It seems like only yesterday that I was scrambling to piece together an application for the 2019 Saskatchewanderer position. At the same time, that applicant feels like an entirely different person from who I am today. Somehow, this year has come and gone in the blink of an eye all the while establishing itself as such a pivotal era in my life. I have such high hopes for my post-wanderer existence and the opportunity to channel my newfound perspective and skill set within other mediums. That said, it's incredibly daunting to think of my day-to-day outside of this role, which has consumed me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past 365 days. Although it's not directly written in the job description, its implied that a position of this nature will have a significant impact on your life. Even so, I wasn’t prepared to undergo such a significantly positive transition this year.
My experience was likely heightened by the dynamic I had with the province going into the role. While it has always been deemed home, my path has led me away from Saskatchewan over the past decade. With this position came the opportunity to re-acquaint myself with my home - this time through the lens of a (somewhat) established adult. This perspective offered a sense of objectivity that I don’t think I would have had access to without leaving. I had a newfound appreciation for Saskatchewan-specific qualities that were previously deemed mundane. This year I took the time to appreciate every sunset, every thunderstorm and ever warm greeting from a stranger.
Many people have asked me if The Saskatchewan position is truly the dream job it appears to be. The answer is yes, it is a dream job with an added emphasis on the word “job”. While it offers incomparable perks and the opportunity to travel, it also comes with the weighted responsibility of a devoted audience. I can safely say that I might never work this hard again. That said, throughout many sleepless nights and missed social gatherings, I never once felt like I was doing a chore. There was a constant sense of fulfillment in giving voice to this beautiful province which made me strive to go above and beyond the standard criteria of a day job.
I set out on this role with the concrete objective of “destigmatizing” Saskatchewan. Having immersed myself in various urban city centers over the years I bared witness to the idea that Saskatchewan is merely a "farming province" with very little diversity. As I reach the end of my term I have come to multiple understandings regarding my former “mission statement”. This first of which is that (at least in recent years) diversity in Saskatchewan is not a hard thing to find and showcase. I could have spent the entire year exclusively giving voice to Saskatchewan's minorities, immigrants, females, and First Peoples and still have barely scratched the surface of this marvelous mixed bag of a province.
Another thing I learned is that I don’t need to try to fix what's not perceptively broken. It didn’t take long for me to come to terms with the reality that being considered a “farming” province is far from negative branding. Truth be told, a farming province is exactly what we are...among many other things. Our agriculture is the basis from which many of our best qualities are stemmed and is something that should be regarded with nothing but positivity. If Saskatchewan can show us anything it’s that it is entirely possible for traditional, rural values to coexist with a progressive and inclusive outlook. It is our natural resources and endless space that makes us an opportune home for our wonderful immigrant population. Although a lot of my current values have been shaped over the past decade, they were built upon the foundation of a rural upbringing. In my experience, rural communities breed kindness and work ethic unlike any other I have encountered.
As a proud Saskatchewanian, the Saskatchewanderer program is a gift like no other where I can pay homage to the land that shaped me. Moreover, as a media professional, the program also offers opportunities that I’m not likely to encounter again in my career. The opportunity for one's unique perspective to be at the forefront of a platform of this magnitude truly is a journalist's dream. From an audience perspective, you have to luxury of knowing that regardless of the program's longevity (hopefully a very, very long time) you will never be told the same story twice. My particular platform was meant to showcase our eclectic population and the variety of talented story-tellers introduced through the Wanderer program seamlessly parallels my directive.
I could go on and on about what a unique, game-changing year 2019 was. Perhaps a memoir in the making is coming to fruition as we speak. Until then, I would simply like to express my endless gratitude towards Tourism Sask, The Ministry of Parks Culture and Sport, The Ministry of Trade and Export Development and The Ministry of Agriculture for their endless support throughout my term. Furthermore, I would like to extend my endless appreciation to CAA Saskatchewan who granted me nearly 50,000km of mobility over the past twelve months. Last but not least, thank you to the incredible Saskatchewanderer audience who keeps this program afloat and shares with me an endless love for the land of living skies.
If I can impart any “wisdom” after this journey it would be that there is so much within arms reach that we don’t often think to explore. It hurts me to think that without this opportunity, I may have not seen some of our planet's greatest beauty, and that said beauty was in my back yard all along. With that, all I can offer is the following:
"Go out and explore, Saskies!"
Until next time,
Zane (and Stedman)