I have promised to inundate you with a tale of my personal struggles.
The problem with posting a video on your social media saying what you are going to talk about the next day is that you are committing to it, so even though I have gone for a float, my head feels rather clear and I would rather eat my Finish chocolate and listen to audible; I have promised to inundate you with a tale of my personal struggles. Sounds incredibly exciting, I know.
If we are talking personal struggles I could talk forever about how unfair it is that when I wake up and pluck all the grey out of my eyebrows that I am left with half an eyebrow that I have to fill in, only to discover that I have three brow pencils in my make-up bag that are empty, so I consider using the color stick that I use fill in the greys that grow in between colorings along my hairline. Oh middle age; *I shake my fist at you*. It is sad really that in our twenties we have shiny hair and taut bodies but we really haven’t a clue about self care and emotional well being. Now that we are at an age that we are figuring it all out, the things that really matter, we have to worry about leaving the house with half an eyebrow and our clothes on inside out. Life is not perfect, but it is a journey and we are responsible to make it the best one possible, even with half an eyebrow.
I know that my situation of struggle I am about to share is not unique. I know that a lot of people have been affected by the Boom and Bust of Alberta’s economy. To many who work in the energy industry, the current downturn is the worst they’ve experienced.
I moved to Alberta in the summer of 2008, I was originally not so thrilled about the idea but my husband started working in the Alberta Oil sands in the fall of 2007 and at one point we spent over 6 months apart. It was the best decision for our family and nobody in their right mind would move their family across the country without putting in a great deal of effort to make it work.
There was some negativity surrounding our move, from family and friends alike, the same negativity exists today, almost ten years later; and it is based on a lot of assumptions about our lives and what would be best for us. The truth is that we have worked hard to do the best for our family, we have had great times and great struggles. Geography has been one of the greatest struggles, not just being away from our Nova Scotia family, but being away from each other!
In 2008, I sold our rural Nova Scotia house privately and spent weeks packing up our belongings before my husband arrived to sign the papers for the sale of our home and pack up the U-Haul. He drove across Canada with our belongings and our dog, I flew with our 7 and 3 year old girls and our cat.
In July of 2008 we moved into a house that I had never seen, not even in pictures. My husband had seen it once and determined more than anything that it was a safe Edmonton neighborhood for his wife and children as he would continue to work over 400 kms away.
In 2008 the Alberta Oil sands was experiencing existential growth. Workers were coming from all over Canada and when companies could not keep up with the demand they were hiring foreign workers to work in the service and construction industry for much lower wages.
We were able to live a life that wasn’t possible in rural Nova Scotia, opening up a world of opportunity for our children
We were able to live a life that wasn’t possible in rural Nova Scotia, opening up a world of opportunity for our children, seeking and nurturing the sports and arts activities that they were passionate about. Life was busy for both of us, my husband running a crew and working 80 hours weeks, sometimes working 21 days in a row in remote parts of Alberta and B.C., away from his family and me as a mother and a wife with a full time job, volunteer work and children in extracurricular activities, missing my husband.
I am sure our story sounds very similar to many people who came to Alberta to work and raise their families. It wasn’t an easy life but it was a different kind of struggle than we had back home. In our beautiful province of Nova Scotia we were no strangers to financial struggle but the boom mentality was all new to us. I was way too caught up in the in the thick of it to consider that what goes BOOM, also goes BUST!
We bought a house when the market was at an all time high; it seemed a waste to keep throwing money away on astronomical rents.
For someone who came to Alberta very unsure I was able to navigate my way very quickly and make a place for myself here. Though I will always consider Nova Scotia to be my home, I am proud of the way that we dug in as a family, put in the hard work, and built a life.
There have been hardships all along. We have no family here and at times that can be very difficult. Being away from your significant other is a challenge as well , and as bad as it is for me, I recognize that he is the one that misses his children’s milestones as he moves place to place, saying goodnight via text in a different bed that is not his own.
Then when he came home we tried to jam the two weeks we missed into a 4 day visit. This sometimes meant spur of the moment trips to the mountains for relaxing time because otherwise you were inundated with things that needed done around the house and the four days were stolen from you in a flash.
