Leaving New Brunswick for Toronto: A Year Later

It’s now been a year to the day since my wife and I (and our two cats) packed everything we own into a Ford Explorer and drove 15 hours to Toronto. I think that it is important to look back at the move, examine our motivations and the consequences of moving to Toronto.

(Note: this is a reflective piece and I switch between first-person singular I and plural we to delineate my perspective from that which I share with my wife.)

A movement from one place, job, or perspective to another has two distinct components: the move from where you were and the move to your destination. I think that, since this is a reflective post, it’s important to divorce the motivations and fallout of these two separate features of our move to Toronto.

Leaving New Brunswick

Ashley and I ostensibly left New Brunswick because she was accepted into a Master’s program at the University of Toronto. However, we didn’t learn she was accepted until after we had decided to leave New Brunswick. Many factors influenced our decision to leave the province that had been our home for five years.

We have known for a few years now that we are city people. We are both from small towns (Woodstock, NB has a population of 5 000 people while Leminster, NS has a population of 50). Moving to Fredericton was a huge step for both of us.

When we moved here, we were introduced to a much wider perspective. At university, we met new people from all corners of the globe and learnt a lot about ourselves. We loved it. We loved the feeling of learning more about our place in the larger world and we wanted more. The move to a larger city with an even broader diversity of perspectives was the natural continuation of a journey we had started when we came to UNB.

I’ve been accused of being angry at New Brunswick and allowing this anger to influence my decision. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I did grow very alienated from my home province at the time I left it. I was angry about opportunities I missed that I would otherwise have had if I had grown up in a large city. I felt that it was unfair and that, somehow, if I had grown up in a larger place, I could have had achieved more.

This anger was pretty childish. Upon reflection, I know that my upbringing gave me lots of opportunities which led to a perspective that’s relatively uncommon in Toronto. It’s what I did with what I had that made me who I am today - and that would be true if I had grown up in a town of five thousand or a city of five million.

So those were our motivations - the desire to live in a large city, an urge to explore new perspectives, and (regretfully) my misplaced anger. What about the consequences?

We have achieved everything we had hoped to - we’ve gained, and continue to gain, the perspectives offered by a diverse population and I have resolved my personal issues with New Brunswick.

However, we also left behind a large group of friends. The majority of our social support network was in Fredericton when we left and it was not easy to say goodbye. A year later, we have established new and meaningful relationships and our old friendships are still strong.

Our roots in Atlantic Canada will always be a part of us and our history. I think growing up away from the hustle and bustle we’ve grown an appreciation of and perspective on the importance of living in a city. Leaving our homes was a difficult decision, but I think it was the right one. Gaining a perspective never impoverishes anyone.

Arriving in Toronto

Now that we’ve looked at leaving New Brunswick, let’s take a look at arriving in Toronto. We chose Toronto, largely at the last minute and on the advice of Ashley’s uncle TK, on account of two reasons: the large city offered the excitement we wanted and TK assured us it was pretty safe.

Toronto was on a list of 4 Ontario cities with schools that offered the grad program Ashley wanted to enrol in. After some searching, it was the city with the most job opportunities for a promising young iOS developer such as myself.

Professionally, Toronto has been a real boon for me. I have made loads of friends in the development community and have learnt a lot from them. My work at 500px has seen wide recognition and has garnered interest from head-hunters at Apple, Facebook, and other tech companies. I am co-authoring a book on Objective-C with an expert in my field. I even cohost a podcast on design, something I didn’t know I loved until I moved here. I attribute these successes to the network I have been able to establish in such a large city.

Looking back at my roots in iOS development is almost comical; my personal apps that remain on the store continue to embarrass me to the point I’ve considering removing them from sale. By the time I graduated, I was doing professional contract work. However, nothing I did until I began at 500px challenged me in a significant way. Additionally, I’m also learning the business skills that are going to help me when I someday, inevitably, start my own company.

Not that the move to Toronto was completely tear-free. When I first arrived, I started working at a company that didn’t value my time or abilities. It was a really hard two months, but I was able to find a great place to work eventually.

So the long and short of it was that we intended to live in a larger city for the perspective and professional opportunities it would afford us, and in those areas, the move to Toronto has been an unqualified success. I didn’t expect a community of like-minded software developers and designers, but I consider myself lucky to know them all.

Wrap Up

So there you go. June 26th, 2011 was the date we left New Brunswick. For the immediate future, Ashley and I have decided to stay in Toronto. The reasons are as professional as they are personal, but we’re not opposed to the idea of moving somewhere else in the future.

A move back to the Maritimes isn’t out of the question, but I personally think we’re more likely to move to a whole new city, if we move at all. For now, anyway, Toronto is where we feel we belong, so that’s where we are staying.

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