Just don't talk about all the murders

First off, I should say that I do very little for my alma maters once I've graduated. I'm not much on donations (maybe when we're not carrying some of this crazy debt), and I don't write in to the Class Notes section of my alumni magazines. I do read them to find out what all the "successful" classmates are up to, but it's not on the top of my list to announce that I'm living the middle-class dream.

All of that having been said, I was somehow intrigued when I received a call from my alumni affairs office of my grad school. They wanted me (me!) to attend a recruiting session for prospective students (and their parents, naturally) in this Seaside Town. Seeing as how the University is in Toronto (far, far from the sea) and is quite different from the quaint, small-city life on the coast, I can see how having alumni attend and mingle might help everyone get a feel for what it's like to go to school in the Big City.

I accepted the offer to attend, and despite being presented with tthe easy bale-out when I found out that the event coincided with Stars On Ice (The Lovely Wife is attending, not yours truly. Honest.), we wrangled a babysitter for the kids. And why am I writing about this, you ask? Well, this somehow became an important event to me, mostly because I'm constantly chastizing myself for:

a) not doing anything with my weeknights, and
b) not doing anything vaguely charitable for my Universities.

It's not like I have a whole lot to say about Toronto. I only lived there for two years, and some in the Big City would say that anything north of Finch isn't even in Toronto. And I'm not really even from this Seaside Town, but I think that my perspective might be helpful to prospective temporary Torontonians. Then again, I was only there for graduate school, so I can't offer much in the way of advice for the undergrad cohort. Sure, I drank in the many, many undergrad bars on campus, but it's not like any of these kids are going to be able to do that until at least second year.

In case you're wondering about the title of this entry, the University is situated within shooting spitting distance of Jane & Finch, an area once known as the most dangerous streetcorner in Canada. Seems the urban planners of the day weren't thinking very far ahead when they built gobs of high-density housing for low-income Canadians just outside the downtown core. Of course, I didn't know this when I moved there and started to outfit my nice little Melrose Place grad student apartment. Being the little whitebread prairie boy that I was, I thought it "odd, but it's probably just me" when I was confronted with a very ethnically-diverse community at a very conveniently located shopping centre on that very streetcorner. I would soon learn that there are many options for shopping in the area (though most require a car, a bus, or a subway ride), most of which I would feel at least a little more secure in.

In the next two years, I would meet the woman I'd marry and have children with, buy a civic hatchback that would allow us to broaden our knowledge of southern Ontario and transport us and most of our belongings to the east coast, and eventually earn a degree to contribute positively to my career. I'd take trips with people I met at school: hiking on the Niagara escarpment and in Algonquin Park, camping out in the forests of Northern Ontario. I'd take a trip to meet a friend in Geneva, New York. I'd visit wineries and immerse myself in new cultures through the people in my program, and in the deepest corners of the city. I would ride many an emotional roller coaster, considering my place in the world, broadening my horizons in the most cliché way, and fret repeatedly over trivial things like why the hell don't I have a life plan or those things people call "goals"? I'd live to tell about it.

I likely won't talk about all of that in conversation tonight, but throughout the day today, I'll think back to my time in Toronto, and how I felt going to that school, compared with how I felt coming out. Going in, I was lost, feeling small and inconsequential, but fascinated by being responsible for myself, so far from home. Coming out, I knew I was in a better place, enriched by my education, my colleagues, my experiences, and my surroundings.

And it's all because of that school. And the many, many campus bars.

Posted bythemikestand at 6:55 AM  

6 stepped up to the mike:

metro mama said... 1:13 PM, March 29, 2007  

I'm starting graduate school at that very place this summer!

I started my undergrad at a small university (Trent) and transferred to York when we moved to TO. I hated it at first, but it's grown on me.

Nice to meet you!

SRH said... 1:52 PM, March 29, 2007  

My grad school really does not want me to come back and talk about my experience. It was a nightmare, but I got the degree...

Anonymous said... 4:14 PM, March 29, 2007  

Grad school was law school for me, and one really cannot say enough negative things about such an experience. Fourteen years later I have still have my sweetheart and I still correspond with one good friend from those days.
As for recruiting, law schools never need to and my college is run by christians who consider me a lost sinner. Which means I can go to Stars on Ice!

--Cronznet (who still can't get the Google/Blogger thing to work)

Charlatan said... 10:08 PM, March 29, 2007  

I did a summer and a school year at York picking up all my electives from my degree at Carleton (followed my, at the time, fiance back to Toronto from Ottawa).

While I always like the people at the school and certainly appreciated the bars and pubs on campus... I hated that it was in the middle of nowhere.

It took bloody forever to get there and an equally long time to get home.

Megan said... 1:24 AM, March 30, 2007  

I always find it funny when universities ask for alumni donations. Um, weren't four years of tuition that I am still in debt over enough for you people?

chRistine said... 11:17 AM, March 30, 2007  

first:

you DONATE MONEY to a previous school? no. if the schools want money they should create decent programs and run more cost-effectively.

second:

i laughed at what you said about jane and finch, as i used to work in the area. and being 'from here', i keep having to remind myself that york u *is* in toronto (practically vaughan.. across the road to vaughan.. can you even SEE the lake from steeles?) and that some people living in the area actually feel they get the whole metro existance.

but then, i'm out in greater-durham region and people tell me we live in the "gta".. *snicker* whatever.

you hiked the bruce? good for you. what an amazing trail.

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