Suburbia versus downtown, plus round one of Jenna’s dance portraits!

Let me start with a variation of a line from an old Journey song: I’m a small-town girl.

I don’t really have a set “hometown” because I moved a lot as a child, but it was always within Northeastern Ontario in small towns and cities. I lived in Kapuskasing, ON (pop. 8,000) until the year 2000. We then moved two hours south to Timmins (pop. 45,000 — seemed huge coming from Kapuskasing!) until the fall of 2005 when we moved to North Bay (pop. 54,000 — big league stuff). I graduated high school in the summer of 2008 and only a few days later we moved to Bowmanville, a town of about 50,000 at the Easternmost point of the Greater Toronto Area. I lived in Bowmanville for only about a summer before I went off to school in Waterloo, a way larger city than I was used to (combined with its adjacent proximity to Kitchener). I never liked to imagine ending up in Toronto, but I knew when I wanted to become a journalist that it was an inevitability (I was dating a GTA boy at the time, so moving to Calgary, Montreal or Vancouver was out of the question).

My first year of working in Toronto, I commuted in from Bowmanville. The commute itself wasn’t bad (I have friends who live downtown who had longer commutes on the TTC to our office). But I did feel limited with social opportunities because I always had to drive nearly an hour to get home on the 401 at the end of the night. Many of my friends from Timmins live in Toronto now, and I missed out on a lot of parties and bar nights because I simply had too far to drive.

The next year, I moved into a small place situated perfectly between Church and Wellesley and Cabbagetown. I moved in with a stranger from a Kijiji ad, so I don’t think I have to tell you that the living arrangement itself was quite tumultuous. I found myself stressed out whenever I was home because of how bad things were. But I did love the location. I loved being able to longboard around the downtown sidewalks and walk to do my groceries (I have a car, but I hate having to use it for every little thing). I loved being surrounded by people but never being overwhelmed by them.

But the place was expensive — $1780 for a small two-bedroom, plus very expensive Hydro, plus $80/month to park my car outside (and have to shovel it myself — and if you know what kind of winter Toronto had last year, you’ll know how much work that was). And when my roommate decided to take a trip abroad for more than a month and not pay rent for the time she was gone, I took the eviction notice as a sign that Downtown wasn’t for me.

I moved back in with my parents, tail between my legs. I had already arranged to live with my now-ex’s brother and we knew we were going to end up in Scarborough, since he goes to UTSC. So I decided to wait it out until September.

The place I have, location aside, is utterly perfect. $1130 all in for a huge two-bedroom place, including one underground parking space. Our apartment has high ceilings and nice, big bedrooms, and a kitchen that can hold all my gadgets and more. I found myself in the first few weeks asking, “Why don’t more young people live out here?”

The fact is, I haven’t gotten the feel like I live in a “neighbourhood” yet, even after two and a half months. And when I make my plans for the weekends, I still have to factor in so much travel time. Call me shallow, but I find myself craving those obnoxious 20something things, like a coffee shop (besides Tim Hortons or Starbucks) where the guy knows my order or a library branch I can curl up with and do my work at. I love being able to walk around and window shop and become inspired by the world around me.

But I’ve also found that there are things people take for granted about the suburbs. I can happily walk to Bluffer’s Park or Guildwood Park in no time at all and be surrounded by stunning, natural views that make me feel wonderfully removed from this city and its starless, smoggy sky. Last week I found a mechanic two doors down from my apartment who did amazing work on my car for way cheaper than I anticipated. Sometimes for fun I’ll look up the prices of apartments available in the downtown core and I feel very, very lucky that I’m saving all kinds of money.

But other times I think I’m being way too stingy with my money (I was making less money last year and I managed to live downtown). And that I should try living in the thick of things now, before I’m older and too set in my ways to try something new.

Due to personal complications (see: “living with my now-ex’s brother”) I doubt I will be staying in this place past our lease. It will be easier for him to stay, but I don’t know if I can convince someone else to move out there with me. Next September may be the perfect opportunity to find someplace new.

I still think I’d like to stay East of the DVP. I’ve always loved the Danforth, Leslieville, the Beaches, even old East York. If I do end up on the other side of the Parking Lot, I think I’ll narrow my search to North of College and South of Lawrence. I don’t think I want to go to the Southernmost depths of Downtown — I’d probably pay what I currently pay in rent just to park my car.

As promised, I have the first round of Jenna’s action shots that she took for her school assignment and will be added to my portfolio. We had tons of fun shooting in Liberty Village (even though it was freezing and drizzling) and my friend and climbing partner Alex was an incredible partner! I’m really proud of him and how he stepped up, really amazed at Jenna’s skills and, dare I say it, proud of myself for how amazing I looked!

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About breerodymantha

Proud Canadian. Long arms. Tiny head. Big dreams. CBC. Longboards. Bicycles. Upper Jarvis. Ballet. Acrobatics. Top-roping. Stemming. Smearing. Lip balm. Early mornings. Double-layered socks. Tea time.
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