Before things went completely bust there were hiccups, company issues, growing pains, last minute job changes and getting by on our savings during the down times. When we got through it we high fived each other as we have several times over the years because, once again, they couldn’t keep us down for long.
Then things go to BUST. It happened really quickly. The Alberta economy was devastated and though it started primarily in the Oil sands you learn pretty quickly how that trickles down, how many sub industries depend on the oil industry.
We had already depleted our savings and good graces during the hiccups. We found ourselves sadly unprepared for the bust. Even then we tried our best to be optimistic.
My husband is a fighter, he didn’t take more than a moment to feel sorry for himself, and he went out and started drumming up work in the residential construction industry
My husband is a fighter, he didn’t take more than a moment to feel sorry for himself, and he went out and started drumming up work in the residential construction industry. In a short time he landed some commercial work as well and his work ethic led him to a new career in the commercial restaurant trade. Diversifying your skills in this economy is essential. The money was a lot less but it meant being home more and being a part of a growing company that did not depend on the unpredictability of the Oil sands.
My husband being home more seemed sadly short lived. As with any growing company, the work area expanded to take him once again throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. My husband spent almost eight months away from his family last year just to try to stretch the two ends of the rope to meet in the middle. Everything about our lives seemed to be hanging in the balance, relationships are strained and financial struggle is imminent as you are trying to keep up with mid boom debt on a post bust budget.
Once again, we reached deep within yourselves and decided that we will put in the fight of our lives, personally, professionally and financially.
Once again, we reached deep within yourselves and decided that we will put in the fight of our lives, personally, professionally and financially. We were committed to putting in the hard work because the promise of extensive work at home and being together as family full time was worth that effort.
Unfortunately, elsewhere; someone else is succumbing to the burdens of mismanagement during an economic downturn and my husbands hand was forced , once again to change jobs quickly. He believed in the potential of his company and promise that his hard work and sacrifice would reap the reward he desired, being with his family full time.
I could tell how torn he was to be returning to an industry and a life that he had hoped to leave behind.
He packed his bags on Sunday night and said goodbye to his children. I could tell how torn he was to be returning to an industry and a life that he had hoped to leave behind. Realistically, one can look at the situation as an outsider and say we should be grateful. We are grateful, for many things, we are not grateful however for the time we spent apart and we have heard the “no money is worth that!” We know that too. It is not about “money” at all, except that we are trying to keep a ship full of holes afloat on a stormy sea.
We bought our house during the boom, to sell now would mean we would most likely lose any equity we put into the house. To go back home seems like an ideal idea when you think of it in terms of family and friends. The thought of the easy relaxed lifestyle we could adopt is very tempting. However, if we stop to construct a plan we can’t help but realize that we have over the years romanticized the idea of “going home’.
The thought of coastal drives and Sunday family barbeques brings a tear to my eye.
Being with all of my children, watching my grandkids grow up and being close to family and old friends is one of those ideas that make your heart swell with longing. The thought of coastal drives and Sunday family barbeques brings a tear to my eye.
Then I am forced to think of the fact that if we sell our house right now we could lose all of our equity, our girls have on countless occasions flat out refused to move from the only home they have known for ten years, and we would be jobless in a province that is not bursting with economic opportunity.
So, even though it feels like we have been on the same uphill foot path forever, maybe our miracle is on the other side of the mountain. We need to make healthy decisions regarding our financial future and keep moving even though it feels like we have been stuck in the same spot way too long.
We are grateful we are able to maintain close connections with most of our family and friends even though we are on the other side of the country, our hard work has afforded us some great opportunities and we have made great memories. Perhaps on the other side of this we will once again high five each other and remark how we couldn’t be held down for long.
I can’t even begin to imagine what the future will bring, it seems best to just focus on today.
I know that we all face our own personal and financial struggles. I am interested to know how you cope during times of stress. Do you believe in retreating to safety or do you just keep swimming in the hopes of one day moving forward? When you can’t get ends to meet no matter how far you stretch them are you able to keep a cool head and do the next best thing or does it tear you apart?
I believe that we can help each other. I look forward to your input!