In May of 2005, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I made the difficult decision to leave our home base of Montreal and move to Toronto for opportunity, for a welcome change, for a new start.
For myself, as much as I loved Montreal, I wanted to get out of it; I had lived there my whole life, lived under the thumb of family and felt like I knew the ins and outs of the city almost too much. The entire thing became too familiar and annoying that had I stayed I probably would have been metaphorically trapped.
So, we left – and much to our parents’ surprise – we left without a job plan, without a living plan…without any plan. We crashed on my sister’s hide-a-bed by night, and by day we hit the pavement with resumes and wandered all over the city, looking for places that would take us in.
A month into coming here, we found work and we set up shop. We got married, we had a baby. We built our relationship and our careers, thanks to Toronto.
And now I find myself pumped because in a little over a week, we are moving back home.
If you had told me 7 years ago, that I would be moving back to Montreal I would have said you were crazy. I thought I was done with the city. Truly.
What’s changed? Everything. The pull to go home began when my daughter was born and every subsequent trip since has been heavier, more emotional….I may have become a pseudo-Torontonian but you can never kill the Montrealer in a person. And with personal growth comes a new appreciation for the finer things.
That feeling that our lives in Toronto are ending have been on my mind these last few days. Toronto has taught me so much about itself and about myself, and in turn I learned something about this city:
- You go anywhere in Canada (EXTREMELY prevalent in Montreal!), and people are so quick to hate Toronto. Everyone hates Toronto (in fact there’s a great documentary called Let’s All Hate Toronto? Check it out. It’s hilarious) as though you are just supposed to hate it. But, what I found so amazing is that in Toronto, nobody hates the other provinces! Seriously! Do you know how many people have told me how much they loved Montreal? I was expecting a mutual hate fest. Yes, Toronto is a gargantuan city, yes there are great distances between cities, yes everything is BIG here and loud and there’s an undeniable pulse….but I have to say, there is still a charm. Toronto isn’t full of itself – it’s the others who perceive this that seems to have it the truth.
- Don’t get me wrong, Toronto is a weird beast of a city. I thought that coming from a metropolitan city like Montreal that I would be ready and comfortable to live in Toronto. I was wrong. Toronto and Montreal could not be more different. I think it took me a good year and a half to be at ease with Toronto life. The vastness and hustle/bustle are really eye opening, coming from a city that is more laid back and slower paced.
- I will miss seeing the Canadian flag patriotically waving all over on July 1st. For seven years, I felt like I was part of Canada, rather than forced to be silenced about it. I loved seeing red and white on everyone on that day – perhaps now I will go back to seeing it as Moving Day once more? 🙂
- You do have to give Toronto a fair shake before making a decision about it – visiting Toronto for a couple of days does not an estimation make.
- Would you believe that Toronto actually has made my French language skills stronger? It’s true. I think I felt a little judged whenever I spoke French in Montreal when I was first there, but whenever I spoke it in Toronto you would think I was the second coming. There’s a large Francophone education community in Ontario, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of them and also speaking at conferences. So, I am coming home a hell of a lot more confident in my skills as a French speaker – and I have Toronto to thank for that.
- Toronto made me grow up – I needed to leave home, leave family, leave preconceived notions about religion, about who I was and what I believed in , in order to see what would stick on my identity wall in the end. Toronto allowed me to become an active partner in my relationship with my wife – it’s where I became a husband and father. It’s also allowed me to become unapologetic for who I am as a person. I’m coming back stronger.
- Living here allowed me to nurture and strengthen my relationships with extended family and immediate ones too. I learned more about them, and shared in many memorable moments that I will treasure.
- My career. I owe my career to Toronto. The city opened the door and I got to walk through and experience opportunities I had only dreamed about. Thanks for loading up my CV!
- There’s fun stuff too – I loved playing the “Spot a celebrity” game every year during TIFF…some years were more starry (Danny Boyle running down Queen Street, Alicia Keys at the premiere of “Secret Life of Bees”, Ron Sexsmith getting a coffee at Starbucks, Gordon Pinsent crossing the street, Sarah Polley working AT MY WORK PLACE, getting invited to a record label party and seeing Steven Page, Sexsmith, and a slew of other independent Canadian acts perform) and some not so much (Look! There’s Ben Mulroney running across the street talking on his cell phone.)
- My five second chat with Sarah McLachlan. Televised on MuchMoreMusic. Don’t need to say anymore. 🙂
I find myself really excited about moving back to Montreal. I am looking forward to reconnecting with the city and friends. When I left Montreal, I remember feeling that there was no other city that could replace it. And I was right – Montreal remains a beautiful pulsing heart of a city that I am looking forward to embracing again, on different terms than when I left. I will never regret leaving Montreal for Toronto, because Toronto allowed me to come back home.
Life gives your baggage, and it depends on how you carry it. I will carry my Toronto bags proudly.