A decade ago this October, I packed up a truck-load of all my worldly possessions and drove into Saint John as this city’s newest resident. I was moving to the Port City to take my first real, grown-up job as a Cytotechnologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital.
Driving into town for the first time, I missed the exit I was supposed to take and ended up driving over the Harbour Bridge. Classic rookie mistake. It did, however, give me a chance to see a bit of my new home town. I remember thinking as I passed through, what is this place? With the audacity to have its own Hollywood sign and a major highway straight through its centre?
I think I loved it, right then and there.
It makes sense that I would love it here, really. Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I’ve seen so many communities struggle just to stay alive, in much the same way that Saint John has struggled. Just as people like to root for the underdog, I like to root for the undervalued and unappreciated places in the Maritimes.
When I first took the job in Saint John, people tried to tell me not to move. It seemed that Saint John inspired a rather apathetic response in Maritimers, at best. Why are you moving there? was a common question I received as I prepared to move my entire life there. That is, except for a couple I met at the restaurant where I worked, who lived in Saint John. They boasted about the beauty of their city and its friendly people. After chatting with them for a few minutes, I decided that there was hope for my new city, after all. As it turns out, they were right.
I haven’t regretted a moment that I’ve spent here.
In many ways, I feel as though I’ve found myself here. I met the love of my life here and we married three years ago. We bought a home, set up a busy, satisfying life here. I have a rewarding career and enough hobbies to keep me busy 24 hours a day. In the past couple of years I’ve unexpectedly discovered a new purpose: to use my passion and love for the region to spread the word about all the inspiring people and remarkable things that are happening here. Because this place deserves to be seen as more than the Armpit of the Maritimes. It deserves to be a destination in its own right.
If you saw the recent CBC documentary about Saint John, City on Fire, then you’ll understand that it’s an exciting time to live in Saint John. There is a momentum building in the city, and it makes you want to get involved. To be a part of the movement. To prove that a community can take control of its own destiny, and decide for themselves who they’re going to be. We don’t (and shouldn’t) have to wait for government to bail us out. We can build a better community, all by ourselves, for ourselves.
To celebrate 10 years in the Port City, I’ll be bringing you posts of all my favourite places in the area, all month long. Those most visited, and those I couldn’t live without.
So, after a decade in Saint John, the only real question left to answer is this: Can I offically call myself a Saint Johner now?