“Winnipeg?! I see why you came out west!”
After moving to Alberta a few years ago, this was a sentiment I heard often. It seemed the general consensus was that any sane person would pack up and move immediately if they found themselves living in one of the prairie provinces (except Alberta, of course) and that there was no further explanation needed as to why someone had chosen to make the move. As soon as the words “Well, I’m from Winnipeg,” rolled off my tongue, people were furiously nodding their heads, sure that they had identified the motivation behind packing my life into my car and driving for twelve hours.
I have to admit, after living there for eight years, I started to find myself agreeing with them. The winters in the city I had lived in were mild, and if I wanted to pack up and go to the mountains for the weekend, I only had to drive about an hour before I was surrounded by as many high peaks and trails as my heart desired. I started to make a point to visit Winnipeg only twice a year, avoiding the winter weather and the biting mosquitos.
And then, because life always has a way of showing you exactly what you need to see, I ended up moving home last summer. Fresh off heartbreak and a career change, I was hesitant to see if I would be able to find happiness in the same place I had left searching for it.
The first few months felt like a blissful visit. I went to all of my favourite spots – The Forks, Assiniboine Park, the Exchange District. I even spent some time driving around the country at dusk, just to remember what it was like to see for miles and miles over an open field.
And then winter hit. The cold left me unsure of things again, and combined with the stress of school, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision to move two provinces over. Every time I saw the thermostat dip below minus thirty, I fantasied about the warmth of a Southern Alberta winter, when I could throw on a light jacket and go for a run. I found myself feeling gloomy, and I began to countdown the days to my next Alberta visit.
It was after that visit, after spending a week so close to the mountains, that I realized something; I knew exactly where home was.
It was strolling through the Exchange District and admiring the strong buildings that had lived through so many more seasons than I. It was the laughter from friends that filled a quiet restaurant on Osborne on a Tuesday night. It was filling my lungs with crisp, fresh air as I ran through Assiniboine Park. It was licking the ice cream from the corner of my mouth as I indulged at Halfmoon while I walked along the Red River. It was sitting outside at dusk, watching the sky light up with a fierce prairie sunset. It was plugging my car in without gloves, stubbornly trying to work through the biting cold. It was sitting on a bench on Broadway, watching the city slowly wake up from winter. It was driving down Main Street, seeing the same local businesses I had watched from the back seat of the car when I was a kid. It was racing up the stairs at the the Forks, with a view of the city as my satisfying reward. It was visiting with family, not for just a weekend, but for as long as I pleased.
And, all things considered, it was knowing that no matter what, through good and bad, this city would always be here for me.
So, next time someone asks why I live in Winnipeg, I will simply reply with “why on earth not?”