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Moving to the big city

When I was 18 years old, I
moved from the suburbs of Toronto to Waterloo, Ontario, which is about an hour
west of the city.

I largely did this for two reasons.

Firstly, I had started
visiting friends at both Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of
Waterloo while I was in high school, and I thought that I wanted
that kind of University town experience.

Secondly,
I started University as a Computer Science student and I figured that Waterloo
was a pretty good place to study that. Research In Motion (later renamed to
Blackberry) was an important company at the time and interesting things were happening.

Though
to be clear, I was a student at Laurier and not at the University of Waterloo – the better of the two schools for Computer Science – because I didn’t have
the grades for the latter.

But a
funny thing ended up happening. I hated living in Waterloo. I felt so out of
place. So much so that I spent every weekend back in Toronto visiting my
friends who had instead decided to go to the University of Toronto.

And I
remember vividly how I felt during those weekends. I would stand in my friend’s
apartments – most of which had dens and solariums that were hacked into
bedrooms so that they could afford to live there – and I would look across the skyline and
think to myself: why the hell do I not live here?

So I
transferred to the University of Toronto. And that solved that.

The
reason I bring up this story today is that I was reminded of it while reading a recent CityLab article by Richard Florida called, The
Self-Confident City
.

The three
main arguments in the article are:

(1) Where
we choose to live has a massive impact on our life outcomes.

(2) Self-confident
people – according to a recent study – seem to be drawn to big cities.

(3)
Self-confidence can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy
for people in big cities.

Now,
I don’t know if it was really self-confidence and youthful hubris that told me I needed to live in a bigger city than Waterloo. (It was probably part of it.) All I know is that I
wanted to live in a super dynamic place that felt bigger than me. I wanted to
feel like I was a small fish in a big pond trying to make some sort of
meaningful dent.

That
was true for me when I was 18. And it remains true for me today at 32.

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