Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Milestones and Gratitude, Fort McMurray Style

One year ago today I started a little blog. I started it because of four people. One was a friend who loved the notes I wrote on Facebook and said she would love to see me start blogging. One was a friend from Vancouver who has been blogging for years and said not only should I blog but that I should blog about Fort McMurray because I had an insider's perspective on the community. One was the security screening guard in the Vancouver airport who looked at my boarding pass and didn't believe I lived in Fort McMurray. His words? "Nobody who looks like you lives in Fort Mac". And one was my daughter, the youngest Intrepid Junior Blogger.

I began to write about Fort McMurray because I saw that there was a perception in the world about who we are and what we do that needed to be changed. I looked at my daughter and saw her growing up in a place that I knew was amazing but that was being attacked by outside media, and those attacks were trickling down into comments from airport security guards. I began writing this blog thinking it would be a tiny little effort to share my story of my life in this community. I figured about a dozen people would read it, half of them related to me. I figured it would be a nice little hobby. I figured I would write it anonymously because no one would really care about a little blog about life in Fort McMurray. I wrote it never realizing I was about to embark on the personal journey of a lifetime, and that it would change everything. And it has, because this little blog became my passion. And with that passion came another passion - a passionate belief in our community, and all the people who call it home.

The more posts I wrote the more I realized how unique we are, and yet how similar we are to everywhere else. We have the same issues, just in varying degrees, and the same challenges. We have some challenges that are unusual (hey, how many cities see the kinds of wide loads we see heading down our main artery?!?), and we have some that are quite mundane. We have something else, though. We have a community spirit that astonishes. We have this amazing ability to rise to any challenge. We have these people in our community who do incredible things, and I've had the pleasure of meeting some of them. And we have a community that throws their support around someone writing a little blog, like me.

I don't quite know how to explain all that has changed for me since I began to write this blog. Saying it "changed everything" sounds like a cliche and yet it's absolutely true. I have new friends in my world that I can't imagine being without. I've met people from so many different places, heard their stories, and shared mine. I've had the opportunity to write for other websites, and to appear on radio shows and podcasts. I've made connections of both the personal and professional sort, and this blog has even led to paid writing work. I've become busier than I've ever been, including when I worked 24/7 in small businesses, and when I had a newborn. I've done things I never thought I would do, met people I never thought I would meet, and had opportunities I never even dared dream. And through it all there has been this little blog - and all of you, people.

I also don't quite know how to express my gratitude. I don't know how to say thank you to everyone who reads the blog, or sends the link to someone else. I don't know how to say thank you to all those organizations that decided to call me media even when I wasn't sure of my real role. I don't know how to say thank you to those who retweeted my blog links on Twitter, who "liked" my Facebook page, who agreed to be interviewed when they didn't even know who I was, who invited me to events, who sent me kind messages, who encouraged me (and often when they didn't even know I really, really needed it), who befriended me, who made me feel welcome, who introduced me to others, and who just supported this adventure. Because without that support - without each of you, from people who read to those who have become dear friends to everyone else - I would still be writing a little anonymous blog that no one reads. If I am at all successful at this it is only because of all of you, people. "Grateful" isn't the right word. "Overwhelmed" is much, much closer to what I feel on an almost daily basis.

So, thank you. For reading this blog, for encouraging me, for helping me, for inviting me, for being there for me, for being my friend, for calling me, for emailing me, and for showing me with even more clarity who we are in this community. I began this blog knowing that I would defend Fort McMurray, but even I never realized how passionate I would become about it. And not because of industry or northern lights or forests - because of the people. This community isn't about the buildings or the highway or the streets or the forests or the oil sands. It's about all of you, and I am profoundly honoured to have the opportunity to spend my days with you, and, sometimes, write about you.

I say this blog has changed my life, but that's not entirely accurate. In the end it's you, Fort McMurray, that changed my life, and this blog was just how it happened. A year ago today I started a little blog and never dreamed it would become anything close to what it has - or how it would change my life, and my heart. I started with no goals, no plans, very few ideas, and some words. One year later I have goals, plans, far too many ideas, and a lot of words, some that I have written and some that I have yet to write. I have some new adventures beginning to take shape, too. It has been, as I often say, "one helluva ride".

I've been asked if I would ever give up this blog if I got too busy. And my answer is always a horrified "no", because giving this blog up now would be like giving up on this community. And I can guarantee you this - I will never, ever give up on Fort McMurray - because, Fort McMurray, you never gave up on me. And I am so very, very thankful.

And finally my deepest thanks go to
my two best friends, Adrian and Tiffany, 
who always believed in me and encouraged me,
the Intrepid Junior Bloggers 
who have joined me for many adventures,
and my husband, who put up with a wife
who stopped doing laundry and started blogging instead ;)

You will notice there are few photos of me
in this blog, and fewer still where you can see my face.
You may also notice my name isn't on the blog, and
I am not likely to change that, because this blog
isn't about me, it's about all of you. However, 
for the record, I'm Theresa -
 and if we have not met then
I'd like to say it's lovely to meet you! :)
Theresa aka McMurray Musings

Photo credit to Connect

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