I've been away from Fort Mac for two weeks now, on a vacation that took me from the Rockies to the ocean, from the wilderness of Yoho National Park to the heart of downtown Vancouver. And once again I found myself talking about Fort McMurray. Once again I found myself encountering those who had heard only the negatives, those who didn't understand the complexity of our community, and those who simply didn't know anything other than what mainstream media has told them. So, I did what I do - and I talked about MY Fort McMurray.
I talked about our birth rate, which is astonishing, and our median age, which is very young (31). I talked about our anticipated population growth, and I talked about the growth in our industry (and what that means to the community, too). I talked about our strengths, and about our weaknesses. And as I talked and as I tried to spread the story of who we really are I realized how much I have learned in the last year and a bit writing this blog. I realized how little I knew when I began, how much I have learned in the interim, and, more importantly, how much more I need to know. Because I have this intense desire to learn more - because the more I know the more I can tell to others.
I spoke to many people in the past two weeks, some from Canada and some from other countries. Some knew a bit about Fort Mac, and some knew nothing. I can pretty much guarantee they all left my company knowing more than they did when they met me, and I learned along the way, too. I learned that there is an eagerness to know more about us, a curiousity. And I was delighted to be able to tell them what I know.
One of the funniest moments for me on this trip was when I was on Twitter and mentioned missing Fort McMurray. Someone replied that they had never heard anyone say they missed this place, and never thought they would. I replied that I thought it was normal to miss home, and they replied that while it was normal to miss home they didn't think referring to Fort McMurray as "home" was normal. I found that both troubling and a bit funny, as while the image might be changing some of the perceptions continue to exist - like that this community is not a home. That no one would miss it. That no one would call Fort McMurray "home". And yet here it is: Fort McMurray, Alberta, is my home. And I miss it when I am away. And it is the community that is closest to my heart and mind of all the places I have lived in my entire life. So, not only is it home but I think it is truly the place I will always think of as home, no matter where life may eventually take me, and I suspect the same is true of my daughter, who arrived here at the age of 2 and is now about to turn 13.
So, Fort Mac, tomorrow I am coming home. I have missed you, and while I enjoyed my little vacation during which I was able to tell strangers about you I am very happy to return to you now. I need to learn some more about you, and there are hundreds more blog posts to write. And in the end there are just all those days and nights I intend to spend with you. You know, at home, where I truly belong.