Just a short while ago, I got the chance to head to downtown Toronto for dinner with a good friend. The city isn’t too far from my suburban hometown (about 50 minutes on the train), and it’s a commute that I’m familiar with considering that I did it every day for the last 3 years of my university education. I don’t mind sitting on the train at all really – there’s no stop-and-go traffic to worry about and I’ve always looked at it as a great space to get a ton of reading done.
My favourite thing to do when I get into Toronto on the train, though, is to walk up Bay Street, all the way to the University of Toronto. I used to walk up to the school most days instead of taking the subway, unless I was in a hurry, and I always walked back down to the train station after my classes, so it’s a walk I grew very fond of. And, because this past time I was meeting my friend at a restaurant near our former school’s campus, I decided to leave my house a little early, take an earlier train and make that same trek along my old school day haunts.
This brings us to today’s post. It was actually more of an emotional experience than I thought to walk along that street again and suddenly be right in front of some of my most beloved buildings. The walk up Bay led me past the buildings where I had all of my French classes, and then past Victoria University, the specific college at U of T that I was a part of…but more on this spot in a second.
Once I hit Bloor Street, I headed west, and that’s when I came face to face with the building where the English Department is held; the building where I had most of my classes during my Master’s, the building that at once intrigued and terrified me. As I looked at the building that had been a second home to me for eight months, I was overwhelmed by sadness…and confusion. I so desperately wanted to go in. I wanted, for the minutes I stood there waiting for the crossing light to change, to be that student again…to be the young woman heading to class, 800 page Victorian novel in hand. I wanted to talk about literature again, to get into heated debates. I even wanted to take notes (by hand, always, and never on a laptop!) and think up different thesis statements. And presentations – now those I missed more than anything! Standing in front of a class, delivering weekly speeches about my favourite books is something I have always dreamed of spending my life doing!
And obviously, that’s where the confusion comes from…because just yesterday I wrote a post about my dissatisfaction with my academic experiences and about all the things that were lacking and that made me unhappy. The truth is, I have these conflicted feelings almost every single day…I’m not settled at all in my decision to pursue a career and to give up my studies. I couldn’t even tell you if it’s a permanent decision because I just don’t know.
I really don’t think I’m any closer to figuring it out, to be honest. Part of me will always want my PhD because it’s something I always envisioned myself with. I just don’t know how realistic it is, or how much of a sacrifice it would be. But, right now I know for sure that the University of Toronto is such an important part of who I am – I became my true self there (even despite a lot of stress and nervousness) and I feel more comfortable there than in a lot of other places. I’ll always feel warm walking around that campus…almost that same fuzzy feeling I get from the pages of Jane Eyre, standing at the entrance to Thornfield Hall. I’m proud to say I came from U of T, and I can’t say for certain that I won’t one day return there. It was the place that I became the reader I am, after all, and also the woman that I am very proud to be every day.
So, here’s a picture for all of you of my favourite spot to read on the U of T campus…a hidden bench in Victoria University, right beside the beautiful E.J. Pratt Library. I read many pieces of literature in this exact spot…and I earned two cherished degrees from that nestled alcove. I hope to one day be reading there again very soon, in whatever capacity!
The Victorian in more ways than one,
Girl with a Green Heart