Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on January 16, 2017.
Five years ago when my family and I relocated to Kamloops someone told me that unless you’ve been here a couple of decades or longer, you’re just not ‘Kamloopsian’ enough. It made me feel a bit uneasy and it made me look twice at the people I met, wondering who is Kamloopsian enough and who isn’t.
Fortunately, that did not last too long. It was the end of summer and the farmer’s market was in full swing. As soon as we made our way to the market and said the first hello things started unfolding. I started talking to people and sharing stories only to realize that many of us take the same route when immersed in a place: we reach out and share life bits, regardless of whether there is a family history tying us to one place or another.
Fall brought a newspaper column to write, more people to meet and, often times someone I just met turned out to be a friend of a friend. A small world indeed is what I said every time and still do.
Then again, Kamloops is not exactly a small lost town either. There are over 80,000 people living here and almost 100,000 if you count the areas surrounding the city. Funny enough, there’s rarely a day when I don’t bump into someone I know. That is not where it ends though.
Over the last few months I have been involved, as a volunteer, with a project that culminated in an exhibition that opened on Saturday night at the Kamloops Art Gallery (the BMO open gallery near the library). The topic is sustainability and the people featured in it are local people who go the extra mile when it comes to leaving a smaller energy and consumption footprint. If you have the time, please consider yourself invited.
During the months of bringing this project to fruition (and prior to it during my many engagements with other projects or get togethers), I got to meet many people and I cannot help but be amazed at how much that changed my perspective from those first couple of weeks after arriving to what appeared to be a dusty, hot city where you had to be born and raised here to count. If that ever was Kamloops back in the day, that’s a reality that no longer stands.
In the five years spent here, I’ve met people from all walks of life and though backgrounds are varied and colourful when it comes to professions and personal opinions about the world around and more, the wealth I’ve accumulated by swapping stories and working together with some of them has greatly endeared the very place to my heart.
I am aware that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. Nobody is really. But life is like that; uniqueness is what keeps us curious and able to complement each other, if willing. If working from home and homeschooling also may seem confining (neither has to be), bringing up uncomfortable topics can push one in the untouchables corner.
Yet what I came to realize is that every place, whether big or small, has groups of people that have at least one common denominator, whatever that might be. Yet no one, unless you’re part of a Hollywood happy story, will likely come to your door and present you with an agreeable crowd to hang out and feel comfortable with. Truth is, it takes a bit of reaching out.
It also takes some learning to listen, to speak up and yes, sometimes it takes learning to doubt less and trust that things will turn out OK simply because there is at least another person that cares and shares a common goal. Another thing I’ve learned is that you become more of a place and the place becomes more of you when you lend yourself to it through various actions.
Whether meeting people and working on projects that culminate in highlighting some of the local sparkling spirit, or taking myself out to the hills for a hike and an opportunity to ponder, I’ve come to realize that caring about a place is done through connecting. To the place itself and to the people.
Each of us carries ideas and frustrations and we’re each hardened by life’s small or big mischiefs. There is no perfect person to be with and there is no perfect place to be. Yes, there might be a better place out there. For the time being, and during the time I will spend here, I simply refuse to think that there is any rejection mechanism that keeps people away for not being part of a multigenerational Kamloops dynasty.
While not all circles are opened to everyone and each of us is more accepting of a group over another, that is what keeps things thriving in all directions. But here’s something I’ve learned in the last five years spent here. That if you put your hand out someone will shake it and things will unroll in a good way from there. One mention though: good is never perfect.