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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Toronto Girl

Toronto - Desperate Times
Tabytha Towe

Time flies – like it’s invisible. You can’t catch it, save it, or see it, not until it’s behind you. But at least you can remember it, cherish it and hopefully learn from it. Whoever came up with the expression "time is money" was quite right. As I look at my watch or look into my wallet I tend to question ‘where did it all go?’ I for one feel like I’m always running out of time, and money for that matter, as sometimes they can be the same thing: you can’t get either back and there never seems to be enough.

It could also be the fact that I don’t always spend either of it too wisely. The concept of buying time intriques me.
I haven’t been in Toronto for very long yet, but perhaps that’s all the time I need. Notably it has been crazy, wonderful. Crazy as it drives me to such lengths, though that’s just my life as I let it, and wonderful for those moments that I revel in them.

I am very grateful to be settled into a house living with roommates who are absolutely, brilliant human beings that despite our differences we are reconcilable (they are also good looking which makes seeing them in their underwear less of a shock). I also have a job at a popular, cultural establishment that always has something going on and have a great staff, which ensues a bit of a family atmosphere (without the bickering). There is much to see and do here and I simply adore the friends I’ve made and every week I look forward to my Sunday nights at the pub with my favourite, local band playing, or having coffee at the shop around the corner, riding my bike to the park to read on a lazy afternoon. These little things that make staying here feel cozy. Yet, I’ve been back in Canada for exactly five months now and it still doesn’t feel like home. Though "home" won’t even feel like it anymore.

Many of my friends in Vancouver are married with children now, births and weddings that I have unfortunately missed out on. The infrastructure of the city I used to know so well is developing for the Olympic Games in 2010 and if or when I return I will once more have to re-settle into another new place and find work for myself all over again. So much will be different. It will be exciting of course and seeing everyone again will be the ultimate highlight, but everything changes and so have I after twoyears away. I still associate Melbourne as home even after nearly half a year later. If I wrote this on a really good day then my tone about my living in Toronto would indeed be on another page. Before starting to write this I was just browsing through photos of people I love and have had to leave off; I miss them immensely. It’s a keen ache, though I know that sounds absurd, hence, where an open heart becomes a calloused heart. It toughens up a little and gets harder to get through to over a while, but there is a spot that weeps and another that softens with tenderness.

My nostalgic sensibility is based on not knowing if I belong or not, right now? If not here, then where, when and how? I’ll tell you one thing that I do know, (even though I know I should suck it up and stop being such a pussy,) is that this bleeding cold really gets under my skin and has definitely made me re-consider my choices for living. I quite enjoy the sensation of recognizing my fingers and toes as part of my body, and yes I am Canadian but I’m sorry, fuck this! Coming from 15 months in Australia has resulted in utter wimpiness at any severity of wind. Winter in Australia of course wasn’t warm, but nothing as cold as this that I remember in comparison. Mind you I have basically been chasing the hotter seasons throughout the globe since 2007. So pardon me Torontonians with your big woolly coats prancing around casually whilst my teeth chatter!

I also don’t really have any peace of mind; it wanders ever so precariously. I have changed my hair style 3 times and the colour 7 rainbows over upon arriving here, how the hell am I to make up my mind on where to be? Nevertheless, my hair colour (from brown-red-orange-green-blond-blue-violet so far-) and the aforementioned cold sting doesn’t therefore mean for me to just forget it, doesn’t mean I have to make my mind up this second.

I don’t want to just leave like that. I need a destination and of course I need more time to save. My objective is to eventually be able to travel freely for a few months. But for the time being only I must figure out what is making me feel incomplete here and why I am starting to react a little bittersweet and numb as of late. I am quite aware that what I am sensing is feeling stuck. Yup, I got the city blues.

