In two weeks, I will have lived in Canada for seven years. Seven! That’s beyond a courtship. That’s a committed partnership that has gone through sexual dry spells and relationship-threatening quarrels. Seven years may as well be a marriage.

I did a thing recently that I did not blog about: I quit my day job. I finished up a contract doing managerial non-profit dealings and requested that I not be renewed. In short, I left a steady paycheque to write full-time, as a creative free agent. Maybe I’m stupid. Maybe stupidity is the smartest choice, for some of us.

As soon as my contract ended, I went home to Milwaukee for several days. I planned to write about it, but I did not, because going home is loaded and there’s always a processing lag. So, I’ve processed, and here’s what:

Leaving Milwaukee was the best thing I have ever done for myself.

It’s a hard thing to admit. When you leave the place where you were raised, there are a number of implications. The first: that you are too good for the place that made you.

I want to try my best to discount that implication.

When a person leaves his or her hometown to hit the “big city,” whatever “big city” that may be, that decision comes with a footnote. And, intentionally or not, it’s a condescending one. Leaving home for a place that has more to offer to you, as an individual, says to the people who chose to stay: “I am better. I made the bigger choice.” This isn’t a thought that ever went through my own head, at least consciously, but has been reflected back at me over the years by some friends and family members I’ve left behind. I’ve been told, “If you’re too good for Milwaukee, stop reminding people you’re from here.” Because that part happens; I do tell people where I’m from. But I’ve never thought of myself as “too good.”

I chose to attend university in Canada because it was an out-of-state tuition that I could afford, and I wanted to experience a new place. I could never have predicted the 2008 recession, and I certainly wouldn’t have known that Toronto would wind up being a relative economic stronghold as I graduated into job market hell. I also didn’t predict that I would fall in love with both the city and its people, and that I would wind up writing for a really solid campus newspaper that would open doors to an eventual career. Hell, my high school newspaper didn’t even want me. Who’s “too good,” really?

I have adopted Toronto as my home and made it my life. I have become personally and politically invested in the place. Going back home feels touristy; it is no longer the place I grew up in, ideologically, and I don’t know my way around as I once did. I’ve also had the experience of being an adult in Canada and nowhere else. This shapes a person, changes things. It’s not so simple to dismiss my experience as that of a spoiled left-wing Wisconsin girl who ran off to allegedly greener pastures.

When I moved to Canada, I had absolutely zero plans of staying. That I’m still here, working towards establishing residency and eventual citizenship, speaks to my personal experience. I’ve found a place that works for me, not because other places are bad, but because sometimes you can’t deny chemistry. And that has nothing to do with being “too good” for anything. When the shoe fits, and flatters your cankles, you’d be damned if you didn’t just wear it.

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