During the last couple years that I lived in Toronto, I felt like I was struggling to get by: struggling to pay rent, bills, not completely lose my mind while using the TTC, and to not fully succumb to a slow ebbing sense of depression. I was perpetually trying to keep my head above water, all the while trying to convince myself that a sense of drowning was life at its fullest.
The more I'm away from Toronto, the more I realise just how unique the city and its ephemeral psyche is. The more I'm away from Toronto, the more I love it. I never fully appreciated just how safe the city is, when I lived there. I never would have thought twice about taking a bus home late at night or strolling through Parkdale after hours.
It's a great city but nevertheless, I wanted an out.
I felt a constant anger - from delayed streetcars, to Queen Street West hipsters, to icy sidewalks, to Torontonians who oozed an air of entitlement - and I didn't know why. Most likely it was misguided anger. I felt like I was in a rut - it seemed as if my life was on course and well, that scared the shit out of me.
As much as I love routine, I love adventure more.
Moving to Glasgow, I knew on some level that I was giving up a "better" way of life. Most material goods are cheaper in Canada; you've got four distinct seasons; it's a pretty safe country and so on. And while I agree that the quality of life in Canada is very high, I'm not sure I'm convinced that overall, it's the "better" life.
In Toronto, people live to work; it's a culture of working is next to Godliness. I used to be in awe of lawyer acquaintances who would work 12 hour days. The standard acceptable amount for holidays is two weeks - and even then, people feel guilty about taking off one week, never mind two.
In Scotland, people understand and appreciate a work/ life balance. At my current company, the standard leave for holiday is five weeks. 5 weeks! I honestly originally struggled to come up with ways of plowing through them. As a Canadian, I initially struggled with self-inflicting guilt: could I really take off five weeks?! What would I do with all that time? I've since grown used to the idea of five weeks - how very civilised.
Since moving, I've noticed that I'm no longer angry and depressed. And maybe that's the secret: working in a culture that enforces a work-life balance and laws that protect employees.
Glasgow may not be the safest city in the westernised world and yes, a decent pair of jeans cost about £75, but at least we have long stretches of holidays, a readily-available abundance of booze, and Primark!