Republic of One

The personal blog of Colin Brandt, Ukrainian Organic Mic Mechanic

My three things for Calgary.

New Years’ resolutions are horrible. Not only does it make the gym unbelievably busy for a month until everyone falls off the wagon and starts taking baths in bacon fat again, you end up unconsciously assessing yourself every time someone asks you what your resolutions are. This leads to the sort of introspection that is dangerous; I’m never very sure I want to actually know what I think of myself and what needs to change. It’s a bit like that moment in The Ring when the lady opens up the closet door and oh my God I’m freaking out just thinking about it.

After feeling like a walking disasterpiece for most of the last two years, watching my self-regard slide downward in rough parallel with my weight and anxiety spiralling upward, I’ve decided to make a number of changes to how I’ve been living my life. It really began with a change in job – as of November 1 I’ve been the Web Communications Officer for Mount Royal University, escaping the vortex of PwC and moving into an environment and role much better suited to my skills and temperament. Finally leaving PwC gave me some perspective and helped me see where my day-to-day and long-term priorities had really stopped reflecting the things that mattered to me. I’ve been extremely lucky to have an incredibly supportive wife who is as eager to see me move forward as I am.

Among my 1600 goals for 2012 (consistent trips to the gym, completing my outstanding course work, cutting down on drinkingHAHAHAHAWHOAMIKIDDING), I’m focused on rekindling my passion for public life. To keep me happy, stimulated and fulfilled, my world can’t just be work, family, friends and Meak. Part of that energy that I have needs to be devoted to the world at large – to politics and policy.

For someone who spends a significant portion of his day scouring Google Reader for news on Canadian politics and trying to cram as much policy wonkitude and information into my face-hole as I can manage, I’ve become increasingly disaffected with actually doing anything when it comes to public life. Since the volunteering for the Liberal Party during the pray-for-death results of the 2006 Federal Election (in which I stood out in -25°c weather getting spat on by engineers for a piece of legislation that was passed before I was born), I have been essentially hiding underneath the bed when it has come to politics in Canada. Living in a Tory-blue province like Alberta, watching the Liberal Party go through a revolving door of leaders and generally feeling like Canada has become a slowly-deflating hot air balloon of recycled American legislation and head-in-the-sand back-patting hasn’t helped.

However, just like in a clichéd Hollywood film, just when all hope is lost – a new hope emerges. In this case, Calgary’s Luke Skywalker has been a purple-clad Mount Royal professor-turned-Twitter-machine-turned-Mayor, Naheed Nenshi. Early on, Nenshi’s brand of pragmatism coupled with refreshing honesty was attractive, and his ideas for a better Calgary were compelling. I love my home town, and despite its countless horrors and near-sighted obeisance to new home development, there are real, manageable things to do that can make the city (and world) a better place.

For this year, I’ve decided to start small. In many ways, the ways that Canadians interact with their government isn’t at the Federal level – it’s at the provincial and municipal. As a PoliSci nerd, it has been easy for me to think that what matters is the big, global stage, the clash of world powers, the grand narratives of nations, but for most citizens government is about roads and schools, parks and hospitals. In many ways it is the Polis, the city-state, that dictates and potentially enriches the lives of citizens.

The Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee apparently thinks so, too. They’ve launched an initiative called 3 Things for Calgary, where every citizen is encouraged to:

  1. Think about 3 Things you can do to make Calgary better. These things could be for your street, your neighbourhood or for the entire city.
  2. Do those 3 Things.
  3. Encourage 3 more people to do the same.

So this year, I’m doing my 3 things. More than anything, I want to use these things to get me out of the house, to build a better community and know that I’m contributing in a meaningful way to the lives of my fellow Calgarians.

  1. Join my local community association. Already done. The Parkdale Community Association’s executive had a hole, and they’ve been kind enough to give me a shot at filling it. Say hello to the Director – Communications for the PCA, whose responsibilities include, but are not limited to, editorial oversight on the community newsletter, establishing and maintaining a web presence for the PCA to help articulate and deliver our services to the community and acting as the mouthpiece during our ongoing dispute with a tenant who seems to believe that they have the right in perpetuity to a portion of the community association without having to pay for it.
  2. Engage in Calgary’s local cultural scene. I love going to live shows, readings, plays and other events in this city. Committing to do this more is an easy sell for me, since it puts me in contact with things and people I enjoy and this year Calgary is the Cultural Capital of Canada. If there was ever a time for me to get involved and check new things out, it’s going to be this year. Also, Sled Island is being co-curated by Andrew Fucking W.K. I’m taking the whole four days off to PARTY HARD. 
  3. Write more. Here. About Calgary. I love my blog. I think about it all the time, about what I should write about, and then I get frozen in terror that I’m going to write something dumb or too long or embarrassing and I end up doing nothing. This is unacceptable. So now I’ll write about whatever, but especially about Calgary. About the things I care about in the city, about the cool stuff I see or want people to know about. Resatarunt reviews, plays, stupid photos, whatever. It’s going on here.

Anyhoo, that’s the dream – the vision. I sure hope it works out. We’ll see.

7 responses to “My three things for Calgary.

  1. Anonymous February 4, 2012 at 4:13 am

    Fantastic! Well done, my friend. Kudos. C’est beau!

  2. Allison McNeely February 6, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Colin, This is such an awesome post! I like your idea of getting more involved in Calgary life, with it’s through your community association or culture. I’ve always held that a city is what you make it. It is as fun and exciting and inspiring as you want it to be.

    Also, blog more. Please do! You’ve got a great writing voice, and I know you’ve got a lot of interesting ideas. And as someone who blogs and writes a lot for the public sphere, all I can tell you is the more you do it, the more the fear factor becomes reduced. (Although I do still strongly advocate for letting posts you’re iffy about sit for a day or two.)

  3. Rhett Soveran February 7, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Great post, Colin. It took me a while to get over here to read it (apologies), but it sounds like we have some similar thoughts/paths on life. Except PoliSci. Ugh. You and Allison are the worst kind of nerds. 😉

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