Here in my hometown, a young man named Adam Rozenhart recently launched a challenge, asking: Why Edmonton? He’s looking for people to articulate their throughts on what he’s calling “The Essence of Edmonton“. This is my contribution.

Like many others born in Edmonton, I never thought I would end up here. In my twenties, I lived elsewhere for about 6 years. But here I am today, with no plans to leave, and happy about it. Here’s why:

The ingredients of awesome

There was a time when I was really adrift in this city. Immediately after graduating from university and coming back, I was bored and lonely. I had low-level secretarial job in an unpleasant industrial workplace. I lived in a big apartment complex and didn’t know any of my neighbours. I had outgrown my high school social circle.

But I kept trying, kept looking, and eventually, I got a better job, started to build a network of new friends, and moved downtown. I began to discover events and activities that I could get excited about, like the Improvaganza theatre festival and Pecha Kucha Nights.

When I go out now, I often run into like-minded people whose company I enjoy. I don’t have to plan it – we just run in the same circles. It feels like a community.

Social media has accelerated the process by allowing me to connect with these same like-minded folks online. This is often how I find out about things to do, places to eat, and the latest happenings around town.

Edmonton did not start out as the perfect place for me, but all the ingredients were there. I had to put some work into it. A little time and a little persistence was all it took to find the elements that were just right.

The opportunity for awesome

Lately, I’ve been interviewing other Edmonton-lovers for the Edmonton Do Gooder Project, and I’ve noticed that like me, many of them started out dissatisfied with the Edmonton they were living in. They, too, went looking for a better version where they could flourish. Part of what makes them special, though, is that if they didn’t find what they were looking for, rather than giving up and going elsewhere, they decided to stay and create it.

Brittney Le Blanc, upon discovering that there was no place for tech-minded women to gather and feel accepted, helped make Girl Geek Dinners happen.

Adam Rozenhart, upon realizing that people with cool stories were going unrecognized, helped create The Unknown Studio.

Jessie Radies, upon realizing the enormous potential of a stronger local economy, founded Live Local. I could go on.

Is it any wonder these people think Edmonton is amazing? They’re the ones with the courage, the tenacity, and the perserverance to stick with it until they either find or create the most fantastic things about it.

If you expect it to somehow come to you, if you sit in your home and never go anywhere new, if you aren’t constantly on the lookout for cool things to see and do, if you’re not prepared to meet this city halfway, then yeah – Edmonton is going to seem pretty bleak to you.

But if you’re prepared to dig a little deeper and look a little further, I promise – it’s there. The Edmonton you can thrive in. The city you can be excited about. The community that welcomes you as one of its own.