Since my husband and I recently marked our 2 year anniversary of leaving our hometown of Vancouver for the hustle and bustle of Toronto, it got me thinking a lot about that tough first year as newbie Torontonians. 

We knew before we moved that it wouldn’t be an easy transition. We didn’t have any family or friends there, we were both going to be unemployed, and we had to live in a very small university student’s junior one-bedroom apartment for the first 2 months.

Let’s just say he wasn’t the cleanest student and half of his living room was filled to the brim with large plants. Plants that we tried not to kill without much success.

I’ve actually recorded a podcast episode that goes in-depth about my personal experience making this big life change, but I also wanted to share on here some of the things we did to make the transition to a new city a little less…well, devastating.

We Stuck to a Daily Routine

Everything in Toronto was so new to Josh and I, and we were desperate for something familiar. So, we made a daily routine to give us a sense of normalcy. Those first few months weren’t easy, especially since we were aggressively trying to find work.

I’d never experienced unemployed like that before. The last time I was unemployed I was still living with my parents rent-free. Having to pay my own bills while looking for work was pretty scary.

The only thing we could think of to keep from going insane — or booking the next one-way ticket home — was to stick to a daily routine.

We’d get up at around 9 a.m. like we would on a normal work day, shower, make breakfast, then work on our laptops until lunch. Josh would be emailing connections and studios to set up meetings for the coming days and weeks. I would be scouring the job boards applying to anything that sounded remotely like my ideal marketing job. Then we’d take a break for lunch and continue until around 5 p.m.

After that we tried not to do any work until the next morning. It would just put us in a bad mood and usually wasn’t very productive anyway. Instead, we’d either go for a walk to grab some fro-yo or re-watch episodes of Lost. We were unemployed for a few months so we actually ended up re-watching the entire Lost series. I still don’t think I get the ending though.

We Explored Our New Neighbourhood

When we weren’t looking for work, we made the best of things and used our new-found free time to explore our neighbourhood. We still live in that same neighbourhood actually, and honestly I don’t think I’d move anywhere else in Toronto now that we’ve decided not to buy a place.

It’s right near Little Portugal and Koreatown, and everything we need is in walking distance. There are a ton of bars, restaurants, and of course our favourite bakery Bakerbots right at our fingertips. Not only did it give us something to do, but it also helped make us feel more at home. This was our new home, and the more we knew about it, the more it felt like we belonged there.

We Laughed When Things Got Tough

It was a crazy summer the year we moved to Toronto. There was a massive heatwave in July, floodings, power outages, and we didn’t have air-conditioning for the first little while. I remember this one time when we were woken up at around 5 a.m. by the fire alarm. We were on floor 18 I believe and had to run down that many flights of stairs to get out of the building.

Apparently the elevators started smoking because some of the flood water got in. We weren’t allowed back until a few hours later, so we just went to Tim Hortons, got some breakfast, and laughed about how this would be a good story later.

Another time there was a power outage in our building around sunset. Instead of freaking out that we could no longer use our fans or computers, we just grabbed a bottle of wine, hung out on our balcony, and talked about life until the power came back on.

We Let Go of Our dreams and Embraced Failure Wholeheartedly

This was probably one of the most important yet difficult things we did in our first year. We both had some preconceived notions of what our new lives would be like in Toronto, but nothing went to plan when we got there. I thought I’d be employed within a month, working a marketing job in the arts or entertainment industry like I’d always dreamed of.

Josh figured he’d be able to find new clients fairly easily too. But that didn’t happen. For the first few months of us living there, we had to comfort each other and reaffirm that this wasn’t a mistake on a daily basis. But still, every rejection seemed amplified ten fold and we started to realize that what we were doing just wasn’t working.

I thought I could get a decent marketing job with my fine arts degree and 3 years of sales and promotions experience. When I kept getting passed over for jobs I knew I could do, I finally accepted the fact that I had to let go of that dream, suck it up, and go back to school.

I also embraced all of my failures and tried to look at each and every one as a learning experience. I needed to remember that just because I failed at a few things, I myself wasn’t a failure.

So I registered for the Digital Marketing Management program at the University of Toronto and Josh started going to industry meet-ups and tried a few different approaches to find new clients. Once we let go of our initial dreams, our luck changed for the better and good things started to happen.

We Chronicled Our Journeys

Josh didn’t exactly have a diary or anything, but he did chronicle his journey more in conversation with others than by pen and paper. I on the other hand was so grateful that I had a blog to turn to.

Honestly, this blog was sometimes the only thing that kept me going during some of those dark days. It was a way for me to write down exactly what was happening, how I was feeling, and get feedback from readers (and some sympathy) in real-time.

And even though a lot has changed over these past 2 years of living in Toronto, it’s still great to be able to look back at some of my old blog posts and see how far I came. Leaving my hometown for Toronto was absolutely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I did it. I came out the other end and am so glad I stuck it out that first crazy year.

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