The Importance of Community: Moving from Montreal to Mississauga
Written by Meenusha Satkunanathan
In September 2014, I moved from our family home in Montreal, Quebec to a condo in the “Absolute” buildings near Square One, Mississauga. I had never seen the condo until the day I moved in because my childhood friend who was also my new roommate took care of viewing condos when we were searching for a place.
On the day I moved in, I recall getting out of my car and standing in the face of these incredibly tall buildings that reached for the sky. I had never seen anything like these buildings before and I felt so small standing in the circle of five immensely tall buildings. In that moment, I felt like I had been living under a rock. I saw that the real world was so big and I was so insignificant.
Growing up, the entire world that I knew was Montreal. I was born and raised in Ville Saint-Laurent where we own our family home. Ville Saint-Laurent was perfect. It was not in the suburbs, but it bordered the suburbs and it was just at the outskirts of the city. Travelling around the city was easy. It would take 15 to 20 minutes to drive to downtown Montreal and the same 15 to 20 minutes to drive to a neighbourhood in the suburbs.
My neighbourhood had community activities throughout the entire year. We would have flash mob dance every Thursday, bouncy castles for adults and children on certain days, painter evening, and so much more. All the activities occurred at the different parks in Saint-Laurent during the summer months and was opened to everyone. This culture of celebrating as a community was prominent throughout our entire city.
I had assumed that the rest of Canada would look similar to where I came from. As a teenager, I had not really travelled before because where I came from was so culturally diverse that you could practically travel the world within the city. So, there I stood trying to digest the shock of a world I had never seen before.
There was tight security at the Absolute condos. The cars coming in would have to stop at the security gate before they could enter the Absolute circle. The trees were very small which showed that the area was newly developed. The atmosphere was very fast-paced and during certain hours of the day, the line up at the security gates would go on for metres causing traffic.
As the days went by, I began to notice more significant differences between this new place and my home. The pace of the area was hasty. People would hurry out early in the morning and rush back later in the evening as the majority of those living in the building were business people and professionals. During the hours in between, while everyone was at work, the building was deserted as if it was unoccupied. The only people that I would see were maintenance and security staff. It gave me the impression that in this new, much bigger world, no one had time for one another.
The lifestyle in Montreal was the complete opposite. The pace of the city was laid back and relaxed. This was especially true in my neighbourhood. My street was very calm yet lively. My neighbours were mostly older families with young adults, retired couples, and one young couple. There was never a time of day where our streets were empty, especially during the summer when the weather was nice. I would always see my neighbours strolling down my street, sitting on the front porch, or doing activities outdoors.
During the spring, when I would walk home from school, my neighbours would wave hello and smile. Sometimes if I had time, I would even stop and have a pleasant conversation with them. Seeing the same face every day created a bond amongst us. Even though these people were strangers, they were also like family. If ever any one of us needed something, we would help each other out because we had a strong sense of community.
It was very different at the Absolute condos. During the entire year that I lived there, I never once saw the people who lived right next door. My neighbours were complete strangers. On the rare occasion that I did see people, I did not recognize any one of them. It was always a new face every time and it was hard to come by smiling faces of people that I knew. So, the sense of community and solidarity that I had in my neighbourhood back in Montreal ceased to exist in this new place. Although I was in a building filled with hundreds of people, I experienced true loneliness.
My condo was empty and unfurnished, which made the place feel cold and deserted. The living room was an empty, white, open space that led to a balcony, which faced a deserted land that had a sign indicating that the land was sold. Every time I would walk into the condo, I would feel uncomfortable. There were no couches to sit on, no colours on the wall. It was just bare floor and walls.
Although I felt lonely, homesick, and out of place in this condo, I always had the comfort of knowing that my roommate was my friend. During my first month, we would both make dinner together and spend our evenings in each other’s company. However, as the months went by, my roommate became less friendly and started to take advantage of me. She would tell me that she purchased items for the condo and make me pay large sums of money up to a thousand dollars. At first, I gave her the money until she began to harass me for more money. Eventually, I became frustrated and confronted her. This caused things to become awful between us. We were both living in the same space but would never speak to one another and would avoid each other.
I recall the countless times I would stand by my door waiting to hear her leave the kitchen so that I could make my dinner. During the odd times that we accidentally ended up in the kitchen at the same time, the tension was so strong and we would not acknowledge one another. I would spend days sitting in the hallways crying because I felt like in a world so big, there was not a single person who could take a minute to share compassion with me.
That sense of loneliness that I had begun to deepen as every day went by. This is where I learned, that it was hard to come by a strong community where strangers genuinely and truly cared for each other. I realized that it was not a world of solidarity but a world of individualism.
Meenusha Satkunanathan was born and raised in Montreal, QC. She is a third year student at the University of Toronto Mississauga completing a double major in Criminology and Sociology.