“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.