Halifax, I tried.
I am very excited to pack up my little family and head to Toronto in January to work an amazing, amazing contract. It’s a great gig in a great city that will help me decide what comes next.
Halifax, I tried.
This city has been my life and I have poured myself into it.
This is the city where my entire body grew in and outside of my mother, but never very tall, the city where I skinned my knees and biked around nowhere in the fourth grade just because, the city where my best friend and I built forts in forests so thick they might still exist somewhere, the city where I’ve buried time capsules, the city where I felt worthless, the city where I learned I was worth something, the city where I fell in love, the city where I first cried.
This is the city where I co-chaired then chaired the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, the city whose food feels like a full body experience, the city where I went to school, the city where I gained skills outside the classroom, the city where I got my first job, then my second, then another… where I spent that money in local shops, the city that I was always happy to come back to, the city where I started my little family, the city where I met amazing people who did amazing things, the city where I poured countless hours a week into volunteering for people and things who could help me stay in this city, the city that helped me bring visions to life, the city that has helped me so much, the city that I helped whenever I could.
I fought really hard for what we needed to stay in Halifax. I saved my money, I got the best job I could, I worked a second in my spare time. I started interviewing for the next contract before the current one ended. I cobbled together a happy life here that is great, but entirely unsustainable if I ever want my little family to be any bigger. If you’re doing okay in Halifax, you can have the best brunch you’ll ever taste every weekend but you can’t have a baby.
I worked a very short contract in Toronto this past fall. My first weekend, I walked across the entire city, as my step counter can quantify. I got bagels, I got dumplings, I saw friends, and at 7 in the evening, just as I was about to go home, I took the bus to High Park to see the sunset, because I had a transit pass, and I saw the bus coming, and the bus said High Park, and I knew that another bus home would just show up.
In Halifax, there is so much greatness but also so much to consider for every single action. 25 years in this city have made me an exceptional planner, mastering a transit system that is neither consistent nor logical, preparing for work that won’t last, finding new best friends every year because no one stays. In Halifax it's hard to be present; if you're not thinking ahead it's your fault for not being prepared.
Halifax, it is breaking my heart and my identity to leave. I know what happens when people leave. I know we turn against them, we say it was their problem, not ours, we pretend they just had to try harder. I’m not saying that if situations change I won’t be back, I’m just saying it’s looking harder than it makes sense for me to admit to myself. I took my love for this city and made it a series of verbs that I practiced every day to try to stay here.
Halifax, I am your latest unlovable, ungrateful daughter, but don’t you say I never tried.
Here is my personal check-list of things that Halifax needs to consider to retain youth.
I have worked hard on all of these issues. Perhaps you can take up the fight. Perhaps someone might read this and think this makes sense now that I’ve left.
-Transit. Every other bus trip makes you feel like you would be better sawing off a arm with a spoon. The transit system here is so bad for a city of it’s size it almost feels like an insult. Recently, my partner and I decided to try to buy a tablet as a present for his grandfather. Halifax has gutted its downtown to the benefit of large business parks, so we tried to take a bus to said large business park one Friday evening. Three busses, all headed in the same direction all came within the same 2 minutes. The next ones came in 30 to 40 minutes.
We did not buy the tablet that night.
-The cost of rent. I know, I know, I’m moving to Toronto, how dare I complain about rent? Unfortunately, with the transit system being so bad in Halifax it really limits where youth are able to live without a car, making the cost of rent on the peninsula and now even downtown Dartmouth completely out of whack with the available salaries here. We could move further out of the city but car payments and gas gobble up any savings. Youth can't afford the home boomers want to retire out of when rent for a one bedroom apartment can easily eat up half of your income.
-The insistence that entrepreneurship is the answer to everything. Lots of entrepreneurs are strong, smart people with lots of grit that can drastically improve the economy, but being repeatedly told that this is the answer for youth with sky rocketing debt is a slap in the face. You can’t pay student loans with hustle alone. This is often a solution tossed out in a talk with very little tangible support, just a little suggestion to imply that we're just not working hard enough. I admire the amazing entrepreneurs in this province. You have worked so hard to make Nova Scotia amazing, sometimes against very difficult circumstances. Entrepreneurship is wonderful.
But if an upper middle class white person with a pension never says the word hustle again it will be too soon.
-The idea that every time someone does something different it’s an affront to others instead of a lifestyle that works for them. This one is a little harder to explain, but I think it resonates well. If you bike as a hobby, that’s great, that’s a hobby. If you bike in the city to get from A to B, it means you might use a bike lane, which might lead to more bike lanes. And that is deeply political. So fuck you. There is a very deep-rooted fear of the other here. Sometimes it manifests itself against a method of transportation, and sometimes it’s against entire races and cultures of people. I do believe in Maritime hospitality, but frequently we love the person and fear the idea. We lose so much in not realizing that ideas are what make communities great.
-Speaking of political, I hesitate to pin all of the problems of an economically depressed region on one particular government, so I won’t, because I would be wrong, but I will say this: this provincial government is bad. It’s not scrapping the graduate retention rebate and not reinvesting a comparable figure in youth, it’s not the tuition reset that make education even less affordable, it’s not the arbitrary axing of credits that drive my friends out of province… it’s all of those things and more. I don’t think the government actively hates youth, I just think they don’t care about us very much, but both net the same results.
I am the kind of person who believes in the importance of government and respect the people who put themselves forward to be part of it, but I have so many angry questions. Why are you picking a fight with my healthcare worker mother? My best friend who is a teacher? My drinking buddies who all work in the film industry? That random person out there who just wants to cross the street? And they’re not logical fights, they’re not fights that seem all that well thought out, and the recent budget forecasts suggests they’re not effective either. I can’t settle down in a place where the direction of the government feels like a drunk person waving a knife around, but with my new salary I can donate some money to people I think will make competent decisions so that I might one day be able to return.
-No Bruce Springsteen. I have spent 25 years in Halifax and have yet to meet Bruce Springsteen. It’s time to move.
Every city has its problems and I believe many have issues that are similar to Halifax’s. My problems with the city are an inevitable part of loving a place so much and being so excited to meet a new place while wanting so badly to stay.
Here are some things I will miss:
- The close knit community. So many people. So, so, so many people have made this home feel even homier, and plenty of them weren't even 'from' here.
- Our amazing apartment.
- Getting a lemon square from Jane’s and a London fog at the new library and looking off into the water.
- My family.
- The beer. It is truly the best beer. Fight me, Ontario.
- My current sense of identity.
- Probably you.
Before I leave the city, I will share a very, very detailed list of my favourite places and things to do (beyond just the new library, I promise.) (But it will be on the list.)
Halifax, I love you. I’ll be back for more than a visit one day, I hope. Halifax, I'm sorry and I understand if you don't like me, and if you'll never treat me the same way again, because I'm one of those who left.
Halifax, I love you. I promise I tried.