I went home for a month over Christmas.
In that time I got too comfortable being home and not being in classes; too comfortable being close to the friends I’ve known and cared for for years; too comfortable with having a car and public transportation that can take me pretty much anywhere in the city, neighbouring cities, and the Southern part of the province. I got too comfortable with my parents taking care of me; too comfortable with all the animals that fill my house (and make it next to impossible for me to breathe).
I got too comfortable with the easy and comfortable. With what I have known my whole life.
When I first moved across the country it was because I wanted to challenge myself, take risks, and because I was raised on the motto “go big or go home.” I took a huge leap and it was hard, but (I think) it (eventually) got easier.
Then I went home, and came back and shit hit the fan.
I was not adjusting very well to being back. Today is actually the first day in a week that I haven’t sobbed while eating breakfast.
I was uncomfortable in my apartment, and constantly felt anxious. This is not great when you’re a home body and seek comfort from home. I was (and still am) incredibly homesick.
I had spent all of December bashing this very small city. I was coming down hard on things that could improve (seriously I just want to be able to actually go more than a few blocks on public transportation), and pointing out all the differences. I’m from a fairly big and developing city a few hours outside of Toronto. I travel to Toronto and cities in the States frequently. I am used to a gogogo and convenient lifestyle. The island that I live on now forces me to slow down. And when I slow down, my brain kicks into overdrive and I hate it. That’s not the point of this post though. I want to tell you about my favourite part of this place – something I only truly realized after leaving and coming back.
The main reason I love the city I’m living in now (and I really do love it about 85% of the time) is because of how safe I feel.
Back home, I hate walking anywhere. I hate walking in my city, in the Universities’ city, and I loathe walking around in Toronto. I refuse to walk by myself in any of these places. I hated walking to my night classes on campus. I hated walking with earbuds in because I didn’t trust my surroundings. I learned to constantly check my surroundings when young women were being pulled of the side of the street a few years ago. I learned to live with the anxiety of walking around these places. I learned to walk with my hands clutching my keys. I learned to get off the bus and call someone for a ride when this really creepy dude who would never leave me alone got on. I took kickboxing classes for a year partly because I wanted to be able to defend myself.
Here, I walk around with complete ease. I have to walk pretty much everywhere and I always go alone. I’m still cautious (can’t take the paranoid city girl out of me), but I’ve learned to smile at strangers or listen to music. I can walk to all my night classes without wanting to scream at the slightest noise. I walk downtown and don’t glare at people who pass me. I walk to the grocery store and cut through an alley to get to the next plaza over. I come back to my apartment and don’t dread the fact that I’m now living without a 100lb. guard dog or alarm system. I don’t worry nearly as much about dying every time I leave my house (a fear I’ve had for well over a decade). Honestly, it’s nice to have one less thing to be anxious about.
I feel unbelievably safe here, and for that I am so grateful to call this place home.