Love Hate

I have a love/hate relationship with the city I live in.

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I live in Toronto. As most of you know, Toronto is Canada’s largest city. It’s the New York of Canada.

I grew up in a quiet, smaller city not far from Toronto. My parents still live there, and although I don’t visit often, they’re only a train ride away. I moved here a few years ago, in the hope of living an exciting city life. I was tired of running in the same circles of people. We were all average…shackled with expectations of boring small town life coupled with a modest home, and mortgage or two. I was secretly radical. I was uninspired by my surroundings. I was dying to claw my way out.

And I did.

I moved to Toronto, graduated university, and got a job to pay off my dues. Things aren’t great–my roommate drives me crazy, I’m still paying off debt, and I work at a place I hate. I’m still grateful. Toronto is a big city full of exciting opportunities. Sure, Bay Street is full of corporate drones. But you can avoid them, because like flatworms, if you stand still enough, they won’t notice you.

Although I’m grateful to be here and I’m working hard to stay here, I hate the city sometimes.

This is the biggest city in Canada. And it keeps on growing. People come here from all over the country (and world). Real estate is expensive. It’s crowded. The TTC (public transit) sucks. It’s slow, unreliable, and always crowded! Traffic is unbearable for motorists. I really hate that the city (probably because of people like me) keeps growing.

Shall I continue?

Since it’s a big city, it’s incredibly impersonal. It’s cold. Nobody cares about you, really. You could die in your apartment, and nobody will notice until your bill collectors come to pay you a visit. Sure, you have friends. But, these aren’t the same kinds of friendships that you had growing up. These are superficial adult friendships. Drinking buddies, mostly. True camaraderie is hard to come by, especially since it’s so easy to blend into the anonymity of these concrete walls.

It’s also hard to meet new people. I have hobbies. I’m interested in stuff. Sure, I can casually meet people at events. My point is that the city in general, is incredibly anti-social. Everyone’s in a rush. Work, work, work. Spend, spend, spend. There are probably bylaws against eye contact. Everyone seems uptight and stressed.

Other big cities (Montreal for instance) are different in that regard. I don’t know if it’s the Protestant vs. Catholic roots, but Montreal (and Montrealers) are much more relaxed. They’re friendlier and make no qualms about talking to strangers on the street or in other public places.

People (namely Americans) praise Canadians for their friendliness. I don’t think they were talking about Torontonians. Torontonians are friendly, but it’s a superficial kind of friendliness. Superficial in the sense that they slap on a big smiley face, chirp “How are ya!” and walk away before you answer. It doesn’t matter, though, because any answer other than “Good, thanks! And you?” is unacceptable.

I haven’t traveled much, so I don’t know what other big cities are like. Where do you live? What are people like?

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6 thoughts on “Love Hate

  1. I’m no expert. I have spent more time in Montreal than in Toronto but not enough in either to have much of an opinion. The one thing that I do know is that the kind of friendships you are talking about take a lot of time. Maybe that’s what’s required.
    –Oh, and avoid those superficial losers; they’ll never be worth knowing :>)

  2. I think big cities in general are like that. It’s hard to meet people after college – work can cause too many problems if you hang out, here aren’t really “clubs” as such anymore; so where do you go? I’ve always been lucky in that when I live in a city, I have a bunch of roommates that I got along swimmingly with and became super close with. So then the city seemed smaller and friendlier because I had those close friends that I needed.

    I hope you find some new connections that make the city more fun!

  3. I also have a love/hate relationship with your city. I’m from Buffalo so you know why I would say that. I get it, Dean Blundell, Buffalo is ghetto. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about Toronto growing. The Bonns, the Markhams, the Bramptons, make up more and more of the metro. It’s like a Houston or a Dallas, where it’s just an mass of characterless sprawl. That said, I’m definitely interested in exploring some of the old neighborhoods that I’ve never seen before. I thought the Forest Park (was that it?) area was really cool when I took the train up there.

    Sorry to dog on your city, I know you could bring a whole onslaught on Buffalo, most GTAers already do though.

    • Dean Blundell! I used to listen to his show all the time! I like the Houston/Dallas analogy about it being a ”mass of characterless sprawl.” I think the area you’re talking about is Forest Hill. It’s one of the nicest parts of Toronto. You should explore the strip of Yonge Street between St Clair and York Mills (Mostly around St. Clair, Eglinton, and between Lawrence & York Mills. It’s also pretty cool, and definitely not grimy like the downtown core. The only thing I know about Buffalo is that it’s good for shopping.

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