This is a post written from the dark cave of a Toronto basement where I resided during the month of June while balancing my first real job out of school, finding an actual apartment for me and my beau (who was on his way from Argentina), and trying to navigate life in a new city, on my own for the first time. It was rough.
2012: I remember standing on the splintering porch of a wooden hut looking out onto a lush, tropical jungle, brimming with birds and sparkling with dew, and seriously thinking: Is it time to go home yet?
It was only a short week into my volunteer stint in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica, and the novelty of living like a wildling of The 100 series wore off fast. I was tired of shaking scorpions out of my pillowcases and wiping off bat excrements from my bed, and feeling the wind against my cheek from flapping bat wings in the pitch-black night. I had enough of hanging freshly hand-washed clothing out to dry only for them to harden in the humid, windless air, and absorbing an odor fouler than Satan’s farts. I dreaded the daily climb up the deep, muddy mountains in oversized rain boots searching for tree frogs the size of my pinky nail for hours with no luck, for the sake of “saving the forest.” Excuse my ignorance, but how exactly was taking photographs of tiny frogs helping the rainforest in any substantial way?
After that internal burst of homesickness on the wooden steps of my primitive dwelling, I went for a run to clear my head. I ran along the dirt road decorated by several modest houses with no doors, and a single corner store swallowed by the jungle. Suddenly, on my way back down a hill, endorphins kicked in and my homesickness faded. It hit me how much I loved literally being off the beaten path; in a secluded, tropical gulf with locals, and experiencing a completely different way of life.
I stripped away my privileged skin and opened up to the wifi-free, low-stress lifestyle of my trip; even if it meant drying off with odiferous towels and eating black beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I adapted to my primordial surroundings and got used to the thick humidity that clung to me like an extra layer of skin. Howler monkeys were my new alarm clock, and I shed my scales happily with river water that sprinkled out of my coconut-headed shower after three-hour jungle hikes, rinsing away two pounds of sweat each time. My blisters hardened, and day after day I felt my leg muscles get stronger, but I wouldn’t know for sure. There were no mirrors. I made peace with the bats in my hut and praised them for being my natural mosquito net.
There’s always that moment of slight distress as we step further outside our comfort zones and then second-guess all of our decisions. (Like, all of them.) But that feeling passes, just like everything else. As humans, we are able to adapt (albeit at different paces) and move on even after the most significant changes, planned or not. How else do we go on with our lives after the most tragic events fill our lives with utter sorrow but we somehow always find enough strength to climb out? We become masters of mourning (of people, places, things, and what if’s) against our wills, with only the passing of time as the remedy.
With wordly travel and life abroad I’ve had the privilege to experience, I thought moving to Toronto would be a breeze~. People speak my native language, and I just landed on home soil after three months of the fast-paced and intense world of Buenos Aires, so I’m used to big, loud, crowded metropolitan cities.
Was I ever wrong.
Ottawa —-> Toronto
My move from the capital was sudden. Due to a job opportunity I couldn’t pass up, I had five days to find shelter and settle in Ottawa’s bigger cousin with many nicknames, Toronto (pronounced by locals: TOR-ON-OH).
I lucked out early on when my best friend informed me about her boyfriend’s brother who had an empty apartment that I could loaf in for the month until I had time to seriously consider apartment hunting for July 1st.
The apartment is in a small basement with low ceilings and no natural light, but I write to you today alive and well, with no complaints. It doesn’t have a microwave or toaster, but those are appliances of luxury, I tell you. It has a bed, which is the main thing. I’ve slept in bat-infested huts in the middle of the jungle, man. I was prepared for anything.
I’ll admit it wasn’t the easiest three weeks to transition this suburban gal to a city dweller. I’ve never felt so haggard (stress ate hummus and cucumbers for dinner every night) as I hunted for apartments while getting settled in a new job. I broke out in raging hives from a protein shake last week and had to go to the hospital (picture: lonely Liz writhing on the floor like Bellatrix Lestrange just crucio’ed the shit out of her, dialing 911), and I’ve already been back home in Ottawa two weekends in a row. I have yet to spend a full weekend of joy and exploration in Toronto, and I look forward to that this upcoming weekend.
On apartment hunting…
I learned new vocabulary like guarantor and bank drafts, and never felt so vulnerable or exposed, with apartment applications requiring I pry open my bank account to prove that my life was not good enough to rent at their establishments. I’ll say it now, had it not been for my paps as my guarantor, I’m not sure if I would have found a place willing to take me in. Since my beloved is Argentinian and has never lived permanently or owned anything in Canada, he is invisible and doesn’t count in the rental business’s dolla-bill hungry eyes and emotionless motives. Despite his earnings as a lawyer, his savings, his investments, and because he has no credit or source of income from a Canadian source, he is invalid and not considered in the application process. Gulp. My part-time entry-level salary was not nearly enough to satisfy rent for the two of us, even though I have savings from previous jobs and a perfect credit score. It didn’t help that I just started the new job, so I didn’t have any pay stubs for proof of funds and had to get my boss to write me up a proof of employment on his day off…
I finally signed a lease today. What a relief.
Finally, after twenty days, I am stress-free and what you would call, ‘settled.’ Until 2 weeks where I actually move into my apartment. At least I am not going to be sleeping on park benches come the 1st of July. Thanks for the signature, daddy-o!