You Asked For It: Why Toronto? (the sequel)

imageYesterday I answered the “why not Vancouver?” part of Wilson Fowlie’s question, “Why on Earth did you choose Toronto over Vancouver?”

Today, far more cheerily, I’m on to what Toronto offered, and whether it has delivered.

Adventure:  Shiny! New! Different! A whole new world to explore! Something I have always loved about new cities is getting to know them. And Toronto is different from every place I’ve ever lived. It has a big city buzz that is simply amazing. It’s like a baby New York filled with Canadians.

Friends: We left wonderful people in Vancouver. But the writing community is large and scattered. We’d been long-distancing it with beloveds people here and elsewhere across the U.S. A couple of our oldest besties are right here in the city and it is awesome to be near them.

Dellamonicas: Same thing, basically. The one genetic relation I have out here is a super sweet sister, and she’s very obviously happy to have me around. I had been at a three timezone remove from her; now I’m the same distance from my mother. Any other choice (London, Palermo, and Calgary are three alternatives we not-very-seriously considered) would have put me far away from them both.

Economic stuff: This was a significant factor. Vancouver is a pricey city with artificially low salaries and a deranged and punitive real estate market. Toronto has more job opportunities for Kelly, more flexibility where housing is concerned, and–as a bonus–there’s far more publishing activity.

But OMG Toronto is so totally urban and unnatural and smelly, and don’t you miss the mountains and the seawall and the beaches and seals in the Fraser River? Sure! But let’s face it, I’m a nerd. Even given that I spend a fair amount of my leisure time chasing birds with a camera, I am pretty indoorsy. I don’t hike, bike, seadoo, skidoo, ski, snowshoe, racquet-sport or run.

Of course the natural scenic beauty on offer here can’t compare what I had within easy walking distance of Woodland Drive. The pretty is a little harder–a very little–to get to. The trade-off is so much good theater, and book launches every time you turn around, and chances to go to things like Second City. I’ve been to three documentaries at TIFF lately: Finding Vivian Maier, Tim’s Vermeer, and Jodorowsky’s Dune.

For me, having to take a streetcar to the ravine to shoot cardinals, or a ferry to Toronto Island to see beach, is a pretty fair trade for being able to see Monets and Van Goghs and Warhols and Cindy Shermans every darned day of the week, all while giving the AGO a shot at convincing me that the Group of Seven had more merit than I previously assumed. Also there’s this:

PiETa was a Nuit Blanche installation. Now it’s in the AGO. How cool is this?

More adventure, in the form of new short-distance travel opportunities: New York is more doable from here. Ditto Ottawa–I’ve never been!–Quebec City, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C., Vermont. These are all places I’ve always wanted to explore, but didn’t quite have the time or cash to get to. I’ve been to Seattle dozens of times, and Portland at least ten. It’s exciting.

The architecture of my life hasn’t changed significantly. My jobs are exactly the same as they had been. I’m married to the same person, live in a somewhat similar apartment, and have the same yoga, photography and coffee habits. I have the same medical quirks and am slowly working my way back to cat ownership. (Being without Rumble has been pretty awful). I watch the same TV, cook the same food, and keep the same lunatic hours.

It’d be easy, given that, to argue that all I’ve really done is change the wallpaper on the life I already had. And there’s a degree to which that may be true. I retained all the things I was satisfied with while shaking up, to a great extent, the place where they were happening. It’s human nature to be dissatisfied with what you have: when all the dust settles on this move, years from now, some of those feelings that triggered this move will recur.

Right now, I’m delighting in the new horizons, the abundant unfamiliar, the amazing cultural opportunities and the company of my sister and Ontario friends. This has been invigorating, a much-needed shot in the arm. I am grateful for the series of events and choices that brought me here.

2 thoughts on “You Asked For It: Why Toronto? (the sequel)”

  1. Thanks, Alyx. Many of those same reasons underlie why my wife and I moved from Toronto to Vancouver 25 years ago, especially the excitement of adventure and exploration. Best wishes!

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