Last week, I officially moved out of my apartment in Toronto. For two years, my shoebox of a room became my home as I gradually fell in love with the city. My immense adoration for life in downtown Toronto is what makes leaving so hard – was it Winnie the Pooh that said, “how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”? I’ll miss the feeling of familiarity of streets and storefronts as I walk from one end of the city to the other.
I have known this move was coming for the past ~7 months and yet, I still felt ill-equipped for it. The end all came so fast – it always does, doesn’t it? It felt like one day, many months ago, I was starting to make a list of all the things I wanted to see and do in the city before leaving. Then, I blinked, and suddenly I didn’t have time to do everything on the list anymore. The move out felt so rushed because of how crazy everything was. On my final day in the apartment, I was racing to pack everything up in my type-A fashion when all I really wanted to do was sit on the floor of my now-empty bedroom and mourn the end of an era. But then again, how long would I have to be sitting on the floor in order to be satisfied? How many times would I have to go to my favourite coffee shop before the move-out in order to finally be at peace with the fact that I was leaving?
I am naturally a sentimental person, which makes leaving anything and anybody even harder. I see life broken out in stages that are marked by these key life periods, so when one is ending, it feels like life won’t be the same going forward. When I left my hometown to go off to university, I remember making a list of all the things that I was going to miss the most – my yoga studio, my favourite coffee shop, the park right by my house. I remember in Singapore, after having spent three months in the city for a study abroad program in university, I went for a solo coffee at Marina Bay Sands on the morning of my flight so I could take in the view of the city one last time.
I realized the other day that I did not grow up in a way that made me prepared to handle big moves and “goodbyes”. I lived in the same house for 20 years of my life (excluding the time away at school). I went to the same school for 12 years of my life, straight from kindergarten up until graduating from the eighth grade. It was only in more recent years that I started to move around more, first for university in a city that was a three-hour drive away, and then for a three-month study abroad program in Singapore. It was during the time that I got back from Singapore that my family packed up everything and moved to a new house, after 20 years in our other one, and less than a year after that, I moved downtown to my beloved shoebox.
It seems so hard to get a proper goodbye. While it provides closure in a way, I also hate knowing that that moment will be the last, at least for a while. I have tried to be emotionally stronger. When I say that final “see you later” to somebody, or to a place, I try to not look back as a I walk away after that last hug. I feel like if I look back, I won’t be able to bring myself to walk away again.
I know that this Toronto goodbye isn’t really a goodbye; it’s a “see you later”. I will be back in the city after two years and the city will be waiting for me, still the same in so many ways. The traffic will still be awful, rent will still be expensive. But what makes it harder is that the people in the city who I love will be different. I will be coming back a different person. Two years can be a long time when you’re in your early twenties.
As I write this, I realize that I am maybe less so mourning leaving Toronto, but leaving behind who I am, present-day, in Toronto, and who I was over the course of these two years. I am perhaps mourning the end of what this city was for me, what this city did for me – a place where I learned to pay my own hydro + internet bills, a place where I lived with the best roommates, a place where I started my first job after school.
A place that helped me to become the person I am today, somebody who is now hopefully ready (emphasis on hopefully!!!) to start this next life stage.