Sometimes in my passion for this place I forget something. I forget, sometimes for good sized stretches of time, that there are people who hate Fort McMurray. Often it's because I don't encounter them regularly, as most of the people I know are actively involved in making this community a better place, raising their families, working at their jobs, volunteering their time with social profit organizations, and just making a life here. But I know they are out there, and every once in awhile I encounter them. I suppose we could call them many things, but for expediency let's just call them "the haters". And then let's have a little chat about hate.
I've lived in a few places in this country. Living in a place I never had even visited is not new to me, not "my first time at this rodeo", and so when I moved to Fort McMurray I knew there would be good and bad, pros and cons, positives and negatives - just like everywhere else I have ever lived. I also learned a few other things over those years, and I will share some of them here:
1) There are people who can hate it anywhere they find themselves.
I remember when I first moved to Toronto as a young adult. I ran into people who would complain bitterly about the city. Now, this is a city with endless entertainment options, shopping malls full of every variety of goods, services of all kinds, and, at the time, relentless job opportunities. And yet some still complained about the city, about how it was such a terrible place they couldn't stand it. I suspected they would be the ones who would find something to complain about in paradise, too. Some people just are born to complain, and likely do so on Christmas morning when surrounded by family and piles of gifts and food galore. I avoid them, because frankly life is just too short to be around people who are so painfully depressing. They must be a real joy in the lives of those forced to spend time with them. I'd chew my arm off to get away from them if necessary.
2) Nobody is forced to stay anywhere unless they are in jail or on parole.
I also recall finally having enough of one individual's complaints in Toronto and asking them, very innocently, when their parole was up. They looked at me blankly and I drily commented that from their attitude I had made the assumption they were being forced to stay in Toronto by parole conditions as clearly they had no choice and could go nowhere else in the country or world. The point is that unless you actually are incarcerated we are in no prison except those we make for ourselves, and therefore we can leave at will and find new opportunities elsewhere. We might make less money elsewhere, true, but that brings me to....
3) George Bernard Shaw was pretty smart.
What does playwright George Bernard Shaw have to do with this, you ask? Well, there is a story attributed to him that I believe applies. Shaw encountered a woman and asked her if she would sleep with him for a million pounds. She answered yes, of course she would. He then asked if she would sleep with him for five pounds and she became angry, hotly asking "What kind of woman do you think I am?". Shaw, being a rather clever sort, responded "Madam, we've established what kind of woman you are - now we are just haggling over price". It's a funny story, but relevant too. If you are the kind of person who equates money with happiness then you might be willing to sell your happiness for enough cash - but then we have established your priorities, and making somewhere a better community isn't likely one of them.
Those are three of the many things I learned while living across this country. But I have some additional thoughts too (yes, I know, you're shocked!). I think that people who hate it in Fort McMurray - or anywhere else - have three options. I see it like this:
1) Continue to live or work here and hate it.
Life is brutally short, people. You spend a short time alive and a long time dead. If you truly want to spend that short time of being able to feel anything feeling misery then no one can help you change that. Please don't pretend there are no jobs anywhere else in the country - there are, they just may not pay as much or be as easy to find. You are benefitting from the potential and opportunity here, but if it makes you miserable is it worth it? How much do you sell yourself for exactly? I am not one of those "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out" types. I'm one of those "why would you sell your ability to be happy?" types. I'm one of those who thinks that if you are miserable you should change it - because unless you are here in jail or on parole you have the power and ability to leave and find happiness elsewhere.
2) Leave and try to find happiness elsewhere.
I think I covered this pretty well in 1). You are not forced to be here. Maybe you'd be happier somewhere else. Or maybe you'd be just as miserable because you've chosen to be unhappy wherever you happen to be. That's up to you. Just don't assume that everyone else is as miserable as you are, because some of us love it where we are.
3) Stay - and find something to like.
Maybe you could try to find one thing you like about this place. Maybe you find a coffee shop that makes you happy, or you volunteer with an organization that brightens the lives of others. Maybe you try to expand your world a tiny bit and find just one small thing you like, and maybe, just maybe, you find a glimmer of happiness here. Maybe you'll never love it here, but then again maybe you will. All I know is that given the choice between misery and happiness I will do anything to try to find happy - and trust me, I know that choice.
So, those are today's thoughts on haters and Fort McMurray. I will say it right here and right now - Fort McMurray is not utopia. It is not heaven, it is not nirvana, and it has problems and issues like every other place in the world. Fort McMurray is not perfect, but if you only love perfect then I fear for your future relationships because the true beauty of life is in the imperfections. Imperfections are what gives the world depth and complexity, character and interest. There are things here that drive me bonkers, like bad parking jobs and people who speed through school zones - but those things happen everywhere, and while I get annoyed I also just laugh at how crazy this world is, and how imperfect. And then I go do some volunteer work or interview someone really intriguing and the world balances again. So, to those who love it here I say thank you - thank you for doing what you can to make this a better place, because if you love it here I know that is one of the things you do. When you love something you always want to do make it better, and do things for it. If you run into someone who hates it here brush it off - because that is truly their burden to carry, not yours. If they want to spend their days in misery so be it - they've made a choice just like you did.
And to those who hate it here? Well, all I have to say is this - when is your parole up?