My Toronto “Year” in Review

500 days ago, I boarded a Vancouver-Toronto flight without much meaning to return to Vancouver. I had had enough of the we(s)t coast city for a year or so and nothing (in the way of a job or a place to live) was keeping me there. The intervening time has been … interesting. At times I was content and happy and justified in my decision. At other times, I was lonely and confused and frustrated with life pulling me in different directions and the signs for which way to go were so unclear. Rarely was I truly devastated or elated.

The year kept me preoccupied and I leave with more positive on the board, I think. These are the good things that happened, that could only have happened by being in Toronto.

Saw my mum
I saw mum on eight occasions she visited Toronto and I would not have seen her by living in Vancouver: twice inFall 2011 (on account of her father’s illness and passing), right after New Year’s Day 2012, Ching Ming (to an occasion to honour grandfather), Canada Day, a September road trip to Montreal, my sister’s birthday, and after New Year’s Day 2013.
I saw my daddy just four times, half of which I may not have done if living in Vancouver: before New Year’s 2012, Mother’s Day, Labour Day and Christmas 2012.

Participated in local marathons and road races
In retrospect I wish a little I had done more but at the time I thought I had overcommitted as it was! I did Yonge Street 10K, a 10K race (if not the biggest one in town), a unique race on a YYZ runway (Pearson Runway Run 5K), the Quebec Staircase Challenge that I wanted to do for years, my first Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Montreal and a unique international half-marathon based in Detroit with a course winding into Windsor and back.

Did the school and studying thing, sorta
In sixteen months, I completed three courses. It should have been five, but ….

Worked for my firm’s largest Canadian office and went on several business trips
I had the honour of representing my group outside the office and while I try not to say it with any kind of snobbery, people would respond to my, “I’m from Toronto,” with, “Oh, the Toronto office.” The mother hub with really nice people such as myself eager to travel and lend a hand. I’m really happy that I got to work in “the Toronto office”  while many people only ever work in a small office–such things are important to me, apparently. The Toronto office isn’t in one of the nicest or newest office towers (looking at you, Brookfield and BAC) but the tower is part of an iconic cluster of buildings built by an architectural giant (Mies). Further, as a newer colleague pointed out, we worked on Bay Street. Not King Street, not Wellington Street … Bay Street.
Without doing much, someone high up found favour in me and nominated me to first go across the street to our new Toronto office. A few months later, I was asked again to go … to Saskatoon! In addition to the Toronto contingent, managers from the western offices were also in Saskatoon and I could not have asked for better exposure when so new to firm. I spent the month of June in Saskatoon and was back for one last stint in August. Only because of Toronto.
Finally, because I’m not a stick in the mud, I leveraged my year of experiences and was able to get a new job, transfer within the firm. (I won’t congratulate myself any further–the transition will be a challenge.)

Lived in the clouds in an ultra-modern condo
Literally. On a few occasions, heavy fog would descend on the city and from my 37th floor window, I didn’t have more than ten feet of visibility. But it was clear when I got down to street level. Having languished in suburb living for 22 years and a most modest second floor apartment for six years, I wanted to live in a sky-scraping apartment. The condo was completed just a few months before I moved in so I was the first occupant. “Did you make it so nice so I would want to live here?” NPY asked. “Well, is it working??” I responded. It was perfect in that my walk to work was 800m and eight minutes were it not for !@#$ human and construction traffic. Other major headaches included the most ineffective building management, brokedown elevators, schizophrenic visitor parking rules, proximity to the garbage disposal (the worst on the weekend), annoying neighbours although I had considerable privacy given my unit’s location and my view included an apartment with most douchy guys ever.

Traveled by airplane
Does being away mean that NPY and I can’t travel? Heck no! The travel planner in me relishes the challenge (but not really). I was adamant about continuing our Annual Trip although they were toned down both times and only to the States. I managed to get off the continent but not out of Canada/US. In Fall 2011, we went to New York and a year later, we went to Hawaii. I spent my first Christmas away from home and with NPY in Vancouver and was glad for the reason to go back in August for a wedding. Lil Sis and I flew to Quebec City because it’s too darn far to drive and it was an eating and active weekend. And–why not?–I met up with the gang in Las Vegas for Black Friday shopping. Because I’m flexible like that.

