We just got back from a 10 day trip to Toronto. It’s been almost 5 years since I left for law school. I miss Toronto intensely. I miss the familiarity and the diversity. I miss the culture and the energy and the sense of being in the thick of it. Probably most of all I miss casually connecting with family and friends without having to plan in advance. When I’m visiting I can’t help but want to move back.
With a trans-atlantic move looming in the back of my mind during this most recent trip I found myself grappling with a major dilemma. Where are we going to go? Should we just move back to Toronto?
Bogdan and I have wanted to make a move for a while. There are a lot of things we love about Michigan. We so easily connected with a lot of people here who welcomed us and accepted us in every way no questions asked. There’s a kindness here that’s unexpected. People in Toronto always seem to be in such a rush, which can make them sometimes come off as curt and insincere. It’s a major contrast to Midwesterners, who always seem to be in a cheerful mood.
The slower pace is also a big draw. After 5 years away from Toronto I just can’t handle the traffic anymore. Driving on the always congested 401 gives me major anxiety. This past week I even started to question the wisdom of a stick shift, something I never thought would happen. Coming back home and getting back into our routines this week I realize how much the frenetic pace of Toronto got into me. I came back still feeling rushed and impatient. Driving around, running errands, and basically doing daily life is just so much easier here.
Still, I don’t think we’ve ever been set on staying here. In a lot of ways moving abroad is one of the things we connected over when we started dating 8 years ago. It’s a shared dream and one that I think we need to fulfill if not for the experience itself then definitely for less tangible reasons…mostly so we aren’t left wondering “what if?”
When I was younger the decision to move abroad was automatic, almost reflexive. Now as I’m getting older and starting to appreciate the benefits of routine, the prospect of moving is making me a bit nervous. When we moved to Michigan I never expected culture shock. I had crossed the border into both Michigan and Buffalo countless times. It always seemed more or less like Canada to me. After living here I can see how different it is in so many subtle ways.
So the decision to move isn’t one taken lightly. I can’t help but wonder what sort of shock we’re in for. That’s why part of me just wants to move back to Toronto. It would just be so much easier. To go back. To be close. And there are so many dear friends and family members encouraging us to choose that option.
But when I got back to Michigan and felt the rush melt away, I realized that Toronto isn’t a golden horizon, and wouldn’t really be easier. Between the housing market, the traffic, and the rush that gets under your skin, it makes it just a little less heartbreaking to be away.
Plus, you can’t go back in time. When you’ve spent a lot of time in different places your memories don’t just exist in time but also in place. You might get the false impression that going back to the place will also bring back the time. So much of what I love about Toronto is my memories there. It’s the same nostalgia that makes me miss Romania so much every spring that I feel like I can’t breathe. It’s so much easier to stay in one spot. To avoid the rips and oceans that break families into pieces. But going back doesn’t heal the loss. Going back doesn’t turn back the clock. Going back doesn’t give you back years spent with an ocean between you and the people you love deeply while hardly knowing.
In so many ways immigrating has been a defining feature of my life, both as a child and now as an adult. I’ve lived in two worlds and now find myself in a third while mentally preparing to take a step into a fourth. Every move leaves a piece of me behind in another time and place. But every move also opens a new world. A new perspective. More people and places to love. It’s the ultimate gift for which you pay the ultimate price. In some ways moving forward is the only way to forget, even if temporarily, the loss and unrelenting jet stream of time.
So as the unofficial deadline we set for ourselves approaches I’m starting to feel more rattled than ever. Over the next few weeks I’ll be beefing up my portfolio, sending out applications, and starting the process of condensing the three-story life we’ve built here into a couple boxes and suitcases. I need more content for my portfolio and also happen to have a lot of pantry odds and ends that need to be used before we leave, so there’s probably going to be some weird stuff coming.