I’ve lived in Toronto for a little over 15 years – my family relocated here in 1999, leaving behind a Montreal that was (once) tougher on the anglophones and unnecessary for a trilingual 12-year-old who didn’t have to feed four children.
Toronto’s home to me in more ways than one. All of my firsts have been here – all of them.
I finished middle school, high school and university here, I had dozens of jobs, hundreds of friends and thousands of acquaintances. I’ve networked over and over and always benefited from it in one way or another. I know I’ve lived here for a long time because almost everyone I meet is affiliated with someone I knew or met a decade ago – with almost no exceptions.
I may be a little Toronto biased, but I love this city. I honestly believe there’s something here for everyone. We’ve all been a little discouraged by this city before: we’ve lived through the aches of not hearing back from our dream jobs and our dates, or getting laid off (or just laid really) and reaching some form of dead end and I get that it’s difficult, but I don’t think Toronto is a terrible place to live. I know sooner or later that I am going to have to leave here, but I don’t plan on leaving for good.
Those who truly know this city know that being a Torontonian is not about being downtown-savvy – I’m sorry, it’s far from that. Those who have immigrant parents know that the GTA is the vessel that connects the sharpest, wittiest and most diverse crowds to the downtown core, there would be no T.dot without them. Having been here for over a decade means I pretty much grew up with this city and moved around quite a bit too. I (un)/fortunately know its transit system all too well – from one end to the other, I’ve been up and down all of its main highways at the peak of rush hour and on the verge of a panic attack. I remember some malls before they were malls and when they were limited to a one-lane with an ALDO, a Taco Bell and a Famous Players. I’ve lived through its toughest winters, pre and post vortex, and I know that this place is incredible regardless. If I leave it will be to come back better. This city has its glory and its character, it doesn’t deserve all the hatred it’s getting. I know there’s something here for everyone.
In the next few months, starting 2015, I will be interviewing and profiling a number of people whom I believe have contributed to the greatness of this city, people with talent, passion and a lot of stories to tell. Artists in the making, community builders, architects, musicians … people who know this city’s worth. The reason I am doing this is because I recently discovered that people in Toronto don’t know where to go to exhaust its resources, and so I decided to tell them (and re-learn in the process). This year alone, I got a rush of information that forced me to discover that we’re truly being spoiled and are dangerously unaware of it. In the past year, I started working at an agency while juggling a freelance job, I started graduate school, traveled to 6 countries, 10 cities, networked endlessly and realized that there’s enough creativity right in my residential radius alone to help me kick start the project(s) I’ve been brainstorming for years. It’s a matter of knowing who to go to and where to go.
If you know Toronto like I do, you know that “cool” doesn’t have to start at Parliament and end at Jameson (stop the suburb hatred people). I didn’t always live downtown, and neither did you. A true Torontonian would have ridden the subway from Kipling to STC and from Downsview to Finch multiple times. He or she would be very well aware of the fact that beef patties are at their finest only at Warden station and Islington, that real Shawarma is only edible on Lawrence avenue, that Hakka food and Red snappers are only good in Scarborough and eastward. That no human being in the right mind shops at the Eaton center for good deals, especially during boxing week. You know that the best Persian restaurants are in the north end of the city, that Queen West has overpriced groceries, and that the hipsters in Trinity Bellwoods were once Burlington kids too. That Starbucks is an embarrassingly bad option when local goods and real coffee exist. Ethiopian food is on the Danforth, Gerrard East is for real grocery stores, and ice cream in Leslieville is fabulous. You’d know that Cherry beach is majestic at sunrise and that Food Basics is an amazingly diverse place to mingle and grocery shop. You’d know that Flemingdon Park, PO, Regent, Jane/Finch, Rexdale, Jungle, Malvern are all REAL neighborhoods too (and there will always be a regent) and unless you have neighbors who hail from every corner of this planet, you haven’t seen Toronto at all.