by Lindsay Kyte
In Toronto, some people are smiling. Some people are holding doors for each other. And some people describe winter streets as “slippy.” Some people in Toronto are Islanders and are making their way to the top, one open door at a time.
Renae Perry moved to Toronto in 2006 to study Special FX and Beauty make-up. “I’ve met lots of wonderful, creative, cool people. I love that on any night I can hear a great band or see amazing theatre or have food from almost any country in the world. Also, I can get anywhere in the city pretty easily.”
Peter Forbes moved to Toronto in 2001 to pursue a career as a musician: “I’ve seen a lot of good shows. I learned a lot about the way things operate (or don’t operate) with regards to the national music scene. And I’ve learned about touring, representation, retail structure and press.”
Erin Fagan moved to TO last year to be with her fiancé. “It was exciting for me to have a much bigger pool of work, a higher wage, more experience and more potential to go to school down the road. I was also intrigued by the sheer scale, activity and diversity of the city. I think it’s important for people to have a chance to live somewhere other than where they grew up for a period.”
Perry says Toronto has changed her in many ways: “I’m much more open to trying new things and I’ve lost my fear of saying, ‘No.’ It’s strange because I feel like I can be more outgoing here. I can be myself a little easier. On the other hand, I think mean things more often. If someone is talking loudly on the subway, I want to scream, ‘Shut the hell up! Nobody here cares that your boyfriend forgot to call you.’ So that side of myself I don’t like so much.”
Forbes says Toronto has opened his eyes in many ways: “I am more politically aware now than I was before I came here. And a little more open minded with regards to meeting different races, sexual orientations and political viewpoints.”
Toronto makes one tougher and more resilient, Fagan says. “But I am still me and I have a reputation at work of being notably nice and friendly and helpful. However, there are times when I feel I have become more hardened and less patient with delay or, wow, even just with people or systems. And I have become regrettably better at not seeing or noticing others. I don’t like that tunnel-vision.”
All agree that while Toronto causes them to grow in unimaginable ways, PEI will always be home. “I miss it so much it hurts sometimes,” says Perry. “PEI is like the most comfortable chair where I can curl up and feel safe. I miss fresh seafood and potatoes and my Mom’s cooking. I know I may find things different if I was there now, but right now that sounds great.”
“At first, I liked the anonymity of starting fresh, but I deeply miss running into people I know with any regularity,” says Fagan. “And I just miss the personalities and haunts, family and old friends, the beauty of the place and a quick commute to work and back. I remember how rough I used to find my whole twenty-minute drive to town from Stanhope. Now, I travel an hour each way.”
“PEI is home; I’ve just been visiting Toronto for six years,” says Forbes. “East Coast music venues treat their bands with respect and pay them much more. Toronto venues, with a few exceptions, are bullshit. There is a ton of local support for musicians in the East; not so much in Toronto.”
While these young Islanders strive to find their paths amidst subways and smog, they never forget where they came from. That is why in Toronto, sometimes you will still see some people smile.
This is the conclustion of a two-parter about young Islanders who have gone to Toronto to find whatever.