One year less 21 days. That’s how long it’s been since I moved back to Toronto. Things are the same, but different. (What returning “expat/repat” hasn’t said these words?) I know I’m not alone, but most days it doesn’t feel like that. All my friends here are people who’ve lived in Toronto, who’ve never lived anywhere else (or who moved here when they were young and haven’t left since). People who’ve built their lives in Toronto — Toronto defines them. It no longer defines me. And more and more, I feel the need to connect with those who split their time between countries, people who’ve lived abroad. People who’ve experienced/experience this dissonance, incongruence, discord… (My vocabulary of such words has noticeably expanded.)
There are moments when I feel my worlds colliding. Yesterday was one of them. At a screening of short films as part of the Inside Out Toronto LGBT Festival, surrounded by queer people of colour in Toronto, I saw so many familiar faces. People whom I knew, interacted with another lifetime ago. They hadn’t changed — and that always surprises me. After so many years of living abroad, after all the varied experiences I’ve lived through, I expect that people I meet from the past will have changed too. Perhaps that change is not visible (which is probably true in my case too), but the overall impression I’m left with is that nothing has changed here, while I’ve changed immensely. The dissonance I experience is only confirmed.
And it’s during moments like this that I also feel I’ve come full circle. I’ve returned from where I began. And that this is the way it should be, the natural course of my life. That when I left in 2009, I didn’t know how long I would be gone for; I didn’t plan to be away this long. And so perhaps it was a bit of an abrupt ending, and I’ve come back to properly make peace with the life I lived here. To acknowledge how much growing up in Toronto (in Scarborough, to be exact) has shaped me, but also how much it doesn’t mean that I have to have the life that so many of my friends and family have. It doesn’t mean I have to stay. Maybe I’m looking for confirmation that it’s ok to leave. That Toronto will always be a part of me, something I will carry with me wherever I go — but that doesn’t mean I can’t leave it behind, if I need to.
So why “hummus and brownies, books and bikes”? Hummus and brownies are my “coming full circle”: in university, I attended a workshop for activists, where fellow (volunteer) activists brought us homemade brownies and hummus during the break. The food came just in time, as I was terribly hungry: I’m always so grateful when someone feeds me. And it was delicious! So simple and exactly what I needed. It became my “comfort food”. Years later, while living in Yerevan, I used an online recipe to make brownies, and on another occasion, hummus, both from scratch, and they were an instant success! These are the two things my gf’s mother always asks me to make when I’m over. It has become our shared “comfort food” (though we both speak Armenian, food became our primary language of communication).
And books and bikes because it’s Bike Month (and Pride Month!), and an event I recently went to combined a group bicycle ride with author readings and library visits. There are no two things I love most in the world than books and bikes. And Toronto is the perfect place to enjoy and celebrate both! Another example of worlds colliding — but in a good way.