Why Am I Living In Toronto?

Toronto Skyline Water CN Tower

This is is part of my live-learning series! I will be updating this post as I continue through my journey. I apologize for any grammatical errors or incoherent thoughts. This is a practice to help me share things that are valuable without falling apart from the pressure of perfection. 

Some Context

I moved to Toronto on January 15th, 2020 for the DMZ, an incubator program for growing technology companies. 

I moved with the head of development at our company Speak Ai, Vatsal Shah. We stayed at an AirBnB for the first 15 days. We had 15 days to then find a new place. We luckily did. We ended up in Cabbagetown for 3 months. Then, we had to find another place which is where we are at now until the end of August 2020 at Front and Bathurst Street.

Safe to say it’s been a lot of effort, focus, calls, and work to move this many times. Not alone just to a whole new city in general. And out of my previous house. All to move to Toronto for the amazing experience and opportunity.

The weeks before the impact of COVID-19 was really known, we were going to network events almost every day. We made so many amazing connections. We could feel momentum picking up. At different events around Toronto people told us they had already heard about us. We started to get asked for meetings. We met tons of amazing new people.

Then, two weeks later after we moved, COVID-19 came. I remember people starting to wear masks on subways. This eerie feeling started to emerge and drape over everything we did. 

On our last day in the DMZ, we stood with a few people from companies in it and the DMZ staff, wondering what would come next. We’ve all seen what’s happened since.

So, keeping that in mind, why am I living in Toronto? Why before COVID-19? Why now? And, is Toronto the right spot for me over the next year as the world reimagines itself.

The DMZ

The DMZ was one of the original reasons I made the final move to Toronto. 

“The DMZ is a world-leading accelerator for tech startups in Canada. We help startups build great businesses by connecting them with customers, capital, experts and a community of entrepreneurs and influencers. For us, this means creating an environment where you can focus on scaling your business. We help with the rest.”

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I had heard such good things about The DMZ. I had a few friends who had been in the program and were successful. One that stands out to me is Bryan Gold from #Paid. 

Networking

I wanted to meet more professionals! London has always been so kind to me, but I loved the energy of the people in Toronto. We could talk a mile-a-minute together. There is just a frequency I really enjoy. 

Meetup Groups

I love Meetup. I even have my own Meetup! There were so many large active groups when we first arrived in Toronto. I hope they can come back together at some point. 

LGBTQ Community

Not everyone knows this, but when I was 23, after years of knowing, I “came out” as bisexual. With new knowledge, that has evolved into pansexual. If you want to understand more about this please check out this Rolling Stones article

This is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve felt shame. Guilt. Remorse. Fear. Embarrassment. Excitement. Many other feelings. 

Part of the move to Toronto was to connect with the LBTQ community. I know there are communities in London, Ontario, but I just never got connected. I felt safer reinventing myself in Toronto. 

With COVID-19, all of this was obviously cut short. I got to go to one amazing QUEER JS meetup. It was their first get-together and over a dozen LGBTQ community members also interested in development showed up. This made me feel very at home. 

Opportunity

Opportunity to meet new people. Lots of interesting characters in the city. Everyone seems to be doing something. I love seeing people walk and bike at all different times. I love the energy of the city and the sounds at night.

Ego

There is definitely part of this. “London’s too small”. Trying to fulfil some kind of hero’s journey. 

It’s an Iconic City

Growing up, I always thought it was so amazing going to Toronto. I’d often go for hockey tournaments. I grew up on a horse farm so, at the time, London, Ontario felt big to me. Toronto was incomprehensibly large. The CN Tower. The Toronto Zoo. Canada’s Wonderland. Lakeshore. All these places we’re destinations for me. 

I love being by the water

I didn’t realize this before moving, but now being at Bathurst and Front Street, I can understate how much joy I get from the area and being by the water. 

I’m still close to family and friends

Growing up, I always dreamed of travelling and living all over the world. But, as you get a bit older you realize how important your close friends and family are. As unfortunately, some of the places I dreamed about (Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, San Fransisco) fell victim to a terrible government administration and pandemic response, those desires have dissipated. 

That leaves me with only really Toronto and Vancouver. I had the privilege to go to Vancouver this year and honestly, it rocked my world. It is beautiful. A merger of nature and a city that I find resonates with me deeply. But, even with many reasons to move there, Vancouver is far away.

My grandma, who is really my second mother and took care of me entire life, got cancer this year while living in Toronto. It was discovered early, her surgery went well, and she is good now, but it broke my heart. One of my greatest fears of leaving London was something that was going to happen to my family and my friends and I just wasn’t going to be there. I watched that fear get realized just last month. 

The Cost of Living in Toronto

I grew up on a farm with 100 acres. Now, I’m in an apartment that is less than 800 square feet. As I look for new places, even after COVID-19 and the impact on the world, the rent for a decent two-bedroom apartment downtown is ~ $3,000 per month. That’s ~ $36,000 a year. 

You can move out of the core, but then, that’s where I am asking myself again, why? Even there, for not that great of places, we are seeing around $2,500 per month.  If I’m not downtown feeling the energy of the city like I wanted to, why do I not just go back to London? Why don’t I go to Vancouver? Why don’t I find a place where you can get more space?

I don’t think I’m asking for too much. I’d like a nice bedroom to myself, and a dedicated room for an office/recording studio while all this blows over. This seems hard to align. I explore what would make me happy in this post

Why Did I Leave London, Ontario?

A lot of that maps out from the notes above. But, generally, I think all people want a change in their lives at some point. I’m not sure I wanted this big of a change but going to Toronto felt like a move forward in the right direction.

I remember a specific TechAlliance pitch, where I had one minute to pitch Speak Ai. I did put a lot of work into the pitch, and although I didn’t do my best, I just felt it didn’t connect with anyone at all. It really hurt. I’d be sharing what I’d be working on for years and yet it still just didn’t resonate with some of the community I’d connected with for so long.

When I would go to Toronto and talk about the same thing, it would only take 15 seconds and we’d be on a wavelength, seamlessly communicating with each other. That connection I really crave. 

I had lived in the same place in London, Ontario for over 3 years. I am an avid walker, and London is beautiful, but I wanted a new area to explore. I really enjoy Toronto, especially on Lakeshore, with walking and also seeing people everywhere. It energizes and inspires me. 

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This is is part of my live-learning series! I will be updating this post as I continue through my journey. I apologize for any grammatical

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