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Moving Away

I cried on a train today.

Travelling from Montreal to Toronto, I cried on and off for an hour as I tried desperately not to damage the book I was reading with my tears (I just bought it, for the love of all things holy. It’s in mint condition! Well, for now. You know, until I eat my dinner over it).

Nothing has really happened to me recently that I can blame this episode on. Sure, yesterday something in my lunch made me nauseous but other than that, things have been pretty okay. Apart from not yet fulfilling my dream of living with 5 dogs named “Who”, “Let”, “The”, “Dogs”, and “Out” respectively, it’s all good.

But here’s the thing. It’s been nearly two years in my new city, and despite a good job, wonderful friends, funny dating stories, and a cool roommate who’s usually able to withstand my sarcasm, I still miss home.

I’ve written about this before, and have undoubtedly discussed it at length with everyone I know. Moving away can be a wonderful thing, but it’s not easy. It’s not intuitive. Most of all, moving away is not what you think it will be. It’s hard as hell to turn your home into an occasional destination. It’s hard as hell to only see your family once a month, or every two months, because your life is now many miles away from where it began. Things you took for granted about your old city are now part of a story that breaks your heart every time you hear it.

Montreal is small. It’s a lovely little island filled with charming buildings and a whole lot of French. People are loved up. People are interested in the strangers they meet. People are happy. Things stand still more often than not, which is both lovely and frustrating all at once.

Toronto is big. It’s fast. It’s competitive and it costs too much. It’s very self-congratulatory. It’s having an identity crisis. It’s cold sometimes. It’s trying to court you, sure, but in a bit of a pushy, roundabout way. Moving to Toronto has been an endless adjustment period from relaxed to tense. That’s not to say Toronto isn’t an amazing city, because it is. I have had, and will have, many great experiences in Toronto. Toronto just isn’t Montreal. I’m still working on accepting this.

So, sitting here on this train after an amazing weekend with my family and friends, I cried. I thought about how much I miss seeing my parents as often as I like. I thought about how much I miss sparring lovingly with my siblings. I thought about how much I miss my best friend. I thought about the people I’ve known for years who are now quite a bit more than 20 minutes away from me at any given time. I thought about my dog, who can no longer stroll into my room unannounced. I thought about my beautiful city and the beautiful people in it, some who I know and some who I hope to someday know. I thought about other cities I’ve never lived in yet.

Moving to a new city feels a bit like twisting your head off and rewiring your brain, only to realize too late that you’ve never actually been trained to rewire a brain. You tried to adjust to a different reality by doing some work on the backend (and that was so valiant of you), but changing who you are is a lot tougher than you realized, and you may also be left with some residual damage from messing about with such a delicate part of yourself. We are all accustomed to the things, people, and routines we had as we were growing up, and that doesn’t just disappear when your context changes. Moving isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just not always as dreamy as it sounds.

That being said, I don’t regret moving to Toronto. It’s just an ongoing process. So when you move to a new city, remember this: You will be confused. You will be a bit lost. You will sleep a little less, especially in the beginning. You will be better some days, and worse other days. This may not be the last time you move and maybe the next move will be better but it will never be straightforward. The emotions associated with moving away don’t uncomplicate themselves after a set amount of time.

By tomorrow morning I’ll be just fine. But in this moment of uncomfortable clarity, I recognize that although change of this magnitude is thrilling, it’s also a sucker punch.

Try moving somewhere. There’s a lot about it you’ll love. But know that it may sometimes lead to weeping in public places. As long as you try to find the humour in that, you’ll be just fine.

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