This website has sat largely dormant since I made the decision to uproot my life and move to Calgary for a work opportunity earlier this year. Six months later, I sit in Cowtown reflecting back on my decision to leave Toronto (and the theatre community) behind and facing a holiday season unlike any that I’ve ever had before.
When I announced that I was moving, the number one question I heard from people was ‘what about the theatre?’. Over and over again I doled out my carefully crafted answer, which focused on the importance of having new experiences, the great theatre community in Calgary, and the fact that at the end of the day, theatre wasn’t something I truly did ‘full-time’ in Toronto. They were all sound and rational arguments that most people were happy to accept. I convinced just about everyone, but I’m not sure I ever truly convinced myself.
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy Calgary – I absolutely do. The clean mountain air, the gorgeous Prairie blue sky, the incredible people and unique sense of ‘big small town’ all make for a wonderful quality of life that helps me understand why this city has consistently topped various lists of places within Canada to live.
But I miss Toronto. Terribly. More importantly, I miss the theatre. I miss that sense of being part of a larger community of like-minded, big hearted people who cared first and foremost about their passion. And what a noble passion it is. To entertain, to inspire, to create and to grow. The nearly six years I spent covering theatre in Toronto opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities and a new type of person – the person who marches to the beat of their own drum, bucks conventional norms and lives life fully with all of its exhilarating highs and devastating lows. I was honoured to be even a small part of that community, and looking back now I realize just how much it contributed to making me the person I am today. It rubbed off on me, and for that I could not be more grateful.
This holiday season has been particularly tough because it reminds me how much I miss that community. The annual Toronto theatre tweet-up, the various cabarets, Sharron and George’s Christmas singalong, the TSO holiday symphony show, The Ross Petty Panto, the Christmas Market and Soulpepper events, Singular Sensations holiday events – these had all become staples of my holiday season that I looked forward to all year. The gatherings with friends who understood that hugs were better than presents, singing was better than shopping and making others smile was always the ultimate goal. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before and may never experience again. A large group of people who embraced their own quirkiness and were content to spend their holidays dedicating their time to bringing joy to other people even if it meant giving up on traditions of their own. After all, those people involved in putting on holiday shows don’t get time off, instead they spend their time making sure everyone else has a special holiday experience.
Most importantly, I miss my friends. The people who became my family, who never judged me for my quirks (and let’s face it, I have many) and who were always there when I needed them. Not to sound trite, but ‘friendship is thicker than blood’ line from RENT resonates in my head this season, because in my case it was absolutely true. We were a riff raff bunch, with varying backgrounds, interests, ethnicities, age ranges – but the common denominator was our love for theatre and it was the glue that held us together. They say you don’t fully appreciate what you have until you no longer have it, and sadly I can now say that is absolutely true. I fear I at times took that group of people for granted, and the hole in my heart at not spending any portion of the holidays with them is large.
We lose people all the time, for a myriad of reasons including both death and geography. We grow, we change, we move away – and sometimes we even come back. For Christmas this year I want to remind everyone of the importance of staying in touch with the people who really matter, making the effort and going the extra mile. Keeping those connections intact through any means necessary.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’ve had the opportunity to ‘choose your family’ and you end up fortunate enough to become surrounded by kindred spirits, treasure that. Be thankful for it, and always work to hold onto it. Even if it’s only in your heart.