I’ve had more homes than I have fingers. I’ve lived in three different countries, five cities, thirteen houses. You could say I’m fairly adaptable, but Home is a concept I think about a lot more than perhaps the average person does. Home is a little more complicated than just bricks and mortar. And sometimes, home has been really hard to pinpoint on a map.
I grew up predominantly in a small town masquerading as a city. It was a basin; a cluster of Georgian architecture in the belly of a South-West valley; it was full of tourists and yet nobody ever seemed to leave.
I called it home, but deep in my blood was the restlessness of London Town, my birthplace. I’ve always been a little flighty, a little prone to upping sticks, always dreaming of the next place.
Small towns are beautiful and wonderful in their own ways. Villages too– though after my few years in darkest Somerset, a few fields over from the site of Glastonbury festival, I know that village life is not for me.
In the relationships I’ve had with the places I’ve lived, London was my first love. The one I’ll never truly let go of. Bath was the longest relationship so far, but we weren’t all that compatible. We didn’t have all that much in common, and we parted ways amicably. Glasto was a fling; neither of us ever thought it would last (it was fun while it lasted though). Cardiff and I started off well and we tried hard to make it work, but under the circumstances it wasn’t meant to be.
But, friends, then came Toronto: I think this could be The One.
Over reading week I was miserable (the last six weeks have been spent in a huge amount of pain because I didn’t know I was allergic to penicillin and took a 10 day course of it to treat a sinus infection. I’m still covered in hives, but thanks to an emergency appointment with an allergy specialist I’m on the mend) and to cheer me up, my love whisked me away to Niagara for a couple of days.
It was lovely to have some time to hang out, to have a change of scenery, but for the first time in my life I experienced homesickness. I didn’t understand: I’ve travelled a lot, spent weeks and even months away from home at a time doing fun and exciting things, but I’d never really felt homesick before. The falls were beautiful and so is my pal, but Niagara was a huge reminder that I feel so lucky to live in Toronto. It was a welcome break and did me so much good, but arriving at Union Station felt like coming up for air. People were walking around! I hadn’t realised how much I missed the familiar rumble and clang of streetcars that filled any silences, the buildings that stood tall and protective, the inhabitants who were a patchwork of cultures and languages. The relief I felt to be home was overwhelming.
And this terrified me.
Dear friends, I have to confess something. It’s been so long since I felt like I belonged anywhere other than my mother’s kitchen table. I so rarely feel (or should I say “felt”) comfortable in my own skin. It took me forever to put roots down anywhere- it was a good six months before I admitted that the boy I went on dates with weekly and dated exclusively and even loved was in fact my boyfriend. I float through this world and fully expect nothing to ever last. Or at least I did.
It’s almost been four years since I moved to Toronto, but the plan had been that I’d only be here a year. So how did it come to pass that I would feel more at home here than I have anywhere?
Well, firstly, I’m just really happy to be here.
I love the diversity of Toronto. I love feeling accepted. I love that people generally know that asking “what’s your background?” is better than “so what are you?”, that they know what doubles are, what saag paneer is, what bibimbap is, where to get the best dim sum. And on that note, I love that eating all the beautiful cuisines at our disposal is a huge part of the culture. I love eating out with friends and family, and here there’s never a lack of choices whether you’ve been craving custard bao all week…
Or you’re hungry at 4am…
You’re after a lunch special bento box…
Or it’s your birthday and your mum is treating you to your favourite Mexican food.
Toronto is great because it’s not just accepting of the LGBTQ community, it actively celebrates it.
I’m a real house hermit, but I like knowing that there’s tons to do in the city on the days I’m feeling adventurous. Recently my pal Sam and I went to a Free After 3 event at the AGO: we showed up, were given clay, and were taught how to make ceramic trinkets. FOR FREE. It was such a fun and relaxing thing to do and there’s tons of weekly events that I’d really recommend for anyone aged 14-25.
Cities, I think, have this preconceived reputation for ugliness. And yes, it’s true, the countryside is gorgeous, small towns and villages are very quaint. I’d argue for Toronto’s beauty, though. It has a real knack for quirky little splashes of art and magic in unexpected corners.
Speaking of art…Nuit Blanche tho!
I love the access to music, to art shows, to theatres, to cool local coffee shops and brunch joints. There’s more to do, see, and experience here than most places, and I think residents may sometimes take that for granted…I know I do. When I was in Niagara I got charged $8 for my usual order in Starbucks which always costs $5.03. I really missed my local cafes in that moment- and I spend a lot of time in cafes.
Before I lived in Toronto, my biggest concern about living in a big city was that it would get overwhelming, that I might come to miss my easy access to the green and the quiet of the English countryside. Little did I know that my neighbourhood would look like this:
That the Brickworks would be this beautiful in the middle of the city:
…And that my campus would look like this:
…so I’m just about covered on the green pastures and nature front.
I’m nowhere near ready to settle down just yet. I’m thinking of returning to my first love for a while. Maybe I’ll move elsewhere in Canada, maybe beyond. But when it comes to Forever, I think I wouldn’t mind spending it here. Toronto is the first place I haven’t felt desperate to run from. It’s the first place I’ve ever felt scared to leave. It’s the first place I’ve felt fully myself, grounded, and truly content. I didn’t grow up here, but I did a lot of my growing up here, and it’s made me a stronger and happier woman. I’m content with that. I think I’ll stick around for now.
And P.S. to my pals across the globe…