Watercolour illustration of houses at Danforth
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Finding “Home” on the Danforth

The past few months of my life have felt like I was living in a movie. You know, the kind of story where the “country bumpkin” moves to the big city to live their dreams of fame and success. And that’s what I am doing: I am pursuing my goal of learning about and working in the publishing industry. Can you imagine, working with books all the time? The dream!

When I decided to move to Toronto for school, I was so excited! I spent the summer before moving thinking about what I would need, trying to plan the logistics, and simply overthinking everything. I felt like nothing could surprise me, because I was so prepared. Then, I got on the train and only looked forward to the next adventure.

What I did not expect was the shock of being away from Montreal. After the first few weeks, when the excitement of moving died down a little, its enormity kind of dawned on me. Like in the movies, when the protagonist has a hard time adapting to their new reality. They feel dejected. They begin to think that the whole thing might have been a mistake. You see it in movies, you hear about it from other people’s stories, but no matter how many times you are exposed to those stories, nothing really prepares you to live it yourself. As someone from a (very!) suburban area, the big city suddenly felt somewhat suffocating: the streets are narrower, and houses and buildings seem too close together and too colourful—a sense of unease set itself in my stomach. That is completely normal. When you find yourself in an unknown setting, facing new challenges, it is natural to feel uneasy at first. As long as you work towards getting past that feeling, everything will turn out great.

 “Nothing really prepares you to live it yourself.”

And that is what I did, even if it took me some time to figure it out. At first, I felt heavy with unease and missed my routine from back home. What does the protagonist do in the movies? When that question popped into my head, I knew what to do. How could I adapt my routine from home—or parts of it—to my life in Toronto? What could I do that would get me out of the house once in a while? Was there an activity I could do on a student budget? As a self-defined “homebody,” I wanted to come out of my shell; I wanted to challenge myself and go out more. Back home, there was a park near my house where I loved to run. So, I thought, maybe I can find some place where I can run outside. However, I was not comfortable running in the streets since I did not know the area well enough. So, I went online, opened Google Maps, and took a look at the Danforth area for green patches that seemed big enough to run in; I then decided to visit them and judge for myself if I would be comfortable there. The next day, I wore my good sneakers and walked to the nearest park. Though that one was not what I was looking for, I didn’t let it deter me. I was determined to find a place. I went to a new destination every day, until I visited every green patch that was within walking distance from my apartment. I did not find what I was looking for in a running space—my understanding of what a park is apparently differs from its actual definition—but I did find a new activity to include in my routine. Instead of running, I found that walking through and exploring the Danforth neighbourhood was much more beneficial for becoming accustomed to my new surroundings. For example, did you know that, on certain street corners on Danforth Avenue, there are figures of Greek mythology painted on the sidewalks? I must admit, it took me some time to realize that; I was so focused on looking at all the buildings around that I did not notice what was right under my nose. Growing up reading the different myths, I became really excited to see more.

“It felt like I had finally found my space. Danforth Avenue became my Hollywood, or my New York City.”

At some point, instead of only walking around I started to go into stores that I had previously seen and found interesting—bookstores, pastry shops, coffee shops, and others. I found unique gifts for family members. Simply exploring became finding a new store to go in everyday or every other day.

Coffee in hand. Music in ears. Walking around and enjoying the fresh air. Soon enough, the feeling of unease was replaced by a feeling of home. The narrow streets and the buildings being too close to each other stopped bothering me. The vivid colours became inviting rather than intimidating. It may not have been much, but walking around distracted me enough that I did not realize how different I felt after just a few months. Suddenly, I was not so scared or anxious anymore. It felt like I had finally found my space. Danforth Avenue became my Hollywood, or my New York City. Now we are at the part of the movie where the love interest enters the scene to brighten my days. Do you think he will show up?

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