Happy Toronto Birthday to me. Four years to the day where I first wondered if I was walking into a hotbed of authoritarian surveillance. Four fantastic years where I’ve borderline Eat Pray Love‘d myself into a journey of self-discovery. I ate and had sex a bunch, anyway (though sadly never simultaneously), plus adopted a wide enough smile to make Julia Roberts frown with envy.
My path to Toronto wasn’t straight or direct. In fact it took many years before I even thought of it as a destination. Age five I decided that when I grew up I’d harness my citizenship and live in Canada. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but with New Zealand’s famed agricultural economy, it was ironic I was so avid to head somewhere US adjacent. It seemed different and exotic, plus they sounded like people in the movies. At age 20 I begun to give it more thought. I’d recently watched Juno and fallen head-over-heels for the idea of Ellen Page. I decided I’d move to Halifax and miraculously stumble into some kind of meet cute. Roll the credits (complete with Hand Drawn Block Letters). Why not? It was a quietly hip port town with a ton of breweries. Sure, I wasn’t into anything quiet or port, but things would work out. Remember the meet cute I probably told myself every night before going to bed.
Then it was Vancouver. I had family in Vancouver and the transition would be easy. I’d lodge somewhere then make my mark on the city. It was a city, right? With my generic media aspirations, I’d slot in just fine. I’d be close to Whistler in case I wanted to… wait, I didn’t really like outdoorsy stuff. What would I do in Whistler? I’d work out the details later, that’s what I’d do. I told some dude at a party just that once and he shook his head. “Toronto is where you want to be, man.” Toronto? I hadn’t really heard of Toronto. “It’s the biggest city in Canada and if you want to get into the media, there’s no better place in the country.” This wasn’t some good friend, just some dude I talked to a handful of times. I’ve got no idea if he has any concept of how much that conversation shaped my life. In the few minutes we talked, my totally vague plans became slightly less vague.
***Several Years Later***
I was 26 years old and I’d just been through the biggest breakup of my life. I was on a short term contract with the local university and it was coming to a close. There was funding for an interesting new contract, but I thought again. I’d never put down the torch I was holding for moving away. It’d been a not-insignificant part of the breakup. As soon as it ended, things fell into place. I bought a one way ticket to Vancouver (with the goal of heading to Toronto via Montreal) a few weeks later. I’ve never looked back.
Starting anew in Toronto was both hard and not. Picking up the pieces is always gonna be tricky, but Toronto kept throwing opportunity after opportunity at me. I hit the ground and started getting out to all kinds of events. I needed people in my life and I found them with ease. Walking back from a concert, running from a bus, OkCupid dates, movie screenings and Magic the Gathering games. Employment was less forthcoming, but I took whatever came my way and rolled with it. I tried and learned things I never imagined: Teaching gymnastics, feeding kids in schools, being a test subject, working the election polling booth, trying my hand as a barista. Toronto meant discovery, excitement and eventually community.
Perhaps it was a matter of getting out what I put in. Reaping the rewards of saying yes to the call of adventure. Maybe I lucked out, or learned to see the potential in coincidence. Toronto has given me so much, including a new lease on life. Over the past few years I’ve changed in ways that I’m still realising from day to day. I hear people talk about how cold Toronto is and possibly I missed out on that because of Accent Privilege. In my time here though, I’ve learned something about this city.
Toronto’s heart beats in its inhabitants, who create something larger than their sum. Toronto is discovering just how much people can surprise and impress you. Toronto is about learning the importance of saying yes, because opportunity is waiting for you to find it. Opportunity might not look like an Ellen Page meet cute, but that’s not to say that your wildest dreams are out of reach.
I mean, The Pink Ranger lives here you guise.