Best city in the world apparently, or something like that. I’m an outsider, a tourist, like so many people who find themselves in this city; I’ve only called this place home for a few years. I recently found myself over drinks in a hostel in Europe stumbling to find the words to explain where I’m from, and what it’s like to live in this city.
Toronto in a word is weird. It’s a love hate relationship, and a pros and cons list that always breaks even. It has social programs that may not be available in smaller places, mental health services, social housing, what have you, but wait lists so long that one starts to think the point is that by the time it’s your turn you don’t need whatever it was.
It has any food you could ever dream up and any activity you can imagine. If you have some hobby, no matter how out there it may seem, chances are there are people who are into the same thing. There’s a festival, bar, event, café, weekend, play for whatever you are into. Poo café, cat café…
You may stumble into the likeminded people you dreamed of meeting in high school if you have small town roots like me. Just don’t expect to make random plans with your fellow weirdos on a Tuesday night, or go out for a last minute bite to eat with them.
Toronto is a city that never sleeps, lights flashing, backpacks hitting you in the face as you squish into the streetcar. A city of waiting for shuttle busses because the subway is closed for track repair, as swarms of people try and make it to their weekend events. We are making it better for later apparently.
It’s a city of violent headlines, diverted eyes from the folks sleeping on sidewalks, long commutes and Google calendars replacing friends and just when you turn around to leave you see a moment of kindness, or get invited to some strange event that wouldn’t happen elsewhere. Giant pillow fight anyone? Or maybe you see the winding ravines, complete with deer or find yourself on a patio on a nice July day and go okay, so maybe this isn’t so bad.
While Toronto can feel like this big busy place, it’s really the smallest place I’ve lived, a big city made up of micro-communities. I remember when I moved to my current apartment walking into the bakery and getting a friendly introduction. Even in a place like Toronto, people will know you are new to the hood. It’s not so big after all. Find the things for you, the neighbourhood for you that fits your personality, and check out a book from one of the 100 libraries for the damn commute. Not many of us can afford to live downtown; don’t get me started on the price of rent, or job security for millennials.
When I was travelling, I noticed the little things about this city that I missed, the whiffs of pot smoke, every type of take-out, the parks, benches hell drinking fountains. The details of this city are what make it special. Even after three years there’s always a new area to discover, a city that never stays still, and has more to offer than one can consume.
Regardless of what I may have to say about this place, every time I leave , be it for a weekend or a month, when I see the CN tower, I think of all the different people living here, all the dreams, all my wild friends, and I smile because I’m home.