I think I know what you’re going to say, but I believe that I’m stupid. Stupid as in I got bad grades in school, have an undemanding job and don’t seem to be able to develop serious interests. Can I change?—Shannon
I’m sorry, since you already know what I’m going to say, but you’re not stupid. You’re suffering from low self-esteem, probably (by the way, I’m trying to make “LSE” happen in a colloquial, common way, like “OCD” but less offensive), and depression, possibly, but your self-awareness seems to preclude actual stupidity.
You can have your IQ tested, which is pointless (and maybe self-defeating, if you’ve smoked any amount of pot between your school-age IQ tests and right now), and you can find out if you have a learning disability. I do, and when I heard I wasn’t just regular-bad at math but legitimately and severely bad at it, I just felt better about myself, generally—but what is most likely to help you is simply getting over the idea that you’re dumb. Paul Tough, the author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, told me via email that “Neuroscientists can show evidence that we can’t actually change our pure IQ much, [but] we can change our personality and our outlook on life.” Tough agrees with me, that thinking you’re stupid and boring is a sign of depression, and I agree with him that you should consider therapy. “Psychologists have found that when people believe they can improve their intelligence, they actually do work harder and adopt a better attitude toward life. So the first step to changing things is believing that things can change.” Also, no matter what, being happy is way, way more important than being smart.
My girlfriend and I are moving from our respective cities to live together in Toronto. What is a cool neighbourhood?—Joe
After 12 years and almost thirty moves within the city, I feel like choosing a neighbourhood in Toronto is mostly about choosing a synesthetic experience. (For actual information, though, read the rest of The Grid.) So don’t worry about location so much. Even in Rob Ford’s Toronto, even as fares continue to climb and service continues to infuriate, the TTC will and should impress anyone who isn’t from here, and hasn’t taken it for granted yet.
If you’re buying a house, I have no idea. Everyone I know who isn’t unimpeachably, hellzapoppingly-rich has moved to the Danforth, the Junction, Bloorcourt, and Scarborough, which all seem like good options. But coming from other places to spend a half-mill on an old, crumbling waifish row house in that special colour of Sad Brown, or a little less on a new, crumbling glassy condo still has to feel unwelcoming.
Renting, though, means that you can’t live above Bloor—or, more generously, Dupont—if you’re east of Spadina. (Except, everyone left the Annex when U of T frat dudes walking around with chicken wings in their pockets were made king.) I guess Roncesvalles is fine, but literally no one who lives downtown will ever meet you there, because there is something about passing through that last part of Parkdale on the Queen streetcar that feels like entering a foggier Narnia. Like, why not just live in Parkdale? You can’t live east of Yonge. I mean, you can, but it means enduring the Leslieville brainwash, about how a few admittedly great breakfast places somehow make a neighbourhood real. And no one has ever been to The Beaches. So, obviously I am making fun of you for saying “cool”, but I really mean it about the Annex.
Kensington is probably the best place to live, because of a) the market and b) the location and c) the… no, that’s it, but, you have to be comfortable with late-night, up-close hangs with drum circles and animal families. Dundas and Ossington and Queen from Bathurst until wherever is perfect if you like to drink and eat and watch 23-year-olds throw up on each other and then keep making out. Little Italy is a trade-off between every possible amenity and endless street festivals. Koreatown has a tiger that lights up (worth it), and Corso Italia has La Paloma (so worth it), and Yonge and Eglinton is like Disney World but boring (worth it?), and that is everything you need to know about every Toronto neighbourhood, ever.
Or, you could spend a full weekend walking around—if you know people, make them host you in their part of town—dreaming about how each neighbourhood (not that they don’t blend, mutate and accommodate a multitude of ways of living there) would, or could, feel to you.
Have a question for Kate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.