Wanderings – The difference time and perspective can have

Last week was March Break and while many resumed travelling to sunny and warm locales for a brief respite from the Canadian winter, I spent three hours in Toronto. Three hours may not seem like a long time to spend in Toronto, but for me it was long enough.

A couple of decades ago (plus a few years) I happily fled the “Big Smoke” and returned to Eastern Ontario. I don’t dislike big cities, just Toronto. Give me Montréal, Orlando, Buffalo, Charlottetown, or even Ottawa – all are far more desirable places for me to visit than Toronto.

Sports allegiances are only part of my disdain for all things 416 – past experiences from living in the city contributed to this.

Our three hour trip last week took nearly four hours each way to drive.

For some, it may seem like spending eight hours in a car for a three hour trip is silly – but it wasn’t. That trip was the final stop in a college tour for one of my kids, but in many ways the trip was also for me. The college we toured was also the only school that I had not been accepted to many years ago – my first choice school.

I know how disappointed I was when I was rejected by the school years ago, but I was excited for my kid to be offered a place at the school for his program of interest.

Walking around the campus was a mix of looking at this new college experience as a parent of a potential student, and also from having been that potential student 28 years ago.

We walked through the labs and classrooms, studios and the newsroom.

As we toured around, I began to feel a sense of relief – this place was smaller than I had built it up in my mind to be. The campus isn’t much bigger than a high school, but I had built this school up through the years to be this mammoth thing which I compared many of my professional failures and successes. The tour last week gave me a new sense of perspective, taking the air out of the over-inflated boogeyman I had built.

It’s funny to me how you can take something that is somewhat defining on our path in life, and blow it way out of proportion. An action, or lack of action, contributes to years of “but what if” questions to be ruminated on. Not everyone struggles with this over-thinking. I do.

One thing I did not think at all about was wearing my Buffalo Sabres toque into a restaurant at lunch that day. A gentleman in line next to me commented that I was brave for wearing that hat in “enemy territory.” I don’t know if brave is the right word for it. Then again, with all the great restaurants and cultural experiences available in Toronto, we had lunch at an A&W.

I am glad that we took the trip to explore the school, even if it meant driving to the misbegotten “centre of the universe”. For my kid, it was the chance to see if the school and city is for him; for me it was the realization that the rejection that stung so many years ago worked out after all. Comparing what I did negatively to something that didn’t happen years ago is looking in the wrong direction.

Seeing the “Metropolitan Toronto” highway sign in the rear-view mirror while driving east was also the greatest sight of all that day – it meant I was going in the right direction. It only took a few decades to figure it out.

Column originally published in the March 22, 2023 print edition of The Morrisburg Leader.