Not all my comments on the last post about my return to Toronto were negative, but it was heavily laced with my homesickness for Austin, TX, family, undergraduate and high school friends, and the United States. What I was missing were the really great things about being back in Toronto. Things I would have missed if I’d let that homesickness and anxiety about the upcoming term hold me back.
Instead, here are some more optimistic bits about my first week back in the Great White North:
1) Walking into the Theatre Studies Grad Lounge for the first time: All the new grad student, theater friends I made last term were all waiting for me in the Grad Lounge on my first morning back at York. It was great to be reminded that there are so many people in that department on York’s campus who care about me and my research/creative/career interests and who are on similar or related paths. They are happy I’ve come back so we can obsess over Caryl Churchill, commiserate about scary syllabi, and swamp ice storm/winter travel stories.
2) Classes: I was burnt out at the end of last semester so I wasn’t looking forward to getting back to the work of being a graduate student. But these are new courses still charged with the enthusiasm of new ideas, old friends, and new peers. I’m especially excited about my “Play” course–we spent half of the first day debating Richard Schechner and then watched Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. It still bodes to be a long, grueling semester, but at least the courses seem to offer more exciting new perspectives, ones that more directly relate to my personal interests.
3) My neighborhood: Living so far from school and the West End theatre district sometimes gets me down. If I think about it too long, the time I spend commuting could easily drive me crazy. But then I come back to the East End and the Danforth region and I realize that this place is home. It’s all because I was lucky enough to meet a few great people in the neighborhood who like to relax, drink wine, and take care of their beautiful dogs. But it means I also get to watch parents take their kids to school and brothers and sisters strolling through the neighborhood. Again, it’s not Texas or the Austin suburbs, but it’s closer.
4) Winter weather: This one is a positive and a negative all rolled into one. I was terrified coming back to see temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t think my body could adjust to that so quickly after Texas’s extremely mild winter temperatures. Surprisingly, it has been okay so far. Some walks around the city have been surprisingly pleasant. I do like the way it changes my perspective constantly as the snow builds, melts, ices over, and places this filter between me and the rest of the natural/urban environment. On the other hand, I have many new pet peeves associated with ice and un-iced/shoveled walkways. It’s treacherous out there.
5) My spiritual community: On my second night back in Toronto, I went back to Bread and Honey, the meditation/art/chanting Christian service I attend on Saturday nights. I knew that returning to my spiritual community would be a true homecoming, and it was. I may only have attended for about a month and a half before the winter holidays, but the Reverends and other regulars know me now and expect me to be there. Not to mention it gives me the excuse to sing, light candles, meditate in a group, and still think critically about my relationships, art, and academics. And then there’s my new yoga studio. I was terribly sad about leaving my old studio but the coupon ran out and I’m a poor international grad student. But my first trip to the new studio proved that maybe something unfamiliar can be just as much of a gift. There’s free tea, a new group of slightly younger yogis, and I almost learned how to do a headstand at my first class. If I pay attention, I keep finding new ways of taking care of myself and making myself happy.
It won’t remain this simple and optimistic over the following months, but it’s good to spend a moment capturing the present moment. I hope I can keep returning to these bits of optimism as the winter days remain short, dark, and cold.