How I didn’t move out (again)

There’s no shame in going to school from home. It often makes more sense


One of the articles on the front page of features this week talks about moving out. A Globe and Mail writer who tried it said it wasn’t worth it, without too much detail besides the debt factor and the fact that for her, living away from home during university wasn’t “real life” yet. The writer of our article collected a number of student quotes in response that more or less say it’s very worth it. As someone who almost moved out this year—in fact, I was so set on it that I made sure to let everyone know I’d be moving out—but didn’t in the end, I thought I’d chime in, for what it’s worth.

To clarify, no, I’ve never fully moved out, so I can’t speak from experience. I’ve lived for a total of 10 weeks in an apartment with four other U of T students on study abroad trips I was lucky enough to go on, and I adapted well for someone who staunchly hated travel all his life and always fought to stay home, but surprising as it was, it wasn’t long enough for me to really settle in. And so, having been hooked on the thrill of the adventure of independence, once I saw that I had somewhat of a guaranteed income this year, I thought I’d try moving out. It especially seemed like a fitting idea in the spring, when it looked like I was going to be the only child still at home in the fall. Besides, I was living in Georgetown without a car, just a 30- to 40-minute drive from UTM that can’t easily be done by public transit if a family car isn’t available. You’d probably have expected me to move out years ago and just rely on the bigger OSAP loan I would have been allotted. That might also have allowed to me to have more of a social life with my UTM friends.

U of T’s listings were the ones I went to first, and they had a couple of plausible places after applying my filters, but I also mixed Kijiji in there in the end. Among the townhouses I tried was, of course, Homestead. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the neighbourhood just at the corner of Dundas and Mississauga, a cheap go-to for students. (Not that it’s bad; neighbours often give students the short end of the stick—see “Take a closer look at Homestead”, Sept. 12, 2012).

It smelled, and the person who was selling her room let me know right off the bat that I would have to be okay with weed being smoked in there. Not a good sign. When we got to the room, someone else walked in and said he was also interested in renting it. “We meet again!” I declared, an outdated, somewhat obscure allusion to an episode of Seinfeld. Their reaction told me that they might not be my kind of people. I headed on out, with a good friend who’d visited with me laughing beside me.

Another good one was the family who invited me in for a quiet, sincere talk on their living room couch. I realized that this was one of those “too good to be true” deals. The owners, a middle-aged couple, told me that their son had just moved to Toronto for grad. “To be honest, this is not about the money,” they said. “It’s about filling a gap in our family. If you want to live here, you have to be our son.” When they said I was the best candidate, it was no less unsettling. But joking aside, I realized that this opportunity shouldn’t even have been on my radar. What’s the point of moving out if it’s just trading families—especially if it’s one I know and love for a new one?

As I got a little disheartened by the selection, I also thought (and, I have to admit, my friends thought for me) about how $450 to $600 a month was a little much to pay in return for shaving my commute down. Why not just get a used car? Even after the initial cost and the recurring insurance and gas payments, it’d still be cheaper than a year of renting—particularly since, once I thought about it, I had mostly eaten out those 10 weeks that I lived in an apartment, and that’s sustainable as a sprint but not as a marathon. Besides, a car offers at least as much freedom. And it’s an asset you can hold on to for a while, unlike rent. So that’s what I did. I now have a “just okay” car, but a good home.

It may seem strange to read a comment on moving out from someone who hasn’t done it yet. But that’s my (admittedly meandering) point. A very large proportion of us take it for granted that we should move out for university. I just wanted to quietly say that I got through these years pretty happily without.