Recently I went to my hometown of Windsor, Ontario to spend some time with my mom. As I was sorting through some of my old school work I came across a report I had written at 13 about my hopes and dreams for the future. Written in the third person it said, “The last thing Kirthan wants to do is stay in Windsor. She hopes to move to Toronto and attend Ryerson Polytechnic University.”
I laughed. From a young age I had known that Toronto was where I wanted to be. I was thrilled every time I got to visit my grandparents in North York and they took me around the city to the Toronto Zoo, the Ontario Science Centre and Black Creek Pioneer Village. In my teen years my mom would take me on epic shopping excursions, going from Yorkdale to the Eaton Centre, Queen West to Kensington Market. For years I longed to leave home and move to Toronto. At 22 my dream finally came true. I was accepted to Ryerson and packed my bags to move to the big city.
When I moved here I was shocked at how much I felt at home. All those visits with my mom had made me comfortable with city. I knew how to get around on the TTC and I felt safe exploring and learning more about my neighbourhood. Some of it was a bit jarring at first; the homeless men wandering into traffic when people were stopped at a red light, the 3am screaming matches of my drug addict neighbours. But I looked past it and appreciated that I was finally living in a city that had more to offer than a mall and strip clubs.
That’s why I was surprised when, after spending a few weeks in Windsor, I returned home to find that Toronto felt different. For the first time in my life it felt like the city could swallow me whole. The anonymity that I usually enjoyed had me feeling alone and scared. I felt anxious, and almost everyone I encountered on the street seemed like a potential threat, even in the daylight. It got to the point that I could practically hear “People Are Strange” by The Doors as I walked down the street. “People are strange when you’re a stranger. Faces look ugly when you’re alone.”
I’m still not sure what caused it. Maybe it was the switch from spending so much time in little old Windsor to going back to the big city by myself. Whatever it was, I was having a hard time.
Thankfully, a friend of mine convinced me to come out to a storytelling event that she was participating in. It was there that I started to remember what it is that I love about Toronto: this is a city where there is always something to do. On any day of the week you can find some kind of activity or event that will keep you entertained. No matter how peculiar your interests are you can find a group of like-minded people to hang out with. This is a city where people can come together and create art, music and poetry all while building a strong sense of community. As much as I love the world-class art exhibits, ballet and musicals I’m equally happy to take in the various smaller grassroots events, from bacon festivals to community theatre. I’m grateful to live in a city where not only is there always something going on but there’s also something I can be a part of. It may not be perfect, but I’ll always love Toronto.