Rose is 23, a pretty, wispy blonde girl who I interviewed in her rental house, a nice house in suburban Littletown, sparkling clean but sparsely furnished.  She speaks slowly and thoughtfully – we learn she has an identified word retrieval handicap where the word she wants escapes her and has learned this technique to ensure she communicates well.  She is a ‘country girl’ who was quite overwhelmed by her college experience in Toronto and who would love to be able to find work in her field, floral design, back home.  She loves her work in Littletown but it doesn’t pay enough for her to live there except in her current accommodations, where she has just been served notice to move.  She has an interesting perspective on recreational life in rural areas, especially the role alcohol plays, and is clear what the community needs to do to allow her generation to return home successfully.  She also discusses thoughtfully the challenges rural youth face in choosing how to leave and the culture shock she experienced in an urban setting.

FM:  Okay, let’s start by you telling me a bit about your family – where you were raised, who was in the family, what they did for a living, etc.

Okay. I am the middle child of 4 children.  I have an older sister and two brothers.  I grew up [near a small village] where my mom and dad built and raised us.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom and did the paperwork for my dad’s construction business. 

FM: So talk about how you thought about leaving where you were raised.  From the beginning, when you started to think that you were going to leave…

I always knew I was going to leave because I wanted a post-secondary education, I wanted to go to college.  I didn’t think the local college offered enough for me to become somebody. 

FM: So during high school...

They prompt you to leave.  They give you options early on.  They start prepping you probably in grade 10, actually, right off the bat.  Grade 9 they don’t talk so much about leaving but in grade 10, they say you need to start preparing for leaving, start you thinking about the classes you’re going to need to get into the college or universities you want. 

I knew I wanted to be a florist early on, grade 10, I knew.  Before they really asked me what I wanted to be.  I grew up with my mom always being in the garden.  She loved gardening and I loved being with her.  That’s how I spent alone time with her. 

But I also wanted to be an artist so I kinda put the two together one day when I walked into our local florist. 

FM: So you were quite clear about what you wanted, and then left for college right after high school?

Right after high school.  Which isn’t very common in my age group – most of them know they want to leave but don’t know what they want to do – I didn’t have that scrambling, picking something because I had to.  Because I knew what I wanted to be happy and wouldn’t let anyone change that.  Like my dad didn’t think I was going to make a lot of money doing that, but he wanted to make sure I got post-sec education.  That was important to him, so I went.  You don’t have to go to a floral design course, you can get on-the-job training.  I did the 4-credit co-op course in high school and worked at a flower shop.  So I knew what I was getting into, I wasn’t going in blind. 

FM: Where did you go, then, to school?

So I went to [a community college] for floral design. 

FM: In Toronto?

It wasn’t my first choice.  I chose Belleville but they dropped the course.  I chose Belleville because it was closer to home. 

FM: Where did you live in Toronto?  With whom?  What kind of living arrangements?

North York.  I lived in a basement apartment to begin with, with an older lady.  We had shared accommodations, like laundry.  One day I found her in my stuff.  I freaked out and she told me I had 2 weeks to get out, and I told her I was already leaving.  My second place was with a childhood friend who was moving to Toronto for education as well.  We had a basement apartment together.  Which worked great. 

FM: How were you financing school?  Were you paying, or your folks? 

My parents paid my tuition and I got OSAP – that’s what I lived off.  Barely. 

FM: And do you remember how much you were paying for rent? 

It was $550/month. 

FM: For each of you?

Yes.  That’s what it is in Toronto.  And that was low.  If you didn’t want to live with the cockroaches.

FM: And how long was the course?

A year.  Which I’m very happy it was, because I couldn’t have afforded anything more than that.  I know people who into $22,000 of debt just from going to school.

FM: And how much was yours?

My grant was $7000, and I’m still paying it and I’ve been out of school for 5 years.  I’m 23. 

FM: Okay, so then, certificate in hand, what did you do?

