Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Visit to Toronto (Pt.1):
Toronto is mature, Ottawa is a late bloomer

Last week my wife and I went on a vacation to Toronto. Thankfully this trip was different than the previous one. The last time we visited I had a miserable time; the city actually felt overwhelming after two years of living in Ottawa. Witnessing prostitution on Jarvis in broad day light didn't help.

But this trip was nice. We acted like tourists, we didn't see many people we knew and we went to our favourite places- Yorkville/Bloor Street, Yorkdale, John Street, a Jays game, Eaton Centre, and Queens Quay.

Upon leaving the Rogers Centre after watching the Jays get butchered by the Rays 12-0 we turned up John Street and walked through the entertainment district. Memories...In my early twenties I celebrated a few birthdays at Hooters. My wife was at those parties although at the time she was just my homeboy.

As we walked up John Street, past the theatres, fairly new condo projects, and the tiff Bell Lightbox, there was an electricity in the air. You couldn't help but feel like you were in the middle of something exciting. No doubt, Toronto is a world-class city. Looking up at the tall buildings, the condos under construction, and the design of the buildings there was a sense of limitlessness and openness to ideas; like anything was possible. This seemed to have an affect on the actual atmosphere.

My wife and I noted the stark differences between Toronto and Ottawa, a city that doesn't always appear to be open to new ideas or that feels limiting or guarded at times.

As we were walking and noting how small Ottawa seemed compared to Toronto (something a few people liked to reminde us of), my life kind of flashed before my eyes.

Kevin, the late bloomer

Right now I'm fairly close to 6ft. tall and I weigh 160 pounds but for a long time I was short and underweight. For many years my wife and I were the same height (if you haven't been following my blog, my wife and I knew each other since we were babies). I literally remember getting sized for robes in our church choir. We stood back to back, were exactly the same height, and our robes were the same size. When I joined the school football team in the tenth grade I was one of the smallest guys on the team. My family friends thought I would never grow and wondered what was wrong with me. My wife was also a late bloomer in her own way. Now that my son is short and underweight for his age we're reliving a piece of our childhood.

But something happened in the Summer of 1995 after the tenth grade. My parents sent me to Barbados for a month to spend time with my aunts, cousins and grandmother. To say I was fed would be an understatement. I ended up having the biggest growth spurt of my life. My shoulders broadened, my voice got a lot deeper, I added some weight and muscle, and grew a few inches. It was a drastic change in such a short period of time. I still remember the reactions of my sister and wife. I couldn't even recognize myself.

It was interesting bumping into friends who I went to elementary or middle school with who once towered over me. I either stood shoulder to shoulder with them or head and shoulders above them. Of course, there were other people that still made me look like a midget, but when it came to maturation and development I had finally caught up.

Today I'm still a late bloomer professionally. It's only now that I'm thirty one years old and living in Ottawa that I really know what I want to do with my life whereas I've met quite a few people who've known what they wanted to do from their mid-teens to mid-twenties.

My wife is also a late bloomer. In her late twenties she's discovering her own femininity, including fashion and make up, because she didn't have many female influences when she was growing up.

Ottawa, the late bloomer

All of this was going through my mind as we walked around downtown and noted the differences between Ottawa and Toronto. Like a teenager going into adulthood, Toronto is a lot more developed than Ottawa.

I started to note the similarities between my life as a late bloomer and Ottawa. People always felt the need to tell me I was small. People thought I would never grow. They didn't realize I wasn't going to stay small forever; I was just a late bloomer.

I sometimes hear people in Ottawa say our city will never be a film and television destination like Toronto and Vancouver. Ottawa will never be condo city like Toronto. Ottawa will never be a major media market like Toronto and Montreal. They're like the people that told me I would never grow; that I would always be smaller than other people.

Here's a quote I penned while thinking about my own life but it applies to Ottawa. “Don't look down on late bloomers because one day you may find yourself looking up at them."

Just like I did, I believe that one day Ottawa will experience a growth spurt, an intense time of growth and maturation, that will cause it to either stand shoulder to shoulder with or head and shoulders above many of its counterparts. 

I'm still physically smaller than some people I know but no one can doubt that when it comes to maturation and development I'm the same as everyone else. I finally caught up to my peers. Likewise, there will be cities that will continue to make us look like a midget physically but when it comes to maturation and development no one will be able to doubt our stature. We will catch up, the gap will be narrowed. My personal growth spurt was drastic like day and night, and I believe that Ottawa's growth spurt will be just as drastic. With the projects that are on the table over the next seven years we may be in the midst of that period as we speak.

Just because other cities are more developed, or matured, than Ottawa, don't mistake that for our permanent existence; we're only one growth spurt away from standing shoulder to shoulder with Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and other cities around the world.

I think Ottawa is going to shock a lot of people including those of us who live here. The growth spurt is coming. The gap will be narrowed. We haven't see anything yet!

Kevin Bourne

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