Over the past seven years or so, my definition of “home” has been in shaky limbo between where I grew up and where I live now. I’ve always called both my home, because that just seemed like the diplomatic thing to do. As the cartoon Dragon Tales taught me, two is better than one; so I had deemed myself lucky to be able to call two cities my home – Calgary, where I was born, and Toronto, where I live now.
I’m not sure if this was inevitable, but over the past few years I’ve found myself growing indefinitely estranged from my hometown. This became more glaringly apparent with each visit back to Calgary, where instead of feeling safe and comfortable, like “home” should make you feel, I instead itched to return to my new life in Toronto.
I recently went back to Calgary for a visit, and those five days felt way longer than they should have. Funny enough, I felt as though nothing had changed since I left there, but the uncomfortable lurch in my tummy told me that I no longer felt any sort of pull back to the city I had lived in for the first 18 years of my life.
I returned to Toronto a few days ago feeling relieved to be back, but also uneasy. I feel as though I’ve lost my sense of home and subsequently, my identity as well. Calgary is where my family is, where my best friends still live, where I had my first kiss in the back of my grade 10 crush’s car, and where I won my first writing contest. Calgary and the people in it have always unwaveringly had my back, yet my most recent visit there made me feel claustrophobic and removed from myself. All I had guiltily hoped for, from start to finish of my trip, was for my time there to be up.
My mom and grandparents ask me all the time when I’m going to come home. My friends ask me if I miss it. I guiltily lie and tell them I do because what sort of monster would I be if I told them the truth, that I already am home, and that the city I grew up in is nothing more than a sad reminder of how much I’ve changed since living there. Of course I miss my family and I miss my childhood friends, but Toronto is where I feel most like myself, and where I see myself settling down.
I’m trying to reshape my definition of “home,” because I think it’s a concept that extends far beyond what city you live in.
Right now, home to me is my apartment in Leslieville, the sounds of the 24-hour streetcars whirring and whining up and down Queen Street, and my kitten, Prim, who wakes me up every morning at exactly the same time by sticking her wet nose in my face. But home is also the singsong sound of my mom’s voice over the phone when she’s had a good sleep, an unexpected text from my brother, and the hearty laugh of my grandpa when I get a chance to FaceTime with him.
I still can’t shake the feeling that I’ve lost something significant by not calling Calgary my home anymore. I find it hard to embrace the new without feeling like I’m somehow devaluing the old, which is a mindset I’m still actively trying to shake. In the interest of being mindful, I’m grateful to finally have my feet firmly planted in Toronto, and to know without a doubt that this is where I belong, at least for the foreseeable future.
Zakiya has her degree in journalism from Ryerson University and currently works as a freelance content writer based in Toronto. Zak is a dedicated journal-er and enjoys writing and reading fiction, particularly science fiction, in her free time. Mental illness is something that has touched her life and the lives of her loved ones, so she is supportive of anything that brings attention to and provides new perspectives about mental health.