As I watch my husband buzz around our 110-year-old Halifax house with his tools, I ask: "Why did we decide to stay in Nova Scotia again?"
"There's always something to fix," he says.
He's half-joking, but sometimes this is how we feel. The exhausting battle of constantly trying to improve things. It can feel fruitless, especially when the work is tied up in tricky political or corporate systems that could suddenly shift and nullify years of advancement.
I struggle for words about why we stay in Nova Scotia—not because I don't know, but because it's ineffable. Maybe because its beauty is immeasurable and soothing. Maybe because its nature cradles and challenges us. Maybe because the people are honest and quick to laugh. Maybe because the art and culture deepens our human understanding. It's all of these things.
But last fall, we almost left. I moved to California for four months (without my husband and two young children) to mentor with a startup music company. My goal was to learn enough to bring the knowledge back home and start a business here.
But when my family visited my temporary home in sunny Los Angeles, we seriously considered leaving Nova Scotia for good. After feeling like martyrs in a sea of negativity that resulted after cuts in the 2015 provincial budget and watching dozens of friends leave the province, we asked ourselves what we're hanging onto.
Yet we stayed in Halifax, partially because we still feel like we can make real change in our communities, but mostly because no matter where we've lived, where we've travelled, there was always something calling us back here.
There is a positive effect, living in a place where the weather changes every 20 minutes, the economy can be slow and the politics can be frustrating: It makes you significantly more engaged, resilient and resourceful. Those who survive here do it by hard work, innovation and creativity. And the common goal remains: Creating a place where everyone can thrive.
Being part of a small population demands that you be part of the change. When we say "I hate how Halifax always..." or "Nova Scotia is so backward...," we are shaming us all, as a group. That leads to withdrawal, discouragement, inaction. But when we hold up positive change (even if it may be flawed)—a welcome shift in policy or a moving story—we are pumping energy into all of us. It's that energy we need to continue to be resourceful, to build, to create a place that we are proud to call home.
Fortunately, when we cannot find enough positive energy in people, we can always walk in the woods, float in the ocean or lift our faces to the sunshine, breathing the clean, salt air. Our land—this beautiful place—is constantly offering us nourishment to push on.
I challenge you to consider why you remain in Nova Scotia and what you can do to make more people stay. And if you want to leave, but can't, what can YOU do to make this place better? There may be a lot to fix, but when it's time for the barn-raising, we all need to be there to push.