Actually, not certificate in hand.  That summer, I went home after college and worked at [a resort near her home], which is a fine-dining restaurant and lodge.  Worked there – I took a couple of months off and couldn’t find anything until the spring, and that’s when I worked at [the resort].  That summer I took on-line courses with e-learning at [the local college] and got the credits I was missing in order to get the credits I needed to get the certificate.  I dropped out of a couple of courses in order to focus on the ones that I definitely needed in order to graduate.  And finished those with e-learning.  And now I have a certificate. 

FM: How did you experience e-learning?  How did it make you feel?

I liked it.  I wished I had known about it earlier, because then I wouldn’t have gone through so much pressure trying to accomplish so much in a year.  I wasn’t really ready for how much change college was going to be, especially in Toronto.  I wasn’t aware of how different it was going to be.  Being from a small town like that. 

FM: Was the difference in academic expectations, or social expectations?  How was it different than you expected?

All of the above.  The pressure of being on top of every class.  The pressure of wanting to make my family proud of me.  Having to try that much harder with teachers that didn’t know my past, my history.  Being a person that’s identified – I’m identified, so…

FM: Expand on that a bit.

I have learning disabilities which hinder a lot of the way I learn.  That in high school, they gave me the extra time to learn and to do tests and to problem solve, to manage my time, that sort of thing.  I also experienced a lot of … I wasn’t city smart.  I knew how to be polite and courteous to people, and those aren’t things that city people, they don’t really learn it.  And those are big things in the small town, you need those.  Those are the first things you learn, to be kind to your neighbours, to not burn bridges.  City people don’t learn that and so I was naïve in their eyes.  Because it came first to me to be courteous and open doors, and they just laughed at me.  And even though I dressed like I was from the city, they saw right through me.  By the way I talked, by the way I behaved. 

FM: So did you feel vulnerable?  Like they were going to take advantage of you?

Absolutely.  I had two really close friends that were both city-raised that I went to classes with, and not always were they the greatest friends, but they were all I had. 

FM: Did they sell you down the river?

Not necessarily.  They just didn’t understand that I wasn’t – my heart wasn’t in Toronto.  I didn’t want to fit in but had to fit in because I was living there and that was my life.  So I didn’t always follow what they thought was right. 

FM: Not friends that you couldn’t really relax and be you with?

No. 

FM: I’m hearing lonely.

Very.  I did not enjoy my life in Toronto at all.  It’s not who I am, and I saw myself becoming someone who didn’t open doors for people, because they didn’t appreciate it any longer.

FM: Very important to hear you say that, to put words around ‘culture’

Very.  North York is a very Asian culture, all very Asian there which I’m not used to.  I had a few Korean friends that I made friends with in public school, who owned convenience stores, and that’s all the exposure to different cultures that I had.  And those few people that I had the chance to meet were not like the Asians in Toronto. 

FM: Were those Toronto friends Asian? 

No.  Both were white, Caucasian.  There was a lot of Asians in my course that I became friends with, and I seemed to be the only one that cared to know their name.  They were very nice but it just seemed that until they got to know you, they were kind of closed off.  I kind of had to force them to talk to me, because I was curious, wanted to know about different religions, cultures.  And I guess that’s why they thought I was naïve, asking so many questions that just came natural, that people from the city, like my friends, already knew, I guess from their life experiences. 

FM: Very interesting.  So we have you back home, floating for awhile,

Living with my mom.

FM: Yeah, and then working restaurant and housekeeping for the summer. Then?

My boyfriend of the time had come home from his school, wasn’t finished but was home for his break, which was during the winter, because he was opposite to college, winter was his summer.  And I had been with him since I was 14, so we’d been together at that point 5 years.  He was also a local.  I jumped around between living with him and his friends and my mom’s house.  His dad and him did a lot of building houses, so while I was laid off, i did a couple of housecleaning jobs after they were finished building the houses.  And that’s how I made a bit of money.  I didn’t go on unemployment, I didn’t have enough hours in order to apply.  My mom helped me out a lot.  Which I still owe her for, can you believe it?  Not that she doesn’t still mention it, to this day.

