Two Years in Northwestern Ontario

I still can’t quite believe that I am writing this. When I got the job that moved me up here, I told myself that I would just be here long enough to make enough money to be able to move to a big city and get enough work experience to be able to get a good job in a city. And then I would get out of here.

The first year was brutal, I moved up here and at midnight that night the region went into lockdown – I had been so excited because I thought I was moving from a “Grey – Lockdown” region to a “Yellow – Caution” (I think that’s what it was) zone. I thought I was going to be able to go into the one coffee shop in town, maybe get to meet some people, but that was not the case. It was months before I met anyone, and we were work from home, so there were days, several consecutive days, in a row where if I didn’t have a work meeting I would not talk. Sometimes I would speak just to test my voice and make sure it still worked.

By late summer into fall I really started to meet people here and things started to open up again and it got better. Then the Omicron variant hit and we were all locked in our houses again and that is when I started responding to outbreak situations. Honestly, the responses helped because I was working in person for the first time in a couple years, and I was making bank, but the hours that I was putting in were totally unsustainable and then my pet sitting side-hustle really took off. From last February to last December I was spending single-digit numbers of days in my own apartment between work travel and pet sitting. I actually stopped pet sitting last September because I just couldn’t balance it anymore. Work travel has really calmed down so far in 2023, which while it means I’m not making as much money, it is so nice to have time to be home, to do other things.

I have to admit that this place has grown on me. I absolutely am not settling down here, I am certain that I want to live in a city with access to more than one grocery store, public transportation, arts, museums, bookstores, coffee shops, restaurants, Pilates and spin classes, a city that musicians come to when they are touring so that I don’t have to drive 8 hours to go to a concert. I want to live close to a major airport so that I don’t have to drive 4 hours to fly home, to fly back to Ireland, to not pay minimum $200 in airport parking every vacation. The, uhh, dating pool is also incredibly limited here. I also hate how reliant you become on online shopping and Amazon in particular because there is no where to buy clothes, home goods, or really anything besides groceries (very expensive groceries, I can promise you those of you who live south of the 50th parallel may be experiencing expensive groceries but I would die to pay what you do for groceries).

What saves this place though is the work, the people, and the summers. Ugh, the summers are unbelievable up here. Weeks around 35-40 degrees Celsius, never more than 10 minutes from a beach, the sun stays up until 10:30-11. They are magic. And the people, there seem to be very few people from here, but the people who come here are all brought here by work; and to do the work that we do up here requires a very certain set of values including a sense of adventure, which makes this little town feel like it has a little magic to it.

So, yeah, it is a lot better up here than I could have ever imagined. I will never forget when I first drove down the highway that dead ends in town, this town that is one of the last stops before remote Northern Ontario, that sinking feeling of “What the fuck have I done??” and could not imagine that I would feel content here. But I do, and here we are, two years later.


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