“So how’s Winnipeg?” is the question my friends back in Calgary keep asking me. I moved from there to here five months ago, in November, which is widely regarded as a curious move from both Calgarians and Winnipeggers alike. I always skirt around the question, mainly because it’s a pretty complex answer I’m still figuring out.
Leaving Calgary has been a bit like a divorce: emotionally exhausting, filled with hard goodbyes and very, very expensive. Once you’re in a new space, it’s still very easy to keep returning to the past, questioning and processing your experiences, feeling like you can’t quite move forward until you do. But I’m at the point where I need to learn to let go of Calgary and give Winnipeg a real chance at my heart.
So I have one foot stuck in Calgary and one foot in Winnipeg. And I would like to get both feet here eventually – the problem is the sidewalks here are treacherously icy. It is literally and figuratively very difficult to get solid footing.
I don’t have a lot of money. I walk most places or take the bus. I’d really like to get to know this new town, but mobility is a challenge. It’s been hard feeling so isolated, and as such, I feel like I haven’t quite had a chance to explore all this city has to offer.
Sometimes I feel like answering, “How should I know?”
Isolation was an issue in Calgary, too. While they did an overall better job at sidewalk clearing, the distance between places is often further. Calgary’s urban sprawl is infamously out of control. It just took so long to get anywhere or see anyone.
Despite Winnipeg’s mobility issues, I catch glimpses of the city’s warmth whenever I actually get out to see people. Everyone I’ve met has been very welcoming, and I feel lucky to have already made so many good friends that are truly lovely. The communities here inspire and excite me.
There’s a self-awareness here about the city, which is perhaps what I find most refreshing. When people speak about Winnipeg, they praise its qualities while fully acknowledging its flaws, which results in a more authentic discussion. When people speak positively about the city, it’s come across as genuinely endearing rather than an attempt to sell you something.
Calgary’s lack of self-awareness was perhaps the biggest instigator in our separation. There’s a cottage industry of “YYC boosters,” who are hellbent on proving Calgary is a “world class city” while shilling the latest $12 bottles of juice and $17 salads. It’s hard to get a critical word in over the sound of all the money shuffling.
Yikes, that’s a little harsh, isn’t it? Chalk it up to my post-breakup bitter phase. Maybe we’ll be back on good terms one day. I just need some space.
Spring is almost here. I hope to get both my feet on solid ground once the ice melts – further developing personal relationships by way of being able to walk from place to place without hazard.
I look forward to being able to keep my head up as I walk and take in all the city has to offer: its gorgeous buildings, monumental churches, character houses, sprawling trees, crawling vines, cozy diners, motley murals, mighty rivers and the distant glimmer of the very shiny, very golden boy who watches over us all.
Emily Leedham is a writer based in Treaty 1 territory, currently saving up for a pair of crampons.
Published in Volume 71, Number 26 of The Uniter (March 30, 2017)