FM: Was she not happy with you being with the boyfriend?  Was that a factor?

None of my family really liked him that much.  That’s not to say that they didn’t care for him, they just didn’t like the situation I was in with him.  I guess you could say they didn’t think he put me first.  But I was in love…

The following summer I went back to work at [the resort] where I started to work more in the kitchen, working very long shifts.  Between early housekeeping in the mornings to late nights cooking dinner. 

FM: Were you staying out there, or commuting?

Commuting from Riverville which was my mom’s new house.  She had just recently bought this house after selling our family home [...] because my parents are no longer together at this point, going on since I was 11, when they split.  Could have stayed at my dad’s who lives [near where the family home was], which is closer to my work, but living with my dad has never been an option.  He would have loved for me to live there, but dad’s not one for taking care of other people.   Doesn’t know how. 

FM: Kinda like the boyfriend, maybe?  You said it was 8 years when you finished with him, so I know he’s now an ex… 

Yes.  He has been an ex for two years.  After he moved out west without me. 

FM: And was that a good thing, for you?

It ended up being a good thing for me.  We had the intentions of me moving out, but he took too long to decide when he was ready to support me.  He thought that he would be responsible for anything that went wrong out there, because he was all I had.  I later realized that by him waiting as long as he did, I found my life better without him.  And I became a lot closer with my family with him out of the picture, and realized I couldn’t ever leave them.  What’s the point of moving out there if you always want to come home, for every birthday, every Christmas, every holiday.

FM: Is he still out there?

Yes.

FM: In the oil patch? 

No he actually continued to do construction, building houses out there, working on the chalets for the big ski hills.  He ended up getting his apprenticeship in carpentry certificate.  Which is not what he went to school for.  He went to school for graphic design.

FM: Did he settle for less, do you think?  Or find the right way for him? 

I always believed that he would end up doing carpentry but didn’t want to live under his dad’s shadow.  I guess this way he could be the way he wanted to be, out there, but not follow in his dad’s footsteps.  He’s an amazing amazing carpenter. 

FM: Okay.  So we skipped a bit there.  We had you back at [the resort] working killer hours for the summer.  Then what? 

That following winter after leaving [the resort] I got a job at a local wine-making store.  Actually, the owner came up to me, knowing me through his son, and asked me if I was looking for some work.  And at that point I would have taken anything.  It turned out to be an amazing job; I actually miss that job to this day.  But my mom gave me the ultimatum, so…  I moved out to [a small village in the adjoining county] where my sister and her boyfriend, at the time, had just bought a house.  They offered to take me in while I found a job in Littletown.  So I applied to all the areas around Littletown, applied to all the flower shops.  And I started to work at the florist where I work now; I’ve been there 2 years in February. 

FM: And did you have a vehicle? 

Yes.  I’d gotten my car the April before I left for college, with money from my older car which I’d gotten in an accident in – not my fault. 

FM: Okay, so you’ve had a car since you were old enough to drive?

Yes.  I couldn’t have gotten anywhere in my life without it.  And my dad always made it a point to make sure that he helped us with our first vehicle. 

FM: I know that reality, but not all the readers might… so thanks for including that. 

My dad always made it a point to help us with our first car, our first year of school, our first marriage and our first house.  He said he worked as hard as he did so we could have a good start in our lives.  For all four of us. 

FML Okay, so finding a place to live in Littletown, how was that for you? 

When my sister and her boyfriend decided they wanted to have some time to start their life, just the two of them, I had to find a place close to work.  And luckily, one of his good friend’s brother had just bought a house and was looking for somebody to stay in one of the rooms and help with I guess his mortgage.  I pay $350/month which is amazing and I believe it’s probably because of the relationship between my sister’s boyfriend and my landlord. 

FM: That’s this house, is it?  Very nice house. 

It’s amazing what I have here, but I will be having to move soon. 

FM: Because?

He’s selling and renovating, and I’m very stressed out about it.  That happened about a week ago.  So I have been here almost a year, in February, and yup, I’m moving again. 

