Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Upon Leaving Athabasca

I've been thinking for the past few days that I'd like to sit down and share a few thoughts upon leaving Athabasca, but the more that life gets in the way, I find the desire to do it is starting to leave me, so I figured I should do it while the shred of desire is left.

People keep asking me if I'm excited that I'm leaving, or starting the new gig, and the truth is...no.  That's no slam against Athabasca, or Westlock, or the Company, it's just the way I am.  When I went to Japan all those years ago, I wasn't excited until I was pulling up to the airport.  When I cam home from Japan, I wasn't excited about going home until the plane touched down at Edmonton International.  When I started working in Athabasca, I wasn't excited until my second day at work.  It was on the second day when I felt truly on my own and that it was all on me.

So, no.  I'm not excited yet.  There's still too much to do.  I still haven't found a place in Westlock, and once that's done, there's the packing and the moving.  Excitement will find its moment.

I wish I did sit down to write this, though, before I did my final show back on Friday.  When things were done and I was reviewing the audio, I was a little embarrassed.  If I sat down to write this and had collected my thoughts a little more, before going on the air, I wouldn't have sounded so raw.  It would have been polished a little more.  But there are nuggets of truth in there.

As I said, because small town radio stations have notoriously high turnover, there's a large segment of the listening population that thinks I've only been here six months or so.  But I was here just shy of 7 years.  April 2006 - February 2013 is how it'll read on my resume.  And the little old radio station went through quite a few changes in those years.  I started when we were on AM and a country music station, then we flipped to classic hits and changed our name, then we flipped to FM and changed our name again.  In a performance review, I was asked what I felt my greatest contribution to the station was.  I said consistency.

But as I said on the air on Friday, one thing that has constantly amazed me about Athabasca and the listening area is the ability of the community to band together and achieve the impossible.  I know the go-to example in recent years has been how Athabasca opened their homes to the Slave Lake evacuees during the Slave Lake fires, but I was thinking before that.  I was thinking about how the Athabasca Regional Multiplex came to be.  When I first started here 7 years ago, the Multiplex was still an empty lot and a dream.  Yeah, the town and the county chipped in some money, there were a few provincial grants as well, but the lion's share was raised by the people because they needed that facility.  The field house isn't named after the Rotary Club through some name-rights deal...it's because the Rotary Club single-handedly raised $2 million for the building.  When the Edmonton Oilers had their kids training camp here a couple years ago and I was emceeing the opening ceremony, I said that minor hockey built the Multiplex, and I stand by that.  The Multiplex started when the Athabasca Minor Hockey Association approached the municipalities and said, "We need a new rink."  Minor hockey did the vast majority of the fundraising.  The Multiplex was built by the people.  The grand opening of the Multiplex in the spring of 2008 was the last big event I got to cover before being promoted from news to on-air.

Lots of people don't remember that, either.  I started here as the news reporter, and spent two years doing that before I became the wacky morning guy.  I paid my dues spending late nights covering town council meetings, followed by early mornings writing it up for the 6AM news.  A town concillor stopped me the grocery store the other day and asked if I'd ever spend late nights covering town council meetings.  Apparently, he'd forgotten that I was the reporter at all those town council meetings back when he was the mayor.  I missed covering council meetings when I left the news department.  They go from high drama to deep lunacy...they're delightfully entertaining.

One thing I'll miss the most about Athabasca is Athabasca University.  I love that place.  I'm a big fan of post secondary education - that's why I've done it so many times - and for this world class facility to be in a small Alberta town is just amazing.  Every year, when Convocation rolls around, and people from all over the world come to Athabasca to have their moment on the stage and accept their hard-earned degree, I just can't help but cheer.  It's a signature Athabasca event that really deserves more attention.  Even when I was no longer a reporter and wasn't obligated to be there anymore, I'd still take a moment to head up there and take it in.  And it was practical, too, as I'd often be hanging around the Financial Aid office trying to find help in finally getting my student loans paid off.

As I packed up the various mementos around my office, I took a moment to remember.  I had a hockey puck from the Battle of the Border...a fundraiser held for the Multiplex.  The Canadian Women's Olympic hockey team took on the American Women's Olympic hockey team in an exhibition game.  I've got another hockey puck from the Oilers, and that aforementioned training camp for kids they held here a couple years ago.  I took down my Canadian flag, which had hung in my dorm room all throughout my college years, and when the 2010 Winter Olympics came along, I hung it in my office to cheer on Team Canada, and just kind of left it up.  I remember when the MLA came down one day to record some commercials.  He looked at that Canadian flag, rolled his eyes, let out a sigh of disgust, and said, "You really should have an Alberta flag up."  I threw out my trophy from when I represented the station at the Winter Festival of Speed in Lac la Biche a few years ago.  I came in third, and the person who placed first - the announcer from the Bonnyville station - decided to play a rather mean-spirited prank on me.  I'm still sore about it.

Athabasca really has been the culmination of a life's goal.  When I was 10 years old, I saw the movie Good Morning Vietnam and decided that being a radio announcer was what I wanted to do when I grew up.  When I went to college, first thing I did was volunteer for the college station.  After college, I thought the whole radio system would be out of my system and I could become a grown up.  But it wasn't.  So I went back to college, got my degree in broadcasting, and started in Athabasca.  And now, I'm getting ready to head off to a new town, new station, and do it all over again.  The dream goes on.  The adventure continues.

I think excitement is finding its moment.

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