It won’t be long before I’m gone from Calgary. My last day of work is June 28 and I’m spending most of July out of the province (California, then Ottawa and then Vancouver into August). I’m mentally preparing to leave this place that I unexpectedly ended up calling home for three-and-a-half years.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first came to Calgary for an internship in spring 2010. I remember calling Priyanka and asking her if Calgary was really as conservative as I’d heard and if I would meet people with whom I’d have something in common. What a precious, stupid question. It’s not like I was moving to Mars. Despite going to school in Montreal and traveling fairly extensively for a 21 year old, I had no idea what the west of my own country was like.
I strongly believe people owe it to themselves to leave the part of the country where they’re from. There is no true Canadian. There are Albertans, Ontarians, Maritimers, Prairie Dwellers, Quebecers, British Columbians and Northern Canadians, generally speaking in total cliché. You owe it to yourself to experience these different peoples and places so you can better understand the dream and total myth that is Canada.
The other day someone asked me if I thought that Calgary had culture compared to the rest of Canada. I’m a little tired of being asked this question because it’s the wrong one. Of course Calgary has culture. Do not mistake a lack of comparative history as a lack of culture. Just because the culture doesn’t look the same as Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal is entirely OK. In fact, Calgary’s culture should look different because art reflects the society and place where it is created, and Calgary is a unique place.
What people should be asking about Calgary is how we can create a more livable city. But this is a harder question. It involves economic diversification and undoing years of thoughtless urban “planning.” It involves questioning the necessity of a car and the status of a big house. It involves community engagement and a shift in ideals.
It’s hard to put into words what I love the most about Calgary because it’s so intangible. What I love about Calgary is the possibility. I love that people here are incredibly entrepreneurial and creative. My friends are all so productive and hard-working, which sounds so puritanical and boring but it’s not. It leads to great things.
I truly believe that Sled Island and Folk Fest will grow into two of Canada’s most important music festivals in the next 5 to 10 years. I think that Calgary’s theatre scene is dynamic and cutting edge and doesn’t get the credit it deserves. I believe that over the next few years Calgary’s food scene will make trends and produce star chefs at the same rate as Toronto and Vancouver. And I am proud to have started my career in Calgary’s publishing industry; we produce award-winning stories and have great talent.
I’m excited for Ottawa and ready for my next adventure, but I’m so glad I got to experience Calgary.