Three women sit patiently next to a downtown Toronto Speakers Corners stage. Each will be allowed to record a 2-minute message. Each will speak their truth about living, learning and working in Toronto.
The woman smiles, stands with perfect posture, lifts her head toward the camera and her unfocussed gaze becomes focused.
“I don’t know how it happened. I loved where I lived. My parents are terrific and I liked living with them. After I got my Bachelors Degree, I got a Masters Degree in Commerce and immediately got a job with a bank. Then one day at a family dinner my older brother stood up and proclaimed that he was moving to Toronto. He told me I should do this too and that we could each have fantastic careers and live in condos near the CN Tower just like in the postcards we had gotten from our cousins who moved to Toronto 10 years ago. It was like he was describing a fairy-tale.”
The woman moves closer to the camera. Her face is brighter and more animated.
“It was a struggle when I first moved to Toronto. I had a resume but I wasn’t using LinkedIn. Luckily, I found a career centre down the street from where I was living, and got lots of advice about how to find work and now I cannot imagine living without LinkedIn! Here I am 2 years later: I use LinkedIn and I have a great job! I work as a Customer Care Associate at a downtown bank in the shadow of the CN Tower. I work 3 days customer-facing and 2 days remotely from home. This month I am moving into a new home too. A one-bedroom condo that has a dishwasher, in-suite laundry and a view of Lake Ontario. I am part of the Toronto postcard fairy-tale!”
This woman winks at the camera and slouches back into the chair. She rises out of the chair, and runs her hand through her blonde hair and her grin broadens as she speaks.
“I don’t know how it happened. I moved to Toronto because I wanted to be part of the nightlife. I wanted to dance, go to concerts, and shop on Queen Street West. I was an A student in high school and my teachers told me to go to university but I dreamt of downtown Toronto. When I was in Grade 10 my Dad took me to a Blue Jays Game at the Rogers Centre. I bought a Blue Jays t-shirt and a postcard with a picture of the CN Tower surrounded by condos. I dreamt of living in one and having season tickets to the Jays. My friends told me it was a stupid fairy-tale. I didn’t listen to them. A couple of months after graduation, I packed up my Grandmother’s old Volvo which she wasn’t driving anymore, and drove south to my new condo in downtown Toronto. Grandma told me to call her old friend who owned a big marketing company and sure enough I got a junior assistant job. That was 2 years ago and I haven’t looked back!”
She stretches, and half-shrugs and her smile explodes into a booming laugh.
“I realized that to move ahead in my work, I would have to get that degree so last year I became a university student and started my degree online. From my 32nd floor window I can see Lake Ontario as I study and work remotely from home. I don’t know how it happened but I love my choice. I love Toronto.”
This woman stands up from her chair, smooths her coat to make the wrinkles disappear and exhales as she lifts her eyes up. She shifts back and forth for a few seconds with her hands clasped together and in a quiet trembling voice starts to talk.
“I don’t know how it happened. I had the same job for almost 25 years as an Administrative Assistant. I loved my job and everyone I worked with. We were in an office near the Toronto Convention Centre on Front Street and near the CBC Building on John Street. Do you know where that is? It was a great job and I had so much fun! At lunch we used to go to the food courts in the underground PATH. Sometimes in the evenings a bunch of us would stay after work to go to a musical at one of the theatres on King Street. The best was Come From Away at the Royal Alex Theatre. It was the musical about 9/11 and the people of Newfoundland. Did you see it? I visited Newfoundland once and bought a postcard that I intended to mail to my mother but I kept it for myself instead. That one postcard still sits near my monitor to inspire me.”
As soon as the woman mentions the postcard, her voice changes to an upbeat yet slightly frantic energetic pace.
“When COVID appeared, we all lost our jobs. Fortunately, we were told about a career centre that helped us with writing our resumes and cover letters, and we even found out about free online courses. I have 3 new certificates now, and I went to more than 12 job search webinars and meetings on Zoom. It took about 4 months, then I finally I got an interview. It was on Zoom too for a remote Executive Assistant with a company that doesn’t even have a physical office. Everyone works from home! I love it. Sometimes I miss seeing my colleagues in person but we Zoom every day at 4pm so I feel like I am in an office. Yesterday I got a postcard from one of the old gang and guess what?! The show Come From Away is returning to the Royal Alex in December. We will all be going again in our matching evening face masks. I love Toronto.”