I was about fifteen when I first decided I wanted to live in Toronto.
The decision wasn’t based on very much – mostly just the fact that it was the largest city in Canada and my mom is from there – but it was a pretty serious thing in my mind. I was going to go as soon as I graduated, and when I got there I would fall in with this fantastic crowd of musicians and artists and we’d all live in cute apartments and work sweet jobs and I’d be beautiful and fun and universally liked.
Things did not exactly go according to plan.
I was only seventeen when I finished high school, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I took some time to work and think about it, and eventually I decided that I’d go to university. I was really excited about it by the time my gap year was up.
I didn’t apply to any schools in Toronto.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go – I did. I wanted it more than anything.
I was just scared.
I decided to stay on the West Coast; I applied to UBC in Vancouver and UVic in Victoria, and I was in complete shock when I got an acceptance letter from UBC; was I actually smart enough for that? Was I capable of moving to a big city that I didn’t really know? Basically, what I was asking was…. was I good enough? And obviously I decided….no.
I guess I thought UVic would be easier (it is easier). I knew people here (I don’t know why that was a selling point when I had spent the last several years trying desperately to escape everyone I’d ever known), I knew my way around the city. My family would be close, the ocean would be close, it would be……..easy.
I just wanted it to be easy.
It turns out easy sucks.
Not always. Sometimes it’s sweet – like when it’s a midterm, or trying to hail a cab on friday night. But I think when you’re trying to have a big, juicy, creative life like the one I have always dreamed of…. it’s not supposed to be easy.
My mom always tells me you can’t have something extraordinary without putting in an extraordinary amount of effort, and I think she’s right. I haven’t put an extraordinary amount of effort into anything in a very long time. There are a lot of reasons, and many of them are honestly just personal shortcomings… but I think it’s also fair to say that this place is suffocating me.
Over the last few months I’ve done a lot of thinking. How did I end up here? This was so far from the plan. How did I let this happen? Why am I so miserable? And why am I not doing anything to change that?
The truth is, I never believed I deserved better.
When I first started thinking about moving I talked to my friend Hannah who used to live in Toronto. She started telling me areas I would want to live and things I’d want to see. “listen,” she said “I just don’t think you want to end up stuck in fucking suburbia again. You want to live in a cute apartment where you can walk down the stairs and be on a busy street full of cute coffee shops and shit.”
“Hannah,” I said as if she was totally crazy, “that isn’t real life. That isn’t reality.”
“Of course it is!” she said, “It’s there! You just have to go get it! Leah… I know you want that, and you deserve that.”
So, I decided she was right. I was going to move. And I was going to do it right. No more settling, no more easy. I was going to finally get what I wanted.
I started looking into transferring to a school in Toronto, and I submitted my application for Ryerson.
I had applied for a job working at a lodge up north this summer. The place looked beautiful and I would have made a shit ton of money, but I suddenly realized that wasn’t what I wanted. I had known this whole time what I wanted, and for some reason I’d convinced myself that it wasn’t an option for me.
Well, no more of that attitude.
I started calling my family and asking about going out to Toronto for the summer. Suddenly all of these people were coming out of the woodwork, offering to help me in every way possible, and just showering me with love and support. My mom offered to buy my plane ticket, my uncle said he’d help me find a job, my Opa called and told me how excited he was to see me. My dad, who I was terrified to tell, got adorably excited at the prospect of a cross-country roadtrip to come visit me. My grandparents, who live in a town of 200 people and can’t imagine why anyone would want to live anywhere else, called to tell me how proud they were of me.
Holy shit, I thought, no one is even surprised. They had all been waiting for me to reach this conclusion – to realize what I wanted. To ask for what I wanted. And now here I am, asking for it.
Anyway, it became official about two days ago. I don’t know yet whether I got into Ryerson, but I’m spending the summer in Toronto either way. And – here’s the really insane part – I’m leaving in three weeks.
No plane ticket has officially been purchased just yet, but I’m supposed to be out there by the beginning of May. AHHHH! In a matter of WEEKS I will be living in the city I have LITERALLY dreamed of living in since TENTH GRADE. I can’t even wrap my head around it honestly, it’s so insane.
This isn’t a bullshit post about just following your dreams. I know life isn’t that simple, I get it. Sometimes things get in the way – you don’t have enough money or you don’t have enough time or you don’t have enough confidence. I get it. But if following your dreams isn’t an option, then at least do this:
ask for what you want. work for what you want. And always always always believe that you deserve it.
ps, Amanda Palmer has the most beautiful book about asking for what you want and not feeling guilty for it. It’s called The Art of Asking and you can check it out here. She also has an option to ‘gift’ or ‘request’ copies – ie, someone with a little extra cash kicking around pays for a copy and she sends the copy to someone who wants to read it but isn’t able to buy one. You can also download tons of her music for free. She’s an amazing lady.
edit: literally ten minutes after hitting publish I got a text from my mom: you’re booked. I leave on April 25th.