Refuse to be Passive

Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

Skirting the Truth

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm

“So I hear you’re leaving Jasper.”

“Yup. That’s about right.”

“Do you mind if I ask why?”

“No, not at all. It’s just not easy to find a job in Jasper in the winter.”

*incredulous look* “Really? For a cook?”

“Well, I am kinda picky. There are some places I just don’t want to work. And the rest of them want people with experience, which I don’t have yet.”

“Yeah, I can see how that could be a challenge. But really, I think in this town it’s more about who you know than what you know.”

“And I’ve only been here seven months and working as a baker. Apparently I don’t know the right people!”

That’s the gist of the conversation. And while it is true that it’s harder to find work in Jasper in the winter, if I didn’t care much about where I work, I could do it. And I probably haven’t been searching with as much vigor as I could be. Instead, my sights have been focused on the cities.

The real reasons I’m leaving Jasper are less about the work and more about myself. I’m not a typical Jasperite. You won’t find me on the ski slopes or hiking through the back country, and while I enjoy the backdrop of my life, that isn’t enough of a reason to keep me in a place. Granted, I have an excellent roommate and a few good friends, but I have to confess that I miss living in the city. However, if I told people I wanted to leave Jasper because I miss city life, everyone would look at me like I’d gone crazy. 

Jasper is a lovely town, but unless you’re truly outdoorsy, it’s a bit of a tough go. The people in the community are nice enough, but the town itself is very remote. I don’t have a car, which means that for most of the out-of-town activities I need to rely on others to invite me. Even then, I’m out of shape and usually feel like I’m slowing them down. My roommate is great about going slow for me, but aside from the simplest of hikes, it’s a struggle. I’m not going to deny that I’ll miss going for walks along the trails on the bench, or the wildlife that wanders through town, but it’s just not enough.

Jasper, like any place, is somewhere that you have to be intentionally involved. I’m not very good at that. In the past I’ve always relied on my church to provide both spiritual guidance and social interaction. The churches in Jasper, while filled with good-hearted people are dying. The sermons do not challenge, the worship is canned or off-tempo. Aside from Sundays, they don’t meet or do things during the week. This is a very important issue for me. In the city, I can find a church that will actually help me grown spiritually.

Another thing that lends myself to city life is that I have a desire to serve those in low-income, poverty stricken neighbourhoods. While there are certainly down-and-outters in Jasper, they move on quickly due to a “need to reside” restriction. There are no shelters, missions, or drop-in centres where I can volunteer my time and feel like my skills are being used. In a city I have opportunities in spades. As it is, I’m looking at moving into a poor neighbourhood that is filled with outreach opportunities, specifically for this purpose. 

I also like the cultural experiences the city offers, and the fact that not everything comes with a price-tag attached to it. From the Farmer’s Market to festivals, from the Art Gallery to the Citadel Theatre, there are great options for culture and arts interaction. The city of Edmonton also offers a low-income program that allows free access to Rec Centres. In Jasper I have to pay $350 for six months. When you’re making a pitiful wage, that seems like a fortune. Heck, for that price I can get seasons tickets to the theatre! 

What else is attractive about the city? Well, I’ve found a job in Edmonton that caters to my career endeavors– obtaining my Red Seal– and will give me Sundays and my evenings off. That’s just not a reality in Jasper. 

And then there is the fact that I already have a good support network set up there, including my oldest sister and some dear friends. 

So, now I’m looking at moving again. But this time, I hope it’s a stable move that allows me to stay in one place–one apartment– for at least a few years. I’m so sick of moving! Even in the past when I’ve been in a city for any period of time, I’ve moved residences at least yearly. It’s time to stop that. 

And I can’t help feel that I can have better access to extra career development in the city– from writing a small-business plan and getting start up funding, to getting into the world of freelance writing. How much of that I take advantage of is up to me. I just need to learn not to be lazy! 

But tonight I am in Jasper. I’m having a few friends over to celebrate Christmas with good food, Stuart McLean Christmas stories, crafting ornaments, games, and good conversation. While it will undoubtedly be fun, I can’t help but have a bit of a heavy heart. This will probably be my last chance to spend with them before life zooms me off to another place once again.

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Work Life Balance

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm

There’s a trendy new phrase being thrown around these days, it’s “work/life balance.” Everyone seems to have an opinion on the concept. Some view work/life balance as a necessity for a healthy, happy life. Others view those who go on about work/life balance as lazy sissies (not that I’ve met many people in this camp). Work/life balance is all about reducing stress, recognizing that money does not buy happiness, and works towards increasing contentedness, and a simplified way of living. Granted, you still need to make an income that allows you to live, but do you really need to focus on always getting more? Are there things more important in life than one’s career path? Is it acceptable to take a slower or different route to career success rather that the ones touted by the family, friends, and professionals that influence your life? It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m currently in between jobs, and deciding which job to take or even apply for is directly influenced by my thoughts on work/life balance.

Things to be considered include length of the commute, work environment, and salary paid. As far as that goes, location is very important to me. I’ve turned down job offers with better pay that would have resulted in an hour long commute each way, or having to move to a community to which I don’t feel particularly connected.

I have another job interview coming up soon and I’m trying to keep and open mind, but the truth of the matter is that if location matters to me that much, then I already know I won’t take this job. Is a dollar per hour wage increase worth an increased commute? And will the training and work environment at this further out location be so much better that I should opt to live in the suburbs rather than in the city centre where I want to be? Will training in a hotel environment be that much better than training in a restaurant environment? My goal is to get my Red Seal in Culinary Arts. As long as both jobs have respected apprenticeship programs, should it really matter which I take? The one job, the more central, is with a chain. Although I never would have expected to want to take a job with a chain over a hotel, they do have a good training program, a positive work environment, and although the pay may be up to a buck lower than the hotel per hour, the commute is twenty minutes versus an hour.

Granted, I could choose the hotel and try to find a place further out of the downtown core, but the truth of the matter is that I wanted to become invested in a low-income community in the downtown core and feel that that might be a good enough reason to take what seems like the lesser job. I’ll be living in a cramped apartment, but the neighbourhood will be wonderful, complete with recreation complex, locally owned grocery store with excellent variety and prices, a delightful coffee bar and bakery, a large park, nearby churches, and a number of missions and not-for-profits which I will be able to volunteer for.  All of these quality of life items mean more to me than an extra dollar an hour  paired with a long commute.

As far as the work atmosphere goes, the job with the chain (a very popular one, but a chain none-the-less), would allow me to work mornings. That would give me more time for volunteering and also for developing my abilities as a freelance food writer and critic. Have I mentioned that I’ll never have to work Sundays? That’s right! I told the Chef that I couldn’t work Sundays as it was a family/church day and he told me he thought that it was a really nice idea and had no problems giving me Sundays off. Wow. Okay. What other restaurant is going to do that for you? Then there is the fact that when I requested not to start until January so that I could tie up loose ends in my old town, and spend time with the family at Christmas, he once again told me it wasn’t a problem! He said he’d rather have me start when I’m ready then have to start taking days off while working to sort things out. I think quality of life is winning out on my traditional career track here.

What are your thoughts? Feedback is always appreciated!