The place I live. It has a lot NOT going for it. I can only recommend the weather two months a year. The area is economically depressed. It’s isolated. The nearest big cities are Montreal and Boston – each at least a 12-hour car trip. So why do I live here?
In my mind, I loosely categorize us Nova Scotians:
- Chose to be here
- Ended up here
- Always been here
- Been away and came back
This is different from the usual division: many of us say you’re either from here, or you’re a CFA (Come from Away)! People who move here don’t realize that CFA is a permanent status 🙂
Chose to Be Here
We get visitors for the natural beauty: ocean beaches, scenic inlets, cliffs towering over the sea, forests and lakes; and for the history: quaint villages, homes and gardens, bridges and boats. I suppose we nab a few settlers who visit and then decide to stay because it’s pretty or quaint or off the beaten path. Some stay for the outdoor lifestyle: surfing, kayaking, fishing, snowshoeing.
I know a few people who have chosen to live here for retirement, finding it has a nice mix of amenities: it has city life, but not a mad rush, and you can literally get away to the ocean or the woods in minutes. There is a feeling it has “just enough” city life without most of the hassles.
Ended Up Here
Despite the economic difficulties, Halifax is the biggest city for 1000 km in any direction. It’s the regional centre of government and commerce, and lots of people end up here for work. If someone started off in a smaller spot like Gander or Canso or Summerside, then Halifax is the big city, or maybe a place to acclimate before moving on to a larger centre. Coming from a small town, Halifax might be the first taste of downtown, night life, street festivals, and traffic.
Always Been Here
As many of you know, I was born here. One of my parents was born here; the other nearby in New Brunswick. Both of them have families with long, long histories in the area. But all the families here know their kids will move away to find work. My parents and grandparents are some who stayed. It wasn’t that their local job opportunities were better, but they were able to make a living.
In some families, there is a tipping point – they are forced to leave because of job loss, ill health, or a personal tragedy. In modern times, older parents might follow their children to a new city. Somehow my parents and grandparents stayed the course, and never felt they had to leave. Or rather, they might have done better economically elsewhere, but chose not to.
Been Away and Came Back
The young ones always went “Out West,” first to Ontario for manufacturing jobs, then to Alberta for jobs in the oil fields. When I finished school, I took a library job Out West in Saskatchewan, intending to get experience and work my way back after two years. We all say that, don’t we?
Instead I came back 15 years, 4 jobs and 1 child later. My situation was unusual. I left Saskatoon to follow my ex when his job moved, twice. We were left in the US, without status, when he died. Although I had a work permit, renewable annually, my child could never get one, so we had to return to Canada. It was just a choice of sooner or later. We could have chosen to live anywhere in Canada when we came back. I could have applied for jobs across the country and ended up wherever. But I chose to live near family, and let the job follow. I started with a contract position, and it took me 3 years to obtain a permanent job with the same salary I made before. In the grand scheme of things, it was a small concession.
It should come as no surprise that my child went Out West, too.
Just this week, my book club members were talking about time each of us had spent living in the States. I said I’d moved from Saskatchewan to Massachusetts and back to Nova Scotia, and I was asked, “For work?” To make a long story short, I said “Yes.” With that one word, I glossed over 15 years of difficult personal history.
I’m not sure if I sold myself out. It wasn’t the time or place to unfold that saga. To say that I followed work – mine or other’s – was not untrue. Work may have led me around. To some extent, economics drive life. But it’s never the whole story. That is just as true for my great-grandparents as it is for my child. It is strange to see myself as part of a historic migration pattern.
To quote Midnight Oil, “We follow in the steps of our ancestry, and that cannot be broken.” It can, but at what cost?
Despite living on the East Coast, Rom and I are now located part way between our kid, Link, in Toronto and Rom’s parents in Sussex, England. Meanwhile, the rest of my family is here, and we have deep roots.
Why do you live where you do?