V i v i a n  S o n g
Freelance writer
Freelance writer

Goodbye to all that, Toronto

Published in The Toronto Star, September, 2010.

I love you Toronto, I really do.

I love that, even after 14 years of being together, you’re still able to excite me and keep me on my toes.

I love your artistic temperament, your tolerance, your open-mindedness and your creativity.

I’m proud of the way you look, how strangers who’ve never met you before gawk at the beauty of your many different faces and your ever-changing esthetic — you’re one sexy beast.

But like many long-term relationships, T.O., I fear I’ve reached a crossroad. I’m young(ish) and restless, my friend. I need a change of scenery, something to pull me out of my post-teen, pre-mid-life, thirty-something crisis.

So I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for Paris.

Consider it a trial separation for one year. The fulfilment of a delayed dream to live abroad — again. In fact, not six years ago, in this same newspaper, I penned an essay in which I pontificated about moving to London, England. I had just finished a summer internship at the Star and was at a loss of what to do next. In the essay, I mused about uprooting to the U.K. as it was supposed to be a smart career move.

“I’m young, with no mortgage, kids or dog — hell, I don’t even have a (living) plant in my apartment,” I wrote.

But when an opportunity for a full-time reporter job came up in Peterborough, I decided I needed to put my career first.

Funny thing is, six years later, nothing much has changed with the exception of the mortgage part. OK, and maybe “young” is a bit of a stretch now.

Why Paris, you ask? Well, for one, their working holiday visa is more flexible than other international visas, as you can apply up to the age of 35 (Full disclosure: I’m 33).

And second, it’s Paris! I’m no stranger to France, having lived on the west coast for a year when I was in university. But this time, I’m going to do it right and head for the city of lights and love.

Lest you think this is some kind of trendy Eat Pray Love-inspired trip, let me set the record straight. I’m not coming off a divorce or running away from an unfulfilling relationship. I haven’t read the book, nor have I seen the movie.

But where writer Elizabeth Gilbert and I could be compared is our need to set goals.

Paris is where I shall conquer a few personal demons, one of the main ones being my paralyzing fear of rejection and therefore inability to flirt effectively. Currently, my method involves turning away from, blatantly ignoring and pretty much snubbing men I find interesting or attractive. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work.

No, while in Paris, I shall learn the art of seduction by studiously observing French women in action. I shall use the fact that no one knows me to my advantage and reinvent myself as a sultry, sexy minx. Which brings me to my other goal: to do away with my lazy, cookie-cutter style and find the courage to be a bit more daring when it comes to fashion.

But how shall I reconcile the desire to drape myself in Parisian fashions, and my desire to eat? A lot? For me, shopping for shoes and clothes comes in at a close tie with food shopping. One of the first orders of business when I get there, is to enroll in a cookery class. I shall learn the secrets to a sumptuous boeuf bourguignon and a flaky, airy croissant.

Maybe I’ll get a few tips from the cafe I hope to work at. With only a few weeks left before I leave, I have no job or apartment. But I have it all worked out in my head. I would like to live in the Montmartre area, in a charming studio apartment with a Juliette balcony, and work in a Parisian cafe. How poetic would that be, to be a server in Paris, in the style of Amelie? I’m not going to lie, it was watching this DVD for the 13th time that inspired me to move in the first place.

Working amongst Parisians will also — hopefully — help me build a network of friends. The French aren’t exactly known for being warm and fuzzy. I want to master my French and live like a local.

I’ve already given myself stern pep talks. You must break out of your shell and make yourself approachable, Vivian. Smile more and don’t be afraid to be that weird woman in coffee shops who tries to strike up conversations with strangers. You know, the ones you yourself respond to politely and then turn away from.

It’s going to be difficult. I’m already bracing myself for the loneliness as I’m used to having a wonderful network of friends here at home, friends who love me enough to throw me a surprise going away party that still makes me shiver with love and gratitude.

But it’s time. I shall miss you Toronto, of that I’m sure. But I will endeavour, as your foreign ambassador, to remember the values you’ve instilled in me while living in Paris and keep an open mind and expand my hitherto parochial horizons. That, and to be a sexy beast.

À bientôt!

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