Oh Toronto, I Forget How Much I Love You

By Jemma Dooreleyers

When I was little, my family and I went to Toronto all the time. We had a membership to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario Science Centre and the Toronto Zoo. We often saw plays and musicals ballets.

We were there almost every weekend. To me, the city was associated with discovery and learning. It’s where my world was expanded beyond the quiet streets of Cobourg, Ont., a town with a population of 1,500.

When I turned 10, my brother, who was 11 at the time, started studying at Canada’s National Ballet School. He moved to Toronto in early September and his residence was located in the city’s Gay Village at Church and Wellesley. Suddenly the city became associated with rainbows - all colours and love.

My stepmom shopped for fabric on Queen Street West. She took us to Chinatown and Little India and introduced me to foods I had never experienced before. There was a culture and style that was so tangible I couldn’t help but want to stick my hands in it.

Image credit: The City of Toronto via Flickr

When I was a preteen, I went to concerts in the city with my older sister and her friends. My dad would drop us off in front of the venue six hours in advance because we wanted to get a good spot. The city became a place of uncontrollable excitement and new-found freedom. Toronto was a place where I found people with the same interests as me.

When I was 13 or so, I promised myself that one day I would not be a stranger in the city’s streets. I would know what restaurants and bars were good without having to look them up and know how to get to them from anywhere in the city. I would be friends with the people I saw on Queen Street West and maybe even dress like the artsy people I saw there.

I moved to Toronto last August, one month before I turned 18. While there, I expereinced the hottest September of my life. The temperatures rose well above 30 degrees and the humidex, well above 50 per cent. Even sitting in the shade was enough to make you drowsy and sticky with sweat. You could see the heat radiating off of the sidewalks in waves and you could tell that everyone in the city had the same pressure headache as you.

Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion, like the people of Toronto were trying to run under water. Everything was swollen and sticky and sunburnt. That was my first time hating this city.  I longed for a cold breeze, some fresh air, or rain. Anything would be better than this oppressive heat.

But that only lasted a couple of weeks. It turned into October and my boyfriend moved into an apartment and with him came the breeze. We were swept up into a whirlwind of rosy cheeks and chilly fingers. We rode the subway and fell in love with our life that we were building for ourselves.

Then the winter came. I spent all of my time either inside my dingy dorm room or underground in the subway. I never saw the sunlight and the breeze turned into wind that tore up the streets and whistled through your bones.

My sleep got worse as did my grades and my mood. Everyone around me seemed to be feeling the same way. We all huddled around in our scarves and tried to find somewhere warm. The city became a place of unrelenting stress and sleepless nights -- of adult responsibilities and feelings that my friends and I weren’t quite ready for.

This is when I began resenting the city.

In the winter, everyone is always grumpy or in a rush or both. The streets become far too loud, with the constant symphony of sirens and shouts. It is always such a struggle to get anywhere. The sidewalks are slippery, it hurts to go outside and transit is always delayed and backed up.

I see depressing things every day. Everyday feels like a battle that the city is winning.

I’m trying to remember why I loved this city in the first place.

I’m trying to see other parts of the city more. I’m cooking warm food for myself. I’m reading books and having coffee with my friends. I’ve started going to the museums again. I’m asking others why they love this city so I can picture it in my mind as well.

Oh, Toronto. I love you. I do, I just have to remember why.