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In 2017 I became a different person. To do so, I let go and fell into the abyss.
In March I quit my job as managing editor of Metro Edmonton, a job I'd been working up to for 15 years in journalism. Walking out that door, I bid adieu to the fight to save print, or newspapers, or journalism. Though I miss the daily-news action some days, I don't miss much else about it. I feel at peace not having to save things.
I entered the media business as the end of print was beginning, back in 2002. Ever since, with some exceptions, I've jumped laterally — in a security sense at least — from job to job at publications that were uniformly struggling to survive. Either I had to take a short contract because a publication hadn't hired an actual newsroom staffer in a decade, or after that I was in my 30s by the time they were hiring but didn't seem as cool or web-fluent as the 20-something journalists, or my life was expanding and I needed to uproot.
Missed opportunities, I guess.
In 2010, I left the best job I ever had, as an editor and writer at Up Here magazine in Yellowknife, with a National Magazine Award nomination in my pocket. Truth be told, that was the beginning of the end. At Up Here, while working on a story, I once rode a snowmobile from Inuvik to a reindeer herd near Tuktoyaktuk, where I hung out with a Sami herder who gave me wolf-fur mittens. Before that I'd lived and worked in east Africa, writing about an election that turned violent in Kenya, music festivals in forts in Zanzibar and Westerners adopting babies in Ethiopia. I had my eye on journalism as a way to travel and ignite the place my writing magic comes from — my observation of my own sense of discovery and wonderment.
Without travel, I've realized, journalism as a my main career just isn't fulfilling.
So, since March, I've shifted how I work and how I survive. I consult on communications strategy. I ghostwrite. I edit. I take contracts. As always, I hustle.
But aside from this, I'm now able to write again. In February, I spent two weeks at the Banff Centre on a writing residency, where I worked on a book idea. Since then, I've written for CityLab, The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, the Financial Post, CityMetric, Avenue and The Globe and Mail. I also started my podcast, Walkcast.
By stepping away from being a journalist nominally on the city beat in Edmonton, I'm also able to work with my city and others in it to build a social enterprise for what I've truly come to care about, which is urban mobility. Though I can't reveal too much, I hope to bring some big things to my city in 2018.
But my biggest news, and a thing that wouldn't have been possible without me taking a risk and walking away from my career, is that I met the most wonderful person on the planet, Angela, and asked eventually her to marry me. She said yes. I have not felt happier than this in my life.
As 2017 loomed, I couldn't have imagined these great things. I'm thankful I decided to jump. Falling has been painful, awkward and angst-inducing — as well as tough on my finances. But falling has taken me off one path, with diminishing opportunities and happiness, and offered me the choice of dozens of new paths to take forward.
Falling is the best decision I ever made. I wanted change and to get it, I embraced the process. First step: Jump.
Sometimes, disruption requires a second kick at the can.
In July, following a misinformation campaign alleging that Uber was planning to take over Edmonton Transit Service, the former city council voted to strike investigating how ride-sharing and other private transportation services could be mixed into its future transit strategy from the instructions it was giving to its administrators.
In effect, the council told its own transportation planners to pretend the world isn't as it is and that the micro-transit revolution is not happening, despite contrary evidence from Los Angeles, London, Orange County, Vancouver, and, well, most other cities Edmonton should be paying attention to.
Thankfully, as one of the first items it voted on, the newly-elected council reversed this decision in November. What this means is rather innocuous but important: City bureaucrats are now allowed to research if, and how, private-mobility companies are amplifying and encouraging transit usage rather than told to pretend it isn't happening.
There are a few points to note, though.
Since the original vote, a new study has found Uber is not feeding transit. Instead, it's increasing the number of vehicle-miles traveled. Unfortunately, many substitute "Uber" for all micro-transit companies, despite the very different aims these companies have.
Consider RideCo, or Divvy, and then consider how integrating them into transit has helped cities not only realize huge investments in transit infrastructure but also to help the actual people that matter most in this equation — transit users. Make transit use easy, convenient, safe, heck even free, and evidence shows ridership goes up and car-dependency goes down.
All of this felt like it was coming home recently as I walked Jasper Avenue and noticed a Care for A Ride vehicle, from Sherwood Park, drive by. The company now has 25 vehicles and specializes in providing a ride-share service for seniors and those with mobility challenges who are based beyond the edge of Edmonton's city limits.
Integrating this service into our mass transit system — rather than treating it as verboten and unwanted — just makes sense for the passengers who clearly feel this service fills a needed gap.