FM: What do you think you’ll do? 

I’m very confused.  As much as Littletown is a college community with places to live, I’m missing the boat because I have until March and everybody gets out of school in April.  Not only that, I don’t know anybody in Littletown that I could room with or get an apartment with.  And that is about the only way that I could live.  I could never afford $1000 apartment for myself.  That’s just not feasible.  I live paycheck to paycheck with $350/month rent. 

FM: How well are you paid, if you don’t mind sharing.

I started my job at $12/hr which is the most I’d ever been paid in my life.  So to me I was being paid good.  So I didn’t make a point of stating what I would need to live on, because I had no idea, I didn’t know. 

FM: And have you had any raises over the two years?

I’ve had a dollar raise at a year and a half, so I’m now getting $13, and I work 5 to 4 days a week.  Because I switch weekends with another worker, so it’s 4 – 5 – 4 – 5

FM: So not full-time, really?  How many hours over 2 weeks? 

It changes with months.  Like during February, our busiest time, it’s not the same as it would be in October.  So I can be working 6 days a week one week, and 4 the next.  My hours are dependent on how busy we are. 

FM: Okay, so not reliable income, and small.  Do you like the job?

I love love my job.  I’m just not happy with my life in Littletown. 

FM: Lonely? 

Very.  I don’t have any friends.  My current boyfriend is from [a village an hour’s drive away] and is in an apprenticeship with Hydro, so is gone all week.  And moves every 6 months.

FM: So you don’t see much of him?

Weekends; and I work most weekends. 

FM: And what have you tried to meet other people your age in Littletown?  What social life?

The only way you’re ever going to meet anybody in Littletown in my age group is go to the bar.  And even then it’s not the people that I really want to make friends with.  My life is my job, and usually the people who are there are college students who have a college life. 

FM: What’s a ‘college life’?

I wouldn’t say every college person’s life is like this, but mostly it’s little school hours and lots of party.  Even if they don’t have the time, there’s always time to party in college.

FM: Did you find that the same at [the college you attended]?

No.  No.  I had a 48-hour school week.  My program was quite intense that way.  and if I wasn’t doing my school  work, I was travelling to [a city two hours away] to see my boyfriend at the time.  I did go out once or twice with the 2 girls I met there and absolutely hated the party life in downtown Toronto.  Doesn’t really mix with my up-bringing, with my …  men in Toronto don’t have the same respect for personal space and that doesn’t sit well with me. 

So my college life was not the college life I see so much here in Littletown. 

FM: So you’d be more comfortable – you said this before – living up north, if you could just find work there? 

Yes, yeah.  I would love to be closer to my parents, to my brothers, my friends that I still have there.  Just the – my sanity – is up north.  My happiness is up north.  I just could never find anywhere to work.  Or if I did, I couldn’t afford to live with the rent.  Or find somewhere I could rent alone, with the pay I would get.  I might be just barely making it in Littletown, but I’m making it.  For now… 

My mom just recently opened up a flower shop and at the beginning had lots of intentions of hiring me.  But soon found that she couldn’t pay me what she wanted to pay me and didn’t want to take me away from a job that I had for the life of the unknown – like she didn’t know if my hours would stay stable, she didn’t have the answers for me to leave something that I had already, here. 

FM: Right, she didn’t want to take you from something good for something that she couldn’t guarantee would be as good. 

I also would love to move home but to find some place in Cottage County to live that isn’t my mom’s house is impossible, almost.  And if you do find someplace, it’s usually a little sketchy or is super over-priced so that a single somebody like me could never find the hours to hold it. 

I could get two jobs, but where’s the life in that?  Where’s my happiness? Where’s my time for me?  I’d just be working my life away.  I started my life with the fact that I knew I wanted to be happy, and I picked a job that I knew I loved, but not for the money.  And here I am, struggling. 

I know my life would be more whole up north but right now it seems impossible. 

FM: If you had a partner with a good paying job, that would...

Help me. 

FM: Actually, I note a bit of a pattern of what seems to me a bit premature partnering in order to solve the housing problem up there. 

