I thought I would clarify my current work/life situation as many people have recently asked. My life is currently a tale of two towns…
I live in Prince George city limits and pay property taxes here. I have owned a home in the beautiful Central Fort George neighbourhood for almost nine years now. I didn’t know it at age 22, but I had made a very wise real estate investment. During the early days of owning a home, I busted my butt in seasonal and casual work. Even during unfortunate periods of unemployment, I never missed a mortgage payment. By age 45, I should be mortgage-free. I am very proud of my city for allowing me the opportunity to make that investment at such a young age.
Fast forward to my first year on Council, I worked part-time at a local non-profit. It was my fifth year working at the agency, and I loved the work that I did there, but I found the split between Council duties and work duties difficult. I felt it was time for a change.
In my second year on Council, I left my paid employment. I ran and was elected to the Board of Integris Credit Union, which offered a small stipend and occupied about five hours a week of my time. Last year was a great year, with a lot of time and freedom to pursue City Council projects of importance to me, and I got a lot accomplished. Finances were tight, and I did a few odd jobs through my consulting business to make ends meet. 2016 was also the year I got married. Legally binding myself to another person means that I no longer make major life-changing decisions alone.
My partner has had a different experience than me in the city. It hasn’t been easy for him, and there’s been a lot of setbacks in his career. Lifestyle-wise, he’s a small-town boy. He prefers peace and quiet. He’s supported me in my position on Council but is completely averse to political life. They say opposites attract, right? When he told me that, sometime in the future, he wanted to leave Prince George, it surprised me. It shouldn’t have, but it did.
I was torn. How could I leave a city that has done so much for me? How could a stay for the long-term knowing it would make my partner unhappy? I had come to Prince George in the first place to study International Studies, with the goal of working all over the world, but when was the right time to go? Have I got it so good here that it would be crazy to leave? I am selling myself short by staying?
The answer, at least for the short-term, sort of fell into our laps. My partner and I both love Wells and Barkerville. We spend a lot of time out there on holidays and even got married there. Kevin often spoke about how much he would like to live there. At the end of 2016, Barkerville Historic Town posted a position for a Diversification Officer (commerce and business development). It was the perfect fit! A job that would use my skills in one of the coolest places on the planet. They even agreed to hire me on part-time so that I could work for them on the weekends and maintain my Prince George commitments for the rest of the week. This meant that a one-year, full-time contract was now stretched into a two-year, half-time contract. My in-laws even agreed to put me up in their guest room in Quesnel on the days I worked in Barkerville. Not long after I started, Island Mountain Arts recruited me to their Board of Directors.
After working about six months in the new job, reality had begun to sink in. I was exhausted living out of a suitcase, driving 400kms on the highways each week, and staying in a guest room each weekend. Work on all fronts was becoming very challenging, and summer 2017 was one of the most difficult times I have ever experienced. Things were literally and metaphorically on fire.
There was virtually no vacancy for rental accommodation in Wells, but the opportunity to purchase a small home came up. When I asked Kevin if we should invest in real estate in Wells, he immediately said yes. On June 1st of this year we took possession of our new Wells house, and on October 1st we took occupancy. On October 6th, Kevin was offered a full-time, well-paying job at Barkerville Gold Mines. At the end of the month, he will have moved out to Wells full-time, and we’ll be together on the weekends when I’m working at Barkerville. We love the new place. It’s tiny, historical, and has a great view. We’re putting in some major elbow grease to make it feel like as much of a home as our home in Prince George.
So, to make a long story short, I spend Monday through Thursday each week serving in my elected duties, mainly as a City Councillor, sometimes as a Credit Union Director. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I work in Barkerville Historic Town and serve as a volunteer Director for Island Mountain Arts. I spend most Friday and Saturday nights in Wells.
This schedule means that I get to do several amazing jobs that I love. It means that I work with awesome/terrifying challenges all the time. It means that I have very little time off. It also means that I miss all of the fun things in Prince George that happen on the weekends. One of the hardest/saddest parts about my new work/life balance is having to decline all the weekend event invitations to some of my favourite activities in Prince George. Sorry Mini-Maker Faire. Sorry music at the Legion. Sorry Elizabeth May’s speech. Sorry virtually every celebration event.
To help offset this sadness, please, invite me to your weekday events and meetings! Maybe you’d just like to meet for coffee? My schedule is wide open during the week to serve you. While weekends are filled with fun, weekdays are filled with business, and being wide-open during the weekday allows me to remain effective in my council duties. I serve on many committees, work with many staff, and still get a lot of things done.
Ultimately, I live a split life, between two towns, but spend the majority of my time and energy living in and serving the people of Prince George. I miss the city when I am away, but the peace and quiet of Wells also helps me focus on the never-ending desk work that comes with my duties. The internet is darned expensive out there, so no more Netflix on the weekends makes for much more productive person.
The next municipal election is a year away, around the same time as the next Credit Union election, and my contract with Barkerville has a little under a year left. With three of my current commitments ending/transitioning all around the same time, it’s important that I decide what life after Fall 2018 looks like. I think more and more about whether to run for another term or not. It doesn’t help that people don’t stop asking about it around this time.
I’d like nothing more than to make being a City Councillor my full-time job, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t pay the bills (nor does come with pension benefits, medical benefits, education stipends, parental leave, etc). Wells and Barkerville are amazing places full of a surprising number of activities and really talented people. It’s an inspiring place, but I truly am a city girl at heart. My conundrum in the short-term has been solved, but long-term I am still torn. I hope that I, my family, my colleagues, my constituents, and both of my home communities can help me make the best decision for my future in the coming year.
Thank you all for your support, feedback, encouragement and empathetic ears. Thank you especially to Kevin.
PS. There is no cell service in Wells, so you can reach me at my home phone in Prince George at 250-561-0562 or my home phone in Wells at 778-763-0641. Ultimately, wifi is available everywhere, and the best way to reach me at any time is via email: firstname.lastname@example.org