After five years of living here, I have not fallen out of love with my city. Toronto is a place I dreamed about living in for years – as a bored, depressed kid in a small town, as an adult struggling to make it in slightly bigger towns. And then I got to live here because I found work here, and have never wanted to leave since. It’s an amazing place to grow and discover more about yourself.
The first sign of spring in Toronto is the moment the flower markets, found on every corner here, begin to display tulips. They’re sad things. They’re small and cold and half-frozen in the bitter wind that sweeps down the main streets. As I was saying on Twitter, this happens around the end of February. The owners of the stores have an uncanny way of knowing just when everyone is so sick of the weather they want to cry. And then the tiny little buds start peeping from behind hastily-built shelters over the doors, or wave cheerfully at you from the edges of the sidewalk. And you know – it’s going to be spring, soon. You buy the half-frozen paper-wrapped bundle of tulips for an insanely high price and take them home and arrange them. They might not last long, but they bloom and grow and cheer up the room for at least a week.
Because we didn’t have a winter last year, really (it got damp and cold but rarely snowed), we Torontonians were not used to the winter this year, which returned to normal conditions. I’ve spent the last four months pretty much frozen to the bone. No matter what clothing I put on, no matter how I steeled myself to suck it up, I’m Canadian for God’s sake and I was born up in a place where they have winter sometimes six months of the year, no matter how many gallons of burning hot tea I drank (a ton), I could not warm up. And that’s when I realized that winter just isn’t a season, it’s really a state of mind. If you can’t push past it, you’re going to freeze to death.
So I’m watching the wind change. I stand at the bus stop every morning, freezing in the bitter wind, and remember that nothing lasts forever. It will soon be so hot I can’t stand it. And yet there’s a beauty in that, too.
I’ve been so lucky over the past month – my luck just suddenly changed. And it wasn’t anything I specifically did, it’s that you have to know pain in order to know joy. And even though it sucks to be depressed and jobless and struggling, I had moments of joy that reminded me it was worth it.
I was over at Diva and Footballer’s on Friday. I was tired from my new job and pushing myself to have as much energy as I could for them. But the minute I spotted Footballer’s beautiful smile of recognition in the window, my exhaustion disappeared and I spent the night with both twins glued to me, blowing kisses, giving kisses, clinging to my neck and hair and arms. It reminded me I’ve never been so in despair that a hug from a child can’t completely turn my day around.
What I’m saying, a bit disjointedly, is that you can get bogged down by the situation you’re in. You can be freezing for four months and never be warm. But it ends, I guess. It doesn’t mean it will never come back – these things are cyclic. But I’m storing up the sunshine and joy and hard work for the next time it happens to me. My stores from before nearly ran out, but they got me through a long, dark time. I had close friends that did that, too. That’s the other thing – you can weather any snowstorm as long as you have a friend that you can laugh so hard your stomach hurts with.
I’m able to breathe again. I’m able to walk in light that lasts til 8 o’clock and remember that this city I chose to live in, chose me, too. I belong here.
And today, I’m off to buy tulips that are finally able to grow in the sudden warmth from the wind.
Awake, my soul.