By Simon Yau
As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to live downtown.
My entire life I’ve spent in the suburbs, romanticizing the lifestyle associated with Toronto’s geographical core.
One day, I always told myself, once I had my Grown Up Stuff in order, my routine would be more in line with my interests. I’d walk to work instead of commuting for over an hour on the TTC. I’d be blocks from bars and music venues, and I’d be able to drink all I want because I wouldn’t be driving back up the DVP immediately after last call.
I’d shop at farmers markets, and do work at my local coffee shop (drinking organic fair trade brew, of course), and buy a bike, and go to art gallery openings, and have like, adventures.
Importantly, I always thought I felt different (read: better) than more traditionally conservative Chinese kids. I felt like I wanted different things and valued different priorities. I wasn’t content with just going to Honest Lawyers and shooting pool. I desired to become socially active and to integrate myself into the fabric of my municipality. I wanted to go see films, not just movies. My interests were more interesting dammit — and I needed a lifestyle that indicated that.
You might say I’ve mellowed out a bit.
I’m 28 years old now. I have a decent job downtown. I could pretty comfortably live anywhere in the city I wanted. I’m debt free and have no hard familial commitments like ailing parents or small children out of wedlock. I am a prototypical young, unmarried Toronto professional and the lifestyle I always aspired for is within my grasp should I choose to have it. Yet these days I find myself hesitating.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love all the trappings of downtown life. I’ve just come to realize over time that there are a lot of things about my current lifestyle that I’d be pretty loathe to give up.
I love having a car. I love driving it alone. And hell, my favourite time to drive alone is probably late at night up the undulating curves of the DVP.
I love my Costco membership. I love living in a spacious house. I love the silent privacy of my street. I love eating meals for $4 at Chinese food courts. I love being close to an Ikea. I love free parking. And to top it off, I could care less about bike lanes.
Should I feel guilty about this? Because I don’t.
I love all those indulgences, but that doesn’t mean I don’t desire civic engagement. I just want it on my terms, relevant to where I live. And yes, where I live is still part of Toronto.
Spending so much time downtown, wanting to live downtown for years, I obviously understand its appeal. I sometimes just wish downtowners would give the suburban lifestyle a break instead of just glancing at it with so much condescending side eye. I did that once. I’ve grown to see my ignorance.
When I was younger I didn’t want my lifestyle to define me so clearly as that typeof person. I argued vehemently in favour of the downtown life, as if it were the only appropriate way to live. The suburbs represented an inferior choice. It meant living — and thus, being — like my parents. Like boring. Like every other Asian family.
But what does it mean to be cool now anyways? Not to get all existential, but I feel like everyone’s just trying to live their lives you know? Whether or not you’re in walking proximity of a NXNE extended hours venue should not be a thing grown people argue about. Ever. So just get over it.
Besides, the most popular place on Bloor street these days seems to be a cafe where people play board games and drink coffee.
You know who else does that? My parents.
This post is part of theEthnic Aisle, a blog about issues of race, ethnicity and culture in the GTA.