It's Taken Me 19 Months to Live My Dreams Again, But It's Happening.

anita wing lee jumping Toronto mark anthony Diaz

It’s taken me a year and half to get to the place where I finally feel like I’m living my dreams again. 

When I landed back in Toronto in August 2017, I knew that I was supposed to be here. But I didn’t want to be. I came back out of a sense of obligation. Obedience. Like it was my duty to return to this congested city, this strange culture, this frenzied society that I didn’t particularly like or admire. Even thought I was born and raised Canadian, I didn't feel at home here. I was here because of the "dark night of the soul” I experienced that summer and because a part of me knew: I would grow more from being here than I would from finding yet another exotic location to jet to.

One way or another, I was here. In the city of Toronto. Not “stuck, per say, but here to stay indefinitely. 

Why I Hated The City 

I wasn’t particularly happy about it. I was bitter and resentful towards the city. I felt like it had betrayed me. The machine of the city had crushed the people I loved. In that headspace, I could have given you 100 reasons why cities were horrible places to live — easily.

My dearest friends were not here. (Ok, that’s not entirely accurate. I do have a people who mean a lot to me and who live in Toronto. God has a way of making sure that we always have soul friends to keep our chin up.)

I didn’t like the way people were workaholics here. I didn’t like my options for recreation here. (Buy something. Or buy a ticket to something. Just buy something.) I felt like this place reeked of capitalism, consumerism and brainwashed people who had forgotten how to live and were cogs in a machine that was swallowing them whole. 

Clearly, I was full of judgement about the city and the people who lived here. 

My anger wasn’t directed at Toronto in particular. My judgement was directed at North American society at large. I deplored how all the shops were big box stores. Sameness. Concrete. Conformity. I hated how stress filled the atmosphere during rush hour. I was just sad for the people who felt trapped in the first world paradigm of “Get a job, house, car, baby. Repeat."

I didn’t hate all cities though. I put cities like Paris, Rome and Berlin at a different level. Those cities had art, life, history.

However, my own indignation towards the Modern Western City was a sign to myself that I had some wounds to heal.

I knew that I’d have to stay here until I figured out how to stop being angry and find some good. Here. 

Bridging The Ways Of Two Worlds 

How did I end up hating the city with a passion? Usually 20-something's like me love the hustle and bustle of the city.

My problem was that I had seen a walnut tree for the first time at age 27 in Portugal. I never even knew that walnuts grew on trees. My whole life, they’d come from in plastic bags or plastic nets. How did it take me this long to find out hat walnuts grow on trees?! What else have I been missing because I’d grown up in the Modern Machine way of life?  I’d been traveling for 7 years and was still discovering things like this.

Every time I’ve travelled, I've discovered more of our basic humanity and here in the city, I felt like we were systematically stripped of our basic humanity. 

Kindness. Generosity. Real community. The Gift of Life. The Joy of the Sunrise.  The Opportunity to Wake Up Each Day and Love.  Do Something You Love.  Contribute To World You Love.  Love the People You Love.  The Realization that We’re All In This Together (helloooo).  Mi Casa es Su Casa. My House Is Your House.  More for you is not less for me. It is more for us. 

It almost felt like here, in the cities, we just wanted to crush each other. Here, there is an overriding feeling that you’ve got to fend for yourself. Make your own ends meet because no one is going to help you make your ends meet. That makes me so sad. 

It was only because I’d left the city, that I could see Western Society for what it was.

I was a fish who’d left the fishbowl and realized that I could fly. Why do I have to be in this fishbowl prison? I asked myself this often over the last year. 

Alas, it was my soul. That divine orchestration and the spiritual knowing that I’d have to come back and face the thing that scared me. Perhaps I directed anger at the city because I was also afraid that it would crush me. Whether it’s the city or a broken relationship, life has a way of making sure that we have to face our stuff. It’s not all that bad. We grow wise from these experiences and life is better on the other side of facing our shadows. 

It was time to face that which I’d been avoiding. The City. 

I Discovered That I Could Thrive In The City.   

Today, I finally feel content. Here. I may have walked off the plane 19 months ago but it’s taken time for me to 1) settle into a life here and 2) actually be ok with it and 3) love it. 

I went for a morning walk this AM and these thoughts floated effortlessly from my heart to my mind:

I am living my dreams. I am here. I am living my dreams. Here. I leaned into what I was afraid of. I found my way to be here. I found my way to not get crushed by the city. And I’m actually getting to do what I love everyday. My life is full of beauty, opportunity and possibility. I am here. and I am living my dreams. 

I look up to the blue sky and smile. 

What a relief! I am here. I am living my dreams. I am not crushed. I am actually ALIVE with life!

Sure, I could be in Portugal, waking up on the mountain with the scent of eucalyptus leaves wafting in the air… but I can and will return to that wild world one day. Today, I still walk this wild earth. This is just my season in the city and it contains beauty of its own. Beauty that I’ve been searching for and have finally found. 

Just like I always try to make the most of my travels, I will make the most of my time here. 

It’s taken me 19 months to settle into my work with two organizations, where I now feel that I am doing exactly what I love while still having space (a lot of glorious space!) to grow. 

Slowly but surely, I’ve allowed my defences to come down so that I can see: there are tons of benefits to living in the city. (I’m working on another piece on this topic.) 

It’s The Attitude, Not The Situation

This phrase “I’m living my dreams” has been a motto and theme in my life since I gained the ability to steer my own life. The transition from ‘living the life I was had to live’ as a daughter of my parents, to ‘living the life I choose’ happened in my early twenties.

It must have happened when I chose to spend a summer teaching English in Italy instead of staying in North America and padding my resume with an office job. 

On that trip, I tasted what it’s like to “live my dreams.” And I did more than taste. I devoured real Italian pizza, pasta and cheese. I biked through rice paddies outside of Milan in the morning. I got lost in 500 year old fairytale-esque towns. I experienced the love of strangers so acutely that a seed germinated in heart, forever shattering my ideas of What I Thought Life Was Supposed to Be . 

That summer in Italy, "follow your passion and do something you love" was no longer a phrase that I heard from motivational speakers at school. It was my reality. 

The more that I traveled, the more that living my dreams seed grew and grew and grew over these past years. 

Building A Dream Takes Time and Intention

So when I came back to Toronto, out of duty and not joy, I felt like I was leaving my dreams behind. It felt like I’d build a masterpiece of a life, filled with colour, love, travel and wonder and now someone was handing me a grey block of concrete and telling me, “now add this ingredient to your masterpiece.” 

How do I add this block of concrete without killing all of the plants, flowers and trees that I’ve been cultivating? 

It’s taken me 19 months to put all the pieces together, but it’s happened. And I’m so happy to say that it’s possible!! 

The fact that I am writing this and it’s published online and that you are reading it is the fruit of this process.

I been able to integrate the concrete structures of the city, to build a framework for my life on which my creativity can thrive. 

I’ll go into more details of how I’ve been able to do this in future blog posts.

For now, I want to leave you with the thought that it IS possible to live your dreams, even when you find yourself in a situation that does not look ideal at first glance.

I used to hate the idea of a “job”, but now I’ve come to enjoy the structure of my jobs. 

I used to hate traffic, but now I’m using it to my advantage. 

I used to hate the “matrix”, as I called it, but now I just embrace it, knowing that seasons of long term travel will come later. 

If there are things I can’t change, I work around them. 

And the working around is making me stronger, more resilient, and more creative.

There is a spectacular garden blooming here and I’m excited for the lessons and growth this new season brings!


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Photo taken by Mark Anthony Diaz

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