I spent not quite a month living in the city of Toronto.
In short, I didn't like it.
I'm struggling a little bit to explain exactly why, because it's not entirely clear in my head. I liked seeing friends, for sure. I liked being closer to them, being able to pop out for dinner at a moment's notice. I liked being able to leave work 5 minutes late and only be 5 minutes later, not 30.
I'd also say I liked cooking for myself. I liked not having anyone waiting for me at home and being able to eat dinner at 8 if I felt like it. But those are things that would be solved by living on my own no matter where I lived.
What probably bothered me most though is something that I think is a key part of living in Toronto, and something that you likely get in any large city, which is the sheer speed of it. Everything moves quickly. Everyone rushes past you. No matter how fast you're walking (or even running) you're not moving fast enough for someone else. Everyone packs into everything tightly, squishes together, in their rush to get where they're going. And that bugs me. I'm a slow walker. I like to take a moment and smell the roses. To pause, sigh, and text someone.
I didn't feel like I could do that comfortably in the city.
I felt constantly rushed and out of time.
I'm sure there are areas of the city where this is not true. Emma was kind of enough to show me a quieter, nicer area of the city, that I could definitely see myself living in. But it would still mean crowding onto the street car. It would still mean dealing with the hubbub of that city and, honestly, I don't think that's where I want to be.
I've started to feel like I want to build something. To sound a little New Age for a moment, build the life I want, to attract the things I want. And I think that's primarily space. A nice porch. A backyard for a dog to run in. A place to keep a BBQ and learn to cook, like the neighbours beside me as I write this. A place to sit out with friends (those who will make the trek to visit me) and talk about life's important things. A room to meditate, to sleep and to play WoW (one for each, ideally). A garage to park my car. A house. A home.
Places like that exist in Toronto, I know. But they are likely 3 times my budget, or so far out that I may as well be living in the suburbs.
So, for now, I'm thinking suburbs. We'll see in a couple months, as I get things moving. Toronto did a number on my finances, so things will be moving a little slower than I had hoped, but I've also realized that finding the right place may take time. Which is good. I want to enjoy this time, now.
For most of July, I'll be living in the city of Toronto, and sharing my impressions and thoughts under the heading Tom Takes Toronto. Click here to see the posts under this category. Though, at this time, this is the first post, so that's all you see. I realize these italicized explanations are supposed to carry over to all the posts. Oh well.
I've lived in the suburbs for most of my life. While I spent a few years in Guelph, a small college town in Ontario, the majority of my years were spent in the very picture of suburbia, Mississauga. Big box stores, huge parking lots and vast subdivisions and residential neighbourhoods were the order of the day.
I hated it.
When I was younger, and couldn't drive, I hated being tied to an unreliable transit system (not to mention, when I was very young, parents who feared I would be abducted or otherwise accosted every time I stepped on a city bus). I didn't really get how buses worked, truthfully. I still remember trying to take my first bus, and stepping back, nervously, as it swung toward me, and then watching my friend, on that bus, looking at me incredulously as the bus driver, assuming I didn't want to board, drove off.
When I passed my driver's test and was finally able to drive on my own, I was ecstatic. My parents were relatively liberal with the car (well, minivan) and so I was able to drive around a fair bit. When I moved to Guelph, the city was small enough that the majority of my world was within walking distance. The parts that weren't were accessible by a few key bus routes I learned, so that was easy.
When I moved back to Mississauga, I managed to get my own car. The freedom was exhilarating at first. To this day I still marvel at the fact that I own a car sometimes. The idea that this beautiful, wonderful machine is full of my crap, my dirt. It sounds odd, but I still find it so weird. I still think of myself as a kid, in ways, and I feel incredibly lucky to own it. Plus it is kind of a cool car. Dodge Caliber, bright red. Pretty snazzy.
However, as I started working downtown, and looking at moving into the city, it felt like an albatross around my neck. Trying to find a place with a parking space, that I could afford and was, you know, larger than a bread box, proved near impossible, unless I went so far out of the city that I practically needed the car anyway.
I started to think about giving it up. I wouldn't need it for work, I didn't think I was going to be anywhere but in the city, and public transit would be totally fine for me.
Yeah, not so much.
Living in the city the past week or so I've been entirely reliant on public transit, more specifically the Toronto Transit Commission or TTC. Mostly, I've been pretty happy. It gets me to and from work in a reasonable time and has allowed me to stumble home after I've had a few drinks in safety.
Today, I ventured out to do some errands. I needed to drop off some dry cleaning, visit a local yoga studio and sign up for a pass, buy some coffee, and get some groceries. These places are all in relatively opposite directions, but I did the best I could to do things in some kind of organized fashion. As I stepped out, I noticed there were clouds on the horizon, but I hadn't seen any rain on the little icon on my phone, so I figured I was fine.
After the dry cleaning was dropped off and I had filled out a form for a surprisingly unfriendly yoga studio employee, I stopped at a small patio for some lunch. As I sat, it started to rain. Hard. Like, insane, monsoon, WTF-is-this-Canada-or-the-jungle hard. I was far enough back I was covered, but I figured I could wait it out. So I waited. And waited. And waited.
