Toronto is a place I hate, and also one I love. Mostly love, because its malleable nature makes me believe that there’s more room for love to grow than for hate to spread. This trait is summed up pretty well in a book I read recently – uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto:
“The biggest impediment to transforming a city, though, is not a physical limitation, it’s the inertia that comes from historical legacy and a mentality of resignation… Torontonians live in a city where the beginning is forgotten and the end is unknown.”
Having been here long enough to become acclimatized to both its faults and perks, I’d say Toronto’s real appeal is the way it makes me feel like I can ~do anything~ and ~be anyone~. The culture of the city is uninhibited by history, or clear definitions of what it should be—instead we are given the opportunity to be proactive and empowered, creating the image of what it is ourselves.
The Toronto that I desire for the future is full of love and good vibes. It’s one where people don’t complain about the incessant need to work to pay off bills for the rest of their lives; the derisive spirit that permeates its social spaces; or wanting to hibernate in bed for the eight months of the year it’s cold out. It’s true, we as Torontonians already have a lot to boast about, but there is always room for improvement. I’ve compiled an illustrated (as always) list of tactics that I believe will not only ease you away from the all-too-common saying “f*ck Toronto fam”, but contribute to its betterment in the eyes of those around you too.
One day I was heading down into a subway station and a man going in the opposite direction met my eyes with a genuine and kind-spirited smile. My natural reaction was to dart my gaze away and stare awkwardly at the ground. A few seconds later, I broke a delayed smile back, only to wonder whether he had caught this in our brief passing. “Wow Bianca did you just look like a total bitch?” I asked, feeling guilty all over again about the weird interaction and questioning my own shameful public transportation habits. Moral of the story: happiness starts with a Smile™.
At this point in my life, I’ve been halfway across the world and bore witness to a number of various after-hour dance “techniques“—and the ones I’ve seen the girls and guys pull off here in Toronto are still unparalleled. People here are cool, loose, and fluid, with the Caribbean influence in the city having its own undeniable contribution to our catalogue of moves. So why is it that Torontonians still choose to pass up on losing their air of coolness for a little boogie? (I’m looking at the ‘mandem’ posted up in the corner of the room)
Yes: Canada is cold, get over it.
One thing that I hear being championed again and again about Toronto is its true sense of diversity—and with all the dining options that diversity brings with it, why not make it a point to try something new every time? Ditch the 3am McDonalds and the last-resort poutinery, and soak up all the goodness Toronto has to offer: Caribbean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Greek, Italian, Afghan, Ethiopian; the list goes on. A friend once told me that trying new things makes life feel longer. I’m all for it.
It’s easy to forget how much you can brighten up your life by doing something as simple as coming out to a local gallery event. These exhibition openings, pop-up shops, and other community events are not only accessible, but are ethical and positive ways to spend your time and support the creatives in your midst. And (this isn’t a plug!!!!!) luckily for you, there’s one place in the city I know that never fails to bring good vibes… :~)
These are just a few of the things that help me combat my Torontonian woes, and I look forward to seeing them implemented in the coming months around the city. Sometimes it’s hard for even me to follow my own advice, but just remember that not hating your city starts with Y~O~U~!
Words and illustrations by Bianca Weeko Martin.