Five years ago when I moved to Toronto, I hated it. That was no secret. I moved away from the people I love, in a huge city where I felt like a nobody. I found no sense of community or belonging. I didn’t want to belong. I just wanted to get through four years of university, and leave as soon as possible.
I claim that I had no community, but slowly this network built up. Today, I leave with a church of people that care for me; university friends that lived through all-nighters with me; a bunch of original high school friends that never left me; and family that provided me with unconditional love, even when we didn’t seem to get along. It takes so much time before you realize how much you have to be thankful for.
Toronto is also the city where I have felt the most growth in my life. Like it or not, it’s undeniable that I lived on my own for four years here. I had to do my own laundry, cook my own food, get by on my own. And aside from household chores, I also had to deal with that daily stress of making plans. Those small things that you take for granted when you live with your parents. Finances. Responsibilities. No more of being a kid – I was forced to grow up.
Memories are everywhere. I walked down Spadina today, and thought about how I used to run along this road to get to Harbourfront. When I stopped to take a picture, I looked again, and I realized how plain my picture would look to everyone else. Even after I tell you this story, you wouldn’t feel the exact emotions that went through my head as I walked down this street today. These are personal connections I have with this city, and its honestly something I didn’t even expect to find within me.
What’s more, there are actually a lot of these moments. Frosh Week. Robot building. Endless study nights. Gradball. Maybe they didn’t all seem fun at the time, but they are my memories nonetheless.
I never thought I would say this, but… I don’t want to leave. Not quite yet. This city defines me a lot more than I realized, and I now know, I will miss Toronto. The irony, of four years of wishing to be out of here as soon as possible, and now wishing to linger just a bit longer.
Currently as I sit here at Toronto Pearson Airport, waiting for my one-way flight back home, I can’t help but let the tears flow down my face. It’s not necessarily because I’m sad, but because there are so many complex emotions mixed together. The act of crying was never meant to be synonymous with sadness anyway. People cry tears of joy all the time. Rather, this act allows you to channel out your feelings in a very tangible manner, and that’s exactly what’s happening to me now.
Saying goodbye today is very different from saying goodbye five years ago in Vancouver. If there’s anything that I’ve learned over these past few years, it’s that the world is getting smaller and smaller. WhatsApp, Skype, or even a flight that only takes a few hours – it’s easy to keep in touch if you care enough. I’m not sad… just sentimental.
Watching the sun set from Pearson is like seeing the end of my time here in Toronto. Four years of life crammed into one long day. And yes… I will miss you.