That’s a question that lead to the development of Make Something Edmonton – an initiative that I am proud to be a part of as a member of the Activation Board. I plan on sharing my reflections on participating in this amazing movement here on my blog.
I’ve pondered that question since I moved here, and the answer has evolved with time. When I first arrived two years ago, I told people I lived in Edmonton because it’s where my partner got a job. At the time I felt that I had to give people an excuse, because it wouldn’t make any sense otherwise.
To be honest, I never really thought much about where I lived until I moved to Edmonton. Being the son of a university professor, I moved around the country on a frequent basis. I was born in Toronto, spent my early years in Waterloo, had a small stint in Peterborough, attended grade school in Montreal, grew into my 20’s in Victoria, and completed grad school in Toronto. When I really started to reflect on it, Edmonton was the first place that I chose to live. Prior to living in Edmonton, the places I lived were predominantly dictated by where my dad got professorships – with the exception of Toronto where I lived for three years because I got into grad school there.
For the first time in my life I had an opportunity to choose where I wanted to live. I was equipped with a professional degree that could probably get me a job anywhere in Canada, maybe the world, and I chose to come to Edmonton. Or maybe Edmonton chose me.
I’ve come to realize that the notion of place has become quite the popular issue of discussion amongst the Next Gen demographic. There are so many options as to where we could live. I believe that while choice and opportunity are good things that should not be taken for granted, they also come with a burden. I know that in my own moments of over-analysis, I’ve experienced regret and FOMO (fear of missing out – a term my partner acquainted me with). The plethora of questions you could ask yourself about why you live where you live is enough to keep you up at night. And why? Because the world is our oyster and anything is possible? No Thanks. There’s something to be said about mindfulness and being content. And sleep.
But I digress. Back to the question. Why Edmonton?
If you asked me today, I would tell you I live in Edmonton because it fits my personality. I would describe myself as an idealist with a tendency to day-dream. I’ve been an “ideas” guy my whole life and have often been met with skepticism and disregard. Granted, I probably actually follow through with 1% of the things I think about – but I’ve come to realize that it’s OK to be an ideas guy here. Based on my own experiences, not only do Edmontonians tolerate ideas people – they support and encourage them. #lightbrightyeg probably wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t feel safe in sharing my idea with others. In my opinion, Edmonton is the perfect incubator for social innovation. We have the resources and opportunities to take ideas to completion. A side note on Edmonton’s reputation for opportunity – opportunity is great, but it’s even better if you have a community supporting you in the pursuit. Based on my experiences, Edmonton does that well.
Our city has historically been criticized for its design and physical appearance – and we’re working on it. With the buzz of Blatchford and development in downtown Edmonton, it is apparent that we humbly recognize where we may have made mistakes and we’re working hard on correcting them. In the next three years, downtown Edmonton will have some amazing buildings and places that I think will contribute positively to vibrancy and Edmonton’s overall image (Royal Alberta Museum, MacEwan Campus, City of Edmonton Building, Roger’s Place, and numerous residential developments – to name a few).
But (again) back to the question. Why Edmonton? While a city’s physical dimensions are a big part of the urban experience, we must also acknowledge the social landscape. People haven’t looked closely enough at the social qualities that Edmonton embodies. Edmonton has a personality and energy that is difficult to duplicate. Edmonton is open, warm, kind, supportive, humble, and confident (this isn’t an exhaustive list). These are all characteristics I seek in friends and people that I want around in the long run.
Any city can build a cool building or a funky public space, but I think it’s much harder to “create” a personality. You either have it or you don’t. I choose personality over looks any day of the week- and the great thing is that in the near future we are going to have the best of both.
Too sum it up, I choose to live, work and play in Edmonton because it has a personality I see myself becoming good pals with. The type of friend that sticks around. Edmonton has entertained my lofty ideas, and even helped me realize them. It is inclusive. It involves me and makes me feel like I am part of something bigger. It’s dependable. Instead of saying “No”, it says “How?”
For these reasons and more I am proud to call myself an Edmontonian. I am also proud to be a part of the Make Something Edmonton Activation Board (meet the rest of the team here: http://www.makesomethingedmonton.ca/about/#team). Mary Sturgeon and her team have put together an awesome group of dreamers, thinkers and makers, and I can’t wait to see how we work together moving forward. Great things are happening in this city. I’m excited.
(header credit: Jeff Wallace (https://www.flickr.com/photos/wherezjeff/)