Yes.  It’s almost like life is impossible as a single person. So people are looking for somebody to help with the food, help with the rent, help with the insurance on the car, like everything factors in when you have more than one person in your life.  I have lots of friends that have started their [family] life sooner than I could ever imagine my life starting.  I would never want a child at my age, right now.  and I shake my head because most of those friends are living in Cottage County, with children, making the pay I’m making.  And I can’t imagine taking care of more than myself, making what I make. 

FM: Is it possible to make better wages in your industry?  How high might a salary go? 

I’m the lowest paid florist but I’ve been there the least.  But I had a certificate and they don’t.  The floral industry is very much like a totem pole.  You have your bottom and you have your top.  And it’s almost the more time you put in, the more valuable you become and therefore the higher your pay.  It’s all about your experience, how much experience you have.  I can’t seem to stay anywhere long enough to move up.  And I’m already thinking I’m going to have to leave my job if I can’t afford to stay in Littletown.  And where that means I’ll go, I don’t really know.  

FM: Does it seem to you that if you’d chosen another career, your opportunities would be better? 

Not necessarily.  The jobs that make the money, you need the city.  And the city is not where my life would be better.  I struggle between being myself and being who I want to be, living where I want to be, and being successful, having assets, building a life that’s going to get me somewhere.

FM: I’m hearing you say that you can’t choose to live in the country and be financially successful – it’s just not possible, or so it seems. 

Every parent that you meet has gone away and then come back.  My parents did it, my friends’ parents did it.  People come to Cottage County to raise children, to build homes.  They’ve already established financial stability before they come back.  Or the people that stay are from family-owned businesses and carry on with a business that’s already been established.  At least what I see when I look at it.  You don’t …

FM: I’m hearing you can’t get your feet under you in Cottage County; you have to do that elsewhere and bring it home with you.  And I see what you see.  Including young people who come back into the family business even though they don’t want to. 

My brother, for instance, is a prime example of that.  He’s an amazing amazing heavy equipment operator that was making triple the amount of money that he’s making here, out West.  Wanted to have his own life, but always found that his life was always leading to taking over our dad’s business.  And he’s doing amazing at it.  I guess that just comes with maturity, knowing that it’s easier to pick the road that’s already laid.  My dad worked so hard to have the business that he has, and to stay ahead of how expensive it is to live in Cottage County, and has overcome that.  It would be unfortunate for him, and for all of us, that his hard work would go for nothing.  And he’s not getting any younger.  So it makes me happy to know he’s taking over his dad’s business.  It makes us all happy.  Although we know it is extremely hard to work for a man like my dad, a very strong opinionated man.

FM: Is your brother happy?  Or is he falling on his sword for the family?  Sacrificing himself? 

I feel that he knows that he’s good, and I know that he loves doing it, and I know that he knows that one day it will be him, and that the only part that he doesn’t like is being under my dad’s thumb.  And dealing with his frustration. 

As for falling on his sword, a little, I think.  He’s always had to be the one that had to take the blame for everything, he’s always been the one to help my dad, chop the wood, been the man, the one that everyone leans on. 

FM: And that continues?

Yes. 

FM: Does he have a partner?

Did.  He’s just looking in all the wrong places, I think. 

FM: Let me ask you this.  Some of the guys have said that there’s nothing to do, for guys to do, in Cottage County that doesn’t involve drinking.  So hockey and beer, ice fishing and whiskey, etc.  A good masculine life, with liquor, for the guys. 

Girls too.  That is very much what a lot of my social life consists of, in older life and in younger life. 

FM: So maybe a ‘good girl’ for your brother doesn’t live up north.  That only the ones who have the drinking life stay there?  What about that?

The ones that have the drinking life [are the only ones who] want to stay. It’s not a place for city girls.  The social opportunities, drinking or not, are what I grew up with.  If it is the only thing for people to do, why would somebody that doesn’t do it want to stay?

FM: Now I’m confused, because I hear you saying that you don’t like a party life, but you would love to live up north. 

