March 4th, 2012

Ten in Toronto

When I moved to Toronto, on March 4, 2002, I had two friends, two jobs, no money, and no interest in the city, plus I was scared to ride the subway. How far I have come!

A friend of mine recently said it is good that I don’t engage in too much “counter-factual thinking,” which turns out to be psychology-speak for regret. It’s true–I’m not big on regrets, but only because I have a shockingly poor imagination when it comes to my own life. I’m totally incapable of imagining the future–the fact that the sun comes up again and again, my friends still like me, and cake is still delicious are all always pleasant surprises for me. And I can’t retroactively counter-factually imagine, either–I can only think my life had to work out the way it has so far–no alternative path was possible. And thank goodness.

I know the things that have happened to me are the things that happen to most people in most places in their twenties and thirties, but they happened to me in Toronto–and I can’t counter-factually imagine otherwise.

In the past ten years I have had 3 addresses, 3 phone numbers, 9 jobs, and 0 cars. I have had mononucleosis, food poisoning, cockroaches, a car accident, and jaw surgery. I have been whistled at, shoved, honked at, offered a bazillion rides home, hit by a car, and asked if I was in a movie. I went through a period where my nose bled everytime I went out in the cold. One time, I was standing on St. George street, bleeding, and someone came up and said she’d give me $100 if I’d agree to be an extra on a tv show. I said yes, and she never noticed the blood.

I have gone from being virtually friendless to regularly running into people I know on the street. Once I was walking on Bloor and I heard someone call my name, but I couldn’t find the source. I asked on Facebook, and it turned out to be a friend riding by on a bike. I have run into friends while walking with other mutual friends we didn’t know were mutual. Certain friends, I run into over and over because we use the same grocery store.

I have gone from terror of the subway to visiting almost every subway station, even Glencairn and Bessarion, where no one goes. I remember when busses all had stairs and the seats had a different configuration. I remember when the bus driver had to yell out the names of the stops. Once, a bus driver asked me out (I was flattered but not interested.) I like busses better than streetcars, and the 54 is my favourite, followed by the 7. I have a soft spot for the 51, and my least favourite is the 122.

I have learned to describe a location by nearest major intersection, hug in greeting even people I don’t know well, and tolerate germophobia–my three least favourite Toronto traits. I have learned to be very quietly friendly to strangers, my most favourite Toronto trait. More than once, I have been walking down the street in the rain and the stranger walking beside me has deliberately covered me with his/her umbrella for as long as we walked together. I have become friendly with my supermarket checkers, the lady at the dollar store, and the guy at Pitaland (who is doing a great job).

I survived SARS, Avian Flu, Swine Flu, the blackout, and I’ll survive Rob Ford, too. I know where to walk alone at night and where not to. I can take the bus anywhere, and I can probably give you directions. I know when the library is open, and some great public pools. I know how to get my passport, driver’s license, and health card renewed. I know where to get the best Chinese pastries.

I have seen my friends fall in love and split up, have babies and buy properties, be happy and be miserable, get sick and get better (touch wood). I have told someone I love that someone he loved was dead. I have taught a student who carried a knife. I have counselled the suicidal. I have worried about my own mental health.

I have been on dates where I received a real estate sales pitch, and ones where I had absolutely nothing to say. I have been dumped by email, made to walk home alone in the rain, and told there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my body. I have been in love.

I had two books published, have read to audiences dozens of times, and even received applause. I’ve been in newspapers and magazines and on the radio, and if you count the extra gig, on tv too. I did a stage monologue and was never in a movie, but I had a small part in making one, which I figure counts. I have done more than I ever dreamed possible.

I got proposed to in the Beaches–the Beach? I have walked from midtown to downtown, and from the Danforth to High Park. I’ve lived in Leaside and the Annex and St. James Town. I have worked in Scarborough and North York, spent lots of time in Etobicoke and East York, and I think people who think Toronto is Dufferin to Yonge and Bloor to the lake are pathetic. I dare you to find a bus I won’t take.

I am in a book club, a writing group, a women’s salon, and have a range of unaffiliated friends. I have learned to talk to people at parties…mainly. I have a job, an apartment, a small but real reputation as a writer, a cat, and, very soon, a husband. I know Toronto didn’t give me these things, but it did help me get them, and I am so grateful.

5 Responses to “Ten in Toronto”

  • julia says:

    Lovely post, Rebecca! So glad you ended up in Toronto and that I got to meet you:) Sorry about the nosebleeds, but how great about being an extra! I was once an extra on a short-lived show called My Secret Identity (I was super excited because the guy on the show had been in Stand by me and knew… gasp… River Phoenix!). Alas, the whole thing was rather uneventful (but the food was great!)


  • Rebecca says:

    OMG, I *loved* that show. My brother loved it even more. I just told Mark and HE loved it too. Were you a kid in Andrew’s class? (I had to look up the name, I remembered it as Arthur). You don’t have any clips where we can see you, do you?

    I can still sing a few notes of the theme song!!!!


  • Laura says:

    Happy anniversary, Rebecca! Toronto is lucky to have you.


  • Sandra says:

    I just moved back to Vancouver after 10 years in Toronto – you are making me even MORE homesick for the big smoke!

    Wonderful, wonderful post describing all that is yummy and frustrating and inspiring about Toronto. And for those who hate Toronto – you REALLY hafta live there for a while and experience how fab it is…


  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks so much, Laura and Sandra. And Sandra, you are right–Toronto takes a while to work on you! I don’t even remember when I started loving it.


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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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