The Sunniest City in Canada
I hated my hometown... until I didn't.
Medicine Hat, Alberta, might be known as the sunniest city in Canada, however it is a place few people ever visit on holidays, unless they are driving through it on the TransCanada Highway.
Lucky for me, I was born there.
Ever since I can remember I had been planning my escape route to leave my hometown. My parents had always drilled the "get a good job, settle down" motto into my head, and there's a particular feeling that if you stay in Medicine Hat, you're the type to get married after high school and settle down with a house and marriage and family and maybe even a dog or two with a white pickett fence. That was the dream.
But it was never mine.
The thought of tying myself down to someone or something is not for me. I did not share that dream with the people who resided in my city. I had so much living to do! I wanted out because my naieve teenage self thought Medicine Hat was the lamest city in the entire galaxy.
My reasons for wanting to leave were as follows:
The city was too small and therefore could never fulfill my dreams. I wanted to be creative, and how could my creativity ever thrive in Medicine Hat? I wanted to work in the magazine industry and Medicine Hat was the farthest thing from it. My only option was to move to a big city, obviously. (Since I have moved away, a girl about my age took the initiave to create a magazine in Medicine Hat.)
Secondly, I felt there was no culture in Medicine Hat. I wanted to be able to stroll down the sidewalk and see all walks of life. However, you can walk down the street and not run into anybody at all because Medicine Hat is so... quiet. A predominately white city, I wished to see more people of colour thrive in my hometown. I was bored by the lack of diversity, and in turn, the lack of open-mindedness of those around me. But perhaps it was me who was lacking having an open mind.
Another reason I wanted to leave? There wasn't much nature to look at or spend time in. You know, real nature, like mountains and oceans and forests. Living in the prairies when you're a nature lover is rough. Personally I recharge my internal batteries by spending time outside. However, you can't really do that in Medicine Hat. Sure, you could drive five hours to get to the mountains, or you could take a 45 minute road trip out of town to a nearby lake (which I did often) but I wanted nature in my backyard. To be close to oceans and mountains was all I'd ever dreamed of, and when it's -30 degrees celcius outside, trust me... you do not want to spend time outdoors anyways.
Clearly I thought a change of scenery was needed. Craving city life and oceans and mountains led me to move to Vancouver, and now that I'm here, I thrive among the chaotic busy streets or in the old-growth forests that take me twenty minutes by bus to get to. I craved the overstimulation of lights, funky smells, sirens, food trucks, people on the street, busy traffic, sky trains and public transportation.
It's funny how you always want what you don't have. Growing up in a peaceful city made me love and choose chaos later in life.
I wanted the high vibration of energy that only big cities can offer. I wanted the creativity to be whoever I really wanted to be. To dress how I wanted without feeling judged. To not wear make up, to love myself more. To never feel like I had anybody to impress. Trying to grow in a city that kept reminding you of what you used to be was difficult, which is why I wanted to be invisible and start over. Here in Vancouver, I am free to be whoever I choose to be on any given day.
Even though I now have everything I could ever want, oddly enough I find myself missing the simplicity of Medicine Hat.
You see, each time I head home for a visit, it's never long enough and I wish for a few extra days added to the itinerary. It's comforting to know every road, every street, every restaurant and every coffee shop. Those familiar faces I had been trying to avoid? I look for them in the sea of faces while walking downtown on Granville Street.
Taking a step away from my hometown has shown me how proud I am to be a Hatter. I'm beginning to realize that perhaps it never had anything to do with Medicine Hat, but my internal struggles with feeling less-than. Now that I've become more self-aware, I'm learning that it was never the physical place that I hated, but where I was mentally in life. How could I ever hate the place that raised me to be who I am today?
My reasons for wanting to return are as follows:
The people within Medicine Hat are always doing random acts of kindness for one another, or smiling and conversing with strangers. Seriously, I've never had my Tim Horton's coffee paid for by a stranger in the drive-thru more in my life than I have in Medicine Hat. People leave winter clothes in parks for the homeless or those in need. Others are quick to offer roadside assistance when something goes wrong. When COVID hit, random Hatters gathered via Facebook group and dropped off baskets for those who needed groceries, cleaning supplies, or simply a smile at their front door. The people in Medicine Hat are kind hearted and are always on the lookout for ways to make a difference in someone's life.
Another reason I am proud to be from my hometown is the fact that the locals support small businesses like true ride-or-die fans that business owners could only dream of. This business bloomed in Medicine Hat? Let's shower them in support! I'm proud of my hometown for honouring those who try to grow something there. Now that I'm a small business owner, I'm seeing how supportive my hometown truly is. It's hard to fail in the Hat when you have so many people cheering you on.
My mother does the planning for the flower beds around the city and she does a spectacular job. I know the Geraniums around the city make people smile and they add a gorgeous pop of colour when you're driving down First Street near the parks and City Hall. The city workers of Medicine Hat take great care in making their city clean and beautiful for everyone to enjoy. I suppose I'm biased on this point because of the work my family does, but nevertheless, I'm damn proud.
Lastly, I'm entirely homesick for the people. Some of the greatest, most caring, talented souls I know come from little ol' Medicine Hat. Perhaps this is because we spent most of our teen years growing up bored and had to find other ways to pass the time, so we dove into our hobbies and turned them into ways to make money or we perfected our crafts. I have painter friends, DJ friends, teacher friends, business-owner friends, clothing-making friends... and I couldn't be more proud of who they've become over the years. Despite the lack of things to do, I'd like to think we all found our paths because of it.
But the real reason I miss Medicine Hat is not because of these things at all.
It's the little things. The skatepark at night. The corner store that gave us free slushies when we were kids. The sunsets and the thunderstorms. The hidden lookouts we found as teenagers. The hidden lookouts we still visit as adults. Spending time at the South Saskatchewan river, playing near it or floating on it. Playing Jackpot in the coulees. Stopping by the 24-hour restaurant named Trukker's off the highway for midnight meals. Driving around at night and feeling free. Pre-drinking and walking to the bars in the summer. Taking random lefts and rights and seeing where we'd end up. The memories that flood through my mind when I drive past my old high school.
Now that I've grown, I'm appreciative of every moment I ever had in Medicine Hat. I'm so blessed to have grown up in such a safe, quiet community where I never had to worry about running around in the streets at night. I'm so grateful to everyone I've met in that quaint, adorable city, for they've shaped me into the person I am today. Medicine Hat is so much more than just a boring city for some teenagers who can't see the good in it. I took my time there for granted, and I find myself missing it all the time.
I could keep moving for the rest of my life but Medicine Hat will always be my home.