Me wanting to live up north isn’t about partying, it’s about my family.  Wanting to be close to my family, wanting to have my life there.

FM: But if your life was there, would you become a partyer?  Are there options? 

No. 

FM: Wow!

I tend to be the one that doesn’t drink.  Or doesn’t drink a lot.  Or is the DD [designated driver].  I’ve always been responsible like that, my whole life.  There wasn’t many times where my parents weren’t under the influence and I felt like I didn’t have to be responsible.  And that continues into my adult life, to be the mom of the show. 

FM: So is part of wanting to live up north taking care of your family? 

I’ve always been the one to make the family come together, to stay together, to continue to be a family when it’s been so separated.  Even living at one point with parents 2 miles apart, those 2 miles were a really far distance when you’re young.  And I think that’s why holidays and Christmas are important to me, because I’m afraid if I don’t make them happen, they won’t happen.   My family means a lot to me.  Means more, sometimes, than money.  All the time more than money. 

FM: So your real job is keeping your family in working order, and that doesn’t pay anything!

No. 

FM: Can you see any way that the social life that you describe could begin to change, to be something

Healthier?

FM: Yeah. 

I guess that depends on the person.  I guess I never realized how unhealthy it was until moving away.  I grew up with it; that’s what my parents did on the weekends was to have gatherings and to drink.  The closest I ever came to cities was once a year for a dentist appointment, and that was Littletown.  So ice fishing and snowmobiling and camp fires with guitars was what I thought was a good time.  And I still do.  I just don’t know if you’ll ever get all of those things without alcohol.  I have fun without it.  I personally say that not every party or gathering do I drink.  But that is my personal choice.  It isn’t always the choice of everybody. 

FM: There is a sector of Cottage County that are outdoors people who are real health-niks, maybe aren’t tea-totallers but I dunno, seems that the role of alcohol in their social life is different than what I’m hearing from you and other participants in this research.  And I wonder if it’s because there’s a level of poverty and the worry that comes with always being on the edge, that makes alcohol essential to ‘relaxing’.  We could say self-medicating anxiety with alcohol – which lots of youth do, we almost consider that a rite of passage...

A cold beer after a hard day.

FM: Or 2 or 5 or more? 

Yeah. 

FM: Because the other thing I hear as an undertone in your story is a focus on financial success, your dad worrying about money, even though he’s probably inarguably financially successful?

Yes

FM: But still worrying that it might end?  Or being so used to worrying that the habits that managed the worrying are now engrained as ‘normal’.

Very normal.  It is the life I know to drink after work, even on a weekday. Not for me, but for my life.  For the people my parents hang out with.  From the older generation that I know. 

FM: Do you think if you’d had more exposure to ‘not-country life’, whatever that means, more than the annual dental trip, might that have made a difference in your comfort with the city and/or with your parent’s life style.  D’ya think?

Yes, I realized that there is a different life style when I started getting close to my ex’s family.  His family [his mother] is what you called a health nut.  She’s very big on fitness and lives a very healthy, Christian life style.  I always wanted to be there.  To be in a healthy, happy, adventurous life style.  From kayaking to tobogganing to snowshoeing, she made me a better person.  By letting me free from responsibilities and just having natural good time fun. 

FM: So when you lost that boyfriend, you also lost the gateway to another life style? 

For sure.  And I would hope if I moved home that I could get that back.  And when I say that I have friends in Cottage County that I miss, she’s definitely one of them.  And that’s why I feel that my life would be more happy.  The time I spent with her, with that family, whether or not my boyfriend was there, I’ve never been so healthy, so happy, fulfilled, emotionally fulfilled, balanced.  But financially, I was spinning my wheels. 

FM: Lemme just ask whether when you were at public school, there were people who were helpful to you in somewhat the same way as your boyfriend’s mother was, sort of a doorway or a window into a different life style?

Definitely teachers that were more patient, [with me] being sort of the one to not get things as quickly.  Lots of teachers that were there that understood [me] as a young adult going through my parents’ divorce.  Lots of teachers that saw past that it wasn’t necessarily my difficulty with learning but the surroundings at home. 

