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On Turning Life Upside Down

It has now been just over a year since my husband and I made the decision to uproot our little family and move out of the big city and into a smaller one. A lot has happened in that year: Mark’s partnership with his brother; Eden’s birth; my new job. Big, stressful things. Sometimes, it feels a little bit like we’re still uprooted.

We recently welcomed friends from our old life into our new home. They miss us. I miss them. And yet, it threw me off just a little bit when they asked, “Do you want to come back? Or are you here forever?”

The question was phrased differently than I’ve heard it before. “Do you want to come back?” is not the same question as, “Do you like it here?” It’s not the same as “Are you happy here?” It’s not the same as, “Do you miss Toronto?” It’s just not the same. I was shocked to realize that my gut reaction was a resounding, “Yes!” Looking at my friend, a friend I hadn’t seen except through the glossy screens of social media for nearly six months, for the first time, I thought, “Yes, I want to come back!”

Except, I don’t. Not really. I do like it here. I am happy here. I really have no desire to leave this little city we have decided to call home.

But, at the same time, I do miss Toronto.

I miss the hum that I didn’t notice was there until we moved here. I miss the proximity, everyone going through life side by side. I miss the parks, filled to the brim with children and their caregivers, the streets vibrant with foot traffic at all hours of the day, the subways rumbling beneath our feet. I miss street after street of houses, none the same, each filled with their own small drama. I miss the people, the faces that didn’t look anything like my own, the chatter of language I didn’t understand, the comfortable anonymity of crowds.

Isabel’s first word was “bus”. Eden? I don’t even know when her first ride will be.

Toronto was so good to us. We built a life there, content in the little world we created for our family. We had a church. We had a neighbourhood. We had friends. It took six years to build, and yes, some days, I crave stepping back into it. Rebuilding in a new place is hard.

And yet… Do I really want to go back?

No.

No. No. No.

I won’t say never, because I can’t say where life is going to take us. But this year has been so good to us, that even on the bad days, I know this place is home. Here, there is quiet – most of the time. (We do have a few unruly neighbours, but they tend to quiet down before 11pm rolls around.) Occasionally, late at night, I can hear the train rumbling through town down by the bay, and I think of standing by the park fence with Isabel in awe, watching the very same train pass in the middle of the day. Downtown is not nearly so vibrant, but it is close, and it is growing, sprouting friendly coffee shops, farmers markets, and some of the best thrift and vintage stores I’ve ever seen. The library is a 5 minute walk, and my doctor’s office right next to it. There may not be as many parks as what I was used to, but the ones we have are good, well-built and fun for my high energy three year old. I don’t get to make use of them much anymore, now that I’m working, but we’ve got drop-in centres and kids programs galore.

And, most importantly, perhaps, we have space.

This perk goes beyond our house, though I won’t lie – this massive Victorian duplex has gone a long way to help make me feel at home. We have spare rooms, and rooms we can use just for storage, and maybe we don’t need all this space, but I love it nonetheless.

Sure, we have a spacious house, but our world, in general, feels more spacious. Here, the country is a mere 5 minute drive. It’s easy to find miles of fields, or a place to hike through the bush. Back roads bring you through beautiful countrysides, and into tiny towns of people who meet your eyes as you pass. When the road ends, you find water and beach and nature. When we first moved to Toronto, losing this sense of connection to a country landscape was the hardest adjustment I went through. Now that I have it back, I never want to lose it again.

Toronto holds friendships, connections that can never be replaced. Here, we are building new ones. It will take us time – that’s just our personalities – but one day, I know my gut reaction to Toronto will be merely nostalgia and love for a city I used to call my own.

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