It’s been a long time (like 2.5 years) since I’ve written anything. It’s been a time of big transitions (moving from Calgary back home to NL, quasi-finding some balance in being a working mama and stepping into new leadership). Being back home for 11 months has me reflecting on my life experiences a lot. This is the start of my working through that.
“I’ll have a lot more opportunities there.”
Last Fall, I attended the Rural Design Network’s Conference. In the first session, we all had the opportunity to share what had brought us to this gathering. It floored me how many people who had grown up in Newfoundland and Labrador were sharing stories of how they had been told growing up that they needed to move away to be successful. That means moving out of rural and remote communities to larger places in the province and, for many, even further still to the mainland.
It got me thinking about my journey and the stories I hold about Newfoundland and Labrador. How can we create a prosperous future for ourselves and this place within a story that tells us we need to leave?
I moved away from the province for the first time in 1995 when I was ten. The Federal Government was amid substantial cuts across its workforce and consolidating jobs in Atlantic Canada to Halifax. That led my family and many others to move away.
I have a clear memory of sitting in my classroom in grade 5 and telling everyone, “I’ll have a lot more opportunities there (Halifax).” This doesn’t feel like something a 10-year-old observes without influence.
When my husband first shared that he thought we should move home, I was an immediate no. I can be slow to accept change sometimes, and I couldn’t imagine what I would do here that would feel as professionally fulfilling as what I had in Calgary.
How long has this seed of this place not being enough been growing inside me, and what are its roots?
“Our greatest export is our people.”
This is another saying I’ve heard so many times, and grows from not feeling like this place is enough and that we can’t have enough here. Even Come Home Year has within it the narrative that this is a place to visit, enjoy and leave again, and we have so many songs and other forms of art that explore this sentiment.
Kjeld Mizpah (KJ) Conyers-Steede, an Inspiring Communities Fellow, asked a really powerful question in a session he facilitated recently – “When was the first time you were told you needed to leave this place (Atlantic Canada) to have success?”
So where does all of this grow from? A multitude of places and many that are still to be uncovered for me and others. We live in colonial places and within a consumer story and white supremacy culture. How do we explore and deconstruct these stories that we hold within ourselves and, more broadly, in our communities? What is the individual and collective healing we need to do from this? How have these stories created systemic disadvantages and advantages and serious harm? How do these things weigh on our imagination and impact our ability to see a prosperous future for ourselves here? Does this relate to many forms of extraction in communities? How does it relate to a culture of scarcity I’ve noticed within myself and my community here in NL?
So many questions. And I’m trying not to find the answers too quickly. To have this be a slow study that sits with the tension inherent in change.