FM: Okay.  I have some finish-up questions.  Are we ready for that?

Sure. 

FM: So… for the people who will read this story, in order that they understand it the way you intend, to give it focus and shape: Would you say what you think is the Most Important Event in the narrative, the thing that most influences how it is unfolding? 

I would want people to take from my story that not everybody who leaves Cottage County wants to stay gone forever. 

FM: That’s short and simple.  And resonates really strongly. 

I also think that, given the opportunity, younger generations would stay in Cottage County. 

FM: Financial opportunity plus social opportunity?  i.e. different things to do? 

Yes.  And places to live.  Cottage County doesn’t have much of apartment buildings for people that are starting out in their lives.  It’s only homes in Cottage County.  That’s not to say I want a big giant building to come up in the middle of a small town, but just opportunities. 

FM: Okay.  The next question is: The people who read this story will form an opinion about how it’s going to turn out, for good or not so good.  What do you think? 

I hope good.  I hope people are rooting for me.  I think that they’ll think that I’ll move home.  Because they’ll be able to tell that that’s where my heart is.  And they say that home is where the heart is.  And Cottage County’s my home. 

FM: Okay.  Now advice questions:  What advice would you give to your younger self, whether or not your younger self would heed that advice, that would make this narrative have a better outcome or easier or smoother or whatever.  What advice?

I’d say to myself Take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new.  Because you’ll never know what you’ll learn and how that might help out later in your life.  Whether that be being the star of your drama class or taking more time in that art project that your teacher wanted you to put more depth into.  Or just taking more time in listening to your teachers’ advice. 

FM: Do you think that school should be ‘juicier’ so that rural kids are exposed to a bigger world more?

Absolutely!  High school and public school are times when kids are learning everything.  That’s when they’re the most sponged.  And it’s a time in their life when worry isn’t beyond school.  And learning to deal with different situations is a huge building block to dealing with the harder things that come to you in life.  And I think a lot of that comes from not necessarily from the schooling, teaching, but the social part of life at school.  Like whether it be social sports, extra-curricular academics like drama and art, those situations give you more opportunity to run into life lessons.  I wish being so far away from school I could have been a part of more extra-curricular academics, but didn’t have the resources, being a young adult, to make it to the after-school stuff.  My bus ride was 50 minutes.  And my mom and my dad were always working. 

FM: Right.  So a straightened, a limited school life because you were bus-dependent. 

And I think if I’d had the opportunity I’d have been more prepared socially for college.  Making friends, being introduced to different areas, like travelling to different schools. 

FM: Yeah, and your school life was the time when a lot of the ‘good stuff’, the ‘frills’ got stripped out, so field trips and stuff like that were more limited. 

Yeah, based on my at-home life.  Based on my parents’ situation. 

FM: But if there had been, say, one or two school trips a year to I dunno, the Science Centre, a ballet in Toronto, the AGO or ROM, would your parents have shelled out the money and given to permission, and do you think that would have made any difference to your level of ‘sophistication’? 

I got to experience a few of those trips, more in my later life in high school, but it was up to me to figure out transportation, whether that be car-pooling or staying over nights in town, rather than going back home which was out of town.  I know for a fact that after work, after 5:00, my parents were not reliable to be driving.  Not that they would say so.

FM: So closet alcoholics?

Not closet.  More like – people knew they drank but I don’t think they knew the repercussions of what they were doing.  They were ignorant alcoholics. 

FM: They didn’t think they had a problem.

Yes, and they didn’t probably realize how much that affected our after-school life.  I don’t believe they thought there was anything wrong because everybody else was doing it, their parents were doing it.  It’s the chain effect. 

FM: Okay, so last question.  What advice would you give to those of us who would wish to be helpful to young people like yourself, in managing the decision to stay put or to leave?  

I don’t know.  I don’t know if there’s much that you can do.  Build me some places for me to live.  Create some jobs.  Make life in Cottage County – give us opportunities to save money—it’s just so expensive, like groceries. 

