Interview Question: Why am I unique?
Originally posted March 24, 2012 as part of a blogging assignment for my post-graduate program. I’ve decided to redirect all posts to here to keep things consistent.
This was the hardest blog assignment question for me, so I left it until the end. The problem with this question is that I’m a skeptic who recognizes that very few people are unique. It’s very, very difficult to describe why you’re unique without it coming off as a humble-brag. A unique person is not described through words but through actions, so this will be tricky to explain.
So why am I unique? I’m a product of Canadian opportunity.
Let me explain.
My Mother is technically a refugee. When she was a small child she moved from the former Yugoslavia to Germany and then from Germany made her way to Canada. Her immediate family all came in various waves due to the refugee policy at the time, it was a few years until they were all reunited in Toronto. Sometimes when we’re driving through the west-end, she points out the places they lived. Whether it’s the first apartment they lived in on Dufferin, a house they lived on Major St or the first house my grandmother owned on Robert St in the Annex. Her youth was sharply divided between her life in Yugoslavia and her life in Toronto but she recognizes herself as Canadian. She graduated from Harbord Collegiate and did a Bachelors of Social Work at Ryerson.
My father was born here, but just barely. His parents came over just a few short years earlier from Guyana and started their family immediately. They settled into a rented apartment behind Dufferin Grove fairly early on, so my father mostly grew up in just one place. He also attended Harbord Collegiate and then did business studies at Ryerson.
These two crazy kids met up in elementary school but barely remembered each other. They really met when my mother started working for my father’s mother at a Cineplex cinema, which is funny really, when you realize they both attended the same high school.
My upbringing was a true first-generation Toronto immigrant story, which surprises some people. But because both my parents were fluent (my father’s parents spoke English in Guyana and my mother’s family learned English very quickly to fit in) and because my parents went to University and were the first people in their family ever to do so , I simply followed in their footsteps as if we’d been here forever. It was the norm.
I grew up in Scarborough but wasn’t limited to that geography. I grew up at the Zoo, I grew up in the Toronto parks, I grew up in the Scarborough Bluffs and the Toronto beaches, I grew up cycling through Scarborough as a teen and took that with me when I moved downtown. I never felt sequestered in Scarborough but I always tried to push my boundaries to see and do more. Whether that meant a hike through the Rouge Valley, getting bubble tea in Chinatown or journeying to the edge of TTC transit before Pickering to see where the physical boundary of the city ended. When I graduated high school and went to the University of Toronto, I took the same adventurous spirit with me. I’m always ready to get lost although that has become harder and harder the more of this city I’ve explored.
Now I live in the west end in the Junction in my 7th apartment in nine years and I still follow this trajectory. I’m always curious and try to have as unique a Toronto lifestyle as I can. Now that I’m a few weeks out of my first job in Communications working right on Bloor Street, this is just another Toronto adventure, who knows where I’ll go next?
So what did I learn, while arguing that I wasn’t unique?
Never underestimate the journey, that’s usually what separates you from the crowd.