It’s now mid October. Summer is over and already seems so long ago. By now I have nothing to show for it since I didn’t plan ahead, I just got lost in working long hours and in the bustle of activity. This recent stretch of worry is that my shifts are becoming far and few; whereas before I could actually make money and not fret about where it went 'cause it was regularly coming in. I never managed to save a dime. I find in this vicious cycle of the hospitality industry, especially during hectic schedules, after work drinks, shows in between, a trip up north, a casual dinner party here or there, one tends to just blow dough as soon as it’s put into purse. You’d think there was a bloody hole in it! As soon as any money was made it would soon fade. You just burn so fast because of your lifestyle, mine that I have been leading up to this point anyhow. You get used to it and live for the day really; work, then play. But then it slows to a halt all too quickly and so you’re not ready for it. I cannot complain I had fun, a lot of it, I worked bloody hard throughout and I compensated with many a cheers!

I got to go to Montreal which was tremendous, (it’s so European feeling, I’d forget it was part of Canada at the twinkling of an eye.) There I saw jazz bands and went swing dancing, was entertained by 3 boys who embellished nights out on the town, I ate well and drank even better, had a picnic in the park with champagne and croissants, I went to the Church De Basilique (replica of the Basilica in Rome), to a pirate gallery, to a transvestite (a sweet transsexual, from Transylvania!) burlesque show, swivelled my glass on the piano; clearly I had a grand four days, not to mention how expensive this short holiday cost me. I really love that city and could possibly live there one day, aside from the fact I do not speak the Quebecois french whatsoever. My cousin moved to Montreal and she swears by it. She also does not care much for Toronto; (it’s an on-going, silly, city rivalry.) She also lived in New York the past decade. I want to go back there too!

This summer I only went swimming a couple times, seeing as how I don’t have a car here and beaches were too far away or unclean. Apparently the waters were not sanitary enough for people to swim in. We also had a large garbage strike that stunk up the city and littered the streets and our doorsteps for what seemed like 12 weeks straight. However, I can compare Toronto to summers I’m used to with lovely lakes and mountains and beaches you can bike to from other places I’ve spent time in, though I was still fortunate to go boating (and pulled behind one) with friends up North at a cabin, have a bonfire, and swing with a beer on hammock. I was lucky to have floated down the Elora Gorge with my friend and had the best rock and roll day trip. I went kayaking with another friend in Rockwell and found a little island to play cards topless in the glistening warmth of the sunshine…. and those were the three times I got wet, but they were honestly magical occasions. Oh yes and I did splash around the Water Park at "Canada's Wonderland" once too, what a fun experience that was!

Some of the best rides I’ve ever been on, despite the 45-minute line-ups! I got soaked in Niagara Falls doing the "Maid of the Mist" but that doesn’t quite count as swimming, but I had a blast going there twice and hitting up some wine tastings along the way.

Ok so really I cannot claim I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the typical summer beach tan, I just didn’t get to take as much advantage of it as I would have liked to, (rather I didn’t get that many chances I was always working when people were going), but the opportunities that I did get compensated in quality over quantity. Recently I got to see my sister who came in for a visit and she’s all grown up now. I’m so proud of the woman she’s become and it was nice to be able to go to a bar together and re-bond over a pint. After she left another mate from out West came to visit. That’s a lot of catching up to do back to back. I mean, yes I spent all of my hard-earned money already but it was worth it.

Today I’m adjusting to the fright of not having any more of it for a gruelling period. It shouldn’t be a shock, but it is devastating. Typically this new found, lack of work is kind of a huge downer at the present and causing a bit of concern, as I have no money in which to make any future plans with. Makes one contemplate the bane of existence. During this critical, slower season where I am consistently broke and cold, trying to be optimistic is tough, yet I also realize that I will always manage to make do with what I got and hopefully soon enough ‘break through’ once more. When I had ten euros left to my name in Barcelona I had the best, last few days ever. Everyone has their fair share of just scraping by in any city they reside in, especially this time of year (you see, everything really is about timing!) so I’m convincing myself it’s only temporary and in this next chance around I am adamant to actually save, it’s for a good cause, and I’ll know I can’t go out and blow my earnings on the spot. Things will look up, there’s always a falling point in journeys then things sort themselves out and pick up again. Meanwhile you try to laugh it off and sit at home watching movies eating leftovers 'cause that’s all you can do. Or I can get another job, but there is of course the issue of everywhere is slow right now.