FM: But if there was a better match between what you could earn and what the basics of life cost, that would be a step in the right direction?

Absolutely.  And I never knew the difference in pricing until I moved.  A box of cereal is $4 here, and $8 in Riverville.  It’s – I don’t see how or why it has to be so expensive.  I know that it’s a summer community and that’s how people make their living, you can’t change that, but there won’t be any community left because nobody younger than me is going to be able to live.  It’s going to be a retirement town. 

FM: And we can’t do that without young people, which seems to be escaping some people’s awareness.  Who’s going to shovel our walks, clip our toenails?  Carry our groceries. 

Yeah. 

FM: Okay, I didn’t explore all of those 5 sectors I talked about – did we miss anything important?  Like involvement with the legal system, mental health – those would be the two we didn’t talk about. 

I have no experience with the legal system.  I believe in a lot of them.  Like drinking and driving, I do believe in punishing it; I don’t condone it. That would be one of the biggest ones, being in a household of drinkers. 

FM: Did your folks ever or regularly get picked up DWI (driving while under the influence)? 

No, never.  But I’m sure if they got pulled over, it would have happened.  Maybe even to this day.  I can’t even imagine what that would have done for my family if it were to happen.

FM: Like destroy their sense of who they are?

No, just destroy their life in every way.  in Cottage County, driving is everything. 

FM: Right.  Mental health?  Ever diagnosed with depression?

You could say depression runs on both sides of my family.  I probably experienced it, just never been diagnosed.  I’m sure that I probably go through depressed moments in my life, especially when it’s at its hardest.  But no, I’ve never been diagnosed with it.  I know that my mom has been, and my dad was probably too stubborn to seek help. 

And as for family doctors, my doctor is the same one that helped deliver me and I have to, now, specifically ask for her in order to see her.  It’s not her who takes care of me, it’s [nurse] practitioners now. 

FM: You miss her? 

Miss her, no.  She wasn’t a very good doctor, but I didn’t have any other choices and I wasn’t about to give up a doctor when there isn’t anyone else to be had.  I also know that both my brothers and my father refused to go to her, because she doesn’t like to take care of men.   Ouch!   And I don’t feel as my family doctor that she’s really ever gone out of her way to make sure that I am on the right track to having a healthy life.  I think she does the necessities and kinda says Next. 

FM: So do you feel like she missed something important with you?  That had she paid better attention, things might have turned out differently? 

As for – I recently went through – I have a lot of situations with my ankles and with my knees, I have arthritis.  As for what kind of arthritis, I have yet to find out.  She helped me out a bit but then just shipped me off to a specialist and just kinda hasn’t checked out on me since, hasn’t helped me move forward with that.  And I’m not sure that she even really cares.  Not that she should be some kind of super-woman or like that, I just know for a fact that my health care could be better.  Could be a lot better.  Actually get more attention from practitioners than her.  Thorough checks, from breast examinations to skin care.  Which I’d never gotten before.  I don’t know whether or not it’s being in such high demand, for a small town, that people are getting missed, such as myself, or just that I’m not demanding enough attention. 

FM: And maybe young people aren’t seen as having ‘real’ health needs when the majority of the population are old crocks like me?

There’s definitely days when I feel like an old crock.  At 23 I definitely should not feel the arthritis in my ankles and knees, and if that’s not enough to call attention to, then I don’t know what is.  Are we going to wait until I get cancer??

FM: I can see arthritis not being ‘seen’ in a young person – not that that makes it right, not at all, but doctors like other people see what they are looking for. 

FM: Okay, are we done? 

I think so.  Is there anything else you want to ask?  Because I’ve got lots to say.

FM: Well, you’ve been very thoughtful and given great care and depth to considering what I’ve asked, so thank you for that. 

I’m very proud to be from Cottage County.  And to be a small town girl. 

FM: And hopefully, this research will be one small bit of making that an easier choice.  Maybe not too helpful for you, but for those who come after.  Although – you’re only 23…