Crazy Eight, living in Toronto is like canoeing down a river

Eight years ago, I moved to Toronto because I wanted a change. I wanted to pursue something different, almost just to prove that I could do it.

That’s not true. I thought she’d take me back and we’d live happily ever after.

That didn’t happen.

That first year in Toronto was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever had to go through. I didn’t have anywhere to go and no money to get me there. Whatever money I did have, I wasted. I was up late, out at night, and sleeping through the day. When I got up the motivation, I’d search for work. Here and there, I found a few jobs to keep me busy. I even unknowingly applied for welfare. Went to the interview and everything.

I didn’t use the year to do anything that might have been beneficial to me. I could have done something but I didn’t. I didn’t take control of my situation and make something of it.

Fast forward through the last eight years, and I got a second degree, found myself in a career, am engaged to be married, and am stuck at home with nowhere to go but enough in the bank to pay for more than just my share of the rent. Even though I can’t go anywhere, I have something to do. My job does more than just keep me busy; I’m quite passionate about it. I still stay up late and sleep for as much of the day as I can, but the rest of my time is spent chipping away on projects and planning new ones.

I would never even begin to suggest that Toronto is a friendly and welcoming city. I think I once wrote about how isolating it can be.

When I look back, I can’t believe how much I used to blog. I was pumping out content on the regular. Now, I don’t.

I had to write to help me make sense of what was going on in my life. I had to find a space for my thoughts because they were weighing so heavy on my mind that I couldn’t save my ship from sinking without bailing them out. Just like with water, I couldn’t separate the pile, all of my thoughts blended, swirled around, and spread out into any available space. Writing was my way of throwing whatever I could back into the ocean, where it would become one with all of the other thoughts and disperse, stretching out beyond the horizon.

Oddly enough, my thoughts aren’t as free anymore. These days, I can’t bail them out and hope that the holes in my boat have been plugged sufficiently enough to let me stay afloat. No, these days, I have to act. I have things to do and responsibilities. There are people out there who depend on me doing what I say I’m going to do. Trivial as it all might be, whatever I do now is laden with value. These days, I have to use whatever strength I have to row myself along.

I don’t know enough about boats and boating to continue with this analogy. All I’ve got left is portaging. And, the j-stroke.

The point that I’m trying to make is that my life has changed in the last eight years. And, perhaps, I have, too. I’ve grown older, of course. How I’ve changed and grown, I don’t know. The person I was when I arrived here didn’t have the same experiences to base his decisions on so I don’t know if he would be doing the same things as I, the one with those experiences, am doing now.

Maybe growth is just a collection of experiences, like a beach is just a collection of sand.

Did you know that white-sand is parrotfish poop? Yeah, in some cases, growth is just a collection of shit.

In so many ways, Toronto is really good at reminding you of this fact. It’s got a beak, just like the parrotfish, strong enough to break up coral into small enough pieces that it can be ingested. You then absorb whatever you can and then let the rest pass through you.

Everybody else is doing this, too. They, just like you, are leaving a trail of indigestible material behind, which catches a wave and goes in to shore. Then, on a nice summer’s day, somebody will throw a blanket into the air to let it out and land gently on top of it all.

Incidentally, calcium carbonate is the main material in coral reef. It is responsible for the development of healthy bones and muscles in the human body, among other benefits.

Living in Toronto is not a day at the beach or a picnic in the park. It’s trying and tiring. To survive here, you need grit, the teeth-clenching, small-particle kind (think parrotfish). There are so many opportunities available to you but there are even more people wanting to take advantage of them. Toronto is a perfect example of what happens when the demand for social well-being outweighs supply.

Eight years ago, I arrived here, in Toronto. Naive, lonely, and broke. Because of the support of my family, I was able to spend that first year failing. I haven’t succeeded yet, and I never will. There is more value in the pursuit of your goals than in the achievement of them.

What I have been able to do is learn how to portage around the weirs that alter the flow of the river that I’m floating down. I’m no expert. I don’t do it well. But, I’m so much better at getting to calmer waters.

COVID-19 has swooped us all up into an eddy (a third analogy). We’re here, just waiting, tucked safely into the still waters of a river. This time, with nowhere to go, I’ve been practicing my j-stroke to ensure that I know how to keep my boat true.

With no map, I’m just a cartographer looking for the next white-sand beach to lay my head down on when I need a nap.

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