When it didn't clear, I eventually said "screw it" and ran for the nearest station. No worries, I figured, as I waited in the hot subway tunnel, I can get to the coffee shop via TTC. And I'm sure the rain will have cleared up by the time I get to the station I need to get to.
Nope, still pouring half an hour later.
Well, I'm sure I can take a street car to get there.
Nope, streetcar isn't running because of construction.
So I walked. I don't think I've ever been more soaked in my life, but I did it, ducking into a covered area whenever I had a moment, but by the time I reached the coffee shop I was legitimately concerned I was going to make a wet mess merely by stepping into the shop.
Thankfully, the worker did not throw me out, gave me my locally-roasted, organic, fair trade beans (I know, but they make damn good coffee) and let me sit for a while, assuring me his plastic chairs could handle my wet ass. After drying off a bit, and the rain finally letting up a bit, I decided to try and catch a street car going back to the subway on another street, so I walk down and see several street cars going the wrong direction. "At last!" I say to myself, "I've found a running street car line! I will make note of this, and wait by this sign for one coming my way." So I waited. And waited. And waited. And watched street car after street car go the wrong direction, with none in sight going the way I wanted. You know, towards that subway system that connects much of the city together. I'm sure there just aren't many people wanting to get to that subway system.
I walked it, eventually. I crammed myself into a subway car, squeezing my body as small as possible as someone sat down just a little too close to me, and tried to focus on my book (this one, which by the way, you should definitely be reading), and watch for my own subway station.
Getting back to the apartment felt like a minor victory unto itself and, to be clear, I'm not trying to pretend this is some horrible ordeal. It's not, and the fact that I can get between these areas with relative ease is a triumph of modern urban planning. Trying to do construction and run a system for a giant city on a budget is hard, I get that.
But holy crap, am I keeping my car. And, this is making me feel like, probably not living in the city. That may be my clothes, still drying from several hours ago, talking, though.
(Editor's note: This post is long, rambley and a tad unwieldy, and makes you come off a little whiney. But, it's your blog, and this "editor" is really just a device you stole from other books, namely the one you mention earlier, to hang a lampshade on that fact. Which is a phrase you learned in the excellent Stargate episode 200. And this is getting off topic. Basically, I know I'm whiney, but I still think it makes for an entertaining story. Ah, just post it.)
So today I'm doing Wine and Love again, hosted by Suki! Here we talk about the things making us reach for the wine glass (or alcoholic beverage of choice) and the things we love this week!
- While I'm enjoying living in the city, it's not totally ideal. I can't say I love the subway, though I am getting more reading done. I still feel a little bit out of sorts, living in a place that's not mine. Though, to be fair, this is a very minor w(h)ine. Though I am hot!
- Haven't been sleeping well the past...few weeks, now. There are a variety of reasons for this, mostly based around eating habits, sleeping in a new bed, all that, but it just adds up to me feeling off and a bit worn down. And unable to get up early. Or, well, not unable. But really not feeling up to it.
- I've been keeping up with blogs, and a little more with YouTube, and even doing some writing myself. I missed it, and I'm glad I'm getting back to it.
- I went home for a little bit on Tuesday night, and being away, and living on my own, has made me really appreciate my Mom, and my house. Although it's not perfect, I will be glad to get back there for a little while.
- I'm enjoying my time alone, but finding it is making me crave time out a bit more too. I've been out and about with people almost every day since Saturday, and I've actually enjoyed it, and not felt drained. I think this is because most nights I am coming home alone, and can shut myself off when I need to, which is great. But it's making me realize that I don't entirely hate social engagements, and they're not always super draining. So it's a nice realization, truthfully.
What are you loving, and not loving this week?
I didn't sleep much last night.
There are a few reasons for this, and probably more I can't really identify. It was hot, for one. One of those nights where I couldn't seem to get comfortable in my own bed. I woke up to having pulled the bedsheets into knots from my tossing and turning.
I was worried about going back to work. Not for any particular reason. There's the baseline worry of the various projects that are behind, that I can never seem to get a handle on, but it was more the simple change of going from 4 days of relaxation back to work, and just feeling a little worried about that.
I was worried about moving. There's a lot I have to do before I move in to my friend's apartment (referred to here on in as The Sublet, even if that is technically inaccurate), some of which could wait til I'm there, some of which can't, most of which has to be done tonight.
I was worried about my Dad. Last night when I talked about it he seemed vaguely…perturbed. I don't know whether this is because he offered to drive me into the city with some of my stuff and I accepted, or because he doesn't want to be left alone for the rest of the week while I'm gone, or if I'm just entirely misreading it. I know he'll miss me, and I'll miss him too, but having some space will be good for me (and probably my parents too, truth be told).
It was also one of those nights where some part of my mind decided to bring up every insult, every hurtful comment that had been directed at me, every failure I'd had in my life. Which is, you know, always fun.
But, I got up this morning. I got to the train early to buy my new pass, and I'm almost at the subway station now to buy my subway pass. I've never had one of those before. I've ridden it, but never had the fancy swipe pass. Little things like this make me happy.
This month will be a taste of what's to come, and I've been reminded that it won't all be sunshine and rainbows and independence. But there will be joys. I'll make sure there are.