I love Toronto.
I really do.
Maybe since I don’t actually live there anymore, I should change my tune and jump on board the ‘rest of Canada dislikes Toronto’ bandwagon. But I can’t because I really do still love it.
I love the food, the people, the events, the sports teams and even the politics (sometimes.)
It’s a fascinating place to live in and to learn about and I think it stacks up against just about anywhere else in the world.
I moved around a fair bit after graduating high school in Brampton. I did my undergrad in Montreal, got my first job in Ottawa and got a Master’s degree in England. Eventually I decided I needed to be closer to family and friends. So in 2009, I moved to Toronto. There I reconnected with old friends, made new ones, built a career, met the love of my life and started a family. All the while, I experienced as much as I could of the city’s culture, food and lifestyle. I honestly didn’t believe I could go anywhere else and do what I did in Toronto. And after my son was born, I was convinced that only in Toronto would he have all the opportunities he deserved to have in life.
And then we decided to leave.
There are a number of factors that enabled us to go. I got a job that meant I didn’t need to be close to downtown anymore.
My wife works in an industry where she can relocate and still do well -- albeit not without a lot of hard work -- and our son is young enough that we could move him without feeling too guilty about it.
There were also a lot of reasons that we wanted to go. When you’re building a family, you spend a lot of time talking about what kind of life you want and need. Whether you’re the type of person who plans out every last detail of their life, or one who likes to go with the flow, you at least contemplate what is and is not important to you in life.
Over time, these things can also change. What you loved most about a place might become less important. Or it might become more important! One thing I can say for sure is that what I wanted from the city and how I experienced Toronto changed dramatically the day I became a father.
As our family’s needs and wants evolved, we strained against that incredible gravitational force coming from the Centre of the Universe, lifted our eyes and started looking outside the ‘6’. What we found was that so much of what we loved most was available to us ‘out there’ in the vibrant and dynamic cities and towns of the Golden Horseshoe. We learned that no matter what your priorities are, you will find it.
For some, it will end up being Toronto. Nowhere else can offer as much variety as Toronto. There is simply more to do, more to see, more to eat, more places to work than in any other city. But all of that comes at a cost. There’s the traffic, the high cost of living and the somewhat bumpy history of the local political scene (note: as if that’s actually different anywhere else amirite!?)
For others, like us, it’s somewhere else. We wanted some space, we wanted to slow things down just a touch and we wanted to do it an affordable price.
But we didn’t want to give up our hipster meals, our craft beer or our circus schools for my son.
So we found a home that offers all those things.
I guess my point is this: Life never stops. What is perfect for you today, may not be what you want or need tomorrow. In 2009 Toronto was exactly what I needed. In 2014 it was exactly where my wife and I wanted to be. But in 2018, things are different. We live somewhere else now. Close enough that we can still see that big ol’ tower over on Front Street, but far enough away that we can live a different life than we were before. That’s what we needed to do today.
It’s important to take stock of your life… and then to do it again and again on a regular basis. Decide what’s important to you and what you want your present and your future to look like. Make lists if you have to. Do some ‘pros and cons’. Just make sure you keep asking the right questions. Finally, make sure you are answering the question for yourselves. Don’t get stuck in the mindset that there is only one answer, only one place to be. There is no ‘centre of the universe’… Well. Actually there is. It’s wherever you need it to be.
Iain Wills is a 30-something Southern Ontario guy who is trying his hardest to live a good life, be a good person, raise a good kid, drop a cool drumbeat and bake a good loaf of bread.