Big Cities: Shaping Who I Am
Updated: Sep 25, 2022
Last Updated on: November 28, 2021
Image by: Daphne Zhu
When I moved to the suburbs from Toronto a couple of years ago, I never expected to notice how much of an impact the city had on me. From the walkability, opportunities, people and education, growing up in a city of millions to then leave; showed me what makes a place enjoyable to live.
Wouldn’t you want to live somewhere where it was safe and convenient to go to school, shop, and have fun without needing to be driven? After moving into the suburbs, I was surprised to see how few people, bikes and buses were out. Instead, I noticed everyone would drive to even the closest places that were a brief walk away. There is a prominent car culture and dependency that is not as known in the city. When I wanted to go somewhere relatively close, I would walk, bike or take public transport. Cars were used if it was too far or the other means to get there took too long. As a child, I would always walk to school despite bad weather. Everyone else did the same. Sometimes I would ask to be driven to school though my parents rarely agreed. It was a good habit to walk to school. The 10-15 minute walk was too short to drive. At the time, I questioned it but looking back, I realize how valuable it was. I would meet friends along the way or stop at the park near my school. Many memories were created by walking to and from school that couldn’t happen if I had driven.
If I said Toronto, the first thing most think of is tall buildings and busy roads. But if you don’t live Downtown, you might think of something else like the parks or the abundance of opportunities. There were always things you could do on regular days. Parks and trails can be found virtually everywhere, each offering different things. Events and celebrations would be held there for everyone to enjoy. You could stumble upon an event and join in, learning about other cultures and holidays. Many trails are hidden within parks and are great to bike or walk. My personal favourite is one in Riverdale Park. You could take many routes, each leading to a different part of the city. It wasn’t crowded and quite beautiful to see the artwork and nature found there. The suburb I live in now does have admittedly better parks and trails except they are pretty far from where many reside. Most still drive there. Another opportunity not found in most suburbs is museums. We would be able to draw passes to these every weekend from the library. It was an easy and fun thing to do. The museums are located Downtown so we could take the bus, subway or streetcars to get there (and avoid parking). Afterwards, we would walk around the city, finding places to shop, see and eat. There were all types of delicious food so we never knew what we would find.
Toronto has been called a melting pot of people and culture. I couldn’t agree more. Many immigrants and their families start in the city much as mine did. I lived amongst many people and learned so much about my own and others’ cultures. In school, we would have celebrations for Lunar New Year, Eid, Christmas and many others. My school was diverse in people coming from all backgrounds. When I moved to the suburbs, I found it wasn’t like Toronto at all. The diversity wasn’t noticeable. Since the suburbs aren’t as appealing to new immigrants, people don’t usually move to them until they have a reason to. Many of the residents have lived in the same town or area for generations. Going to a new school here made me feel more alien than I had felt in my previous school. Few people had the same background as me. I learned to adapt to this and do love the suburb I live in but I’m also grateful for my childhood in Toronto. I was surrounded by people that could teach me about my culture and background. The job of this wasn’t solely on my parents as others around me could play a part in it. When families aren’t living around others like them, they have to do more to teach their future generations about who they are. There aren’t as many resources as there are in larger cities with more funding and people.
Education is quite important to people and their families. Everyone wants their children to succeed and do well in life. Toronto is a huge city with many options for school and extracurriculars. It is what made it worth living in as a family. In the suburbs, the list of schools that you can go to is limited. They also don’t have as many opportunities as schools in the city. This is usually due to funding. My school, in particular, held many events that were big productions. The city and other organizations would also sponsor these. There were a variety of clubs you could join which made school more entertaining. Since we were in a city filled with many things, we would go on many field trips, both locally and to other areas. Extracurriculars are something most kids get the opportunity to participate in. The city of Toronto had a range of classes and camps to go to. Many other businesses also had these. It was a task to narrow down the options. Lastly, hundreds of library branches exist in Toronto, making it easy and quick to find books you like. Some libraries like the Reference library have special sections as well as other small businesses within. It is pretty amazing sitting on the fifth floor of the library as you could see everyone below.
Living in a big city like Toronto made me the person I am today. There are definite pros and cons to it. Though overall, it can show you how mobility, opportunities, diverse people and education can make a city a great place to live.