Kikki Planet had garnered a lot of interest. The interest came from Fort Mac, but from Edmonton, too. And then Kathleen sent me a message - CBC Radio Edmonton wanted to speak to us about the guest blog posts, and about our message. Would I do it?
People, I admit it. I don't like cameras, or microphones. I am uncomfortable in the public eye, and see myself as a writer who hides behind her keyboard whenever possible. But I had learned something during the months I wrote this blog. I learned that my desire to spread the word about Fort Mac trumped that discomfort. I learned that I felt I had a responsibility to the community, and, more importantly, to all the people in it who read my blog, told me they enjoyed it, agreed to be interviewed for it, or invited me to events in order to write about them. I learned that going outside my personal comfort zone was not only okay, but it was good for me - and, just maybe, good for our community, too. I still think the role I serve in our community is minimal - the really important work in my opinion is done by our mayor and councillors, those who run our non-profit groups, those who run businesses, and all those who make our city function. I'm just an observer with a keyboard who has been granted an opportunity to write about it all.
This morning I went and did that CBC radio interview with Kathleen Smith. I think it went okay, but I'll leave that up to all of you to judge. Last night, though, my daughter, the Intrepid Junior Blogger, came to me and told me she is proud of me. And in the end that's all that matters because to be very honest I don't really write this blog for all of you, people, or even for me. I write this blog for her, because Fort McMurray is the home she will remember. She came here when she was 2 years old, and this is her hometown. This blog is my humble attempt to ensure that when she leaves Fort Mac and goes out into the world that the world knows a bit about the real Fort Mac. In the final analysis all that matters to me is that she is proud of me, and proud of our community.
I don't know if I will live here forever. Knowing how careers go I suspect that the reason we came to Fort Mac - my husband's job - is likely the reason we will one day leave it, too. What I do know, though, is that wherever we end up in the world I will continue to tell my story of life in Fort McMurray. I will continue to spread our positive message, and I will never stop. Fort McMurray has crept into my heart over the last decade - but it wasn't really the city that did that. It was the people in it. It was all of you. Thank you, Fort McMurray, for making this such an easy community to defend. Thank you for making it easy for me to want to invite the world to visit us, as I did at the end of the radio interview. Thank you for being the most generous, most innovative, most welcoming, and most exciting place I've ever lived. Thank you for making this the easiest blog in the world to write, and for allowing me to share my story of life here with all of you. And frankly that's what I intend to go back to doing, because I'm kind of interested in going back to hiding behind my keyboard, quietly observing life in our community and writing about it. One of the biggest things I was wrong about, people, was about the impact this blog has had on my life. And I've never been so happy to be wrong about something in my entire life - because my life has been enriched in ways I never thought possible. That's due to Fort Mac - and all of you. Thanks Fort Mac - just for being you.