An update: I’m not leaving Toronto. Yet.
I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to Canada and expat life forever, but just as I was about to give up hope, to say that I’d waited long enough for opportunities to keep me here, everything seemed to fall into place.
Begin by coming home to yourself
becoming present to yourself.
St. Augustine says we must return to self
to make of self
a stepping stone to God. –Anthony de Mello “The Return”
October has been so busy because in this process I’ve left two previous homes: my temporary home on Queen Street East and the house and city where I grew up, Austin, TX. Neither was as emotional of a transition as I expected. Still, I will take this moment to appreciate both places and what they have given me.
Queen Street East, Toronto
My first home in Toronto turned into a hell. I hated it. My second home changed my opinion about the city and Canada almost immediately. It gave me hope. I knew when my new landlord, a man with the last name “Luck” (no joke), handed me a golden key to my new shared house and offered to help me move my belongings in immediately, that I’d found the right place at last.
Though I still had the stresses of graduate school summer classes and the looming job search hanging over my head, I quickly used my new pad right between the Beaches and Leslieville to explore and enjoy more of the city. I started taking morning runs in the parks nearby and up and down the boardwalk by Lake Ontario. I found cafes that I loved (see this and this) and spent more time in the Beaches library. I went to as many festivals as I could in the park behind my house, the highlights being the Woofstock dog show and the Queen impersonator band that played through the fireworks on Canada Day.
When summer fully hit, I met my neighbors and started hanging out on the front yard ever night, barbecuing and roasting marshmallows. They reminded me of their talk of learning English, playing guitar, and planning trips to the beach that time to just chill is important, too. You never know what could come of relaxing either. Some opportunities might be coming my way because on summer nights I spent a little less time glued to my computer screen and more time learning curses and dirty phrases in Portuguese, Spanish, and French.
I will also miss my walk to work. It wasn’t a short one, but an eventful one always in small ways that took me from my odd in-between area through Leslieville into Riverside. I watched as the trees turned from dead to bright green and growing in the summer to bright bursts of orange and red, announcing that winter is yes, once again, approaching. I found new spots and shops through those walks. I never found time to stop in every clothing store or off-the-wall artistic antique shop, but I got to know that patch of the city very, very well. It picked me up and made me feel like I belonged even when I was practically running the last few blocks or barely trudging to my door at the end of a long day.
But thankfully in my new house, I have two roommates who are already sharing a lot with me–including chores and keeping this place neater than any other home I’ve shared in Toronto so far. No more nasty pets to pick up after, no more fighting for space in the kitchen, or cleaning up a bathroom serving a house of eight. It’s not easy, but there’s more time for dance parties and eating meals we cook together at the end of the day. I may not have the whoosh of the streetcar at all hours in this new house, but from 6 am to 2 am, I have the subway to rumble under my floors and lull me to sleep. There are windows that let in the morning sunlight so I can enjoy more of those rare rays while sipping my morning coffee and writing a line or two. There are new shops to explore and, even better, it’s not so far away that I can’t go back and visit the house on Queen Street that I didn’t know I didn’t want to leave.
The temporary situation wasn’t meant to last. I may have known that from the time I moved in, but I never realized that I’d be missing the freedom it gave me when, in some the moments, it felt instead like I was trapped in limbo. Because it wasn’t limbo. The gears were turning, the leaves were changing, et cetera. Life moves on and one day you look up and find it: Home.