It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Most of the time, my decision to move back to Toronto was more of a mystery than anything else. The Centre of the Universe. It had been almost eleven years since I’d lived in the Greater Toronto Area, and after spending half of my life on a picturesque island off the Strait of Georgia, I really didn’t know what to expect of my mother city.
Toronto is a monster of a place. She is big, she is loud and she is unapologetic. I knew that life here—as a now twenty-something—would be very different from the life in the city I remembered as a child.
And while the Gardiner Expressway is just as crumbly, and Lake Ontario is just as ocean-like, the nuances of urban sprawl are new and mine to discover.
The City I know is full of history. Yes, any place, anywhere, it could be argued, holds this same quality, but in Toronto the past is an honoured and obvious thing. You see it displayed in store front windows, kept as they had been fifty years earlier. You see it on side streets lined with brick-row houses, on subway stations and street car lines. Outdated; perhaps. But Toronto is a city that knows where she comes from, and her present is built upon a maturing past.
The City I don’t know is cold and unkind. A hard place to grow, a harsh place to survive. There are always going to be challenges and struggles, this I’m sure is not a condition solely reserved for two million strong. Toronto is fast and aggressive—and sure, some people could learn a thing or two about manners—but nobody’s perfect. If anything, her unusual hardness turns kindness into something like a phenomenon.
The City I know is full of stories. Possibilities, opportunities. There are eyes here that have seen incredible things. There are hands that have worked hard, feet that have travelled far, and shoulders that have cushioned a tired world. Generations old and new; lives have been lived here, and the most beautiful thing about this city are the pages yet to be written.
The City I don’t know is dangerous and seedy. Plagued with strife and unresolved tensions, there’s never a shortage of breaking news. But in the wake of senseless violence and acts of unkindness, Toronto tries her best to heal. Communities of giving, generosity despite the circumstances. Diversity is our strength, not our weakness.