I once spent the night in the Regina airport, after hours, in the time before it was open round the clock. My dad had given me a free trip to visit him in Toronto, which turned into one of those adventures that involved many airplanes and stopovers across the country. In Calgary, my friend Oldandmoldy drove out to the airport from his parents’ place and we spent an hour talking about music and his latest crush. When I got to Regina, I sat down on a bench and did a sudoku puzzle while everyone else left. Eventually a security guard told me I’d have to leave too. It was past midnight, on a snowy November night, and I had no money. The final leg of my trip was a 6 am flight to Toronto. He relented, but apologetically explained that I’d have to move to a bench where he could see me on the closed-circuit camera system, and that both the heat and the main lights would be off within the hour.
Sure enough, I was soon pulling out all the clothes I could layer from in my backpack, trying to stop from shivering. On his rounds, the security guard apologized again, and offered to buy me a soft drink from the vending machine. I thanked him but declined, figuring that the caffeine wouldn’t help much. Instead, I distracted myself with a book. It was pretty dim, but light enough to read by: I tore through Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness from beginning to end. To this day, whenever I hear about Regina, I think about that novel, about being different and being yourself.
Oats and I have been having hard conversations about finances. No, I should correct that: Not hard in that they’re difficult, but hard as in we’re being tough on ourselves. Hard conversations that are also inspiring, really, because they are focused on big questions such as what do we want, where do we want to be, how shall we live our lives?
The terrible truth is that we’re living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, while carrying debt, and while I attempt to retrain in a new career and Oats works in a career that she does not like. Basically, if we moved anywhere else, we’d be doing better. In particular, if we moved somewhere with a low cost of living and where Oats could cheaply go to school for her masters’ of fine arts, we could get out of debt and Oats would stand a better chance at making a living as an artist, illustrator, art instructor, or whatever else she wanted.
So where are we looking at? Regina, no joke. Also, Winnipeg… And Windsor, Ontario. Three cities neither of us barely know, but somehow seem to be logical places to hang our hats for a couple years. It’s crazy, that we’d leave, considering how much we love where we live, but it feels like that’s the only way we could eventually live here and be more than just treading water, financially.
I’m not desperate to own a house or a fancy car or attain many other parts of the middle-class dream: I love our cooperative household and am so happy riding my bike all over the place. At the same time, despite our very frugal ways, we’re paying a lot of money for basics while also paying lots of interest on student loans. Oats can’t get paintings done let alone network with the local arts communities because she works long hours just so that we can stay afloat. Our situation isn’t dire, but it’s not getting any better either. I want to have kids, and to travel more, and for Oats to be working at something she loves, and it’s not really gonna happen until we ditch the debt.
So that’s the plan. This next year, Oats is going to fine tune her portfolio, and send off a bunch of applications. Then we’ll move, not this summer but the next, to some far off urban centre that I can’t even picture… Well, except Winnipeg: I’ve been there a few times, and enjoy visiting… But to live is a different story. It’s all rather romantic, really, which I find very appealing at the same time as completely terrifying. I spent my entire twenties on this island, and am hoping that if I invest some of my thirties in the middle of the Prairies (or the Great Lakes?), I’ll be able to enjoy my forties, fifties, and onwards, here as well.
Economic geography, FTW.