Toronto, home to the current NBA Champions, the Toronto Raptors. Home to 2.93 million people. And my home for my whole, entire life. I’ve had the pleasure to live in North York, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, East York, Leaside, and Bloor West – you could say I’m a Toronto veteran.
I’ve experienced riots, seen teams win championships, witnessed the increased crime rates, seen crumby officials be elected and glorified on Jimmy Kimmel, lived through natural disasters, and had my fair share of relationships and jobs to paint a colorful Toronto life.
Now that I live in LA, I’m frequently asked why I left Toronto. I always chalk it up to this canned response: “I wanted to get away from the go-go-go lifestyle of Toronto.” Double click that and there are various reasons that I ultimately came to the decision to leave. Honestly, this decision was expedited in the last five years. I knew something wasn’t working, and it took me rather recently to really see it.
Career Prospects are Narrow and can have a Negative Effect
Before jumping into this, let me state that I am very grateful for the opportunities that Toronto has afforded me. I’ve had chances to pick and choose companies to work for, and not everyone has that pleasure – so, if I sound privileged in this sense, I do apologize.
Toronto has but a selection of industries you can work for. As I look at it, you can either work in telecom (Rogers, Bell, Telus), or finance (RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC). This is in no way an exact number, but I estimate that is 75% the job market right there. The other 25% could consist of retail, tech, travel, etc. Toronto isn’t the go-to space for international company head offices and this means if you’ve worked in any of the aforementioned industries, you’re likely to get another job at another similar company.
Having worked in telecom and banking for multiple years, there was something left for me to chase and I couldn’t find it in Toronto. Additionally, the salaries in Toronto didn’t appear to rise with the ongoing increase of rent and real estate. This made envisioning a future in Toronto really difficult. Those that choose to own a home or condo usually do it outside of the city.
I’m not entirely sure of the correlation, but the above factors contribute to that “go-go-go” lifestyle I referenced before. It definitely is a work first, live second, type of city – similar to New York. The added pressure of being forced out of the city since it can become unaffordable truly made things difficult.
Toronto’s Culture is Rapidly Shifting
Maybe this is because I’m getting older, but I’ve also heard this perspective from other foreigners. Toronto’s culture continues to shift, and in some ways negatively. Whether it’s the prevalence of the six gods, where people are constantly trying to outdo each other (“I have a better car, bigger house, more friends, better clothes” mentality), the closure of many Toronto institutions for condo development, essentially the closure of Toronto’s identity, or the stress that city construction is putting on people, Toronto has grown into something unrecognizable.
Certain things are great about Toronto’s culture. Things like the Raptors, Drake, Justin Bieber, these things have put Toronto into the global conversation. But as someone who’s lived there their whole life, I always battled with, “Is this really our identity? Is this all we’re known for?” And now that I live in LA, the answer is yes. I normally get, “That’s where Drake’s from!” when I tell people I’m from Toronto. Once someone confused Toronto with being in British Columbia.
The Constant Construction has a Heavy Effect on Living
I recall reading somewhere that Toronto’s population is continuing to increase but the infrastructure to support this growth isn’t improving. Road construction, transit delays, potholes, all of these things lead to horrible congestion. Sure, I live in LA and we have our own traffic problem, but Toronto’s seemingly can be solved if the city simply committed to constructing what they set out to construct – and faster! Popular areas like Yonge and Eglinton and their transit system and Union Station, a popular hub destination in downtown Toronto, have been under construction for years!
Remember when I said people live outside of the city? Good luck befriending them because getting to each other will be a definite mission. It’s one thing sitting in traffic due to over-population or distance. But if you’re sitting in traffic because a lane is closed due to some sort of construction that’s been like that for weeks, it can definitely call into question your friendships.
In some ways, the construction Toronto has on hold leads to another reason why it was easy to leave – the landscape. The term concrete jungle couldn’t be any more accurate when describing Toronto. The views of beautiful lush landscapes, gorgeous rivers and falls, mountains for days – yeah that’s not Toronto. That’s the rest of Canada. Images of Canada you see on Instagram do not portray what Toronto architecturally looks like.
After years and years of looking at slabs of concrete in traffic and smelling someone’s double double on a packed bus has taken its toll! I’m definitely loving the palm trees and beach shores of LA and a need to change scenery is one of the reasons I left Toronto.
EXTRA: The Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs, the second most valuable team in the NHL, haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967. I mean, I’m a Habs fan, so this point is moot. But I couldn’t stand Toronto’s losing ways, so I left the Six.
Will I Ever Move Back?
I get asked this question a lot, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. If the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup, yes I will move back… The honest answer, not anytime soon.
In just under a year, I’ve experienced just a timbit-sized portion of California and LA and the people I’ve met have given me many more perspectives on life. My mind is so malleable right now and I’m experiencing new things all the time, I just can’t imagine going back to Toronto at this point.
There’s one thing I do truly miss about the city, and that’s the way it becomes blanketed by snow in the Winter. Hell, the way the city is blanketed by crunchy Autumn leaves is also such a huge vibe. I miss those things the most about Toronto. And there are so many things that I still love about the city. Like Kensington Market, get all the way in.
As I’ve grown and matured, and my life needs have changed, it was growing increasingly difficult for Toronto to meet those needs.
Do you live in Toronto and are thinking of leaving? Or am I wrong and you love the Six-way too much? Let me know below.