So Saturday is moving day. I've moved four times since I started at Keyano College almost three years ago, so significant part isn't that I'm moving: It's that this time, I'm leaving Fort McMurray. I haven't lived outside Fort McMurray since my family moved here in the summer of 1997 from Calgary to be closer to my Dad's side of the family. That's thirteen years of this town. We moved here when I was almost eight years old, and I'm twenty-one, now; while I wasn't born here, I certainly did my "growing up" here, and even though I might not technically be "from" here, Fort McMurray is the place I call home.

People like to rag on Fort McMurray; I guess it's an easy target. This town is painted as dirty and dangerous, and as an artistic wasteland. And that's all accurate. Let there be no mistake: Fort McMurray is a working town where oil is king. People are scared to bring up their families, here. A good deal of people here are apathetic, and it's led to a level of stagnation. There's little to do, here. However, if the bad is all you look at, then that's all you're going to see, and if you judge Fort McMurray without giving it a chance, you're cheating yourself out of a wonderful experience.

Fort McMurray is an amazing town. There's beauty everywhere; there's nothing quite like driving (or walking) down Beacon Hill in the autumn when the trees on the hills are changing colour. Yes, Fort McMurray is a working town, but people work to support their families, whether or not they live here. And they should: If parents are as involved as they should be in their childrens' lives, they come up great. Apathy is an issue because the people here work so much; the people here haven't been engaged, and I hope that the upcoming municipal elections change that, and that the candidates make engaging people here a priority. The people who say that there's nothing to do, here, simply don't know where to look. There's something for everybody at Keyano, from the Theatre to general interest, non-credit courses. There's always some kind of musical act going on at the local bars and taverns, and the diverse ethnic communities here have regular celebrations of their cultures which are open to the public.

My apologies for rambling, but this is my home. I love it here, and I hate all the negative press this town gets. I've said for a while that a reporter from some big newspaper or magazine needs to bring their family up here for six months and do a long-term piece on what it's really like to live here, as opposed to coming up for a night and hanging out on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Main Street.

I look back on the last thirteen years and the feeling sinks in that I'm going to miss it, here. I've learned so much about myself, here. I've made the best friends I could ever ask for, here. I've gone from whatever I weighed back in 1997 up as high as 350 pounds back down to the 226 I weigh, today. If you had told me five years ago that in the years to come I was going to be president of my high school's student council, president of my college's students' association, and a member of the governing body of my college, I would have laughed at you. There's been romance and heartache, loving and laughing, learning and teaching. I've done a lot, here.

I know that there's a lot for me to discover, however, and that my life is only just beginning. Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, and British Columbia present me with exciting new opportunities and challenges. Am I nervous? Am I excited? The answer to both of those questions is "heck yes, I am." I have so much more to learn about myself. There's more romance and heartache to be had, more friends to meet, and a hell of a lot of learning to do, both academically and otherwise. I'm looking forward to it.

But I'll never forget where I came from: Fort McMurray, Alberta. Home of the Oilsands. Home of the Oil Barons. And Home of so many of my friends (past and present), family, teachers, professors, co-workers, and mentors, many of whom fall into more than one of those categories, who have shaped me, and made me who I am.

Thanks for everything, Fort McMurray, and DFTBA.