Five months in Toronto and still counting. Well that’s a considerable amount of time, considering how I wasn’t really willing to leave my beloved home in Melbourne, (Australia) back in May. Regardless of being given the sudden boot from that country for over staying ... perhaps I needed to move on… I had no choice to stay otherwise, unless illegally. And very quickly I had to prepare for leaving my Aussie ways and the jobs, places, my boyfriend and people I loved. I immediately struggled in Toronto the first month and a half, but then came to love it. Toronto takes time to grow on you, or like it chooses when you can grow. Having to leave a familiar world behind to come to one somewhat familiar, yet all so different was such a beguiling compromise. Arriving alone, realizing I wouldn’t be seeing my boyfriend again for lord knows how long, without job or my own bed, it was both amusing and confusing. I was broke, lonely, felt like I was waiting constantly for a chance. I was torn if whether or not I should go back to Vancouver finally or seek out and hang on. But then one day I got the job, then the house, I made some friends and everything turned out better than I thought. It all worked out and I am content, although now it’s not working as well as I had hoped for…for now. I just lost another shift due to there not being enough hours to go around just yet and no doubt it’s gloomy outside, therefore playing up my dramatic omission. My moods sway with the falling leaves as my nerves bustle with worry regarding my empty bank account and no promise of tomorrow. (Sigh…..)

By now I have itchy feet again. It happens over time rather. I could even say itchy-cold feet, because I want to go but feel a tug to stay. Yet I don’t feel able to stay put and am getting more impatient, it’s a very obstinate virtue to have but one that I do well. If I don’t feel really settled in without any future plans for where I am lost. I can’t seem to run away from my head; my thoughts are an utter battlefield these last two weeks, ever since I discovered what little my pay cheques will look like over the next month. I am all over the place in my head, but not getting anywhere. I couldn’t even go anywhere anyhow, not without that darned paper stuff that will ensure these further engagements of worldly frolic.
Before the New Year I really need to make decisions regarding where to travel next and then choose a place to live. I am eager to live out of a suitcase if I must, as long as it’s in a place where I don’t speak their language.

Toronto is my home right now until I leave and I will definitely come back, for it is an amazing city full of opportunity and culture and music and food and events. Vancouver will always be my home because that’s where I grew up and learned things, have family and friends, memoirs and old schools, documents, boxes of my things made or collected over the years - but all of that doesn’t mean it’s right for me to live there right now either. Melbourne suited me and I could go back easily for it was heaps of fun. I still miss it and my boy, but I suppose that time was then, for then, and now I need to figure out the next step because I want something new again. The only thing stopping me from returning to Europe and South Africa is - you guessed it - the financial situation. There is so much more to explore and discover there, its beauty and history is infinite. I can always come back to anywhere in Canada and start over again; in a foreign country it costs a bit more effort. So now is a crucial time period to wait it out then earn my leave, and live in the meantime as much as I possibly can afford. At least it’s just one more month till the busy Christmas season and work will be plentiful. I am actually begging for Christmas to come early. Will I be here for it? Traditional, Canadian style, turkey with my mates for orphan dinner? or visit my family in Vancouver?

At the end of the month of December and I have been lucky to have spent both my 25th and 26th birthdays and two Christmases’ in foreign countries the last couple years, it would kind of be cool to keep up the ritual and have it in Berlin or New York, why not? Have ticket, will fly. It’s time to save whilst I waste time. Ha, an oxymoron. Man, I have really got to stop feeling so pitiful for myself. I’ve gotta use that energy for some serious decision making. All I know in this moment is that I feel bad and cannot foresee a happy future here. All I want to do is continue to cover the map over the next three years, get well paid work that I can do travelling, learn a new language, practice guitar, go to yoga, paint and write, help out others (including helpless animals), have my own place with my own things, never get fat or get cancer, find direction, have a bunch of good friends –maybe even a relationship again at some point- and I will be the happiest girl in the world. I will get there.
Maybe I’ll see some of you somewhere, sometime…

© Tabytha Towe October 28th 2009
tabythat at

Tab arrives in Toronto June 2009

A Long Farewell to Oz 2009
Tabytha Towe
Landing in Australia I knew immediately there was a special voyage ahead of me. I didn't expect myself wanting to be there longer than nine months, maximum. I already had my flight booked for home by a specific date! But that was back then..... 

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