Traveled by car
To “make up” for not doing a Big Trip with Lil Sis this year, we went on some road trips. A couple were early on before I found a job and my time in Toronto was uncertain. We went to Niagara-on-the-Lake which I can now compare and contrast with the Okanagan region. And because it was the closest significant American city, we went to Detroit once in fall 2011. That first trip to Detroit alerted me to the Detroit marathon so one year later, we were back in Detroit. We went to Buffalo to see what the deal is about for Torontonians who go cross-border shopping and I can compare and contrast with going to Bellingham for Vancouverites. Just because I could, my August trip to Vancouver included a road trip to the Okanagan with our friends. I drove us (Lil Sis and mum) the six hours to Montreal and got a speeding ticket so I’m off road trips where I drive for a while.

According to TripIt, I spent 71 days in 2012 traveling and away from Toronto. 19 days in 2011 for a total of just 410 days in Toronto.

Checked off those Toronto Things To Do
I wasn’t overly active in “being a tourist in my own town” but there were a few things I had to check out that a four-day trip to Toronto (which is de rigeur) at set times of the year (e.g., Easter) don’t allow. I went back to CNE for the first time in over a decade (compare and contrast with PNE), watched a few TIFF films and dragged Lil Sis to Nuit Blanche. All alone, I wandered around the Distillery District to take in the Christmas Market and would return to the area several more times as a place where I found I like to bring visitors. Two things I’ve wanted to do that have eluded me in Vancouver was attending WordCamp and volunteering at an Asian film festival (Reel Asian Film Festival). Done and done. Finally, alumni events for my east coast university (almost) never happen in Vancouver so although we are so far out of uni right now, I went to a couple during the year.

Stayed active
Aside from getting some of my rent’s worth by using the big condo gym (not untouched by the buffoon mismanagement), I tried to stay active and social couponing and a splendid wellness program at work helped. I got to take ballet at a National Ballet of Canada studio and try out hot yoga (Sweat Yoga at Goodlife) and aerial yoga. The bff and I went on a few marathon aerobics session (like three in a row) at Goodlife before life got in the way. I only wish I had been able to do the CN Tower Climb for which my company has a team but I was out of town that weekend.

Dined around town
Pretty much as soon as I arrived in Toronto, I decided that I wasn’t there for the food. Oh, but the Toronto foodies would heartily disagree and I sound so Vancouver! Well, not that I was going to dine out solo but also my immediate neighbourhood was a black hole devoid of good food. I got to know my lovely Longo’s at Maple Leaf Square very well and didn’t visit St. Lawrence Market (farther) often enough. When mum visited, I finally got to try out some places on my list like a halal restaurant and generally go on dine-out benders. Lil Sis kept it modest (cheap) and checked out the best Korean restaurants in town and visited the new noodle shops as the ramen scene finally hits Toronto. NPY introduced me to an organizer of a foodie meet-up group and that gave me automatic dining companions and enabled me to go to places you really can’t go alone, like a Brazilian steakhouse and a head-to-toe restaurant.

While if I had come to Toronto eight or 10 years ago, my priorities would have been to work, live well and have fun, at this age and being that much more entrenched in my loner/hermit habits, I really just wanted to focus on work. My best friend lived 20 minutes away and worked across the street which meant we met up for coffee break sometimes, got together infrequently and text messages were local and just a bit more frequent as well. That was nice and it is useless to yearn for more. My only source for new friends was work and I fancy I was insufferably aloof at first to aloof through spring and summer to finally relaxed when my next steps were certain. The last two months were most fun with added social activities and mutual get-to-know you. I always value the diverse and fascinating opinions, knowledge and experiences I gain from friends and hope I do return in kind.

For NPY and our relationship, it was a “lost year” in some ways. In the darkest moments, I felt we were lost. But it was a good year, a big year for the likes of me. A year I needed after all that grooming in my formative years to live in Toronto (and the unspectacular first attempt during uni years). And then I felt like I was reaching a plateau–the cycle was back to the beginning and surely wasn’t doing to be as auspicious as the first time–and it was time to leave. It was time to return to Vancouver and settle down. My landlord was selling the condo as my one-year lease was coming to an end.

And, what floors me at the end, is how I made it all happen.

On this day..