When I left Toronto just over five years ago and headed for the west coast, my Dear John letter read, “Dear Toronto, it’s not me, it’s you.” But it wasn’t Toronto at all. It was me. I was blaming a city for everything that was wrong in my life and thought, it’s time to hightail it out of here! Being a city girl, I chose a new city–Van City. I’d never even been there on a visit (I’d never been further west than Windsor, seriously); but when the option to apply for a job transfer to Vangroovy came up, I was compelled to apply. I needed an out. Toronto tasted like a hardened, stale bagel and I need to gnaw on someplace else.
I found myself an extremely cute little apartment in Vancouver’s West End. I had my cat, my dog, a place to learn to cook recipes from Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking, and the ocean just 90 seconds away from my door. I ate too much butter, drank too much wine, and I buried any sign of the Trellawny who had ever lived in Toronto (literally, my new expanded waistline ate her right up).
But I never felt like I was at home. Three years, a seven-day uHaul drive across the country via the Crow’s Nest highway (I advise anyone against this route, by the way; and wish someone had advised me prior to the longest white-knuckle drive I’ve ever experienced), a parrot attack in a Thunder Bay hotel hallway, and a sublet in an apartment with a problematic amount of scary spiders later: I was back in Toronto. I was “home.”
I was renting an apartment in the Beaches with a boyfriend I’d met in Vancouver. The door was on Queen Street and the lock broke; but the superintendent wouldn’t replace it. Not cool. So I bought a house. In the suburbs. I did a test drive; it was only 45 minutes back into the Beaches, where I worked. I could do this. Sing-alongs in the car every day! Hells yes! I was in a financial position to do it. I could pay into the equity of my own house rather than pay a slumlord and help his bankroll. This was a great idea. Homeownership = respect in our North American society. It’s like some sort of status symbol and I was about to be worthy of respect as an adult. Afterall, I wasn’t married, had no kids and no astounding career. But I could buy a house!
So, the suburbs. I grew up in the suburbs, not far from where I bought my house. My house. When I saw the house for the first time, my first response was, “It’s so cute. What a cute house!” But cute houses have lawns that need to be cut. And front porches that need to be replaced (unless you want to fall through them). And every utility bill? Yes, that’s up to me to pay as well. Shovelling in the winter: yes, must do that too. And I’ll tell you, that puts a damper on the drive-to-work sing-along. Also dampening, and not in the sexy good way, is traffic. Traffic. Other people get into a lot of car accidents. They don’t signal. They randomly drive slower than the speed limit…by a lot. And house centipedes. Let’s not forget those.
Other life events unfolded, like the end of my almost four-year relationship with that boyfriend. I started going to concerts again and went on road trips with girlfriends (of note: any trip I took had to be coordinated so my old dog was taken care of. During this time, my cat died, which just broke my heart).
I lost 25 pounds. I cooked even more than I had in Vancouver–and made better foods. I started hula-hooping in my backyard. I BBQ’d. But everyday I had to drive in traffic: horrendous. Summer ended and girlfriends stopped visiting me. Road trips stopped. Concerts dwindled. Bills piled up.
Owning a house. Not all it’s cracked up to be. Being a commuter: absolutely not for me. After almost three months of trying, I sold my house. Packing. Now that’s a way to get lost, especially when you are the type of person who keeps far too many items. But I did it. I downsized. I’m back in a city–Toronto–renting an apartment. I can walk to work. I’m just figuring out my routine. It’s just Maggie (my 15-and-a-half year old blind, deaf shih tzu) and me. Talk about feng shui-ing my life.
I have a lovely new boyfriend. He lives across the ocean. (We met at a concert and that’s a whole other topic.) I’m thinking about that move–across the ocean. I don’t know all of the details yet. But, what I do know is I’m a city girl. I know the specific city doesn’t matter. I know I need to walk places and be around people. I can still feel lonely in a giant apartment building, but it’s comforting to know there are people here breathing the same air as me, literally, who also feel lonely, lost, confused, inspired, encouraged, loved, happy… I know that if I see a bug, I can scream and someone will hear me! I know that “home” is not a geographical location. It’s where I can be comfortable. Be me. Be afraid of bugs, drink wine, paint doodles on a canvas, play my saxophone, write introspective pieces, be made love to, cook fanciful dishes or eat cheese & crackers. And where I can walk down the street and pass other strangers who aren’t sure where home is, but for now… it’s here in the city.
Trellawny has been teaching herself to cook for the past few years. She claims neither to be a chef nor a cook, just a girl who makes the most of making meals. You can check her out on YouTube, Instagram and www.distancedish.com.